Birthday party at foot of Giza Pyramids now costs $6,700
Tourists ride camels at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says it’s still his belief the great pyramids Egypt were built by the Biblical figure Joseph to store grain, and not as tombs for pharaohs. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
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CAIRO: The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has approved holding private events at the Giza Pyramids archaeological area in the evening at a cost of 60,000 EGP ($6,700), Youm7 reported Thursday.

The approval, which was issued in response to a request submitted by the Egyptian Travel Agencies Association, comes amid a sharp decline in the number of tourists visiting Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

“The move aims to boost the financial resources of the Antiquities Ministry’s financial resources, most of which is used in achieving several archaeological restoration projects that have stumbled during the past five years,” Al-Hussein Abdel Baseer, the general director of the Giza Pyramids archaeological area, said.

The private events will be held in the open area facing the Sphinx in addition to two other spacious areas near the Great Pyramid, said Abdel Baseer.

Since the 2011 uprising, the Ministry of Antiquities has been encountering financial problems with its total debt, which rose to 2.8 billion EGP due to the sharp decrease in its revenues from the entrance fees paid by tourists, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said in a press conference in 2015.

The ministry does not rely on state funding and suffers from limited financial resources, which are “good enough to pay the salaries of the ministry’s employees for just two months,” said Damaty, adding that the critical financial situation has “pushed us to think outside the box.”

“Entrance fees paid by tourists visiting museums and archaeological sites along with overseas exhibitions of Egyptian rare artifacts represent the ministry’s main source of income,” he added.

As for the financial commitments of the Antiquities Ministry, Damaty said the ministry is currently engaged in restoration and maintenance projects of over seventy archaeological sites and museums across the country and that it is facing difficulties in resuming these projects.

According to Damaty, the ministry’s revenues during the 2013/2014 fiscal year reached only 125 million EGP ($17.8 million) compared to 3 billion EGP during the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

The SCA also approved a decision to open the Egyptian Museum to tourists on Sundays and Thursdays from 05:30 p.m. to 09:00 p.m. for 120 EGP per tourist.

Tourism represents an important source of foreign currency entering the Egyptian economy, alongside revenues from the Suez Canal and remittances of Egyptians living abroad, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.

The number of tourists visiting Egypt in March 2016 decreased by 47.2 percent compared to the same month last year, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS,) Egypt’s official statistical agency.

According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, tourist activity makes up 11.3 percent of GDP.

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