Giza pyramid region gets makeover

Egypt's Giza pyramids are cleaning up their act.

After decades of hassling of tourists, trinket vendors everywhere, litter on the ground and a generally third-rate atmosphere, the country debuted a new look in the area yesterday.

Security cameras, an absence of vendors and a 12-mile fence with infrared sensors surrounding the site are part of a multi-stage improvement project.

"It was a zoo," Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, told the Associated Press about the usual bad carnival atmosphere. "Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments."

The three pyramids are located on the Giza desert plateau, surrounded by spreading slums which, in turn, border the desert.

Reports the AP, "Hawkers, many from the nearby impoverished neighborhoods looking to benefit from the tourist dollar, have had free rein, and have become notorious. Tourists undergo a constant barrage from peddlers selling mock-ups of pharaonic statues and scarabs, T-shirts and other trinkets, or are followed by men on camels selling rides or photos — and rarely taking no for an answer. Young men even try to force their way into taxi cabs carrying foreigners toward the pyramids, looking to steer them to nearby horse stables for a ride around the site.

"Tourists have had taken their own liberties as well. Since the 19th Century, climbing the Pyramid of Khufu, the biggest of the three, was a favorite past-time for visitors, continuing into the 1970s — with the occasional fatal fall of an inebriated tourist. Since then, authorities have cracked down on climbing the giant 2.5-ton blocks, though visitors can still freely ramble around the pyramid grounds, where many tombs and other archaeological sites remain only partially excavated and vulnerable to damage."
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