Egypt declares treasures safe

CAIRO — Egypt’s museums and ancient monuments, including the Pyramids of Giza, are secure despite upheaval in the streets, and officials recovered nearly 300 archaeological items that were plundered by armed Bedouins in the Sinai Peninsula, the government said Tuesday.

The week-old uprising, marked by huge street protests, deadly clashes with police, economic paralysis and a mass exodus of foreigners, raised fears of major theft or destruction of Egypt’s treasures. Some museums and antiquities were threatened in a series of close calls.

Now, however, the Egyptian military is protecting the pyramids, the temple city of Luxor, the Nile cruise destination of Aswan and other major sites, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told The Associated Press.

Military vehicles blocked access to the pyramids near Cairo, but Luxor’s Valley of the Kings remained open to tourism, a chief driver of the Egyptian economy.

Thieves broke padlocks at tomb entrances in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara, but nothing was stolen or damaged, Hawass said in an interview. He declared Egypt’s major museums, including the Coptic and Islamic museums in Cairo, to be safe.

Hawass, who was named antiquities minister in a new Cabinet appointed by besieged President Hosni Mubarak, said the survival of Egypt’s rich archaeological heritage amid chaos reflected a fundamental pride among Egyptians even as they revolt against their leadership.

“We cannot be like Afghanistan,” said Hawass, referring to a depleted nation where war overshadows centuries of cultural history. “Civilization is inside the Egyptians.”

The sites have not been immune to the chaos.


AP Interview: Egypt declares treasures safe.

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