Friday, August 31, 2007

An SOS for Qasr Ibrim on Lake Nasser

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

In the 1960s when Egypt decided to build the High Dam and called for the salvage operation of Nubian monuments, all temples were relocated to another, safer location except the monuments of Qasr Ibrim which was built on top of an 80-metre tall rock formation above the Nile's level, thus preventing its inundation by the flow of Lake Nasser after the completion of the dam. Such remarkable preservation on site has recently been threatened by the high water levels of Lake Nasser associated with construction in Toshka.

Almost 60 per cent of the island has been inundated and water leaks into the temple most of the time. Water has also reached the foundation of the cathedral which has led to several cracks on its walls. Blocks of the podium located on the edge of the Nile have been dismantled which may lead to an eventual total collapse. The fortification walls have indeed collapsed, and mud-brick buildings near the new water line have fallen as well, either from the effect of direct water or from percolation. The most important of these are a 25th Dynasty temple, from which a wall painting has already collapsed and another is now in danger of disappearing. Percolation through dry deposits also threatens the excellent organic preservation of the site. Once exposed to water, the organic matter decays rapidly to a brown smelly slime from which nothing can be recovered.

"The damages increase year after year which demands the intervention of UNESCO to rescue and protect the only vestige of Nubian monuments that still remain in situ," Mohamed El-Biali, head of Aswan and Nubian Monuments in the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly. El-Biali said Egypt needs rapid and immediate action similar to that of the 1960s when UNESCO played a significant role in leading the international salvage campaign for Nubian monuments. Egypt renewed its appeal to UNESCO in 2000 and 2005.

See the above page for the full story, which also offers a short description of the history of Qasr Ibrim.

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