(CNN) — Saqqara, a dusty necropolis south of Cairo, has become instrumental in Egypt’s fightback against a tourist slump.
It’s been an extraordinary year for archaeological discoveries at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, where separate finds have unearthed scores of sarcophagi and a host of artifacts, including an obelisk and a unique, bejeweled statue of the god Nefertum.
“The discovery entered into the hearts of everyone all over the world,” former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass tells CNN.
“I think the ambassadors really sent a message to their countries about the pleasures of Egypt, because we need tourists to come back.”
The October 3 press conference attended by foreign diplomats, where 59 sarcophagi and assorted artifacts discovered in Saqqara, Egypt, were displayed.
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Tourists photographed in March inside the step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, which reopened that month after a multi-million dollar restoration.
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Travco is implementing WHO regulations and is disinfecting hotel rooms, public spaces and vehicles, while staff are using face masks, sanitizing tools and social distancing. Karim notes the proportion of elderly travelers is down while there’s been a rise in travelers under 50, and that tourists are, by and large, sticking to their hotels.
He anticipates a “boom” in tourism to ancient sites by the third quarter of 2021.
A giant statue of Rameses II located inside the Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, during construction in 2019.
But if the pandemic continues, there’s no guarantee that tourists will be there to see it open in the numbers many in the sector and beyond will have been counting on.
“It is hard to make any predictions in the status quo,” says Karim. “It all depends on the medical revelations and vaccines in progress to combat the Covid-19 pandemic … We are hoping for the best.”
“I really think that Egypt is more safe than other countries,” he says. “We need tourists back.”