Travel Smarts

TRAVEL SMARTS

March 16, 2003

Protecting the Pyramids

Restoration, visitor limits planned for ancient Egyptian sites

The pyramid of Mycerinus, the smallest of the three large ones at Giza, Egypt, reopened to visitors recently after being closed for more than a year of restoration. At the same time, the second largest, known as Chephren or Khafre, closed for about a year for a similar project, and Cheops, the largest, was limited to 300 visitors daily.

At Mycerinus, which is also known as Menkaure and rises just over 200 feet, workers replaced worn-out portions, cleaned and treated the interior walls and added a ventilation system, new lighting and three surveillance cameras.

The restoration plan did not call for Chephren to be closed this year, but archaeologists decided to act when they witnessed a rising level of humidity and intensive formation of crystallized salt caused by the accumulation of viewers' breath.

Before the limit on visitors to 449-foot-high Cheops, it was getting about 500 visitors on a typical day, but sometimes as many as 1,000. Mahmoud Afifi, general director of the technical office at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said: "The stone breathes, just like human beings. It needs to rest." The pyramid will also close for an hour at midday.

About 450 miles to the south in Luxor, Nefertari's tomb has closed for restoration for about a year. Since its discovery in 1904, the 3,200-year-old tomb of the beloved wife of Ramses II has had one major restoration, from 1986 to 1992. The new work will include lighting and improved ventilation for the paintings that depict Nefertari's voyage to the hereafter.

For information about these sites, contact the Egyptian Tourism Authority: 212-332-2570; www.egypttourism.org.

2-WHEELED LUXURY TOURS -- YOU PICK YOUR PACE

After more than a quarter-century of making bicycles, the folks at Trek have gotten into the business of bicycle touring.

The company has formed Trek Travel to provide luxury cycling vacations in North America and Europe.

Seventeen destinations are offered, and riders can choose between "leisure" or "performance" trips, based on their cycling level. Leisure tourists ride about 20 to 45 miles daily -- about three to six hours of cycling at a moderate pace. Performance tourists are typically avid cyclists who ride between 45 to 70 or more miles daily -- about four to seven hours -- on more challenging routes.

All the trips include luxury accommodations, private tours, tastings and a custom-fit Trek bike. Tours, which are led by experienced cycling guides knowledgeable about the region, include destinations such as Provence, France; Tuscany, Italy; Denmark; and the Canadian Rockies. There are also specialty tours through the California wine country with Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de France.

Tours are typically six days, and range in price from about $2,000 to $3,000. For more information, call 866-464-8735, or visit www.trektravel.com.

-- Jessica Myers

A golfer's guide to Britain

"Golf in Britain" is a new map folder that identifies about 150 golf courses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The guide also points out nearby sightseeing points that family members or others who aren't on the links can visit. The free guide can be obtained from the British Tourist Authority at 877-899-8391 or at the Web site www.travelbritain.org.

-- From wire reports

A chance to mingle with the sharks

Why swim with dolphins when you can dive with sharks? The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is allowing visitors to enter the Sharks! From Fear to Fascination exhibit to swim with sharks in hopes of dispelling common misconceptions about the ocean's most misunderstood predators.

The aquarium's 125,000-gallon Shark Bay contains 13 sharks representing the nurse, zebra, sand tiger (pictured, left) and black tip reef shark species. The $150 price includes 30 minutes of dive time, a behind-the-scenes tour, a photograph of the diver in the shark exhibit and a Florida Aquarium T-shirt.

Participants must be scuba-certified and older than 15. Contact: 800-826-8358; www.visittampabay.com.

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