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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Giza pyramids area is getting a makeover – here is how

The Giza pyramids area is getting a major makeover — here’s how: Tourism has for long been a major pillar in the Egyptian economy, contributing some 11.3% to GDP, while securing 19.3% of Egypt’s hard currency and employing over 12.6% of the total workforce, according to the Tourism Development Authority. Tourism in Egypt can hardly be decoupled from the Giza Pyramids, but that being said, the image that comes to mind has not always lived up to the heritage site’s potential. A 2015 Tourism Ministry poll of tourists found that 58% felt the pyramids area is not safe, while 70% said it is unclean, and 74% pointed to a lack of clear signage, according to Al Monitor. With that in mind, the government launched a massive plan to completely overhaul the area.

Giving the Pyramids Plateau a complete makeover has been a major element of Egypt’s tourism revival strategy. The plan involves everything from the roads leading to the last-standing wonder of the ancient world to every small booth selling souvenirs, according to Ashraf Mohi El Din, who is director of Pyramids Area Antiquities at the ministry. In part 1 of this two-part series, we look at what the plan entails, and what you can expect once the project has been completed.

The end goal is to boost tourism traffic to the pyramids to over 8 mn visitors annually. Infrastructure developments at the plateau aim to support 2 mn tourists in the first year of its opening, then 5 mn tourists within three years. But the infrastructure is designed to accommodate 8 mn tourists in the future, Mohi El Din tells us.

Background: Developing the Pyramids Plateau has always been on the mind of tourism ministers. The current project, however, had started back in January 2009 and was due to be completed in 2012, according to Egypt’s Projects Map. The project was suspended during the turmoil that followed 2011 before being revived in 2018.

What can we expect when all is said and done? The Giza Vision 2030 encompasses the Pyramids Plateau development plan, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), an open Sphinx Museum, and the Khufu Avenue, which would extend along 8 km linking Sphinx Square in Mohandiseen to the Pyramids, along with a monorail covering the same distance. But the project does not stop at bricks and stones. It will also overhaul the current Nazlet El Seman area and rebrand it as Sphinx Village to afford a better quality of life for its residents.

Arriving at the area: A complete overhaul of the transportation modes in the area will change the experience of just getting there. If you are flying in, a flight that lands in Sphinx International Airport will be a 20-minute drive away from the pyramids. Are you a VIP? There’s a helipad waiting for you with a capacity of 4 choppers, Mohi El Din says. And if you are driving, get ready to see the pyramids from 10 km away if you take the Khufu Avenue linking Sphinx Square in Mohandeseen to the plateau, according to Giza Vision 2030. Soon enough, you will be able to take a quick metro ride and exit right by the new entrance, the construction of which is slated to begin at the end of the year, Al Masry Al Youm reported, citing an unnamed source.

No more long lines: The new massive 4 sqkm visitor centers located by the new main entrance on Fayoum Road will have 12 ticket windows, including two for people with special needs, four for Egyptians, and six for foreigners, in addition to three windows offering tickets for students. The information center will also feature a 150-seat theatre that offers a brief documentary for visitors. Some 18 gift shops will be available on site, along with a small café and restaurant, a clinic, and toilets, Waad Aboul Ela, head of the projects department at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the person in charge of the project, tells Enterprise. Some of these services are already up for grabs for investors, according to Egypt’s investments portal.

Getting around EV-style: Although visitors will have to leave their vehicles at the entrance and camel and horse rides will be limited to the outside park and banned in the archaeological areas, electric cars and EV tour buses will be available to pick up visitors every five minutes, Aboul Ela told Enterprise.

Inside the archaeological area, Orascom Development Egypt (ODE) will offer WiFi without charge for visitors, print guidebooks, and develop a mobile app. Senior citizens will have access to tailored services, including cleaning services. The company is providing some security, while the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Council of Antiquities will continue securing the public site, visitors, archaeological sites, and antiquities.

Craftsmen, horse and camel owners, merchants, and photographers will be trained by the company and offered booths in designated areas to ensure they are providing quality products and services at reasonable prices without annoying visitors, according to Aboul Ela.

NEXT WEEK: We dive into the nitty gritty of how this major redevelopment was undertaken, what the challenges were and how they were overcome. We also look at where the project stands today and when it will be completed.

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