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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 December 2006, 17:11 GMT
Egypt to dig up pharaonic tombs
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

An Egyptian villager walks by a house, over an excavation site, at the village of Qurna.
Villagers have vowed not to move
Bulldozers have moved in to demolish houses in the Egyptian village of Qurna which sits on top of dozens of pharaonic tombs in Luxor.

The Egyptian government is determined to move the 3,200 families of the village to an alternative settlement it has built a few kilometres away.

Officials say emptying out the village will enable them to explore the tombs and to protect them from water damage.

An official ceremony was held and the bulldozers moved in.

They demolished four uninhabited mud brick houses in the village of Qurna, very near the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

Many villagers have already left to the new settlement of Taref built by the Egyptian government at a cost of $31m (15.6m).

Qurna sits above dozens of ancient Egyptian tombs, part of the huge necropolis of Thebes on the west bank of Luxor.

Valuables sold

Over the years, the villagers are believed to have dug many of the tombs under their houses and to have sold much of what was in them.

But officials say now they will be able to further explore the tombs and to protect them from water damage coming from the village.

The government has wanted to move the Qurnawis for 60 years but it is only now that it has completed an alternative village for them.

Many villagers, however, complained that the new houses are too small for their families and that they are being cut off from their fields and their livelihoods in the tourist trade.

The governor of Luxor says it will take a month and a half to demolish the village but some Qurnawis insist they will not leave.

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