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Egypt Unwrapped

Tourism Takes its Toll

Valley of the Kings mural from King Tutankhamun’s tomb
This month marks the 90th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb—though if the famous boy king were alive today, he might not be in the mood for celebration.

Decades of mass tourism have taken their toll on the ancient burial chamber, with the humidity generated by hundreds of visitors causing the intricate painted plaster work to break away from the bedrock.

Officials have announced that it will soon have to close—an ignominious end for a tomb which triggered a global wave of Egyptmania when it was found by Howard Carter in November 1922.

This month, however, officials unveiled a plan that carries with it prospects for a long-term solution to the sorry fate that has befallen King Tut’s tomb.

For the past two years, a British artist has been working to create a perfect facsimile of the burial chamber.

Using advanced laser technology, Adam Lowe, the founder and director of heritage preservation company Factum Arte, produced the replica with the backing of a Swiss organisation, the Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt.

The first stage of the project, which was launched with the full approval of the Egyptian authorities, was initiated yesterday when the replica was unveiled in central Cairo.

It is now hoped it will form the centrepiece of an exhibition in Luxor alongside two other still-incomplete replicas—those of Seti I and Queen Nefertari, a wife of Ramses the Great.

According to organisers, there are several aims behind the scheme, perhaps the most important being the cultivation of a sustainable tourist industry.

Officials hope that by encouraging tourists to visit replicas of some of the most popular tombs in Egypt, the country’s archaeological treasures can be protected for future generations.

There is also the issue of local employment to consider. The team behind the project hope want to create long-term jobs in Luxor, with a transfer of skills to the local area to help with future replica projects.

In a statement, Factum Arte said:

The management of cultural heritage sites is often a balancing act between protecting the monuments and allowing access to those who wish to study, admire and learn from them.
The tombs in the Valley of the Kings are especially vulnerable because their well-deserved fame makes the Theban Necropolis one of the most visited sites not just in Egypt but in the World.

With the unveiling of the replica this month, the wonders of one of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs will be safeguarded for many years to come.

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Alastair Beach
Alastair Beach is a freelance reporter based in Cairo who has worked for a variety of publications, including the Independent, the Sunday Telegraph and Spectator. He was previously based in Syria.

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