Egypt to reopen historic tourism sites

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Egypt will reopen historical sites to tourism tomorrow as it seeks to revive a key industry shattered in the turmoil that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Archaeologists have also been cheered by the recovery of the most important artefact stolen from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, a rare statue of King Tutankhamun’s father.

A 16-year-old anti-government protester found the statue of the pharaoh Akhenaten next to a rubbish bin and his family returned it, the antiquities ministry said. But damage to Egypt’s heritage may have been greater than previously thought, as officials reported new cases of break-ins at archaeological sites.

The head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, had reported a total of 18 missing museum artefacts, three of which were found on the museum grounds, possibly abandoned by looters.

The antiquities ministry cited Sabry Abdel-Aziz, head of its pharaonic sector, as saying the tomb of Hetep-Ka, in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara, was broken into and a false door was stolen along with objects stored in the tomb. Also, a portion of a false door was looted from the tomb of Re-Hotep in Abusir.

Many archaeological storehouses were also targeted in break-ins, and ministry officials were trying to determine what, if anything, was missing.

The Egyptian military also caught thieves attempting to loot the sites of Tell el-Basta, and a tomb in Lischt.

After police and government officials met to discuss security, Hawass announced that “all of the Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, and modern sites will reopen to the public” on Sunday.

The pyramids at Giza are already open but most tourists fled Egypt earlier this month. Egyptian officials had said the magnificent legacy of their ancient civilisation emerged largely intact from the chaos in the country.