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Pyramids To Take A Breather

Wed., Oct. 11, 1995

Neither wars nor earthquakes nor Mother Nature dampened the allure of Chephren, one of the three famed pyramids of Giza. But the breath of millions of tourists did.

Egyptian antiquities officials put a fist-sized padlock on its yellow, iron door Tuesday, closing it for three months so vacuums can suck out humid air sapping its structural strength and restorers can preserve its flaking limestone walls.

“We are really giving the pyramid a rest for the first time,” said Zahi Hawass, chief inspector of the Giza Plateau.

Vapor from the breathing of 2 million tourists a year has taken its toll on the 4,600-year-old pyramid outside Cairo, drawing salts from its huge limestone blocks and weakening them.

The project will combine restoration with preservation. Pairs of small vacuums will suck out the moist air and pump in dry desert air. A ventilation system will then be installed to change the air inside every hour, necessary since each tourist exhales on average seven-tenths an ounce of vapor.

Then, work will begin to treat the limestone damaged by moisture.


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