TED Case Studies

Egypt Artifacts and Tourism

          CASE NUMBER:          25 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      EGYPT
          CASE NAME:          Egyptian Monuments and Tourism


1.        The Issue

     This case centers on the tourist trade in Egypt and its
harmful affects on the environment, with particular focus on the
degradation of the ancient Egyptian monuments.  Tourism has become
one of the most dynamic sectors of the Egyptian economy.  As a
consequence, the decay of some of the world's most fabulous ancient
relics has been proceeding at an alarming rate.  Some say that if
current rates continue unabated, within another one to two
centuries the paintings and architecture of many of these monuments
will be completely destroyed.  Although there are no legal
proceedings currently taking place, the potential exists mainly in
international organizations that could exert pressure on Egypt to
preserve its ancient treasures.

2.        Description

     In February of 1988, a 550 pound chunk of limestone fell from
the Sphinx, the half lion, half man (pharaoh) relic built by the
ancient Egyptians over 4,000 years ago.  Though this was a very
visible display of decomposition, in reality the Sphinx has been
physically decaying for centuries.  The story is the same
throughout Egypt.  Most of the monuments and tombs of Egypt have
lasted through centuries due to natural protection of drifts of
sand which usually covered them.  Not until the early part of this
century have most of the relics been exposed and made accessible
and susceptible to the effects of modern humans. 

     In the 4,500 year old pyramids, encrustations of salt, left in
part by the evaporations caused from throngs of tourists, have
eaten away at the walls of the burial chamber.  The walls of the
Temple of Luxor are also being eroded.  Across the Nile from Luxor
in the Valley of the Queens, about a quarter of the wall paintings
at the tomb of Nefertari have been destroyed by salt deposits. 
Zahi Hawass, the supervisor of the Giza Plateau for the Egyptian
Antiquities Organization (EAO), stated that "all the monuments are
endangered.  If we don't do something soon, in 100 years the
paintings will be gone, and in 200 years the architecture will be

     Saving Egypt's monuments will be a monumental task.  The
country boasts an estimated 10,000 antiquities sites which are
irreplaceable.  The tombs, temples, paintings and inscriptions add
up to an astounding record of the lives and beliefs of a people in
one of the world's most ancient civilizations which influenced the
development of modern cultures throughout the world.  The Egyptians
are the guardians of this unique heritage, but they may have
difficulty in preserving them.

     The problems lie both in the age of the monuments and the
exorbitant growth Egypt has experienced in the past 75 years.  The
pyramids were ancient when the Romans invaded Egypt over 2,000
years ago.  Yet the affect of old age pales when compared to the
destruction wrought by people.  The burgeoning Egyptian population
now exceeds 53 million and continues to grow exponentially (the
population was about a half million 75 years ago).  The problems
associated with this growth plus a thriving tourist trade, have
wreaked more havoc in the past few decades than the past four
millennium combined.

     The problems of age have just been compounded by the problems
of modernity.  The Giza monuments are made of limestone which is
susceptible to the affects of humidity.  Too many tourists crowded
into a tomb can increase the humidity level by several percentage
points.  This has been exacerbated by the erection of the Aswan Dam
which has created more irrigation water and therefore created
higher humidity levels in the area.

     The horrendous pollution of Cairo and its environs also have
contributed to the decay.  Nearby factories and scores of motor
vehicles spew clouds of exhaust which turns corrosive when
dissolved by rain.  Vibrations from tourist buses and cars, which
until recently were allowed just a few feet from the pyramids, and
also produced cracks in the monuments.  Furthermore, corrosion of
the ancient paintings is advanced by the tourists who touch and
breath on these treasures.

     Another by-product of Egypt's exponential growth is its
inefficient sewage and water systems.  Approximately 80 percent of
Cairo's incoming water supply leaks into the ground as does much of
its waste water.  As the groundwater rises, it dissolves mineral
salts from the soil and bedrock.  The porous limestone from which
many monuments are made absorbs this salty water from the ground. 
When the water evaporates, the salts are left behind, subsequently
crystallizing into destructive white lesions.

     The problem for Egypt is that tourism is such an important
part of the Egyptian economy.  The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in
Egypt in 1990 was about $24 billion, of which tourism made up 10
percent.  Tourist revenues increased from about $800 million in
1984/85 to over $2.5 billion in 1989/90.  Furthermore, the amount
of visitors almost doubled in the same period, from 1.3 million to
2.5 million.  Though the tourist trade is highly vulnerable to
regional conflicts and terrorism, as is evident now (recent
outbreaks of terrorism have greatly reduced the tourist activity in
Egypt), it shows great ability to rebound.  The current downturn in
tourism, however, is having a crippling effect on the Egyptian

     In finding cures to this problem, it will be imperative for
the Egyptian authorities to take into account the tourism equation. 
First and foremost, Egypt must continue to depend on outside
organizations such as UNESCO or preservation groups for money. 
Scientific research is imperative in finding solutions devoid of
the earlier mishaps.  Many previous restoration projects have
proved more harmful than good.  There are also steps Egyptian
authorities can take.  Continued regulation of vehicles and tourism
around the monuments through higher fees and/or legislation is
probably the least costly and most efficacious.  The bottom line is
that tourism must somehow be limited to save the monuments of one
of the world's most ancient civilizations.

3.        Related Cases

     VENICE case
     CANCUN case
     CUBA case
     JAMTOUR case

     Keyword Clusters         

     (1): Domain                   = AFRICA
     (2): Bio-geography            = DRY
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Pollution Air [POLA]

4.        Draft Author: Gil Bindlegas

B.        LEGAL Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status:  AGReement and INPROGress

6.        Forum and Scope:  EGYPT and UNILATeral

     There are several international organizations which have
assisted Egypt in its restoration projects.  UNESCO, The Getty
Conservation Institute, and the Polish Center for Archaeology are
just a few of the many organizations devoted to saving these
monuments.  The Egyptian agency responsible for supervising
conservation and restoration of the monuments is Egyptian
Antiquities Organization, a division of the Ministry of Culture.

7.        Decision Breadth: 1 (Egypt)

8.        Legal Standing:  LAW

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain : MIDEAST
     b.   Geographic Site   : SAHARA
     c.   Geographic Impact : EGYPT

10.       Sub-National Factors:  NO

11.       Type of Habitat:  DRY

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:  Import Tax [IMTAX]

     Several different measures are possible to slow or reverse the
decay of the ancient treasures.  Through high admission prices (a
tax essentially) to the more dilapidated monuments, Egypt will
raise revenue as well as regulate the flow of tourist traffic. 
Another measure would be to set regulatory standards on the tourist
industry.  For example, cars and buses will no longer be allowed
proximity to the Pyramids. Instead, tourists will be ferried from
parking lots by electric cars.  This measure has already begun to
be implemented.  The most extreme measure would be to completely
quarantine the most decaying monuments, at least until a solution
to the problem is found.

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  INDirect

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.  Directly Related     : NO
     b.  Indirectly Related   : YES  TOURism
     c.  Not Related          : NO
     d.  Process Related      : YES  Pollution Air [POLA]

15.       Trade Product Identification:  TOURism

16.       Economic Data

     Tourism is an important source of revenue for Egypt.  As
mentioned, tourist revenues topped $2.5 billion in 1990 (though the
past year has seen a drastic decline due to increased terrorism). 
This amounts to about 10 percent of the GDP which is about $24
billion.  The amount of tourists has also increased dramatically;
from 1.3 million in 1985 to 2.5 million in 1990.  Tourism is also
a major employer which includes hotels, restaurants,
transportation, bazaars and other tourist peddlers and shops.

17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  LOW

18.       Industry Sector:  TOURism

19.       Exporter and Importer:  MANY and EGYPT

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type:  Pollution Air [POLA]

     Although there are many different sources contributing to the
decline of Egypt's ancient past, tourism is a major contributor. 
The presence of only half a dozen people in a small underground
room is enough to raise the humidity by five or six degrees.  The
damp walls will eventually form salt crystals which will dislodge
the paint.  In addition pollution caused by the thousands of
tourists a day is very detrimental to the monuments.

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 

          Name:          NA
          Type:          NA
          Diversity:     NA

22.       Impact and Effect:  LOW and PRODuct

23.       Urgency and Lifetime:  LONg and 100s of years

24.       Substitutes:  Eco-Tourism [ECOTR]

     In the end, there are no substitutes for the Sphinx, the Great
Pyramids, or other important historical artifacts.  The Egyptian
government, however, is trying to market less popular tombs and
other sites to ease the strain on the more famous ones.

VI.       OTHER Factors

25.       Culture:  YES

     Ancient Egyptian treasures are revered in both Western and
Arab cultures.  Westerners define their heritage with important
contributions from Egypt.

26.       Trans-Border:  NO

27.       Rights:  NO

28.       Relevant Literature

Book of Vital World Statistics.   New York: Economist
     Books, 1990.
Borcover, Alfred.  "Threatened Treasures -- People Abuse What 
     They Travel The Globe To See."  Chicago Tribune (August
     11, 1991): C2. 
Darby, Joseph B. III, Esq.  "Egypt Turns to Pyramid Power."
     Middle East Executive Reports 6/9 (September 1983): 10.
"Egypt: Race Against Time -- Conservation of Tourist Attractions 
     Needed to Save Heritage."  Middle East Magazine (October
     1, 1991).
Hammond, Norman.  "Tourism Takes its Toll on Sphinx."  Geotimes
     38/5: 13-17.
Hedges, Chris.  "Sphinx Poses Riddle About its Own Fate."  The 
     New York Times (March 10, 1992): C4.
Lemonick, Michael D.  "Perilous Times for the Pyramids."  Time 
     (May 15, 1989): 60-62.
"Monumental Task: Man is His Own Worst Enemy in Trying to Save
     the Sphinx."  Chicago Tribune (August 11, 1988): C1.
The Middle East and North Africa 1993, 39th edition.
     Europa Publications LTD: London, 1992.


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