Lonely Planet Writer

Egypt to allow social functions at archaeological sites in bid to boost tourism

Egypt is to allow social functions at archaeological sites as it bids to boost the number of tourists arriving in the country. The cash-strapped nation is giving the green light to allow engagements, weddings and birthday parties at its archaeological sites from November.

King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Image by (AP Photo/Mohamed El-Dakhakhny)

Al-Monitor reports that the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities decision to take this step with social functions  is an attempt to overcome the revenue shortage at such sites. Since the revolution over five years ago, the number of foreign tourists visiting has reduced considerably which threatens future museum projects. Financial returns from the archaeological sector have dropped from a high of 1.3 billion Egyptian pounds (US$146 million) in 2010 to less than a quarter of that figure today due to the tourist downturn.

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt. Image by AP Photo/Hassan Amma, File.
Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt. Image by AP Photo/Hassan Amma, File.

Nearly 15 million people visited Egypt six years ago and the drop to last year’s figure of just over nine million has led to 20 construction projects being either abandoned or postponed. However, not everyone is happy with the move. Critics have voiced their concerns that these social functions could end up damaging the historical sites.

Tourists at the Pyramids of Giza.
Tourists at the Pyramids of Giza – always a favourite place and one where social functions would clearly be in demand. Image by Nina Hale / CC BY 2.0

The head of Egyptian archaeology at the ministry, Mahmoud Afifi, said there is no “silver bullet” solution so they had to come up with some new ideas. The new guidelines allow for functions to be held and photographs to be taken in archaeological areas. Fees for surroundings like the Manial Palace of Muhammad Ali, the Farouk Palace and the Baron Empain Palace will cost up to $6,000 for 300 guests attending. There will also be filming and photographic costs – around $800 for foreigners and $550 for Egyptians who record proceedings. However the tombs of Tutankhamun and Nefertari will cost extra – around 5,000 Egyptian pounds more for the event, and over $500 extra in photographic fees for both locals and foreigners.