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MEMPHIS, Egypt – Egypt is building two highways across the pyramids plateau outside Cairo, reviving and expanding a project that was suspended in the 1990s after an international outcry.

The Great Pyramids, Egypt’s top tourist destination, are the sole survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the plateau is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The highways are part of an infrastructure push spearheaded by Egypt’s powerful military and championed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is building a new capital city to ease the population pressure on Cairo, home to 20 million people.

The northern highway will cross the desert 1.6 miles south of the Great Pyramids. The southern one will pass between the Step Pyramid of Saqqara – the oldest one – and the Dahshur area, home to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.

Each highway appears to be about eight lanes wide.

Critics say they could cause irrevocable damage to one of the world’s most important heritage sites. Authorities say they will be built with care and improve transport links, connecting new urban developments and bypassing central Cairo’s congestion.

“The roads are very, very important for development, for Egyptians, for inside Egypt,” said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. “Know that we take good care of our antiquities sites everywhere in Egypt.”

Some Egyptologists and conservationists say the highways will disrupt the integrity of the pyramids plateau, pave over unexplored archaeological sites, generate pollution that could corrode monuments, produce litter and expose closed areas packed with hidden archaeological treasures to looting.

Al-Waziri said existing roads were much closer to the pyramids and carried a lot of tourist buses. “That is why we are doing a lot of development,” he said, noting plans to use electric tourist buses within the plateau to avoid pollution.


The highways, which will dissect the plateau into three, will cross a section of ancient Memphis, one of the world’s biggest and most influential cities for almost 3,000 years.

“I was flabbergasted by what I saw,” said former senior UNESCO official Said Zulficar, who visited a portion of the southern highway two months ago. “All the work that I had done nearly 25 years ago is now being put into question.”

Zulficar led a successful campaign in the mid 1990s to suspend construction of the northern highway, a branch of Cairo’s first ringroad. UNESCO said it had requested detailed information on the new plan several times and asked to send a monitoring mission.

The state press centre referred a Reuters request for further comment on the plans to a communications advisor of the tourism and antiquities ministry, who could not be reached.

Construction began well over a year ago in desert areas largely out of public sight and became more visible around March, Egyptologists and Google Earth images indicate.

On a recent visit, Reuters journalists saw heavy machinery clearing fields and building bridges and junctions along both highways. Hundreds of uprooted date palms lay in piles.

The southern highway is a part of Cairo’s second ringroad that will connect the western satellite city of Sixth of October to the new capital city east of Cairo via 16 km of desert on the pyramids plateau, farmland and a corner of Memphis.

In 2014, the World Bank estimated congestion in the greater Cairo area cut about 3.6 percentage points off Egypt’s output.

“The road cuts through archaeologically unexplored cemeteries of the little-known 13th Dynasty, in walking distance of the pyramids of Pepi II and Khendjer and the Mastabat el-Fara’un”, said an Egyptologist who knows the area.

The person was among six Egyptologists Reuters spoke to. Most of them declined to be named for fear of losing clearance to handle antiquities.

One said caches of statues and blocks with hieroglyphs had been unearthed since highway construction began; the antiquities authority said on its Facebook page these had been discovered on nearby private property.

Memphis, said to have been founded in about 3,000 B.C. when Egypt was united into a single country, was eclipsed but not abandoned when Alexander the Great moved the capital to Alexandria in 331 B.C.

It extended more than 6 square kilometres, the Nile valley’s largest ancient settlement site.

The new road comes close to the ancient city’s commercial districts, its harbour walls and the former site of an ancient Nilometer, used to measure the height of the annual flood, said David Jeffreys, a British Egyptologist who has been working on Memphis for the Egypt Exploration Society since 1981.

It also endangers a Roman wall that once bordered the Nile that Jeffreys said few people were aware of.

“Memphis has long been neglected, even by Egyptologists, as it is a complicated site to excavate,” another Egyptologist said. “But it is enormously rich, bursting with temples, archives, administrative buildings and industrial areas.”

Filed under egypt ,  landmarks ,  roads ,  9/16/20

News Source: New York Post

Tags: egypt egypt landmarks roads pyramids plateau the pyramids

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Airlines prepare for tens of thousands of job cuts unless 11th hour bailout is reached

New York (CNN Business)Tens of thousands of good-paying airline jobs could be lost as soon as Thursday, as a federal prohibition on jobs cuts in the industry is set to expire. But hopes still remain for an 11th hour deal to avoid the cuts.

Airline executives say they are prepared to keep workers on the payroll if Congress shows signs it will approve an additional $25 billion in grants to the battered industry."If there's a clear and concrete path that says we're not quite done yet but we will be done soon, of course [we'll avoid job cuts]," said Doug Parker, CEO of industry leader American Airlines (AAL) said in an interview with CNN Wednesday.
    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC earlier in the day that he would be urging airline executives to delay any job cuts as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to reach a deal on a new stimulus package.Parker said he and other airline executives are pleased with prospect of progress. But he cautioned that airlines might still have to go ahead with furloughs in the absence of assurances that a deal is close. American has plans to cut as many as 19,000 jobs.Read More"If it's 'We need much more time to work' and unclear whether we can get something done, that's going to be much harder," he said.In addition to the cuts planned at American, United Airlines (UAL) is considering 12,000 job cuts. Then there are about 17,000 job cuts looming at other airlines across the US industry.Unions have been reaching deals with airline management to try to delay or cancel furloughs even without a new round of federal help in place. The Air Line Pilots Association reached a deal with United Monday that would eliminate 2,850 furloughs for its members. Delta Air Lines (DAL) has also agreed to delay pilots furloughs until at least November 1. It's possible other unions could reach deals with airline management as well.The probation on involuntary job cuts in the industry expires Thursday. That ban that took effect when the airlines accepted $25 billion in federal help earlier this year. Although seven airlines are preparing to accept another round of loans also approved earlier this year, those loans don't come with the same prohibition on job cuts.CEOs and unions come together in 11th hour plea for Congress to save airline jobsThe airlines have bipartisan support for another round of federal help. At an event last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and the chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican and the ranking member on that panel, both voiced support for the airlines getting additional help to avoid job cuts.The airlines, the unions and their supporters in Congress argue that if the jobs are lost, it will be much tougher to bring people back to work than in other industries due to the training and certification required for airline workers.Air traffic has picked up from the more than 90% drop where it was in late March and April, when the first round of assistance was passed by Congress. But traffic passing through TSA checkpoints is still down about two-thirds from year-ago traffic levels, and airlines aren't expecting a total recovery for years.
      But the industry has already trimmed about 45,000 jobs through various voluntary buyout and early retirement offers to their employees. Executives say those voluntary departures, combined with hopes of recovery once a Covid-19 vaccine is available, is the reason they only need another six months of help."In recessions you don't see the airlines ground aircraft like we're doing today," Parker told CNN. "What I anticipate will happen is we continue to see gradual improvement over the next six months. It doesn't need to be all the way recovered by any means but say 80% of what it used to be, we'd be flying all of the airlines, we'd be needing to employ all of the people we have employed."

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