Protecting valuable antiquities is a serious task in Egypt, where grave robbery has increased dramatically since 2011. German researchers accused of the crime are currently standing trial in Cairo.
“Look at the cracks – the pyramids are really in danger,” says Osama Karar, as he points to the screen of his laptop, and flicks through countless photos showing damage to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Karar and his colleagues have founded an organization called The People’s Front in Defence of Relics.
He turns from his laptop, and looks outside at the huge pyramid stretching out before him. “These stones can’t speak, so we try and give them a voice,” he says.
Indeed, the stones of the Great Pyramid would have a lot to tell. For example, that in April 2013, a German research team led by the Chemnitz-based experimental archaeologist Dominique Görlitz entered a small room under the tip of the pyramid – the King’s Chamber belonging to Pharaoh Khufu.
The team took samples from the murals and cartouche, and brought them back to Germany for laboratory analysis. And all this without the proper permit. They were granted a partial permit, as Ali Ahmad Ali from the Ministry of State for Antiquities in Cairo stressed, but “the permit does not cover a visit to the upper chamber. And the permit says: only visit, do not take any parts.”
On Saturday (7.06.2014), the trial of the research team – made up of three Germans and their six Egyptian assistants – got underway in Cairo. They are accused of vandalism offenses in the Great Pyramid of Giza, and at worst, could face between three and five years in prison.