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Few visitors to the Giza plateau are aware that the pyramids, Egypt's Old Kingdom treasures and testaments to early pharaonic history, were almost dismantled about 170 years ago. It is hard to imagine that these ancient structures, the most popular tourist sights in Egypt, were nearly sacrificed as part of the plan to modernize that country. Yet, shocking as the idea now seems, Egypt's absolute ruler at the time seriously envisioned and nearly executed the project.