'Mecca' of ancient Egypt to be renovated

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Washington, Oct 17 : An archaeological site, which is considered as the Mecca of ancient Egypt, is being renovated by a government-run project.

According to a report in National Geographic News, a development boom near Egypt's Abydos archaeological site is damaging one of the most sacred gathering places for ancient pilgrims.

Millions of Egyptians crossed the desert surrounding Abydos from 664 B.C. to A.D. 395 to pay homage to the god of the dead, Osiris. Many of Egypt's earliest pharaohs were buried at the site.

The temples and tombs are also home to the earliest known Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Abydos site has been nicknamed Omm El Qaab, or Mother of Pots in Arabic, because pilgrims left millions of pieces of pottery in the desert around several cemeteries and temples built by Seti I, Ramses I, Ramses II, and Ramses IV.

Ancient pharaohs built in the desert partly to avoid damage from the annual floods and farming practices in the Nile Valley.

Modern pressures in the form of new farms and buildings have taken their toll on the 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) wide area.

But now, an international team of archaeologists is rallying to protect Abydos from future harm.

This month, a government-run project to renovate Abydos will begin, according to archaeologists and architects involved in the effort.

"It is the site where we learn the most about the origins of pharaohs in Egyptian culture," said Gunter Dreyer, director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo. "Imagine a road running though this," he added.

Despite the recent growth in farms, much of the damage to the structures happened decades ago. Rapid population growth in towns near Abydos has led to construction around the region's monuments, ruining some of them.

In the 1970s the government moved all the inhabitants within the archaeological zone and compensated them. Their empty homes, however, are still standing.

As part of the new effort, however, architects will remove the empty houses, clean up rubble, landscape the area, and build a new visitors' center.

Archaeologists will create a plan on how to protect the monuments.

"There are certain sites-and Abydos is one of them-where one must be really careful because of the special importance that is the cultural heritage of mankind and of Egypt," Dreyer said.

According to architects on the project, their plans respect the site's original design.

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