Another brick in the wall

I was quite traumatised by the pyramids. My friend got so freaked out, she had a panic attack and refused to go in. It wasn't that we were overawed by the grandeur of what lay before us, or even overwhelmed by the intensity of the heat ... no, it was the 'pyramid pushers' that had us in a fluster. For as a wasp to cold beer on a summer's day, so the hawkers were to the great majesty of ancient Egypt. From the moment the word "pyramid" even crossed our minds, we were magically surrounded by people pushing papyrus, statues, lucky charms, camel rides, pony rides, postcards... the kind of tat you wouldn't want to be seen dead with (let alone to be buried with, and carry on to the afterlife).

So I should be glad that the authorities have stepped in. Last week, it was announced that £14 million is being spent on security - CCTV cameras, alarms, sensors, even a 13-foot wall - to keep those troublesome hawkers out, thereby ensuring we, the tourists, can enjoy the pyramids in peace (unlike, of course, the people who are actually buried there). It makes sense: as Egypt's chief archeologist, Zahi Hawass, puts it, "It was a zoo. Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments." And no doubt the attacks on tourists at Luxor and more recently in the Sinai have helped focus the mind, too.

But even as I found it stressful, one of the amazing things about the pyramids - apart from the fact they're there at all - was being able to wander around them so freely. The hawkers, like the heat and dust, were part of the whole experience. It seems a shame then, that the Great Pyramid of Giza is now just one more penned-in attraction you have to buy a ticket and get in line for.

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