Egypt Reopens Important Tombs At Saqqara


Despite facing political turmoil, authorities in Egypt have been forging ahead with renovations of key archaeological sites. Last week saw the renovation and reopening of two important tombs, the Serapeum and the tomb of Akhethotep & Ptahhotep.

The Serapeum dates to 1390 B.C. and was a tomb for holy bulls. I visited in 1991 and the memories of the gloomy underground corridors and giant sarcophagi are still vivid in my mind. It was closed in 2001 due to water leaking inside and shifts in the earth that threatened the underground structure.

The tomb of Akhethotep & Ptahhotep housed a father and son who were both high officials for the last two pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty around 2375 B.C. The double tomb is brightly painted with scenes of religious rituals, agriculture, hunting, and children playing.

Both tombs are at Saqqara, 30 kilometers south of Cairo and the site of Egypt’s first pyramid.

Authorities plan to open five more tombs soon. The government has spent millions of dollars on this work and hopes to lure back tourists who have been scared away by the recent unrest.

Check out this video from the Chinese-American NTD Television for some striking visuals of these two ancient tombs.

Egypt Protests Scatter Cruise Ships, Concern Tour Operators

EgyptEgypt’s tourism business has been suffering since the 2011 uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. This week, in response to protests in Egypt, the vital industry received another blow as cruise lines and tour operators began making alternative plans.

“In an abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean International has decided to cancel Mariner of the Seas’ next port call to Egypt,” says a notice sent to travel agents Thursday. “Mariner of the Seas, which departs Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, on Saturday, September 15, will no longer call on Alexandria, Egypt, on Tuesday, September 18. Instead, the ship will now call to Sicily (Messina), Italy, on, Sunday, September 16, and Valletta, Malta, on Monday, September 17.

That caution also applies to sister lines Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. It’s the up side to cruise ships, often called “floating resorts.” When trouble presents itself cruise lines simply sail in another direction.

Princess Cruises, the first to return to Egypt after the 2011 uprising, is staying the course, for now. “We haven’t made any changes yet to our upcoming calls to Egypt,” Princess Spokesperson Karen Candy told Gadling. “We’re closely monitoring the situation and will of course make any changes we feel necessary in order to ensure our passengers are safe.”

Security, it seems, is an ongoing problem in Egypt. Last Sunday, about 150 tour guides demonstrated outside of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, saying the lack of security is complicating attempts to lure tourists back.

“There is no security. This is not a joke,” Dina Yacoub, a 29-year-old guide told the Associated Press in a Washington Post article published just before this week’s anti-American violence in Libya, Yemen and Egypt this week. “We are asking tourists to come back … how would they unless there is security?”

The cruise line positions this week mirror their posturing after the 2011 unrest/chaos when they played it safe by keeping ships and passengers out of harms way.




[Flickr photo by archer10]

Ancient art stolen from Egyptian Museum recovered by police

ancient art, EgyptEgyptian police have recovered four stolen statues, two of which were taken from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, Ahram Online reported.

Two of the statues were among several items that went missing when rioters broke into the Egyptian Museum. The other two were apparently looted from somewhere else, perhaps an archaeological site. There were scattered incidents of looting from several museums and archaeological sites across the country during the January Revolution, and the extent of the thefts remains unclear.

The statues are all of bronze and depict important gods such as Osiris, god of the afterlife, pictured here in an image courtesy of user Rama via Wikimedia Commons. This is not one of the recovered statues.

The statues date to the Late Period, a period dating from 664 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. This era saw a final flowering of Egyptian art and religion before it went through a long period of domination and decline under Greeks and Roman rule. When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, poor old gods like Osiris were slowly forgotten.

The thieves possessing the ancient art were arrested. Of the 54 objects missing from the museum, 23 have been recovered.

Cruise lines cancel Egypt through June

Cruise lines cancel egyptRoyal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises announced late Wednesday that they will cancel Egypt ports of call through June. This latest blow to Egypt tourism is a good indicator of the situation at ground level but travelers seem undeterred.

To cruise lines, safety of passengers and crew is a top priority. Fired by the US Department of State travel warning for the area, cruise lines were quick to pull ships out of the area, a distinct advantage cruise vacations have over other options. If weather or political conditions make going ashore a bad idea, they can move the ships elsewhere. That itineraries are being modified through June speaks volumes on what the travel industry expects in the foreseeable future of Egyptian tourism.

Top cruise industry information source CruiseCritic.com follows the latest developments and keeps an up-to-date roster of which lines have changed itineraries. In a recent poll, CruiseCritic asked
members if they would consider a trip to Egypt at this point.

Of the 250 respondents, those who had already planned to visit mostly said that they’ll wait until the situation stabilizes. 55 percent said that the unrest hadn’t deterred their future travel plans, close to 19 percent said that as soon as the State Department drops the travel warning, they’ll be visiting the Pyramids, 14 percent said that Egypt remained on their travel wish list, but other destinations had now bumped Egypt down a few spots. 11 percent said a visit to the country was never on their list.

It’s not just Egyptian tourism suffering either.

Citing a “changing political environment” Disney Cruise Line as well as land tour operator Adventures by Disney dropped Tunisia from all land and sea tours last weekend. Yesterday, SeaDream Yacht Club added to the list of lines avoiding violence in Tunisia.

“We continually evaluate our itineraries, and the decision to modify this itinerary was made in part due to the changing political environment in Tunis and the recent Travel Alert issued by the U.S. Department of State for Tunisia,” Disney spokesperson Christi Erwin Donnan told USA TODAY.

Because these drops are a result of US State Department travel advisories, it’s possible that they will be extended past their scheduled changes as further developments occur in the troubled region.

Flickr photo by ayman_17


Rioters destroy two mummies in Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Egypt, egypt, mummy
Rioters broke into Cairo’s famous Egyptian Museum yesterday and destroyed two mummies, Reuters reports.

The head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, got on state television to say that a crowd tried to break into the museum but were fought off by tourist police and regular citizens. While the battle went in front of the entrances, some other rioters broke in through the roof and destroyed the mummies. The ticket office was also ransacked.

It’s unclear at this stage if anything was stolen or if this was a simple act of vandalism. Egyptian fundamentalists have long objected to displays of mummies and ancient religious idols, so the attack may have had a religious motivation. The two mummies were not identified but were referred to as belonging to the Pharaonic period, as opposed to later Greco-Roman mummies.

The museum stands next to the headquarters of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party, which the rioters had set on fire. If I remember correctly, there’s a large open space between the two buildings and so there is little danger of the fire spreading.

[Photo courtesy user Zubro via Wikimedia Commons. This is in the Louvre and is not one of the mummies that was destroyed. You get 100 Archaeology Points if you can tell me another reason this couldn’t be the mummy that was destroyed.]