MEMPHIS, Egypt (Reuters) – Egypt is building two highways on the Pyramid Plateau outside Cairo, reviving and expanding a project that was suspended following an international outrage in the 1990s.
The Great Pyramid, Egypt’s top tourist destination, is the only surviving one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the plateau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The highways are part of an infrastructure push prepared by Egypt’s powerful military and championed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, building a new capital to ease population pressure on Cairo, home to 20 million people are doing.
The northern highway will cross the desert 2.5 km (1.6 mi) south of the Great Pyramid. The southern one will pass through the step pyramid of Saqqara – the oldest one – and is home to the Dahshur region, Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid.
Each highway appears to be about eight lanes wide.
Critics say they could damage one of the world’s most important heritage sites. Officials say they will be built with care and improve transport links, adding new urban development and bypassing central Cairo congestion.
“Roads are very important for Egypt, for development,” said Mustafa al-Waziri, secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiques. “We know that we take good care of our ancient sites everywhere in Egypt.”
Some Egyptologists and conservationists say that the highways will disrupt the integrity of the pyramid plateau, pave over unexplained archaeological sites, generate pollution that can generate monuments, produce litter, and loot with hidden treasures Can expose closed areas.
Al-Waziri said that the existing roads were very close to the pyramids and a lot of tourist buses ply. “That is why we are developing a lot,” he said, adding that there are plans to use electric tourist buses within the plateau to avoid pollution.
The highway, which will divide the plateau into three, will cross a stretch of ancient Memphis, one of the largest and most influential cities in the world, for nearly 3,000 years.
“I was amazed at what I saw,” said Zulfikar, a former UNESCO senior officer who visited a section of the southern highway two months ago. “The work I did almost 25 years ago is now under question.”
Zulfiqar led a successful campaign in the mid-1990s to postpone the construction of the Northern Highway, a branch of Cairo’s first ringroad. UNESCO said that it requested detailed information about the new plan several times and asked to send a surveillance mission.
The state press center referred a Reuters request to a communications consultant from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to comment further on the plans, which could not be reached.
Images from Egyptian scientists and Google Earth indicated that construction began well over a year ago in the construction sector, which was largely out of public sight and began to appear around March.
On a recent trip, Reuters reporters noticed heavy machinery sweeping fields and junctions along both highways. Hundreds of uprooted dates are lying in droves.
The southern highway is a part of the second ringroad in Cairo that will connect the Pyramid Plateau, a corner of the farmland and memoris, through the desert 16 km from the new capital city east of the western satellite city of Cairo on October 6.
In 2014, the World Bank cut the Cairo region by an estimated 3.6 percentage points over Egypt’s production.
An Egyptian scientist said that the road cuts through archaeological unexplored tombs of the 13th dynasty, walking the pyramids of Peppi II and Khendjar and Mastabat al-Faraun.
The man was among six Egyptians, spoke to Reuters. Most of them were renamed for fear of losing clearance to handle antiquities.
One said that hieroglyphic statues and blocks had been unearthed since the highway construction began; The Antiquities Authority said on its Facebook page that these were discovered on nearby personal property.
Memphis, stated to have been founded in about 3,000 BCE when Egypt was united into one country, but not eclipsed when Alexander the Great moved the capital to Alexandria in 331 BCE.
It extends over 6 square kilometers, is the largest ancient settlement site in the Nile Valley.
The new road draws closer to the commercial district of the ancient city, its port walls, and the former site of an ancient nilometer, which is used to measure the height of annual floods, by David Geoffreys, a British Egyptologist who heads to Egypt Were working on Memphis. Exploration Society since 1981.
It also endangers a Roman wall that once bordered the Nile that Jefferies said few knew.
Another Egyptian scientist said, “Memphis has also been long neglected by Egyptian psychologists, because it is a complex site to excavate.” “But it is very rich, bursting with temples, archives, administrative buildings and industrial areas.”
Editing by Aidan Lewis; And philip fletcher