Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can Egypt protect its heritage? (Zahi Hawass)

As those of you who have followed my website know, there was some looting and land grabbing, and even the Egyptian Museum was vandalized and robbed. At one point, I myself resigned in protest when I felt that the authorities were not doing enough to protect our monuments. However, the situation was never as bad as many of the unconfirmed reports had implied, and it is now greatly improved.

Hundreds of artifacts stolen from one magazine in the Delta were returned, and almost half of the objects stolen from the Egyptian Museum have been recovered. The army is backing up the authority of the Ministry of State for Antiquities -- only last week, the army removed a newly-built cemetery and mosque above ancient Memphis, and are continuing to support MSA work to reclaim our sites.

One of the most heartening things about recent events was the extent to which regular Egyptians were willing to go to protect their cultural heritage. Yes, there were many vandals and thieves who took advantage of the unrest for personal gain, but there were also many people who stood up against them. When the Egyptian Museum was attacked, young protesters formed a human chain around it to protect it. In some remote sites, local villagers took it upon themselves to organize patrols to scare off would-be looters. If this revolution, with the resulting power vacuum, had happened anywhere else, I think that the vandalism and theft would have been much more extensive, as it was, for example, in Iraq.

See the above page for the full story.

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