MYSTERY WIRE (AP) — Egyptian officials have invited Elon Musk to visit Giza’s Great Pyramids, after the Tesla CEO tweeted they were built by “aliens.”

Egypt’s former antiquities minister says the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the country’s ancient sites, lack of funds from international tourism may delay vital restoration and excavation work.

The Great Pyramids of Egypt, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979.

The ancient site hit the headlines recently for an unexpected reason – after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted the pyramids were built by “aliens”.

The tweet prompted fury in Egypt. Archaeologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass described the claim as “completely hallucination.”

Egypt’s Minister of International Co-operation Rania Al-Mashat tweeted an invite for Musk to “check out the tombs of the pyramid builders”.

“Mr. Musk, we are waiting for you,” she tweeted.

Later Musk tweeted a link to an article on a  history site which he said gave a “sensible summary of how it was done”.

Egypt, last month, reopened the famed Giza Pyramids in Cairo for the first time in more than three months, since closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Egyptian government wants to revive its tourism sector, which had showed signs of recovery before the pandemic after years of instability.

But Hawass warns some damage may have already been done – lack of funds from international tourism may delay vital restoration and excavation work.

“Coronavirus was not only bad for the people all over the world, but was bad for antiquities,” he says.

“To restore these monuments the only fund come from the tourists who visit the sites. UNESCO do not give any fund to any archaeological site at all, but all the fund, for excavation and restoration, came only from the visit of the tourists to the sites.”

Egypt is home to seven sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including historic Cairo, with its mosques and fountains.

The country’s economy depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for some 12 percent of gross domestic product.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also delayed the opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, located near the pyramids of Giza.

The museum has been under construction for well over a decade and is intended to showcase Egypt’s ancient treasures, while drawing in tourists to help fund its future development.

But the project has been subject to repeated delays, with several plans for openings scrapped. The opening has now been delayed to 2021.

But there may be one silver lining – Hawass says the pandemic has allowed Egypt’s historic sites to “take a rest from tourism and from people.”

“Corona(virus) didn’t do anything good, but the only good thing I always say that tourism (is) the enemy of antiquities, because tourism damage antiquities,” he says.

“The breathing inside the pyramid or the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Can you believe ten-thousand tourists enter a day inside the Tomb of Tutankhamun and this is why within 100 years all these monuments will be gone.”

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