Egypt is building two highways across 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 led by Egypt’s powerful military and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, which is building a new capital to ease population pressure on Cairo, home to 20 million people.
The northern highway will cross the desert 1.6 miles south of the Great Pyramid. The southern highway will pass between the step pyramid of Saqqara – the oldest pyramid – and the Dahshur region, home to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Each highway appears to be about eight lanes wide. Images from Egyptian psychologists and Google Earth indicate that construction began a year earlier in largely desert areas and was more visible around March.
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 Supreme Council of Egypt. “We know that we take good care of our antiques 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 a former Unesco official. “The work I did almost 25 years ago is now under question.”
Zulfikar led a successful campaign in the mid-1990s to postpone the construction of a branch of the first Ringroad in Cairo. UNESCO said it had sought 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.
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.
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.