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Security Tricky at Egyptian Sites

November 18, 1997

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Blessed with nearly one-third of the world’s ancient sites, Egypt also is burdened with the monumental task of protecting them _ and the millions of visitors who come every year.

The job is complicated by the fact that most of the sites are sprawling complexes in the middle of the desert or in remote mountain.

The massacre of 58 tourists on Monday at the Hatshepsut Temple highlighted Egypt’s dilemma: Should the sites be kept in their pristine surroundings or ringed by high security walls and modern security equipment?

Authorities have tried a mixed approach with the Giza Pyramids, which stand at the junction of Cairo’s urban sprawl and the vast desert beyond. Visitors must pass through a metal detector to see the sound-and-light show at night in front of the Sphinx, which has its back to the Pyramids. But the approach to the Pyramids plateau itself is virtually unrestricted from the desert side.

``There is always a possibility of penetrating the security,″ said Abdel-Halim Noureddin, former head of Egypt’s Department of Antiquities.

He said the government could enhance security somewhat by posting more guards and undercover agents at the sites. ``If you want tourists, you should be willing to spend money,″ he said.

The most visited sites _ such as the Hatshepsut Temple or the Valley of Kings and Valley of Queens in Luxor _ are tombs, which means the Pharaohs built them in the desert. Securing each site would require several miles of fencing.

Besides, in a country where guards will look the other way for a little baksheesh, or bribe, while tourists take prohibited flash photographs inside the tombs, getting access to fenced-in areas would not be too difficult.

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