The country’s authorities have erected a 12-mile fence with infrared sensors and security cameras to create an exclusion zone around the three Giza pyramids and the Sphinx, which perch on a rocky plateau on the edge of Cairo.
“It was a zoo,” said Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist. “Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments.”
In the past, the large site containing the enormous monuments – the only surviving member of the seven wonders of the ancient world – was protected by little more than a low stone wall and miles of open desert.
Hawkers from neighbouring slums have grown notorious for their unscrupulous, and occasionally aggressive methods of pushing cheap trinkets or a horse ride on foreign visitors.
Some tourists have also broken the rules – climbing the uneven sides of the great pyramid of Khufu, the largest of the three, and occasionally suffering a fatal fall.
But with many tombs and other archaeological sites only partially excavated and still open to tourists, the authorities are determined to start protecting the ruins.
The new entrance to the site is a large brick building equipped with metal detectors and X-ray machines.
“We are making it much nicer for the tourists,” said Shaban Abdel-Gawad, head of the Egyptology department at Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, with even the toilets of “much better standard.”
The changes are part of a £13 million project that began seven years ago to improve the site. A new lighting system, a cafeteria, and a visitors centre and bookshop will also be installed.
Once the project is complete, golf cars will drive tourists around the site, similar to those in use in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor and other ancient sites in Egypt.