CAIRO: The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has closed the Great Pyramid of Giza following rumors that groups would try to hold spiritual ceremonies on the site at 11:11, Nov. 11, 2011.
The SCA head Mustafa Amin said in a statement Friday that the pyramid of Khufu, also known as Cheops, would be closed from Thursday evening until Saturday morning for "necessary maintenance."
The closure follows a string of unconfirmed reports in local media that unknown groups would try to hold "Jewish" or "Masonic" rites on the site.
The decision came "after much pressure" from Egyptian internet users that strange rituals were going to be held "within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011," Atef Abu Zahab, head of the Department of Pharaonic Archaeology, told AFP.
Amin called all reports of planned ceremonies at the site are "completely lacking in truth."
The complex’s director, Ali Al-Asfar, said Friday that an Egyptian company requested permission last month to hold an event called "hug the pyramid," in which 120 people would join hands around the ancient burial structure.
The authority declined the request a week ago, Al-Asfar said, but that did not stop concerned Egyptians from starting internet campaigns to prevent the event from taking place.
"It has been a big cause now on Facebook and Twitter for many people to write about," Al-Asfar said.
The closure was unrelated to the rumors, he said, adding that the pyramid needed maintenance after the large number of visitors during the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday last week.
The rest of the complex, which includes two other large pyramids, numerous tombs and the Sphinx, remained open Friday, though security appeared to be heavier than usual.
Dozens of police officers and soldiers were posted throughout the complex. Some patrolled on camel-back. One soldier stood next to his machine gun near a souvenir shop selling miniature pyramids.
Speaking by phone from the pyramids after 11:11 had passed, Al-Asfar said he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary.
"Everything is normal," he said. "The only thing different is the closure of the Khufu pyramid."
The Pyramid of Cheops is the biggest and most famous of the three Giza pyramids. It houses the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, and is the only surviving one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Khufu founded the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years.
Numerologists were anxiously awaiting Friday, when the digital alignment of ones occurs at 11:11 am, which some believe will lead to unusual events.
Thousands of people plan to meet at the time around the world for ceremonial dances, and several pages devoted to the date have appeared on social networking website Facebook.
Some attribute the number 11 to paranormal powers that provide a channel of communication with the subconscious, others see a mystical connection between the number and disasters, like the 9/11 attacks on the United States.