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NEWS: Ancient Heliopolis under threat

Parts of the ancient temples that are close to disappearing under debris (Source: Daily News Egypt).

Parts of the ancient temples that are close to disappearing under debris (Source: Daily News Egypt).

“Heliopolis, the site of ancient Iunu or Biblical On, is the only Ancient Egyptian archaeological site still visible in Cairo. The site is located to the northeast of Cairo, in close vicinity to contemporary Heliopolis orMisr Al-Gadeeda. The site was the capital of the 13thnome of Lower Egypt and was famous for the temples of the gods Ra, Ra-Atum and Ra-Horakhty, which turned Heliopolis into a significant religious centre since the pre-dynastic period.

Since the 25 January Revolution the local inhabitants of the area have started to take over the land and have started construction projects right on the archaeological site. Right next to the obelisk of Senusert I, three buildings have been constructed thus far and foundations have been dug for another two. Right next to Souq El-Khamis El-Gadeed two huge buildings have been built.

Across the market another series of around 10 buildings is currently being erected on the archaeological site. The debris that is generated by the construction is full of archaeological finds and included the famous stela (engraved stone funerary slab) found by the Ministry of State for Antiquities in 2012.

The only way to save ancient Heliopolis, which is rapidly turning into a dangerous slum area with a reputation for drugs and weapon dealing, is to turn it into a tourist attraction. It is the closest archaeological city to the Cairo International Airport and so is in easy reach, particularly because a metro line is only one kilometre away.

The site is in desperate need of proper and thorough excavations and a site management plan that also accommodates the community, which feels completely detached from the heritage that the location represents. The community needs to feel that the touristic potential of the area will benefit them economically and effectively.

There are some small initiatives to draw attention to the dire situation of ancient Heliopolis, one of them will take place on Saturday 22 June. Volunteers will help inspectors of the Ministry of Antiquities to clean all the garbage that has been dumped on the site of Arab El-Hisn in an attempt to protect it by keeping it clean” – via Daily News Egypt.

Read more here.

I really hope that Heliopolis gets the attention that it needs to save it from complete destruction. Such an important site cannot be left to fade away…

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2 comments on “NEWS: Ancient Heliopolis under threat

  1. I live in Egypt, and the description above is sugar-caoting everything. It’s actually much worse (not to bring the country down or anything) due to the new constructions. But I heard, and the sources that told me this are not the most reliable, that a preservation team will be working to restore the monuments then move them to storage until the new museum opens up… in two years.

    • I’m very sorry to hear that it is much worse than Monica Hanna has described in the article – if your sources are correct, then it is very good news! I do hope these artefacts will be preserved!

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