Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati has admitted to what he described as a "security deficiency" at the Giza Pyramids site, the country's top archaeological attraction, days after unofficial guides in the area were caught selling rocks allegedly taken from the ancient structures.
"The theft of ancient rocks from the pyramids has caused damage to Egypt's international reputation," Damati said during a press conference on Tuesday. "Surveilling the whole area with state-of-the-art cameras will become part of the ongoing pyramids area development project," the minister said.
"The pyramids area development project began in 2009 and is not finished yet," the minister said, highlighting the need for extra improvements to the area by installing surveillance cameras to "detect any breach", as well as to provide extra space for the Panorama area, where performances are held.
Earlier this month, three people were arrested for allegedly selling small pieces of a stone block from one of the pyramids. The suspects were identified after a video made by undercover journalists from news website Dot Masr, in which the journalists purchased stones said to be from the pyramids.
Journalists used a hidden camera to capture horse-carriage drivers selling two stones for LE250 (US$32).
The minister highlighted financial constraints facing renovation works at archaeological sites. "The ministry's monthly income stood at LE21 million last month, while it spends LE77 million in salaries for more than 39,000 employees working for it," the minister was quoted as saying.
He added that the ministry has, however, managed to secure LE800 million in cooperation with "international institutions", the money being directed toward various renovation projects.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm