Egypt's camel clash
Archaeologists, herders battle over animal ban at Pyramids
June 10, 1997
Web posted at: 3:08 p.m. EDT (1908 GMT)
From Cairo Bureau Chief Gayle Young
GIZA, Egypt (CNN) -- A controversial plan to banish camels from the base of the pyramids has been put on hold in Egypt. Archaeological authorities had announced that all four-legged animals would be removed from the plateau because they damage the site and create, delicately put, "other problems."
"We clean up after them," said Pyramids Director Zahi Hawass. "We spend like 100,000 pounds a year to clean after camels. ... They run at the entrance of the pyramids down here, and there, and everywhere, and no one can stand this."
According to the plan, all camels were to be herded from the pyramids toward a special stable that the government is constructing in the desert. There, tourists would be able to ride camels on a panoramic overlook of the pyramids.
Visitors would get their prized snapshots, argued archaeologists, without damaging the fragile structures.
But camel herders have filed a lawsuit blocking the move. They want free reign to ride across the great Giza plateau in search of tourists.
Herder Saad Salem said its a matter of survival.
"Each one of us is responsible for large families -- fathers who are sick, children who need clothes," he said.
Tourists, too, seem romanced by the notion of pyramids with attendant camels. "If people come," said one visitor, "they don't just want to see the pyramids, they want to ride the camels also."
But archaeologists contend the camel ban is part of a much-needed overall plan to remove beasts and buses from the endangered site. Over the years, authorities have tried to license and limit the number of camels on the plateau, but with little success.
For now, the camels will be allowed to stay, while their owners have their day in court. But authorities still hope to nose them out to the sidelines of history.
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