Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mixed signals in the Egytian heritage hierarchy

Al Ahram Weekly

While Culture Minister Farouk Hosni was nominated for the post of UNESCO director-general, writes Nevine El-Aref, two of his closest aides are arrested on charges of bribery. . . .

This time the furore involves, rather, two of his aides: the head of the Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund Hussein Ahmed Hussein; and Ayman Abdel-Moneim, who is both director-general of the Cultural Development Fund and general supervisor of the Historic Cairo Development Project. Both were arrested on charges of bribery: Hussein was caught red-handed with an LE10,000 bribe from a contractor vying for the Nubian Museum restoration project; Abdel-Moneim was accused of amassing possessions from contractors working in Ministry of Culture restoration projects. Early investigations have revealed that both defendants unlawfully received a range of gifts from luxuriously furnished apartments in Cairo's fashionable districts and plots of land to rugs and meals of fish. Together with three contractors involved in the case, they will be in detention for 15 days pending the results of further investigation. The allegation that expenses of contractors working on archaeological sites were being disbursed in return for bribes taken by some of the ministry's top officials were first made in 2006, when the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) started on the case. As a result of investigations made since, all five defendants may face trial at the formidable Supreme State Security Court.

Shortly after serving as assistant to Abdel-Halim Noureddin during the latter's tenure as secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Abdel-Moneim became Hosni's Antiquities Department secretary, where he showed great talent for improving archaeological and historical sites, taking on development projects in the Abu Simbel and Kalabsha Temples and in the Manesterly Palace on the Cairo island of Roda; as Historic Cairo Development Project supervisor, he also oversaw the restoration of 200 Islamic monuments including mosques, sabil-kuttabs, mausoleums and wikalas. He also oversaw the restoration of the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra and the Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria, and worked on the National Museum of Civilisation project.

The case has put a temporary end to further progress on that front, but more importantly it will have major implications for Hosni's nomination by the Egyptian government for the post of UNESCO director-general in the 2009 elections in Paris.

See the above page for the full story.

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