Monday, April 17, 2006

The future of Bahariya

Zahi Hawass concludes his recent episodic account of his work at Bahariya Oasis in the Western Desert:
"Most of our work during the third, fourth and fifth seasons was focused on preservation and conservation. We have treated all the mummies in situ to protect them from deterioration and infestation by insects, and we have carefully recorded all the artifacts we have found at both sites. We have also constructed ceilings and doors for the tombs we have excavated. We have opened several tombs, from the 26th, Dynasty to the public. This was an immense job, which required installation of electricity, ventilation inside the tomb and landscaping outside.
One day I hope to have a major site museum at Bahariya; it will be the first of its kind built for a major discovery such as the Valley of the Golden Mummies.
I will never forget the first day of our excavation.That evening, the team went to a cafe to discuss the excavation. The owner, Sheikh Rashed, came to me and said, 'Sir, our town is so neglected. Next time you are on TV, will you talk about us?' Neither of us realised that I would soon be mentioning their little town in publications and programmes worldwide. Bahariya has become one of the most famous archeological areas in the world. About ten thousand tourists travel there each year, and the region is finally entering the twenty-first century. There are hotels, cafes, markets and cars, and it is now possible to dial directly from Bahariya to anywhere in the world. Sheikh Rashed still has his cafe but now he has opened an internet cafe so that everyone can check their e-mail from Bahariya. I never thought anything like this would happen in an oasis deep in the Western Desert of Egypt.
My best estimate is that the valley holds about ten thousand mummies, but I feel we should let them rest undisturbed. The 253 mummies we have uncovered have given us an enormous amount of information to sift through. We have only scratched the surface of this site and the adventures will continue for many years to come."

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