New Life for Ancient Pyramids

Egypt opened 10 Pharaonic tombs and three small pyramids to the public for the first time ever Tuesday, completing a key stage in a major overhaul of its ancient sites.

Officials also reopened the pyramid of King Menkaure, the smallest of the three great pyramids at Giza, after extensive repairs.

The decade-long restoration effort involves shoring up the Sphinx and repairing several other tombs and the burial chambers of the great pyramids, including the largest, built by the Pharaoh Cheops. Officials would not say how much money has been spent.

Menkaure's pyramid was closed last year to allow workmen to reinforce walls, erase graffiti, and install a new ventilation system.

Of the three pyramids newly opened Tuesday, the largest is for Cheops's mother, Queen Hetepheres.

"It is a complete clean-up," said the head of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, Gaballah Ali Gaballah. In addition to the restoration, workmen cleared old cars, kiosks, and houses from the area, he said.

Though discovered in 1924, the 10 tombs weren't open to the public until Tuesday. They were for judges, ministers, and aides to the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt 4,573 years to 4,321 years ago. The government is now preparing an international gala event for the reopening of the restored Sphinx at the end of this month.

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