Egypt's cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever.
A few hundred meters from the pyramids of Dahshur, the sandy-brown earth is full of holes. Dozens of open shafts lead into the depths, some up to seven meters (23 feet) long. Grave robbers have been at work. Lying belowground here in Dahshur is one of the oldest burial grounds in all of Egypt -- tombs, possibly full of treasures from the age of the pharaohs. Archaeologists have partially mapped it but never exhumed its contents, as is the case at many sites in Egypt.
From the pharaohs and Romans to the Greeks, Copts and Fatimids, Egypt bears the traces of many ancient civilizations. Not all of the treasures have been discovered and secured. Egypt has admittedly always had to grapple with the problem of grave-robbing. But since the revolution in 2011, "this phenomenon has increased even more," laments Abdel-Halim Nur el-Din, a professor of archaeology and the former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the authority responsible for ancient relics and archaeological excavations in Egypt. "We are losing our cultural heritage piece by piece," he adds.