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Egypt: are tourists helping to destroy the very monuments they flock to see?

More than 8 million tourists have visited Egypt so far this year, reports BBC Fast Track, the celebrated attractions being the millennia-old monuments for which the Nile Valley is world famous. A large number sign up for one of the many popular cruises on offer from Luxor to Aswan, taking in the magnificent sites of The Valley of the Kings, The Queen’s Valley and the oldest known pyramid in the world, built almost 5000 years ago at Saqqara.

But with around 350 boats unloading passengers every day, the swarms of tourists are damaging the monuments, even by breathing, warns Doctor Zahi Hawass of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities. Inside the pyramids, our breath creates water which in turn creates salt causing cracks in the structures, he says. Flashes from cameras and bags touching the tombs cause further problems. He has now limited the number of tourists allowed to visit the Step Pyramid at Saqqara to 300 per day and boat managers are staggering their arrivals to the main sites.

Tourists are not the only culprits however: treasure hunters and floods have caused great damage over the last millennium. In an attempt to reverse this trend screens and dehumidifiers are being installed, the numbers of visitors limited and openings rotated.

Daisy Khan from the American Association for Muslim Advancement hopes a balance can be found. It is essential that the masses visit the monuments and learn from them, she feels. Not just Americans and Europeans but Arabs from other countries who want to look back at their history.

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