Αssociated Press reports from Cairo that workers dig and ferry wheelbarrows are laden with sand to open a new shaft at a bustling archaeological site outside of Cairo, while a handful of Egyptian archaeologists supervise from garden chairs. The dig is at the foot of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, arguably the world’s oldest pyramid, and is one of many recent excavations that are yielding troves of ancient artifacts from the country’s largest archaeological site.
As some European countries re-open to international tourists, Egypt has already been trying for months to attract them to its archaeological sites and museums. Officials are betting that the new ancient discoveries will set it apart in the mid-and post-pandemic tourism market. They need visitors to come back in force to inject cash into the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy.
But like countries elsewhere, Egypt continues to battle the coronavirus and is struggling to get its people vaccinated. According to its Health Ministry, the country has received only 5 million vaccines for its population of 100 million people. In early May, the government announced that 1 million people had been vaccinated, though that number is believed to be higher now.
In the meantime, authorities have kept the publicity machine running, focused on the discoveries.
In November, archaeologists announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins dating back to the Pharaonic Late Period and Greco-Ptolemaic era, along with 40 gilded statues found 2,500 years after they were first buried. A month after discovering 57 other coffins at the same site, the necropolis of Saqqara includes the step pyramid.
In April, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s best-known archaeologist, announced the discovery of a 3,000-year-old lost city in southern Luxor, complete with mud-brick houses, artifacts, and tools from pharaonic times. It dates back to Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty, whose reign (1390–1353 B.C.) is considered a golden era for ancient Egypt.
That discovery was followed by a made-for-TV parade celebrating the transport of 22 of the country’s prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive facility farther south in the capital, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
The Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is now home to an archaeological museum, as is Cairo’s International Airport, both opened in recent months. And officials have also said they still plan to open the massive new Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza Pyramids by January, after years of delays. Entrance fees for archeological sites have been lowered, as has the cost of tourist visas.
Read more at thenationalherald.com
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Original article: AP: Egypt bets on ancient discoveries to pull tourism sector out of pandemic.