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Egypt scoffs at new seven wonders of world contest

Says voting strips pyramids of ancient status

CAIRO -- Egypt is scoffing at a global contest to name the new seven wonders of the world, saying it is a disgrace that the ancient Pyramids of Giza -- the only surviving structure from the traditional list of architectural marvels -- must compete for a spot.

Top Egyptian officials have criticized the popular contest that urges people around the world to vote for their top sites from a list of 21 finalists that lumps the pyramids with upstart wonders like the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and Peru's Machu Picchu.

The pyramids are "living in the hearts of people around the globe, and don't need a vote to be among the world wonders," said the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.

Egyptian officials refused to meet with the organizer of the "New 7 Wonders of the World" contest, the Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, when he visited Egypt earlier this month, said the contest's spokeswoman, Tia B. Viering. When Weber tried to hold a news conference near the pyramids, police shut it down, she said.

Organizers say the hostility is unwarranted, that the competition is supposed to renew international interest in culture and history, not strip the pyramids of their ancient status.

"The contest is not about taking something away, it's about moving something into modern times," Viering said.

The Egyptian pyramids are the only surviving structures from the traditional list of seven wonders of the ancient world, derived by later authors from various lists of marvels cited by ancient Greek and Roman writers.

Besides the pyramids, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the best-known list includes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the ancient lighthouse that once stood on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt, and three other long-vanished edifices.

Choosing a new roster of world wonders has attracted ongoing interest over the years: The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's World Heritage List includes 830 selections.

Weber started his project in 1999, collecting nearly 200 nominations. That list was narrowed to 21 by a panel of architectural specialists, chaired by the organization's former chief, Federico Mayor.

But Weber wanted the masses to pick the top seven. People can vote on the Internet, by phone, or by sending a cell phone text message until July 6. The seven winners will be announced on the symbolic date of July 7.