Cash-strapped Egypt considers offering pyramids, other monuments for rent

An Egyptian man waits for tourists to take them on camel rides at the Giza pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo. The country’s economy has taken a huge dip after foreign tourists fled during Egypt’s uprising. (AFP)

Egypt’s finance ministry sent a proposal to the country’s antiquities ministry to consider offering key monuments, including the pyramids, to international tourism firm as a quick solution to generate funds needed to overcome the financial crisis, an official has said.

Rumors about the proposal, which some described as preposterous, have circulated online for weeks.

But on Wednesday, Adel Abdel Sattar, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in an interview with Egypt’s ONTV channel confirmed the existence of a proposal to offer Egypt’s monuments, including the pyramids in Giza, the Sphinx, the Abu Simbel Temple and the temples of Luxor, to international tourism firm.

There have been reports that the rich Gulf state of Qatar, which strongly supported efforts to oust former president Hosni Mubarak from power, is interested in a deal to exploit Egypt’s most precious historical assets for a period of five years. The return for Egypt would be a substantial amount of money, estimated at $200 billion, enough to pay the country’s national debt and heal its economic woes for years if not decades to come.

Abdel Sattar confirmed the proposal to rent out Egypt’s monuments but denied that Qatar or any Gulf state was involved.

Abdel Sattar said he was “surprised” at the end of January when the finance ministry forwarded him a proposal by Abdallah Mahfouz, identified as an Egyptian intellectual, to offer in a public auction the rights to exploit Egypt’s most famous sites to international tourism firms.

Sattar said the proposal indicated that such a move would provide a quick solution to the country’s financial deficit as it will generate about $200 billion over five years.

Despite his objection to the proposal, Sattar said he sought legal advice from the Ministry of State of Antiquities and following a meeting with the Supreme Council of Antiquities the ministry decided to send rejection letter to the finance ministry.

Monica Hanna, Egyptian archaeologist and researcher, was quoted by the Egypt Independent was a “a litmus test” to test how far can Egypt go in its struggle to overcome the economic crisis.

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Last Update: Monday, 01 April 2013 KSA 18:39 - GMT 15:39
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