Egypt’s historical sites facing climate threat

A tourist takes a photo of an ancient wall at Karnak temple in Luxor, in southern Egypt, in November. MENNA A. FAROUK/REUTERS

Egypt-It’s a steamy November day in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, and the tourists tramping through the ancient temples of Luxor and Karnak are sweating. But the city’s famed 7,000-year-old antiquities are feeling the heat too.

Increasingly high temperatures linked to climate change, as well as wilder weather-particularly heavy rains and flooding-are taking a growing toll on the ancient stonework, said Abdelhakim Elbadry, a restoration expert who works at Karnak temple.

“The changes appear noticeably, in the damage and cracks of the facades of many graves as well as the change of the color of the archaeological stones, as a result of high temperature and humidity,” Elbadry said.

Granite that was once rose-colored has faded to a pale pink or even light gray over the past 15 years, he said.

“In every archaeological site here in Luxor, you can witness the changes,” he said.

Climate change is making efforts to protect Egypt’s famed but fragile archaeological sites even harder, preservation experts say.

From the pyramids and the Sphinx to the Citadel of Qaitbay and an ancient Roman amphitheater near the Mediterranean Sea, the country’s historic sites face growing threats from harsher weather and rising seas.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the country’s former minister for antiquities affairs, said virtually all open-air archaeological sites in Egypt are in danger from stronger winds and humidity, higher temperatures and bigger floods.

“I believe that in 100 years all these antiquities will be gone because of climate change,” Hawass said, referring to an expected serious deterioration of the monuments.

He said offices staffed by specialists should be set up near each of the country’s archaeological sites to record the changes taking place, try to find immediate solutions and to coordinate restoration of damage.

He has called for a joint effort by Egypt and the European Union to try to mitigate the effects of climate change on Egyptian antiquities.

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