Egyptian leaders are reportedly planning to cover up the pyramids at Giza.
Members of the Nour (The Light) Salafist party, want to put an end to the ‘idolatry’ represented by the pyramids. They method they want to use is “concealment” by covering the pyramids with wax. The pyramids will appear as great big blobs rather than the perfectly carved steps. Tourists will be banned from even looking at the pyramids.
The suggestion of using wax was made by Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat. Apart from wanting to do away with this ‘rotten culture’, Al-Shahat wants to ban the Nobel prize winning novels of Naguib Mahfouz, one of many great Egyptian writers.
Al-Shahat is a member of the Salfist Party of Egypy. Salafism means reverting to the mores of the founding generation of Islam, for the close companions of the Prophet were called Salafi meaning ‘pious founders’. Since the last adherent of ancient Egyptian religion allegedly converted (to Christianity) in the fourth century AD, the original Salafists had little to worry about the pyramids and left them alone.
But not their 21st century successors, who also want what they call ‘halal’ tourism, with women told to dress decorously and no alcohol, something pretty general already in conservative Egypt. The Salafists want segregated beaches, which will not go down well with visitors to Sharm el Sheikh.
Tourism accounts for 11 per cent of Egypt’s $218billion GDP. Right now, hotels and resorts report falls in occupancy from 90 to 15 per cent.
This is bad news for the 3million Egyptians who depend on the 14million tourists who visit Egypt each year. The people affected are not simply waiters and chambermaids, but taxi drivers, camel and horse ride touts, shop and stall owners and ordinary villagers who make a bit on the side providing tea and snacks for Nile cruises.
This could be beginning of the end of the last vestiges of a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture, as represented by another great Egyptian novelist, the Cairo dentist, Alaa Al Aswany, author of the remarkable Yacoubian Building.
It is becoming hard to recall that in the 1950s – under King Farouk – Egypt had a thriving film industry, producing 300 movies a year, and that its national chanteuse, Umm Kulthum, was worshipped throughout the Middle East.