Defending The Pyramids
Yes, I peed on the Giza plateau. No, it was not against a pyramid, but
rather against the tomb of one of the pyramids' architects. And no, I am
not remorseful about it. The fact is, I really really really had to pee
and there were people everywhere and no toilet within a 1km radius. So I
did what I had to do, adding no more physical insult than has already been
given by 5000 years of slaves' excrement, camel shit and, more recently,
acid rain. And no, I don't consider this an insult to the dead, either,
but rather a celebration of life. And, to be candid, I would never dream
of peeing against one of the actual pyramids, such is my reverence for the
things that I am even a tad regretful to have soiled them with my very
touch, however undamaging it might have been.
Besides, something everyone should know is that the Giza plateau is sadly a
modern garbage dump. Empty coke cans, cigarette butts and plastic bottles
litter the site. Plastic bags are shoved between the stones of the great
monuments; and camel and horse dung are so plentiful that you'd think the
pyramids were home to the royal stables.
The natural refuse (shit and piss) I don't have a problem with, since it is
quickly reclaimed by the desert. But the human garbage is inexcusable.
The site is patrolled by the so-called "tourist and antiquities police",
which is a dreadful mistake. Today I witnessed one such "policeman" toss
an empty bottle into a hole on the side of the pyramids. Then he smiled to
Andrew and me, held open the rope separating us from that restricted
portion of the pyramid, and insisted that we break the law by climbing the
great structure (in exchange for a fee, of course). We eventually managed
to decline, but only after the fellow pestered us for some minutes.
And he was not alone. The officials tasked with protecting humanity's
greatest architectural antiquity regularly troll for opportunities to
exchange damaging opportunities (like photographing frescoes) for pocket
change, so poorly are they remunerated. I've even heard of tourists being
allowed to abscond with actual chunks of the pyramids! The things are
mountainous, but even they would not last a generation if such a practice
were more widespread.
The culture of visitor harrassment is so pervasive here that it is
seriously restricting my ability to fully appreciate this experience. I
suspect it's also affecting the health of the monuments and indeed Egypt's
ability to more fully profit from its treasures in a more sustainable,
respectful and safe way.
At this stage, I would argue for the site to be taken out of the hands of
the Egyptian government and be handed to UNESCO, to be administered by a
board of archaeologists whose main concern would be the preservation of
these sublime structures.
Sadly, a more likely scenario is that the plateau would be licensed to
Disney or Coke, to protect it in exchange for exclusive branding rights.
Don't laugh, it could happen.
I would argue that the site does not ethically belong to modern Egyptians
(who, after all, do not share race, culture, religion, government,
language or even values with their ancient predecessors) or to the present
Egyptian government, but to the entire world, to be treasured and
experienced by all peoples of the Earth.
To be frank, I'm not particularly impressed by the "diligence" being shown
by modern Egypt in protecting this most precious of world treasures. Hell,
I have yet to see a single garbage bin anywhere on the sprawling plateau!
That says a lot.