Egypt: Antiquities minister, visits to museum plummet

"We need foreign investment to relaunch monuments' restoration"

10 January, 14:51

(ANSAmed) - ROME, JANUARY 10 - Two years on from the revolution and Egypt's monuments are in need of a massive effort of maintenance and its tourism industry is in a state of downward spiral. Egypt's Minister of State for Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, has called the situation 'critical' and said that his department is making mammoth efforts to overcome an unprecedented collapse in revenue. Plans are being made to open new sites and to relaunch restoration projects with international backing. But is big exhibitions abroad that are the "best ambassadors for this country", Ibrahim told local publication Al Ahram Hebdo. Only a few months before the 2010 revolution proceeds from museum tickets sales in Egypt totaled 1.6 million euro. In November 2012 they had shrunk to 450,000 euro.

In Alexandria, "the national museum pulls in a little less than 300 Egyptian pounds, or 35 euro a day in tickets sale, while the Egyptian Museum in Cairo last year sold 550 tickets a day." In the heyday of Egyptian tourism the museum attracted 6,000 visitors a day. "We're working day and night to improve our country's image", said Ibrahim.

"In recent months we've opened several new sites such as the Temple of Hibis in the Kharga Oasi, and the tomb of Merenptah in the Valley of the Kings".

"Other openings scheduled between January and March include the temple of Qasr Al-Agouz - also in the Valley of the Kings, and a huge restoration project on the Islamic monuments of Bab al Wazir in Cairo". The Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor has been re-opened to the tune of 19 million euro. And the Suez Museum is set to open its doors to the public soon. Both Ibrahim and Egypt's Premier Mohamed Morsi are counting on foreign investment to help pull the country out of economic crisis. "At the moment we can handle simple jobs like cleaning and painting. But to green-light large projects we're relying on foreign investment", Ibrahim said. But degradation is rife. The Muez road, which sits behind Cairo's ancient souks was restored well before January 2011. Two years after the revolution, it is in tatters.

"Cars and motorbikes wind up and down. Streetlights are smashed, and bollards broken." "Because of this residents have formed committees to protect tourists and help clean up the area". ßAsked if the the return of Islam in power could have had an effect on the collapse of tourism, Ibrahim replied, "I don't think so. If Egypt returns to stability, tourists will come back".

Egyptian exhibitions abroad - such as an ongoing Tutankhamun exhibition in Japan, are the country's trump card. Even in a time of crisis, many Japanese tourists have been persuaded to visit Egypt. (ANSAmed).