Pyramids to go dark for “Earth Hour”

The Pyramids and the Sphinx, normally bathed in the golden glow of high-powered floodlights, will go dark for an hour on Saturday, in a symbolic statement Egyptian environmentalists hope might indirectly save the Nile Delta from inundation.

The World Bank has warned that Egypt faces ‘catastrophic’ consequences from global warming. If the Mediterranean rises by one metre, as scientists expect it will by the end of the century, it will flood the coastal areas along the Nile Delta, the World Bank warned in a 2007 report.

This would force about 10.5 per cent of Egypt’s population from their homes and would harm the country’s agriculture sector, as many of Egypt’s crops, including wheat and rice, are grown on the Delta’s rich soil.

So it is perhaps no surprise to see the government endorsing Earth Hour, an initiative started by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2007 as a means of raising awareness of global warming.

‘Please turn off your lights at 8:30 pm on Saturday,’ Maged George, Egypt’s minister of state for environmental affairs, urged readers of Egypt’s government newspapers this week.

Egypt’s government-run radio stations have been discussing the event all week.

‘Maybe people can start walking instead of taking their cars for short distances – they will save room for someone who really needs a car. Start driving more slowly – it is good for your car. It also means less fuel used and fewer accidents, God willing,’ said a broadcaster on a morning talk show.

‘Save the earth from pollution, and save it from everything bad you can think of. Each of us can save the earth in his own way.’

‘Earth Hour will not save the earth,’ said Gihad Sami, a young Egyptian supporter of the initiative said. ‘But it might raise awareness of the connection between energy consumption and climate change.’

The WWF estimates that more than 50 million people from around the world participated in 2008.

Sami said she tries to convince her friends to be as ‘green’ as they can be: ‘to use the printer less often at work, for example, to quit smoking, and to use power-saving light bulbs.’

This year, Cairo will join some 2,500 cities around the world that have pledged to turn off their lights on Saturday.

The Library of Alexandria, on Egypt’s northern coast, will join Broadway theatres in New York City, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Opera House in turning off their lights in support of Earth Hour.

Private businesses in Egypt are taking part too. Visitors to the Meridien hotel chain’s restaurants in Egypt will be forced to spend a romantic evening on Saturday, as the chain announced it would rely on candle light to observe Earth Hour. Customers will also get a free drink, the chain said.

But some in Cairo said they would find it difficult to live without electricity for an hour.

‘Even if I turn off the lights, I cannot turn off my computer, my mobile or my oven. I have to work and eat,’ said Nabil Fahmy, an accountant from Cairo.

Fahmy, who is a heavy smoker, also said he did not think he would be able to put away his cigarettes for an hour.

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