This recording is of a press conference with Dr. Zāhī Ḥāwās, the-then Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau. He speaks about recent excavations the difficulties with promoting tourism and at the same time preserving historic sites and the future of the Giza plateau.
Dr. Zāhī Ḥāwās informs us that they just finished the ventilation system to the Great Pyramid last week, as the ventilation system they did five years ago was not good enough for the pyramid because they put a big fan inside the king chamber that was damaging the site. A few weeks ago, a German company put a little machine outside the pyramid instead, on the top of the air shaft that brings the air outside to the inside. They also finished the restoration of the Queen Pyramid. There is 4000 visitors to the pyramids per day, and the breathing of these when they enter the pyramid becomes salt, that they have had to remove from the interior. Also, humidity causes cracks inside and they have over 200 areas of cracks inside the Great Pyramid so they are still restoring it and will finish by the end of December. However they still need to give the pyramids time to rest and if it were up to Ḥāwās, he would close the inside of all the pyramids to the public. In his opinion, the magic of the pyramids is their outside as well as them being tombs means they are ruined when people visit them. He believes that they will be gone in 10 years and that Egypt does not accommodate for the needs of tourism and also the preservation of monuments. They are trying to do like in Luxor, rotating between opening and closing tombs. He believes that the press has a duty to talk about this and encourage governments to protect archeological sites from tourism.
In Egypt they are going to open major sites in 1999, which well be a very important year to archeology as sites like Abusir which contains 11 pyramids, Abu Gorab, containing very unique temples, Abu Rawash where they found a limestone quarry with a sarcophagus, Lisht, where they have reused reliefs from the Pyramid of Khufu, Khafre and Unas and the Bahariya Oasis, where there is an unparalleled Roman cemetery and the only existing temple for Alexander the Great. He also mentions the talks about moving the Ramses II statue to Rimaya square, he points out that the only people who can make a decision like this is the Egyptian Antiquities Department and that he sees it as a mistake to put the statue in a square in the first place, as the ancient Egyptians made them to stand in front of temples.
In Giza, they opened several tombs and the Queen’s Pyramid the previous April. Now they are preparing another site, a tomb called “the Fourth Pyramid” as well as some other tombs, the sphinx temple. They also finished the camel and horse stables and are building a big parking lot, a picnic area and a ring road around the site as well as electrical cars to transport visitors. President Mubārak granted them 30 million LE for these projects.
As for discoveries, in the area of the workman tombs they discovered two brand new sections. After the analysis of the bones they found that they were between 170 and185 cm tall and that they had doctors on site. They a workman whose leg was cut, but he lived on for another 14 years after it. Some had wooden support around their hands, wounded by falling stones and one had syphilis.
Finally, he informs us about the plans to put a capstone cased with gold on top of the Great Pyramid by helicopter on 31 December 31 1999 for the millennium celebrations. They are having a French director design the whole celebration. Also, radars have detected two underground tunnels at the site, one in front of the Sphinx and one by the Queen’s Pyramid. They drilled by the latter but they found nothing. Therefore, he warns of anomalies in the radar and people who want to take money from new age people.
Dr. Ḥāwās talks about another millennium project which entails sending a robot to investigate the south of the queen’s chamber to look for a stone or door and the secrets of the North Channel. This channel has one piece of wood at the beginning and after three meters it bends. He thinks this will be the biggest publicity that Egypt will ever get. After it is opened for questions, Ḥāwās shared more information about the capstone. It will be very small, made of iron and fibre foam and it will be lit up. The stone is only temporary, symbolising celebration as all of Ancient Egypt would celebrate the finishing of building a pyramid. He is hoping to open the new entrance to the Giza Plateau and the Great Pyramid on 15 February, as it is almost finished, the roads just need to be paved. However there is several problems they need to deal with before this.
The project is approved and they are just waiting for the arrival of the equipment, hoping to be ready in January. He further argues that watching the IMAX film depicting the inside of the Great Pyramid is just as good as going there yourself and much less damaging to the pyramid. He points to experts predicting that the archeological sites of the world only will survive another 250 years if we continue like today and even shorter in Egypt. They discovered an act 18th Dynasty New Kingdom cemetery through aerial photography and found a tomb whose sarcophagus might be intact. Antiquity thieves killed one guard in their attempt to rob this tomb but they failed as it was sealed with cement.
Ḥāwās mentions that he went to UNESCO conferences on site management and stresses that this is the reason the organisation was founded in the first place. He does not believe that the stone in the queen chamber is a door. He advocates moving a village to the Fayūm road in order to excavate a new site. They plan to only have one site used for performances by the pyramids, in order to not damage the monuments as well as not letting cars into the area and creating a committee to choose who gets to preform there. He wrote an article called “Site management of the Giza Plateau” showing what they did and what they are planning to do. In order to protect the site, he believes that they need to stop cars going up the plateau, make roads, and start a major 30-year conservation and archeological work.