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NEWS: Saving Egypt’s heritage

20130822-204407.jpgHow have Egypt’s monuments and museums fared in the ongoing violence?

“Last Wednesday night, the curse of the Pharaohs seems to have cast its spell over the Upper Egyptian town of Malawi in the Minya governorate, with the town’s archaeological museum being destroyed and looted.

Malawi, once the capital of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaten, was disturbed by violence and deadly clashes between protesters supporting the deposed former president Mohamed Morsi and the security forces after the latter had broken up the sit-ins in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square in Cairo.

The pro-Morsi protesters broke into the Malawi police station and town council building and then invaded the neighbouring Malawi Museum (MM), clashing with guards and shooting one of them dead. They then damaged the museum garden, damaged the entrance gates, and managed to enter the museum building, breaking into display cases and looting the collection.
The museum is now devastated, its showrooms converted into a mess of broken glass, damaged sarcophagi and the statues of ancient Egyptian kings. Inspections carried out by the MM’s curators revealed that 1,040 of 1,080 objects in the Museum’s collection were missing. Large and heavy artefacts were found broken and scattered over the Museum’s floor.

On Sunday, the ancient Egyptian royal necropolis of Dahshour 40km south of Cairo was subjected to a failed attempt at encroachment as four vandals invaded the site with digging tools in an apparent bid to build a private cemetery.

The attacks on the Malawi Museum and on other sites have raised questions about their security. According to Mokhtar Al-Kasabani, professor of Islamic Archaeology at the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, “the situation is much worse than it was in 2011” during the 25 January Revolution.

Abdel-Halim Noureddin, dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at the Misr for Science and Technology University, called on the military and police to locate two tanks in front of every museum and archaeological site in Egypt in order to protect them, and not only to tighten security measures at well-known sites such as the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and the Giza Pyramids.

He called on the interim government to get more involved in Egypt’s heritage because it represented the nation’s history and was one of the sources of the country’s revenue.

‘We have to love our monuments because they are part of our civilisation and history,” Noureddin said, adding that “if a building collapses we can easily re-erect it, but if a monument falls into oblivion we can never revive it as those who made it can never be resurrected.'” – via Al-Ahram Weekly.

Read more here.

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