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Caroline Hawley reports from Cairo
"Feverish last-minute preparations are underway"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 18:52 GMT
Egyptian court OKs pyramid party

Welder A welder gets to work on the set of Jean-Michel Jarre's extravaganza


A court in Egypt has ruled against a last-minute legal challenge to plans to celebrate the new millennium with a huge concert and laser show at the pyramids, directed by the French musician Jean Michel-Jarre.

The appeal against the celebrations was lodged by a 75-year old lawyer, Abdul Halim Ramadan, who argued that too much public money has been spent on the $9.5m extravaganza and that lasers used to project giant images onto the three Giza pyramids would harm the monuments.

He also said that the pyramids have no connection to the point of the celebration - the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

"Egyptians are poor and humble people who can't afford such extravagances," Mr Ramadan said.

He now says he will take his case to Egypt's highest administrative court, but with New Year's Eve only three days away he is running out of time.

However, the lowering of a golden cap onto the biggest of the pyramids at midnight - the planned climax of the event - was cancelled last week after what Egypt's Culture Minister, Farouq Hosni, called "negative propaganda".


Pyramids lit up Spectacular lighting effects are inspired by ancient Egyptian mythology

The celebrations are taking place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and are seen by many Egyptians as irrelevent at best.

But Egypt says it is expecting 50,000 people - mainly foreign tourists - to attend what's being billed as an electronic extravaganza to see the new millennium in at one of the world's oldest existing structures.

Ancient themes

With tickets ranging from $15 to $400, the highlight is expected to be Jean-Michel Jarre's concert, entitled The Twelve Dreams of the Sun and inspired by ancient Egyptian mythology.


Jean-Michel Jarre A little more this way: Jean-Michel Jarre supervises rehearsals
Mr Jarre said on Tuesday he was behind schedule because some of his equipment was being held up by Egyptian customs at the northern port of Alexandria.

But Mr Jarre was not unduly worried about his show, which will feature 1,000 Egyptian and international artists.

"I am running late, but that is the usual process," he said.

The show will depict the pharaonic belief that after setting on the Western horizon, the sun travels in a boat through the dark underworld and passes through 12 gates in 12 hours to be born again, strong and youthful.

Image

Security is tight with hundreds of police on duty for the event, which Egypt hopes will redemn its international image after the massacre by Islamic militants of 58 foreign tourists in Luxor nearly two years ago.


Extra security is being drafted in Extra security is being drafted in to protect the audience
"I think we should stop the paranoia that the West is bringing into this area of the world," said Mr Jarre.

"We had more terrorist acts in the past 10 years in Paris than in all of Egypt. "This millennium night must be a big opportunity to project a positive image of this area," he added.

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See also:
03 Jun 99 |  Middle East
Giza pyramid ready for millennium
14 Oct 98 |  Middle East
Aida comes home
17 Nov 97 |  World
Tourists massacred at temple
08 Nov 97 |  World
Egypt to open ancient tombs

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