CAIRO, Egypt—The cost of building a shelter that adequately prepares its inhabitants to become gods in the next life has spiraled out of control, and this week the nation's pharaohs demanded that the Cairo City Council rescind its rules that permit just one family to inhabit each of the city’s pyramids. The contentious legislation is expected to come up for a vote next month.
Almost the entire Pyramid Fields plain is zoned for a single family per pyramid, rules that were initially enacted to keep the Nubians out. Even though it’s now illegal to discriminate against Nubians, the one-pharaoh-and-concubine-per-pyramid zoning rules have proven surprisingly resilient.
As living descendants of the gods, pharaohs require an appropriate tomb for themselves and their consorts, so they can ascend into the divine realm after death. This has become more difficult as the cost of pyramid construction has risen. Each pyramid requires stone blocks weighing 70 tons or more to be moved from a quarry to the construction site. Further, land acquisition costs in the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur have exploded, as pharaohs want to move nearby to the Great Pyramids, built for Khufu in 2560 BC.
The pharaohs have a proposal: Modify the zoning code to allow multiple pharaohs and their consorts to share a single pyramid, which would make it easier to build affordable pyramids.
But it's not clear that the plan will be able to clear City Hall. Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards worried that the rule change would lead to a spate of "luxury pyramids", and eventually cause pyramid gentrification. The pharaohs attempted to mitigate these concerns with the recent ban on limestone and bay windows in new pyramid construction. Councilmember Lydia Kou wondered if multifamily pyramids would bring crime to the Pyramid Fields. King Khafre, head of the Pyramid Hill Dwellers Association, was worried that the new pyramids would cast a shadow on his pyramid. Khafre has been dead for over a century and controversy ensued as his comment was rejected due to long-standing rules that only living Egyptians are permitted to submit comments.
Despite these concerns, the City Council may not wish to press their luck too far. In addition to being descendants of the gods, the Pharaohs are absolute monarchs, in charge of both writing and enforcing the laws, and accountable only to Ptah, Isis and Amun-Ra. While the pharaohs are expected to provide wise rule, the Council may risk being thrown in jail - or worse.
Concerned citizens may express their comments on the 4th floor of Cairo City Hall, Tuesday at 11am.