The last of the Seven Ancient Wonders gets a twenty-first century facelift, but pleasing everyone proves to be a difficult task
The site of the 5,000-year-old Giza Pyramids is now up to speed with the twenty-first century, complete with cameras, lasers and control rooms. Last month, part of a multi-phase plan to renovate the site of the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World was completed, a modern makeover cooked up by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to make the Giza Plateau more tourist-friendly.
The first phase, costing roughly LE 60 million, includes an 18-kilometer-long steel fence equipped with 199 closed circuit TV cameras, infrared motion sensors and elaborate control rooms placed alongside the fence. In addition to the reinforced boundaries, the plan dedicated one of three entrances, the one near the Mena House Oberoi Resort, as the primary security entrance, kitted out with x-ray machines and metal detectors.
While the modernizing of the most ancient site in the world — one that was previously an uncontrolled sandbox of pandemonium — has tourists and international media impressed, it has left local peddlers and bazaar sellers locked out and worried about their livelihood.
According to Sabri Abd El Eziz, assistant to SCA Secretary General Zahi Hawass, the plan was put in motion about seven years ago. After finishing site management for all the areas in Upper Egypt — including Abu Simbel, Luxor, Philae and Kom Ombo — the SCA’s plan for 2008-2009 was to focus on the pyramids. “There are roughly 6,000 to 10,000 visitors daily at the Pyramids and though we accommodate them easily, there was a need for a [facelift],” says Abd El Eziz.
A principal reason for the developments was that the SCA, although part of the Ministry of Culture, needs to find ways to be self-sufficient. “The SCA doesn’t take money from the government; we depend on entrance fees and exhibitions both locally and abroad, as well as royalties,” says Abd El Eziz. With the previously lax control over the Pyramids area, income from entrance fees was approximately LE 300,000 daily. “After the fence and the setting-up of a proper entrance, income is now around LE 800,000  and that’s money that we use for maintaining museums and restoring antiquities.”