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SHOPKEEPERS STOP BUILDING OF WALL NEAR SPHINX

Shopkeepers fearing their livelihood was at stake forced workers to stop building - at least temporarily - a wall near the Sphinx on Saturday.

They complained that the brick barrier would prevent tourist buses from parking close to their souvenir stalls.The wall is designed to separate the 4,500-year-old Pyramids and Sphinx from the settlement known as Nazlat al-Samaan. Archaeologists say sewage, pollution and urban sprawl are threatening the Pyramids plateau.

The wall is part of a government project to improve the plateau area to attract more tourists. Tourism is one of Egypt's main sources of foreign exchange.

The project also includes clearing the plateau of dilapidated storage buildings and rest houses used by archaeologists and preventing cars from coming too close to the ruins.

But what may help the site may end the settlement.

The inhabitants believe the 41/2-foot wall will block tourists from visiting their stalls, which are within eyesight of the Sphinx. An end to tourist dollars would be a disaster for Nazlat al-Samaan and its 200,000 inhabitants.

"If this wall is to be completed, this means there would be no tourism, this means we will die from hunger," said Salah Mohamed, manning one of the countless stalls on the plateau.

After the bulldozers started the work and the store owners protested, the workers agreed to stop. Police met with the shopkeepers, and agreed to discuss the improvements.

But Gen. Ali Al-Batran, an official with the tourism police, said the project will go on despite the opposition.

"The decision will be executed as planned, and the wall will be finished in a week or 10 days maximum," he said.