Egypt is using new archeological discoveries to lure tourists back

Jun 3, 2021

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Very few countries on Earth can come close to the treasure trove of history that Egypt boasts within its borders. The Mediterranean country that connects Africa with the Middle East is now leaning on its vast network of historic sites and museums to try to lure tourists who are eager to begin traveling again.

Egypt isn’t just leaning on its greatest hits, although landmarks like the Giza Pyramids, the Great Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings are certainly must-see attractions. Recent excavations have yielded what officials call historically significant discoveries that could help the country’s all-important tourism industry recover from the pandemic.

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An excavation site outside of Cairo at the Step Pyramid of Djoser, possibly the world’s oldest pyramid, has unearthed loads of ancient antiquities. Workers at the Saqqara necropolis, where the Step Pyramid is located, dug up at least 100 ancient coffins dating back to the Pharaonic Late Period and Greco-Ptolemaic era, along with 40 gilded statues thought to be 2,500 years old. Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany said those findings are thought to be just a fraction of the historic treasures at the site.

“Saqqara is a treasure,” he said. “Our problem now is that we don’t know how we can possibly wow the world after this.”

Related: What to know if you’re planning to visit Egypt

That’s not all the ancient history that has resurfaced.

In April, archeologists revealed the discovery of dozens of 5,000-year-old tombs near the Nile River that predate the time of Egypt’s pharaohs. Around the same time, a 3,000-year-old lost city dating back to the reign of Amenhotep III was discovered. 

(Photo by Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)

Egyptian officials are promoting the fact that open-air tourism is common in Egypt, something that should be appealing to visitors post-COVID-19.

Related: Why it might be time to put Egypt back on the ‘bucket list’

Egypt is also touting new additions to its cultural itinerary, such as the new archeological museum at The Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Officials have also said they intend to finally open the long-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza Pyramids by January 2022.

Entrance fees for archeological sites have been reduced, as has the cost of tourist visas.

But there is a lot of work to do to get Egypt’s tourism industry back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2020, only 3.5 million foreign visitors entered the country, a steep drop from the 13.1 million who visited Egypt in 2019. Early indications show tourism is bouncing back in the first quarter of 2021, although it’s too early to say how significant a rebound is occurring.

Also, the nation is still hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s still seeing more than a thousand new cases daily. Vaccination rates are still very low, in large part because of low vaccine supplies. Health officials say Egypt has received only five million vaccines for its estimated 100 million residents.

Egypt is open for non-essential travel at the moment. All overseas visitors must show a printed negative PCR test result upon arrival, and the test must be given no later than 72 hours before the flight. The test must be based on a nasal or oral swab and the certificate issued by an approved laboratory. Certificates are accepted in Arabic or English. Digital certificates will not be accepted.

Tourists from the United States, the U.K. and several other countries can show test results taken 96 hours before their flight.

U.S. tourists considering a trip to Egypt now should take into account that the State Department has the country under a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory. That is due to concerns about COVID-19, but it also notes to reconsider travel “due to terrorism.” The CDC also has a Level 4 Travel Notice for Egypt due to the high number of cases there and says even fully vaccinated travelers should not travel there at this time.

Featured photo by Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images.

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