Egypt’s project to rebuild the outer layer of the Menkaure Pyramid at Giza has sparked a backlash from archaeologists and social media users, who accuse the authorities of tampering with the country’s heritage. The project aims to restore the pyramid’s original appearance by using granite blocks, but critics say it is a violation of international standards and a waste of resources.
The project, which is expected to take three years, was announced by Mostafa Waziry, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, who called it “the project of the century” and “Egypt’s gift to the world in the 21st century”. Waziry, who leads the Egyptian-Japanese mission in charge of the project, posted a video on Facebook on Friday, showing workers setting blocks of granite on the base of the pyramid.
The Menkaure Pyramid, which is the smallest of the three main pyramids at Giza, was originally covered with a layer of granite, but over time, it lost part of its casing due to natural erosion and human interference. The project aims to reconstruct the granite layer using blocks that were found near the pyramid or brought from Aswan, where the original granite came from.
Waziry said the project was based on scientific studies and historical documents, and that it would not affect the structure or the authenticity of the pyramid. He also said the project would create jobs and boost tourism, which is a vital source of income for Egypt.
Archaeologists slam the project as ‘absurd’ and ‘impossible’
However, the project has faced fierce criticism from archaeologists and heritage experts, who say it is a misguided attempt to alter the pyramid’s appearance and history. They argue that the project violates the international principles of conservation, which prohibit such interventions on ancient monuments.
Monica Hanna, an Egyptologist and the director of the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation, wrote on Twitter: “Impossible! The only thing missing was to add tiling to the pyramid of Menkaure! When are we going to stop the absurdity in the management of Egyptian heritage?”
Hanna added: “All international principles on renovations prohibit such interventions. The pyramid of Menkaure is a monument that has a history of its own. It is not a replica that needs to be restored to its original form.”
Hanna also questioned the feasibility and the cost of the project, saying that it would require thousands of tons of granite and millions of dollars. She called on all archaeologists to “mobilize immediately” and stop the project.
Other experts echoed Hanna’s concerns, saying that the project was unnecessary and harmful. Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquities and a prominent archaeologist, said the project was “a big mistake” and that the pyramid should be left as it is. He said the project would not attract more tourists, but rather repel them.
Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, said the project was “aesthetically and scientifically wrong” and that it would erase the pyramid’s history and identity. She said the project would make the pyramid look like “a cheap copy” of the other two pyramids at Giza, which still have some of their original casing.
Social media users mock the project with sarcasm and memes
The project also triggered a wave of ridicule and anger on social media, where users mocked the project with sarcasm and memes. Some compared the project to “straightening the Tower of Pisa” or “wallpapering the pyramids”. Others suggested that the project was a way to embezzle money or to cover up the damage caused by previous restoration works.
Some users also expressed their frustration with the government’s priorities, saying that the project was a waste of resources that could be used for more urgent needs, such as health, education, and infrastructure. They said the project was a distraction from the country’s political and economic problems, and a violation of the people’s will and heritage.
One user wrote: “Instead of spending money on restoring the pyramid, why don’t they spend it on restoring the dignity of the people?”
Another user wrote: “They are not restoring the pyramid, they are destroying it. This is not our heritage, this is their business.”