Sunday, January 31, 2016

Short Story: 10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Ancient Egypt

The land of the pharaohs is famous for its huge pyramids, its bandaged mummies and its golden treasures. But how much do you really know about ancient Egypt? Here, Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley shares 10 lesser-known facts…

1) They did not ride camels
Fresco on the Tomb of Iti showing the transportation of wheat by donkey.
Donkeys were more commonly used by the Ancient Egyptians than camels.
 (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)    
The camel was not used regularly in Egypt until the very end of the dynastic age. Instead, the Egyptians used donkeys as beasts of burden, and boats as a highly convenient means of transport.

The River Nile flowed through the centre of their fertile land, creating a natural highway (and sewer!). The current helped those who needed to row from south to north, while the wind made life easy for those who wished to sail in the opposite direction. The river was linked to settlements, quarries and building sites by canals. Huge wooden barges were used to transport grain and heavy stone blocks; light papyrus boats ferried people about their daily business. And every day, high above the river, the sun god Ra was believed to sail across the sky in his solar boat.

2) Not everyone was mummified
The mummy – an eviscerated, dried and bandaged corpse – has become a defining Egyptian artefact. Yet mummification was an expensive and time-consuming process, reserved for the more wealthy members of society. The vast majority of Egypt’s dead were buried in simple pits in the desert.

So why did the elite feel the need to mummify their dead? They believed that it was possible to live again after death, but only if the body retained a recognisable human form. Ironically, this could have been achieved quite easily by burying the dead in direct contact with the hot and sterile desert sand; a natural desiccation would then have occurred. But the elite wanted to be buried in coffins within tombs, and this meant that their corpses, no longer in direct contact with the sand, started to rot. The twin requirements of elaborate burial equipment plus a recognisable body led to the science of artificial mummification. 

3) The living shared food with the dead
The tomb was designed as an eternal home for the mummified body and the ka spirit that lived beside it. An accessible tomb-chapel allowed families, well-wishers and priests to visit the deceased and leave the regular offerings that the ka required, while a hidden burial chamber protected the mummy from harm.

Within the tomb-chapel, food and drink were offered on a regular basis. Having been spiritually consumed by the ka, they were then physically consumed by the living. During the ‘feast of the valley’, an annual festival of death and renewal, many families spent the night in the tomb-chapels of their ancestors. The hours of darkness were spent drinking and feasting by torchlight as the living celebrated their reunion with the dead.

Food offerings to the dead. From a decorative detail from the Sarcophagus
of Irinimenpu. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
4) Egyptian women had equal rights with men
In Egypt, men and women of equivalent social status were treated as equals in the eyes of the law. This meant that women could own, earn, buy, sell and inherit property. They could live unprotected by male guardians and, if widowed or divorced, could raise their own children. They could bring cases before, and be punished by, the law courts. And they were expected to deputise for an absent husband in matters of business.

Everyone in Ancient Egypt was expected to marry, with husbands and wives being allocated complementary but opposite roles within the marriage. The wife, the ‘mistress of the house’, was responsible for all internal, domestic matters. She raised the children and ran the household while her husband, the dominant partner in the marriage, played the external, wage-earning role.

5) Scribes rarely wrote in hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphic writing – a script consisting of many hundreds of intricate images – was beautiful to look at, but time-consuming to create. It was therefore reserved for the most important texts; the writings decorating tomb and temple walls, and texts recording royal achievements.

As they went about their daily business, Egypt’s scribes routinely used hieratic – a simplified or shorthand form of hieroglyphic writing. Towards the end of the dynastic period they used demotic, an even more simplified version of hieratic. All three scripts were used to write the same ancient Egyptian language.

Few of the ancients would have been able to read either hieroglyphs or hieratic: it is estimated that no more than 10 per cent (and perhaps considerably less) of the population was literate.

Legal text on parchment, written in hieratic: a list of witnesses during
the settlement of a quarrel, 1000 BC.
(Photo by DEA / G Dagli Orti/De Agostini/Getty Images)
6) The king of Egypt could be a woman
Ideally the king of Egypt would be the son of the previous king. But this was not always possible, and the coronation ceremony had the power to convert the most unlikely candidate into an unassailable king.

On at least three occasions women took the throne, ruling in their own right as female kings and using the full king’s titulary. The most successful of these female rulers, Hatshepsut, ruled Egypt for more than 20 prosperous years.

In the English language, where ‘king’ is gender-specific, we might classify Sobeknefru, Hatshepsut and Tausret as queens regnant. In Egyptian, however, the phrase that we conventionally translate as ‘queen’ literally means ‘king’s wife’, and is entirely inappropriate for these women.

7) Few Egyptian men married their sisters
Some of Egypt’s kings married their sisters or half-sisters. These incestuous marriages ensured that the queen was trained in her duties from birth, and that she remained entirely loyal to her husband and their children. They provided appropriate husbands for princesses who might otherwise remain unwed, while restricting the number of potential claimants for the throne. They even provided a link with the gods, several of whom (like Isis and Osiris) enjoyed incestuous unions. However, brother-sister marriages were never compulsory, and some of Egypt’s most prominent queens – including Nefertiti – were of non-royal birth.

Incestuous marriages were not common outside the royal family until the very end of the dynastic age. The restricted Egyptian kingship terminology (‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ being the only terms used), and the tendency to apply these words loosely so that ‘sister’ could with equal validity describe an actual sister, a wife or a lover, has led to a lot of confusion over this issue.

8) Not all pharaohs built pyramids
Almost all the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom (c2686–2125 BC) and Middle Kingdom (c2055–1650 BC) built pyramid-tombs in Egypt’s northern deserts. These highly conspicuous monuments linked the kings with the sun god Ra while replicating the mound of creation that emerged from the waters of chaos at the beginning of time.

But by the start of the New Kingdom (c1550 BC) pyramid building was out of fashion. Kings would now build two entirely separate funerary monuments. Their mummies would be buried in hidden rock-cut tombs in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile at the southern city of Thebes, while a highly visible memorial temple, situated on the border between the cultivated land (home of the living), and the sterile desert (home of the dead), would serve as the focus of the royal mortuary cult.

Following the collapse of the New Kingdom, subsequent kings were buried in tombs in northern Egypt: some of their burials have never been discovered.

9) The Great Pyramid was not built by slaves
The classical historian Herodotus believed that the Great Pyramid had been built by 100,000 slaves. His image of men, women and children desperately toiling in the harshest of conditions has proved remarkably popular with modern film producers. It is, however, wrong.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Great Pyramid was in fact built by a workforce of 5,000 permanent, salaried employees and up to 20,000 temporary workers. These workers were free men, summoned under the corvée system of national service to put in a three- or four-month shift on the building site before returning home. They were housed in a temporary camp near the pyramid, where they received payment in the form of food, drink, medical attention and, for those who died on duty, burial in the nearby cemetery.

10) Cleopatra many not have been beautiful
Cleopatra VII, last queen of ancient Egypt, won the hearts of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of Rome’s most important men. Surely, then, she must have been an outstanding beauty?

Her coins suggest that this was probably not the case. All show her in profile with a prominent nose, pronounced chin and deep-set eyes. Of course, Cleopatra’s coins reflect the skills of their makers, and it is entirely possible that the queen did not want to appear too feminine on the tokens that represented her sovereignty within and outside Egypt.

Unfortunately we have no eyewitness description of the queen. However the classical historian Plutarch – who never actually met Cleopatra – tells us that her charm lay in her demeanour, and in her beautiful voice.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

News, Cairo: ‘Bady Bay’ Shrine to Be Transferred to Grand Egyptian Museum on Thursday

One of the shrine's blocks
A late period shrine named ‘Bady Bay’ is to arrive to the store galleries of the Grand Egyptian Museum on Thursday. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Supervisor General of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) Tarek Tawfik said that the Bady Bay shrine consists of 254 limestone blocks engraved with hieroglyphic texts dated to the Late Period.

Since its discovery last century, the shrine was dismantled and stored in Giza Plateau store houses. On Wednesday, the blocks were packed in order to be transferred to the GEM on Thursday.

All the blocks have been also archaeologically documented and photographed.

Eissa Zidan, director of the restoration department at the GEM, told Ahram Online that it is the first time for the museum to receive this particular type of stony shrine. Hence, the GEM team of restorers will inspect the preservation condition of the blocks before receiving it and will then send a report to Tawfik.

He explained that the blocks are to be put in the stones laboratory in order to restore its structure and paintings as well as to reconstruct it to its original shape.

Recovered Artifacts, Dakahlia: 30 Artifacts Found While Constructing Residential House in Delta

CAIRO: A set of 30 ancient Egyptian artifacts were discovered while laying a foundation of a residential building in Egypt’s Delta governorate of Dakahlia, Youm7 reported Wednesday.

Dating back to the Greco-Roman period (330 B.C.-395 A.D), the artifacts include coins, basalt offering jars, a faience statue of the God Horus and pottery jars in addition to offering tables made of granite and canopic jars, head of Antiquities Ministry directorate in Dakahlia Salem al Baghdady was quoted by Youm7.

The authenticity of the artifacts was confirmed by a committee of specialists, Baghdady said, adding that the artifacts will be restored before they are stored at the ministry’s antiquities storerooms in Dakahlia.
Source: Cairo Post– By/  The Cairo Post

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

News: Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities Denies Investigation into Restoration Project of Baron Empain's Palace

Allegations of handing the restoration of Al-Baron Empain palace to an inefficient concrete company are unfounded the Minister of Antiquities announced. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has denied that it is under investigation for handing the restoration project of the Baron Empain Palace to a company specialising in concrete and not architecture.

Reports went viral on social media claiming that an investigation is taking place of Ministry of Antiquities' officials due to handing the restoration project to an inefficient company.

The Head of the Engineering syndicate said in media statements that he sent the minister an official letter asking him to be more cautious in restoring such a great palace and to hand it to an architecture company.

"All these allegations are unfounded lies," the Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online on Tuesday.

He went on to say that the ministry did not receive any letter from the head of the engineering syndicate and that there has not been any administrative investigation into such a case.

Eldamaty explained that the consultant bureau, which is executing the feasibility studies on the restoration project, has launched a brain storming campaign, inviting people from all over the country to send their suggestions on how to make the best use of such a palace after restoration.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the Ministry of Antiquities assistant for Islamic and Coptic monuments, told Ahram Online that the consultant bureau is well known and is registered on the ministry’s list of eligible consultant bureaus that it has been working with for many years.

The bureau is responsible for the execution of several restoration projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities such as Al-Sakakini palace, Amr Ibnul As mosque in Damietta, the Museum of Islamic Art in Babul Khalq, the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and Saint Anthony Monastery in the Red Sea, among others.

Abdel Aziz went on to say that the bureau will not execute any restoration work of the palace, and that it is only responsible for preparing all required feasibility studies and documents to launch a bid to select the company that would restore the palace.

"All the work executed by the bureau was free of charge in an attempt to help in the restoration of such a great historical palace," Abdel Azizi highlighted, adding that it would not spend any other expenses until the completion of all the required documents and studies that would be reviewed by specialised committees from the antiquities ministry.

Abdel Azizi asserted that all the executed work and steps taken in this project are completely under the supervision of the ministry, as well as a team of engineers, restorers and archeologists.

A team of Belgium experts, he asserted, will arrive in Cairo very soon to participate in the palace restoration project and to make suggestions on how the palace can be utlised after its restoration.

The restoration project of the Baron Palace consists of two parts, Abdel Azizi explained- the first involves studies on the restoration works and the second part is find the best way to re-use the palace and its garden.

According to 2010 restoration project, planned in collaboration with a Belgium mission, the project came to a halt after it lost its budget following the 2011 revolution.

The palace was meant to be transformed into an international cultural centre and for a small museum to be set up in the relating to the history of Heliopolis from 1907 to 1911- the period during which the palace was built.

Documents and rare books from the same era will also be exhibited. A small jewellery museum, a ceremonial hall and a meeting room were also part of the plan.

"Now with the brain storming campaign, other ideas and suggestions to how to re-use the palace will be provided," Abdel Aziz said.

The gigantic Baron Empain Palace, with its distinctive and historic architecture inspired by Cambodia's celebrated Angkor Wat temple lies in Cairo's Al-Orouba Street in Heliopolis.

The Baron Empain Palace, or the Palais Hindou as it was previously known, was built by Belgian industrialist Baron-General Edouard Louis Joseph Empain, the son of a village schoolteacher who became one of Europe's greatest colonialist entrepreneurs of the 20th century. The palace was designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel, and decorated by Georges-Louis Claude.

Empain came to Egypt in 1904 with his company, with hopes of building a railway linking Mansoura to Matariya.  Although his company ultimately lost the railway contract, Empain nevertheless stayed on in Egypt.

In 1906, he established the Cairo Electric Railway and Heliopolis Oasis Company, and soon after began construction of the new town of Heliopolis – now one of Cairo's most elegant suburbs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Short Story: Before Hatshepsut - Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in Hieroglyphs

About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years, have been discovered at a site called Wadi Ameyra in Egypt’s Sinai Desert. Carved in stone they were created by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian pharaohs archaeologists say.

They reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer.

Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago

The "inscriptions are probably a way to proclaim that the Egyptian state owned the area," team leader Pierre Tallet, a professor at Université Paris-Sorbonne, told Live Science. He explained that south of Wadi Ameyra, the ancient expeditions would have mined turquoise and copper. Sometime after Nebre's rule, the route of the expeditions changed, bypassing Wadi Ameyra, he said.

Early female ruler
The inscriptions carved by a mining expedition show that queen Neith-Hotep stepped up as ruler about 5,000 years ago, millennia before Hatshepsutor Cleopatra VIIruled the country.

While Egyptologists knew that Neith-Hotep existed, they believed she was married to a pharaoh named Narmer. "The inscriptions demonstrate that she [Neith-Hotep] was not the wife of Narmer, but a regent queen at the beginning of the reign of Djer," Tallet said.

 'The White Walls'
An inscription found at Wadi Ameyra shows that Memphis, an ancient capital of Egypt that was also called "the White Walls," is older than originally believed.

Ancient Greek and Roman writers claimed that Memphis was constructed by a mythical king named Menes, whom Egyptologists often consider to be a real-life pharaoh named Narmer, Tallet explained. The new inscription shows that Memphis actually existed before Narmer was even born.

"We have in Wadi Ameyra an inscription giving for the first time the name of this city, the White Walls,and it is associated to the name of Iry-Hor, a king who ruled Egypt two generations before Narmer," Tallet said. 

The inscription shows that the ancient capital was around during the time of Iry-Hor and could have been built before even he was pharaoh.

Archaic boats
Among the drawings discovered at Wadi Ameyra are several that show boats. On three of these boats, the archaeologists found a "royal serekh," a pharaonic symbol that looks a bit like the facade of a palace. The serekh looks "as if it were a cabin" on the boats, Tallet said.

In later times, boats were buried beside Egypt's pyramids, including the Giza pyramids. The design of the boats depicted at Wadi Ameyra "are really archaic, much older" than those found beside the pyramids, Tallet said.

The Wadi Ameyra site was first discovered in 2012, and the finds were reported recently in the book "La Zone Minière Pharaonique du Sud-Sinaï II" (Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 2015).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Re-Opening, Cairo: Four Medieval Monuments Inaugurated in Islamic Cairo After Renovation

Four medieval mosques and shrines in Al-Khalifa street have been restored. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Al-Sayeda Rokaya mausoleum
Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty inaugurated four newly restored medieval buildings in the Al-Khalifa area of Islamic Cairo on Sunday.

The monuments include mosques and shrines dedicated to three celebrated women, and one man: the Prophet Mohamed's granddaughter, Al-Sayeda Rokaya; Prophet Mohamed's aunt Aateka; the wife of the Ayyubid sultan Nagm Al-Din Ayub, queen Shagaret Al-Dur; and a relative of Prophet Mohamed, Al-Gaafari.

Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the inauguration of the four sites would help promote tourism to Egypt.

The restoration, which was funded by a US grant of $116 million, was carried out over a year by the American Research Center in Egypt, the minister said.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, deputy antiquities minister for Islamic and Coptic monuments, told Ahram Online that the restoration work included the consolidation of the buildings' foundations, columns and walls.

Cracks that have been growing over centuries were restored while salt accumulated in several locations inside and outside the monuments' walls due to the high rate of humidity was removed. Wooden decorative elements were restored while damaged and missing ones were replaced.

"The next phase of the project would involve installing a new drainage system in the whole area in order to prevent the leakage of subterranean water inside the monuments," Abdel-Aziz added.

A new drainage system was installed in the area surrounding these monuments as a first step, and within a year the current inefficient system in the Al-Khalifa area will be replaced with a new one, in collaboration with the housing ministry.

Shagaret Al-Dur Dome
"A development project encompassing the whole area is also set to take place soon, in order to transform empty spaces in the area to improve the lives of residents. The space will then house a hospital, an events building for wedding parties and funerals, a nursery and a school," Abdel-Aziz said.

Al-Sayeda Rokaya Mosque and Mashad was built by Al-Sayeda Alam Al-Amireya, the wife of Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim Bi Amr Allah, in remembrance of Prophet Mohamed's granddaughter Rokaya.

It is located at the western side of Al-Khalifa street, adjacent to the Shagaret Al-Dur mosque. The mausoleum has three arcades and two niches with gypsum foliage elements.

Neighbouring the Al-Sayeda Rokaya Mosque and Mashad are the shrines of Aateka and Al-Gaafari.

The Qubet (dome) Al-Gaffari was built in 1120 AD to commemorate Mohamed Ibn Gaafar, the great-grandson of Prophet Mohamed's cousin Ali Ibn Abi Taleb. Qubet Aateka was built in 1122 AD to commemorate Al-Sayeda Aateka bent Zeid, Prophet Mohamed's aunt.

Abdel-Aziz explained that Qubet Aateka is very important because it houses the oldest Fatimid dome in existence, while Qubet Al-Gaffari and Al-Sayeda Rokaya Mosque and Mashhad display distinguished Islamic decorative elements.

The Shagaret Al-Dur dome takes the form of a small shrine with three keel-arched entrances. The qibla wall facing Mecca has a prayer niche, and the dome of the building still bears some of its original ornamentation, including fluted lozenges and medallions and keel-arched niches with fluted hoods

News: German Engineer Offers Egypt's Antiquities Ministry Two Robot Cameras

The two tiny robot cameras are to help in exploring challenging corridors inside antiquities sites. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
German engineer Friedhelm Kremer has offered the antiquities ministry two tiny robot cameras to help in exploring challenging corridors and ramps inside monuments as well as small passages that are hard to reach with the usual equipment.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that training workshops are to be carried out in the next two days in order to train archaeologists and curators to operate the robot cameras.

The training will take place inside the Tomb of Tye and on the ramp of the King Unas Pyramid in Saqqara Necropolis.

Eldamaty pointed out that Kremer's gesture illustrates the strong friendship between Egypt and Germany in the archaeological field.

For his part, Kremer expressed his willingness to help Egyptian archaeologists in developing efficient use of the cameras.

He also pointed out that his love of Egypt and ancient Egyptian antiquities are the main reasons for his offering Egypt the robot cameras.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Discovery, Aswan: Earliest Historical Detection of Scurvy Discovered in Nag Al-Qarmila

A child skeleton dating to 3,800-3,600 BC discovered in Nag Al-Qarmila, in Aswan, may be the oldest discovered case of scurvy in the world. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The skeleton infected with scurvy disease
Within the framework of the Aswan Kom Ombo Archaeological Project (AKAP), which is focused on pre-dynastic sites in the area of Nag Al-Qarmila in Aswan, a new and important discovery has been made.

The AKAP Italian-Egyptian mission led by Maria Carmela Gatto from Yale University and Antonio Curci from Bologna University stumbled upon what is believed to be the oldest case of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) in the world, dated to the era 3,800-3,600 BC.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty announced today that scientific examination of a recently discovered skeleton of a one-year-old child reveals a change in the shape of the bones, which in turn indicates that the child was suffering scurvy.

Mindy Pitre, a physical anthropologist from University of Alberta, said that the main reason for disease is not yet revealed, but that unhealthy food and cultural behaviour could lead to scurvy. Studies are to continue on the child skeleton.

Since 2005, AKAP has investigated a number of selected areas in the region between Aswan and Kom Ombo. Many rock art sites within the concession area are under threat due to the impact of modern human activities.

Three-dimensional techonologies, such as digital surveying and photogrammetry, were used for the first time in the Egyptian Nile Valley in order to document rock art and its environmental setting in a detailed manner. The aim is to improve data recording and analysis while saving resources and reducing fieldwork time.

News, Cairo: Officials Referred to Trial Over Damaging Priceless King Tut’s Mask

German restorer Christian Eckmann is the restoration project leader
(Photo: Mai Shaheen)


CAIRO: A botched attempt to glue King Tutankhamen’s beard to its burial mask after it was knocked off will be brought to court, after eight officials were accused of damaging the priceless artifact, according to Youm7.

The relic was repaired and put on exhibit in December 2015, few months after the glue was discovered in January on display at the Egyptian Museum.

The incident that stirred uproar in media and among archeologists reportedly occurred in August 2014, after a hasty repair by museum workers to the beard, which they accidently separated from the boy king’s mask.

The Administrative prosecution ruled to send former manager of the museum, former director of restoration department at the museum and six restoration specialists to trial, Youm7 reported Saturday.

The officials are facing charges of damaging the mask, covering up on the separated beard by reattaching it with glue, which caused deformation of the artifact.

Considered the most important artifact displayed in the Egyptian Museum, the mask is around 3,300 years old, and it was discovered in 1922.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

News: ‘Around Egypt on Motorcycle’ Covers 6K KM. in 7 Days

CAIRO: The Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt will honor Saturday Egyptian motorcyclist Adel Abdu who has covered 5,864 kilometers in a seven-day ride across Egypt, Al Shorouq reported Saturday.

Abdu created a Facebook page titled “Around Egypt on Motorcycle,” to announce the details of his adventure which is a bid to support tourism and “reassure the whole world that Egypt is a safe travel destination,” and to raise awareness of sustainable travel.

Abdu departed from Cairo Jan. 8 and rode 375 kilometers south along the Nile Valley to Upper Egypt’s governorate of Asyut before he rode through the oasis in the Western Desert.

The second leg of his trip covered the rest of the Nile Valley governorates until Abu Simbel before he rode through the Eastern Desert along the Red Sea coast. His adventure ended in Egypt’s Siwa oasis.
Source: Cairo Post– By/  The Cairo Post

Recovered Artifacts, Damietta: Smuggling of 14 Artifacts at Damietta Port Foiled

CAIRO: An attempt to smuggle 14 artifacts at Damietta port was foiled Wednesday, Youm7 reported.

The Criminal Investigation agency at Ports Security Authority announced it had stopped an attempt by an import-export firm to hide a number of suspected archeological artifacts inside a consignment of furniture and wood to be exported abroad.

A committee suggested the pieces belong to the Alawite dynasty. Similar attempts to smuggle artifacts via airports have been foiled by customs authorities over the past months.

Hundreds of repatriated artifacts that were smuggled outside the country following the 2011 Revolution are currently displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Source: Cairo Post– By/  The Cairo Post

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

News: Festival Celebrating Cairo's Historic Al-Khalifa Street to Begin Thursday

'Spend the Day in Al-Khalifa 3' festival will begin on Thursday and last for three days. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The logo of "Spend the Day in Al-Khalifa3" festival
A three-day festival called “Spend the Day in Al-Khalifa 3” will begin on Thursday, in collaboration with the antiquities ministry, Cairo governorate, the built environment collective Megawra and the volunteer project Mashroo3 Kheir.

The festival will include guided tours of Al-Khalifa Street in Sayyeda Zeinab, performances in the street and at its heritage sites, a craft exhibition, a sketching and photography workshop, and activities for children.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, the deputy minister for Islamic and Coptic antiquities, told Ahram Online that the festival is to last for three days, and it comes within the framework of a participatory conservation initiative called "Al-Athar Lina" (The Monuments Are Ours) launched in June 2012 to bring citizen participation into heritage conservation. The initiative is organised in partnership with Terre des Hommes, with funding from UNHCR.

According to Al-Athar Lina's press release, the primary aim of Spend the Day in Al-Khalifa 3 is to inaugurate the project to conserve the mid-13th century dome of Shajar al-Durr, funded by the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) with additional funding from the Barakat Trust.

It will also inaugurate a project to conserve the mid-12th century shrines to descendants of the prophet Al-Sayyida Ruqayya, Al-Jaafari and Aatika, funded by the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The event will also showcase the results of two preparatory workshops, the first on mural art inspired by the street’s heritage and the second to redesign the traditional Ramadan lantern made of tin and glass using contemporary approaches and traditional techniques. It will also fundraise for the current efforts to clean the street and resolve its waste management issues.

The closing event will bring together Syrian and Egyptian children for educational activities addressing acceptance and tolerance through emphasising common historical ties. The festival also received funding from AIC Finance and from private donations.

News, Cairo: Allegations of Botched Restoration of Cairo's Medieval Walls are 'Lies': Antiquities Ministry

Cultural and heritage activists say that Cairo's eastern and northern medieval walls are being restored incorrectly. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
Egypt's antiquities ministry has denied allegations by a group of conservation activists that the restoration of part of Cairo's medieval walls is being done unprofessionally and damaging the ancient structures. Earlier this month, a group of heritage and archaeological activists warned that Cairo's medieval eastern and northern walls were being incorrectly restored and reported the whole matter to the prosecutor-general.

The Antiquities Revolutionaries, a Facebook watchdog group, had published a series photos as well as a leaked memo from a group of inspectors working with the antiquities ministry, detailing how the medieval wall was being badly restored.  "All those claims are lies; they were spread by members of the inspection team who were excluded from the project for incompetence," Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, the head of historical Cairo project and a deputy antiquity minister, told Ahram Online.

"Even the pictures they shared online do not indicate or prove anything. Yes, we use cement for supporting columns, but 50 metres away from the ancient wall," he added. The dispute comes as another episode in the country’s recent line of restorations that have gone wrong. The leaked memo sent by a group of archaeological inspectors in the committee assigned by the Ministry of Antiquities to supervise the restoration works in December highlights apparent problems with the restoration.

Among the points raised in the report was how the medieval wall's mud bricks were replaced unnecessarily by new bricks.  The report further states that there had been no plan by the restoration company to secure the old wall's bricks before or during the restoration works, which led to the leaking of cement on the site.

The medieval eastern and northern Cairo walls were built in the 12th century, during the rule of Saladin, then sultan of Egypt and Syria. Sally Soliman, a cultural and heritage activist, told Ahram Online that she visited the site in late December and took photos showing what she considered clear evidence of the unprofessional restoration that had been carried out there.

"They simply replaced ancient mud brick with bricks and cement unprofessionally," the co-founder of Save Cairo heritage watchdog group said. She also added that there are concerns about the public sector construction and restoration company that is handling the project. A total of LE167 million has been allocated by Egypt's Ministry of Housing to restore Cairo's medieval walls. The project is assigned to public sector company Wadi Al-Nil, a construction and restoration company, with the Ministry of Antiquities supervising it.

The company’s previous restoration projects include the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra El-Kheima. In 2012, after six years of restoration, parts of the Mohamed Ali Palace project in Shubra El-Kheima collapsed despite being restored at a cost of LE55 million. The palace is currently closed after it was further damaged by a bomb that exploded outside Qalioubiya security directorate -- a few blocks away -- in August 2015. 

Asked by Ahram Online about the memo leaked online that details the violations in the restoration works, Aziz said that it was leaked by a group of "young, angry and incompetent" inspectors who were excluded from the project. "They released it the day after they were excluded. Why didn’t they release it before or during the six months that they worked in the committee?" he asked. According to the leaked internal memo to the minister by the group of inspectors, they did report the violations six months ago as well as four months ago again, to both the Historical Cairo project and the Ministry of Housing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

News, Luxor: Luxor Temple to Host Celebrations of Egyptian-Chinese Cultural Year

CAIRO: Luxor will host Thursday the 2016 Sino-Egyptian Culture Year, which marks the 60th anniversary of joint diplomatic relations between Egypt and China, Youm7 reported.

The celebration will be held at the 3,500 year-old Luxor Temple in presence of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, representatives from both governments, Chinese students in Egypt and media figures.

The initiative to hold the event was proposed by Sisi during his visit to China in Dec. 2014

The activities of the event will include exhibitions, acrobatics, and an opera performance by China’s Hebei Opera House.

“The Chinese-Egyptian cultural year is a mean to intensify the already strong cultural ties between the two countries,” Culture Minister Helmy al Namnam was quoted by Youm7.
Source: Cairo Post– By/  The Cairo Post

Monday, January 18, 2016

News, Cairo: Antiquities Minister Inaugurated Exhibition for Recovered Artifacts on Last Thursday

A temporary exhibition for recently recuperated artefacts that have been stolen and illegally smuggled out of Egypt is set to open on Thursday at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

At hall number 44 on the Egyptian Museum's first floor, a temporary exhibition telling the story behind a collection of recuperated stolen and illegally smuggled artifacts will open on Thursday.

The exhibition opens on the tenth annual Archaeologists Day, a celebration organised by the antiquities ministry.

The exhibition is also being held to highlight the efforts made by the ministry to protect Egypt's heritage and in recovering stolen artifacts that were smuggled out of the country following the January 2011 uprising.  

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the exhibition will put on show a collection of 226 objects from different eras of Egyptian civilizations that have been recovered from France, England, Denmark, Germany and the United States in 2014 and 2015.

"This is the fourth exhibition of its kind," Eldamaty said. The exhibition will last until the end of November. The General Supervisor of the Egyptian Museum Khaled El-Enany also told Ahram Online that the ministry succeeded in recovering 722 artifacts.

50 were returned to Egypt in 2015, while the rest were returned in 2014. El-Enany continued to say that Egypt proved its possession of 36 stolen and illegally smuggled objects to Spain and 122 to the United States.

Among them were three sarcophagi of an ancient Egyptian woman named Shesibemtisher, a coffin of a Graeco-Roman nobleman, 99 coins and five statuettes carved in stone.

El-Nany added that the ministry succeeded in stopping the sale of a unique ancient Egyptian statue that was on show in an auction hall in Germany in June, as well as a collection of 46 beads carved in faience that were on display in a jewelry exhibition in Berlin.