How Egypt is focusing on archaeology to support its tourism sector in crisis
From the announced discovery of a 3,000-year-old lost city south of Luxor to fireworks and float transfer of 22 of the country’s prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place, Egypt is striving to impress the world with its antiquities to revive its tourism industry.
As some Western countries are provisionally reopening to international tourists thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination campaign, Egypt has set out to capitalize on its multitude of fascinating archaeological sites and museums to revive a pillar of its economy: the tourism sector in full crisis.
The country still has to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fight to get its population of nearly 100 million vaccinated, but looking to the future, officials are banking on the plethora of new ancient discoveries to support the post-pandemic tourism market.To make money on the finds, a sea of media advertising accompanied the efforts of archaeologists.
In November 2020, they announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins dating from the late Pharaonic period and the Greco-Ptolemaic era, along with 40 gilded statues, buried 2,500 years ago, in the Saqqara complex. At the time, Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani predicted that local scientists would get more exciting results.
“Saqqara is a treasure,” the minister said, announcing the November discovery. “Our problem now is that we don’t know how we can wow the world after this,” he added. The drive to amazing the world with Egypt’s ancient treasures has continued ever since, and this April Zahi Hawass, the country’s renowned archaeologist, announced the discovery of a 3,000-year-old lost city in southern Luxor, praised as one of the finds most important from the tomb of Tutankhamun.Known as Aten and unearthed a few weeks after excavations started in September 2020, she emerged from the sand with a suit of mud-brick houses, artifacts, and tools dating back to the Pharaonic era. The discovery dates back to what was dubbed the “golden age” of ancient Egypt, the reign of Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty (1390-1353 BC).
To fuel the flames of lovers of antiquities, the so-called “Golden Parade” then invaded the streets of the Egyptian capital. The ancient mummies of 18 kings and 4 queens have been moved with great fanfare from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the massive southernmost structure in the capital, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).The parade of kings and queens included royals of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties, such as Ramses II (also known as Ozymandias, or Ramses the Great, one of the most glorious pharaohs in history), Queen Hatshepsut, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari.
Also, new places to house treasures are mushrooming. New museums have recently opened at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo International Airport, with plans to open the Great Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids of Giza by January.The country’s tourism industry was previously paralyzed by developments involving the events of the 2011 Arab Spring that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and wreaked havoc.Now, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt another major blow to the tourism sector.
In 2019, as Egypt received around 13.1 million foreign tourists to reach pre-2011 levels, it boasted foreign tourism revenue of around $ 13 billion before the 2020 global health crisis hit, with just 3, 5 million foreign tourists who came to the country last year, according to Khaled El-Anany.In the first months of this year, amid the efforts of universal vaccination, tourist traffic has strengthened, according to what the minister told the Associated Press: “Egypt is a perfect destination for post-Covid as our tourism it is outdoor tourism.”