Saqqara pyramid in danger as restorations halt over financial woes

Saqqara pyramid in danger as restorations halt over financial woes

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Mon, 01/10/2012 - 15:15

Renovations at Egypt’s oldest pyramid in Saqqara have halted because the Antiquities Ministry has not paid the company implementing the restoration.

Experts have warned that parts of the ancient structure could collapse. The Revolutionary Youth Union has also threatened to file a complaint against the antiquities minister and to submit a memo to UNESCO asking for its intervention.

Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, denied the pyramid was in any danger, and added that renovations are continuing. He said the ministry failed to pay the company restoring the pyramid for its work due to heavy debts.

Ibrahim said UNESCO had months ago sent an expert to follow up on the restorations. Al-Masry Al-Youm said the minister intends to hold a press conference to address more details about the renovation project.

Sabry Farag, the ministry’s chief inspector in Saqqara, said financial constraints were behind renovation delays. He said the director of the renovation company was behind what he characterized as “rumors” alleging that the pyramid is facing collapse.

But Omar al-Hadary, head of the Revolution Youth Union’s tourism committee, accused the minister of circumventing the problem by insisting that the pyramid remains safe.

“If the minister is so confident of his claim, he should give technical reports as evidence,” he told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “We will soon respond to the minister’s allegation, especially since some parts of the pyramid are indeed facing collapse.”

The pyramid, which is more than 4,600 years old, was first built by the ancient Egyptians and was constructed from limestone for Pharaoh Joser, who ruled from 2686–2613 BC.

Six unequal steps form the pyramid, which is 62 meters high. Inside, the pyramid has a network of corridors and a granite and marble burial chamber.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm