Egypt: Pyramids, King Tut and Museums Caught in Crisis


"The bad news is that there is antiquities damage at the Giza Pyramids," reported archeologist Gerry Scott, director of the American Research Center in Egypt, on a blog called Unreported Heritage News. Giza is the site of the Great Sphinx, as well as Egypt's grandest pyramids.

"I've heard that the team lost some equipment and that there was some damage to the antiquities but I do not know the extent of that at this point," Scott said. He added that the Egyptian army was now guarding the pyramids and access has been restricted.

That is not very reassuring to tourists whose home governments have urged them to get out of Egypt -- and their mass departure is big trouble for the nation's economy. Egypt is a nation of grandeur mixed with rampant poverty, and visitors' money makes a big difference.

"We're scared. We don't know what will happen," said Nancy Al Hakegh, who has been a tour guide in Egypt for 25 years. "I know tourism is going to stop for some time. God only knows how long.

"Whenever anything happens to a country, tourism is the first thing to be affected," she said in an interview with ABC News. "But we don't know how much it'll be affected because we don't know what is going to happen. If everything calms down soon, the tourism industry will not be back and running normally until Christmas."

Egypt is caught in different currents -- a very modern conflict over how it should be governed, and very ancient history threatened in the chaos.

"There have been some gangs," said Bill Petty, the tour director, as he packed to go home to Littleton, Colo. "When you have a mob situation, it brings out the worse in people."

One archeologist who asked not to be named said he hoped the army and the Egyptian police would protect the antiquities.

"These aren't just Egypt's," he said. "These are the world's heritage, and they're important."

ABC News' Deena Sami and Sarah Wali contributed reporting for this story. Additional information from The Associated Press.

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