Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shutting Out the Neighbourhood


I've been a little less than thrilled with the Supreme Council for Antiquities for a while, and last night I got even more reason not to be impressed. I heard from a fairly reliable source that they'd decided to go forward with the wall that they've been talking about for a while in this part of the desert and are starting out with building it in the Abu Sir area, specifically from the pyramids of Abu Sir to just a bit beyond the Sun Temple. I actually understand the building of the wall in Giza, although they didn't have to make it so ugly. There is a densely populated area surrounding the plateau there, but down here the desert is bordered by large houses and gardens belonging to people who are keeping people out of the desert quite effectively. We've had to negotiate a close by access, which if the story is true, will no longer be available after the summer.

So what's the problem other than the fact that I wll probably be inconvenienced? One of the problems is the fact that the edge of the desert that will be closed off by the wall is where the local kids play football (soccer to you, Mericans)in the afternoons. There aren't any open spaces for a football field for these kids. Sure, they are better off than city kids in many ways having much, much more space and less pollution, but it seems pretty raw that a government that can't seem to upgrade the electric power, provide enough telephone lines, provide running water, sewage and trash collection to the people out here has money to toss away on a wall that isn't really going to do anything but make life difficult.

But if the point of the wall is to protect the antiquities in our area from unauthorised digging, how is it going to do this with an open area of sand and gravel mining immediately to the west? Sure the farmers live in the valley, but the Sahara extends all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and they can't possibly wall off all the the area...it's huge! When I first began riding out here about 16 years ago there was a large sandy plateau just west of Sakkara Country Club. Over the years the mining families have dug up that plateau creating a moonscape that is even beginning to spill over the edge into the desert leading down to the pyramids. Naturally, the SCA has been aware of this activity just as they are aware of the Giza dump that is also on the plateau and crawling towards the wadis that lead down to the pyramids of Abu Sir and Sakkara, the same dump that so graciously sends us all the extra plastic bags every time we get a strong northwest wind.

Now THAT'S something that they could wall off. But, no, it's much more important to wall off the homes and farms bordering the desert, places that have a vested interest in keeping the desert clean and enjoyable. It's also interesting that while they could be building their wall between the cliff face housing the archaic tombs and the very crowded village of Abu Sir, they did not move on that option. They've also chosen to leave the Sakkara Country Club an access to the desert so that they can send out their marvelous, noisy and intrusive dune buggies into the desert to be driven by teenage Cairenes through the antiquities areas. Those things do more harm to the desert than any of our horses and football players.

So not only are they dumping the trash from the archaeologists (at least I assume that it is dig trash) out in the desert just west of Sakkara, but they want to keep the people who have been noticing this and commenting on it out of the desert. I don't get it. These are supposed to be people who care about the area, not people who want to trash it. But I guess that one can be mistaken about the responsibilities of government.

So for now, the village kids and I will be enjoying our summer evenings in the desert waiting for the concrete to be poured walling us off from our desert neighbourhood. The wall won't stop people from going out in the desert. There are too many ways to go in even if they do build the wall here blocking all the homes off. And the dune buggies from the Club will still be running all over the pyramids as they wish since they seem to have been considered less harmful than a few football playing children and some riders.

copyright 2009 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

3 comments:

Connie said...

People protect what they value, and people who rely on, enjoy or otherwise use something, tend to value it (some better than others, but still). If the wall denies access, people will cease to give a damn: their reason to care will be taken away. I am sorry to hear about this.

Cairo Typ0 said...

It is actions like this that prompted me to write several anti-egypt posts lately. (to be posted next week) I find so often that the thinking of those in charge is short sighted and bordering on the ridiculous.

vagabondblogger said...

My guess is, this will end up like any Greek endeavor. They will dig to build the wall, find antiquities, and it will go on like that forever. No worry, since it will never be completed.