Saturday, February 25, 2006

Deterioration of Egypt archaeological sites deplored.

Egypt's Historical Sites Are Threatened.

Archaeologists and officials meeting in Cairo on Wednesday deployed the deterioration of the country's ancient sites, which they attributed both to government agencies and to private individuals. The assault, they said, runs from illegal construction activities to farming. Zahi Hawass, director general of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, said that there were 6,000 such cases in 2003 but gave no more recent figures. The governor of Cairo, Abdel Azim Wazir, said "certain government agencies degrade archaeological sites ... as happened with the higher education ministry and [Cairo's] Taz Palace, which it has turned into a depot for books and old desks". For his part, Hawass said that as many of 90 percent of the caretakers of sites allow improper activities in exchange for bribes. In another example, he said "residents of the village of Gourna have built mosques atop an archaeological site to stop us from tearing down the village and relocating them". Hawass said that part of the problem is that the current law does not allow the antiquities council to intervene in matters involving buildings under the aegis of the ministry for religious endowments, or waqf. However, he said that a bill drafted by the ministry of culture would amend the current law, adding stiffer penalties of up to life in prison for offenses and allowing sites less than 100 years old to be protected.


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