This site, placed in 1979 on the World Heritage List under criteria (i), (iii) and (vi), was in 1988 the subject of the questionnaire sent in to provide updated information on cultural properties included in the List.
At the time, the answers concerned four elements: the Sphinx, the Cheops complex at Giza and the pyramids of Kephren and Mykerinos. A change in the legislation on protection has been reported. A law dating from 1983, consolidating the State's power for site management has been supplemented by provisions for the administrative centralization of the measures to be adopted. Furthermore, the law extends protection to buffer zones around archaeological sites which are delimited by decision of the authorities.
Over the past few years the pyramid area has been increasingly threatened, mainly due to the growing number of visitors and to uncontrolled development of the nearby village. In order to halt the resulting deterioration of the monuments, the Egyptian authorities drew up a development plan for the whole area. Since this plan gave rise to some controversy within Egypt, the Minister of Culture decided to establish an international advisory committee of experts to advise the Egyptian authorities on the development plan and he requested the Director-General to suggest the names of high-level experts from other countries who could take part in the committee together with Egyptian experts.
The advisory committee, composed of nine Egyptian experts and six non-Egyptian experts, met in Cairo from 14 to 18 May 1990 and studied the various aspects of the project, the main objective of which was to provide a better protection of the site by taking a number of rehabilitation measures and by totally enclosing the area.
The Committee gave its full support to the rehabilitation measures included in the project, namely:
a) firm control of access to the area;
b) removal of all modern buildings, platforms, walls, fences, etc.; removal of all macadam roads and replacement by stabilized sand;
c) prohibition of any motorized vehicles except electric cars operated by the keeper of the site;
d) control of the flow of visitors;
e) creation of a fixed route for camels and horses; exclusion of all other animals: dogs, goats, etc.
and underlined the urgency of taking these measures.
As regards the means to enclose the area, the Committee recommended:
a) on the eastern side near the Sphinx: that, after the necessary archaelogical excavations had been carried out, a light structure be installed, slightly below the level of the ground as it stands today, and including gently sloping stepped rows of seats for the sound and light show; the height of the new structure should not exceed six metres; a simple barrier should be erected on both sides of the above-mentioned structure to prevent any unwarranted intrusion or construction;
b) on the northern side at the end of Pyramids Road: the entrance to be installed on this side to control the access of visitors should be a very light and simple structure which should not adversely affect the topography or present characteristics of the hill and not impair the view.
The main recommendation of the Committee was that a master plan of the whole area, including the buffer zone, be prepared on the basis of comprehensive studies. In transmitting the report of the advisory committee (which is available for consultation by the Committee) to the Egyptian authorities, the Director-General drew attention, in particular, to this recommendation and indicated that, since the site was protected under the World Heritage Convention, the Committee would certainly wish to have an opportunity to examine the master plan before it is implemented. He also conveyed to the Egyptian authorities the concern expressed by the Bureau at its meeting in June 1990 that construction work might endanger this site and drew attention to the fact that the Bureau had underlined the need to maintain its integrity.
With regard to the Sphinx, the Director-General granted $100,000 for safeguarding operations. An expert mission in November 1989 confirmed how urgent it was for action to be taken to safeguard the Sphinx, involving detailed studies enabling the installation of replacement stones of the same quality but of higher resistance to the action of destructive agents. He recommended that the Unesco allocation be used for the purchase of equipment for this purpose (a porisimeter and a compression testing machine) and for tests to be carried out on the stone of the nominated sculpture. This equipment has been provided.
Following the recommendations of the expert, a team from the Centre experimental français de recherches et d'études du bâtiment et des travaux publics (CEBTP) carried out in April 1990 an examination and a dynamic sounding in order to estimate the quality of the non-destructive stone and to assess its degree of homogeneity. The Centre concluded from its tests and analyses that the stone of the neck and head of the Sphinx was of good quality.
At the request of the Egyptian authorities, the Getty Conservation Institute is undertaking a research project to determine the factors that are contributing to the deterioration of the Sphinx. To this end, a solar-powered meteorological station has been installed on the back of the Sphinx to monitor environmental data from the site and surrounding area over the next 12-24 months. Information will be collected and analyzed on wind speed and direction, solar radiation, ambient and surface temperature, relative humidity and rainfall.
The results of this research project and of the mission undertaken by the CEBTP will enable the experts to diagnose precisely the state of the monument and to draw up a plan of action for its safeguarding.
The Secretariat will report orally to the Committee on any further developments concerning these projects.