The pyramids at Giza are the most stunning sight I have ever seen.Nice. Islamists cannot create. Only destroy. So they must destroy the crations of others to hide the complete bankruptcy and, indeed, stupidity of their ideology.
True, their lonely eminence is threatened by Cairo's unlicensed building sprawl, with half completed houses inching their way towards them.
Surveying them at night as the calls to prayer multiplied into a thunder of sound from central Cairo already told me a few years back what was coming.
For now members of the Nour (The Light) Salafist party, which won 20 per cent of the vote in recent elections, are talking about putting an end to the 'idolatry' represented by the pyramids.
This means destruction - along the lines essayed by the Afghan Taliban who blew up the Banyam Buddhas - or 'concealment' by covering them with wax. Tourists would presumably see great blobs rather than the perfectly carved steps.
[The Salafists] also want what they call 'halal' tourism, with women told to dress decorously and no alcohol, something pretty general already in conservative Egypt. The Salafists want segregated beaches, which will not go down well with visitors to Sharm el Sheikh.
Tourism accounts for 11 per cent of Egypt's $218billion GDP. Right now, hotels and resorts report falls in occupancy from 90 to 15 per cent.
This is bad news for the 3million Egyptians who depend on the 14million tourists who visit Egypt each year. The people affected are not simply waiters and chambermaids, but taxi drivers, camel and horse ride touts, shop and stall owners and ordinary villagers who make a bit on the side providing tea and snacks for Nile cruises.
One of the great tragedies of what is afoot in the Middle East is the extinction of the last vestiges of a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture, as represented by another great Egyptian novelist, the Cairo dentist, Alaa Al Aswany, author of the remarkable Yacoubian Building.
It is becoming hard to recall that in the 1950s - under King Farouk - Egypt had a thriving film industry, producing 300 movies a year, and that its national chanteuse, Umm Kulthum, was worshipped throughout the Middle East.
But now the fanatics are in the saddle, so its good bye to all that. We'll have to wait for fundamentalism to fail, as Nasserite 'national socialism' did before it. For Nour and the like surely have no answers to the problems of contemporary Egypt.
How stupid? The Salafists want to destroy the Egyptian pyramids because of "idolatry." Except the pyramids were never meant to be idols and in fact never were idols. Nor do the pyramids represent any kind of deity or even human figure. They are basically tombstones. Giant, incredibly-constructed tombstones, but tombstones nonetheless. They are not generally believed to have been sites of worship of any kind.
Their real crime is that they are pre-Islamic. They show an Egyptian past that is much more glorious than anything in its Islamic past, much more glorious than anything the Salafists could ever conjure up. So they have to destroy it. Can't have that competition.
Destruction of the ancient Egyptian sites by Islamists was my greatest fear all along. And it's something that should merit action from the US and Western Europe. Remember what I said earlier:
We need to be clear on this: Egypt's Pharonic and Ptolemaic heritage is also our heritage. The road to Western civilization ran through the Nile River valley thousands of years ago, just as it ran through Athens, Rome and London. With no Memphis, Egypt there is no Memphis, Tennessee. With no Alexandria, Egypt there is no Alexandria, Virginia (or Indiana, for that matter). With no Luxor, Egypt, there is no Luxor Casino. (OK, maybe that last one is a stretch ...)I can't believe the Egyptians would be stupid enough to go for any of this, but then again they actually gave the Salafists 20 percent of the vote. We must do everything we can to protect the Pyramids, Sphinx, Valley of the Kings and other sites throughout Egypt.
We should be outraged at this desecration of Egypt's history and should do our part to make sure that history, be it the pyramids at Giza and elsewhere, the Valley of the Kings or the Antiquities Museum at Cairo, is protected.