CAIRO — Egypt's antiquities authority closed the largest of the Giza pyramids Friday following rumors that groups would try to hold spiritual ceremonies on the site at 11:11 on Nov. 11, 2011.
The authority's head Mustafa Amin said in a statement Friday that the pyramid of Khufu, also known as Cheops or the Great Pyramid, would be closed to visitors until Saturday morning for "necessary maintenance."
The closure follows a string of unconfirmed reports in local media that unidentified groups would try to hold "Jewish" or "Masonic" rites on the site to take advantage of mysterious powers coming from the pyramid on the rare date.
Amin called all reports of planned ceremonies at the site "completely lacking in truth."
The director of the complex, 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.
'Big cause' on Facebook
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.
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."
Khufu is credited with building the Giza complex's largest pyramid, now one of Egypt's biggest tourist attractions. Khufu founded the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years.
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