The Egyptian ministry of tourism and antiquities has announced the discovery of 27 wooden sarcophagi (coffins) at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, a UNESCO world heritage site. The coffins were said to have been stacked in two burial shafts, according to a report.
Since its recent discovery, the ministry said that the coffins found at the Saqqara site have not been opened. The site is renowned as a burial ground with some of the world’s oldest pyramids and is one of the most notable tourist attractions in Egypt – alongside the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor’s Karnak Temple, and the Valley of the Kings – that generate a huge chunk of foreign exchange for the country.
Tourism in Egypt plays a significant role in the economy, raking in an annual income of $12 billion dollars and accounting for over 12 percent of gross domestic product. The sector flourished in 2019, seeing a 21 percent jump in growth with more than 13.5 million tourists, and the country had projected 15 million visitors by the end of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic has laid cold hands on the sector so much that even locals are not willing to visit sites.
In a move to revive arrest the slump, the country opted to reopen select resorts and archaeological sites to foreign tourists on July 1. Still, turnout has been not been encouraging as most other countries were still on lockdowns. Also, despite reopenings and continued safety reassurances to international tourists, many fear the coming winter season starting in October, further straining the economy.
According to expert views in a report, Egypt’s tourism sector loses one billion dollars monthly due to the lockdown and restrictions on travel meant to rein in the coronavirus pandemic. That means the country is without some 400,000 tourists who spent four million nights every month at some of its exotic resorts – such as the Red Sea resorts where tourists spend an average of 10 nights.