One of the world's great museums resembled a military camp on Thursday, with soldiers patrolling behind its wrought iron gates and armored vehicles parked nearby. Inside, workers with white coats and latex gloves delicately handled artifacts that were damaged in the chaos sweeping Egypt.
The country's priceless trove of antiquities has emerged mostly unscathed from the unrest so far, but tourism, a pillar of the Egyptian economy, has not. Tens of thousands of foreigners have fled Egypt, many on evacuation flights organized by their governments, draining a key source of employment and foreign currency.
Egypt's most famous tourist attraction, the Pyramids of Giza, reopened to tourists on Wednesday after a 12-day closure. But few came to visit. The heavily guarded and shuttered Egyptian Museum in Cairo is next to Tahrir Square, a protest encampment that draws hundreds of thousands of people on some days.
"We will open the museum after the strike is finished. I don't know when the strike is finished," said Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass, referring to the upheaval. "I need things to go back to normal."
Friday, February 11, 2011
Tourists desert antiquities
Washington Post (Christopher Torchia)