Friday, April 06, 2012

Book Review: Legitimate Robberies

Al Ahram Weekly

Legitimate Robberies by Ashraf El-Ashmawi. Egyptian Lebanese Publishing House.

A new book examines the longstanding and often authorised theft of Egypt's heritage

Judge at the appeal court, legal expert and author Ashraf El-Ashmawi has written a welcome new book, Legitimate Robberies, giving a detailed and crucial account of the illicit trade in Egypt's antiquities over the last 200 years. The book is published this week by Egyptian Lebanese Publishing House.

Ashmawi has a thorough knowledge of the subject, having spent more than seven years as the legal consultant of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities. From this legal standpoint, Ashmawi witnessed and shared in the restitution of almost 5,000 artefacts that had been illegally looted and smuggled out of the country.

Legitimate Robberies reveals the mysteries behind several antiquities thefts that took place after the end of the French Expedition to Egypt in 1802 up until today.

Ashmawi also monitors certain social phenomena related to the theft of antiquities over the last 200 years through collating public viewpoints and official rules and regulations. The author reveals that some people do not regard the appropriation of antiquities is illegal, claiming the government does not provide them with an appropriate and basic standard of life. This and similar attitudes stem from low awareness of their cultural heritage, and perhaps partly from poverty.

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