Egypt's Fightback against a Tourist Slump

It’s been an extraordinary year for archaeological discoveries at Saqqara, a dusty necropolis south of Cairo and UNESCO World Heritage Site, where separate finds have unearthed scores of sarcophagi and a host of artifacts, including an obelisk and a unique, bejeweled statue of the god Nefertum. This, following the reopening of the 4,700-year-old Djoser’s Step Pyramid in March after a 14-year, $6.6 million restoration. In early October, 59 sarcophagi, around 2,500 years old, were uncovered. Wonderfully preserved with their original colors and hieroglyphs, their unveiling was an opportunity to reach a prized audience: tourists. Alongside press, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities invited dozens of foreign ambassadors, who subsequently shared images and details across social media. While the pandemic rumbles on, the tourism sector is regrouping. In July, a smattering of attractions reopened including the Great Pyramids of Giza, along with hotels issued with government safety certificates indicating they met World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. In September, more archaeological sites reopened, and the Egyptian government announced further measures to support the sector, including extending visa fee exemptions for tourist hotspots Luxor, Aswan, the Red Sea and South Sinai until April 2021, and delaying repayments on utility bills and debts for tourism-related companies.

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