Friday, July 29, 2011

The Faiyum continues to cause serious concern

onearth (Stephen Glain)

A mega-resort west of Cairo threatens a vast archeological treasure

Each working day, a road crew lays another few hundred feet of two-lane highway around Lake Qarun, the gemstone of the Fayoum governorate in central Egypt. When finished, the 60-kilometer tarmac will serve a planned resort complex to be raised on the northeastern shore of the lake, a stunning oasis about an hour’s drive west of Cairo, and for those opposing the project it may as well be a noose.

"The access road is the beginning of the end," says Erik R. Seiffert, a vertebrae paleontologist and an associate professor at New York’s Stony Brook University who has done research in the area. "I don’t see how we can offer any real protection with that thing coming in."

It is a tragedy of modern Egypt that what lies below the soil is often of greater potential value than what lives above it. That is certainly the case with Fayoum, which is among the more neglected regions in an historically deprived nation. Settled in 4,000 B.C., the city is thought to be one of the oldest in Egypt and is a treasure trove of antiquities of all kinds.

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