In the granite burial chamber deep inside the Great Pyramid that once housed the mummy of Pharaoh Cheops, someone named Arif has scrawled his name on a wall with a thick black pen and underlined it for emphasis.
Hundreds of visitors have written or carved their names in English, Arabic, Greek, Korean and other languages into the soft limestone blocks that line the passageways to the king's final resting place.Cleaning up graffiti is one reason why Egypt closed Cheops' pyramid last week. During the next eight months, workmen also will repair cracks and clean salt deposits caused by the breath of hundreds of tourists who climb through the monument every day.
Zahi Hawass, the chief government archaeologist for the pyramids, said Sunday that he would prefer the pyramid never reopen.
"The pyramids are being ruined," Hawass said. "If you do not take care of them, they will be finished."
But Egypt depends heavily on tourist dollars, and Cheops, the largest of the three pyramids of Giza, is a top attraction. About 4,000 tourists usually visit the pyramids each day, although that number has fallen dramatically since the November massacre of foreign tourists in the southern city of Luxor.
Egypt reopened the smallest pyramid, Mycerinus, last month after renovations and plans to close the middle pyramid, Chephren, for repairs after Cheops reopens.
Jake Short, a tourist from New York City, admired Cheops from the outside on Sunday, but said he was not disappointed with its closure: "I think I'd be really afraid to go inside."