Pyramids (via Divya Thakur’s Flickrstream)

Egypt’s parliament amended its antiquities protection law to impose tougher jail sentences and higher fines for smuggling antiquities out of the country, and for the first time criminalizes climbing the country’s monuments.

In a meeting on Tuesday, November 12, the Egyptian parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee approved a new article for the existing law on the protection of antiquities (law No. 117 of 1983), stipulating that smuggling or selling antiquities abroad without permission will be punished by imprisonment and a fine between EGP 1 million (~$62,000) and EGP 10 million (~$620,000).

Another new article in the amendment targets individuals who are found in an archaeological site or museum without authorization or climbing any antiquity without obtaining a license. The penalty for will be at least one month’s imprisonment and/or a fine between EGP 10,000 (~$620) and EGP 100,000 (~$6,200). The fine will be doubled if the acts violate public decency. Up until now, there was no law explicitly prohibiting climbing the pyramids.

“The amendments aim at stopping thuggish acts toward Egyptian antiquities,” Suzy Nashed, a member of the committee, said during the meeting.

Earlier this year, an Egyptian man climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, removing parts of a 19th-century wooden mast that was installed to measure the height of the pyramid, and throwing stones at security forces.

Egyptian daily AhramOnline reported that Ahmed Maher, an advisor to the antiquities minister, said that the new protections are partly driven by a specific incident in which a foreign citizen climbed one of the pyramids of Giza to perform a “negative deed.”

Maher was referencing the Danish photographer Andreas Hvid, who scaled the Great Pyramid of Giza in November last year and posted a YouTube video of himself and his girlfriend, nude and alluding to a sexual act on the pyramid’s peak. At the time, the Egyptian antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, called the act a “violation of public morality.” But Ashraf Mohi, director general of the Giza Plateau, claimed that the video (which went viral) is fake in a comment that was satirized by Egyptian bloggers.

“The pyramids are the most important historical landmarks in the world,” Mohi said at the time. “People have different ambitions and passions when it comes to expressing their love for them.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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