Friday, June 27, 2008

Unholy thefts


Thefts from Islamic monuments in the Darb Al-Ahmar area have highlighted the problem of security at Cairo's historic mosques.

Inlaid wooden panels from the minbars of Ganim Al-Bahlawan and Altinbuga Al-Maridani mosques have been stolen, and a marble relief from the Blue Mosque. Thieves were also caught red handed, attempting to make off with a magnificent ironwork grill window from the sabil kuttab of Rokaya Dudu.

"It's a terrible loss," says Gamal Abdel-Rehim, professor of Islamic monuments at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology. The minbar of Ganim Al-Bahlawan was among the most important in any of Cairo's monumental mosques.

"Securing archaeological sites is the responsibility of the authority to which the site is affiliated," said Abdel-Khaleq Mokhtar, director of monuments in south Cairo.

Abdel-Khaleq says the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has repeatedly requested that the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) tighten security at mosques or else hand over responsibility to the SCA. "Currently the role of the SCA is to restore mosques and then hand them back to the Awqaf. The SCA then makes only periodic checks on the buildings' archaeological features."

Sheikh Kamal Abdel-Nasser, director of Awqaf in Cairo, argues that the SCA is shirking its responsibilities. "Why does the SCA refuse to admit responsibility for their own security shortcomings and seek, instead, to blame the mosque guards?" he asks.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, will hold a meeting next week with the head of the Awqaf to draw up a security plan for archaeological mosques.

See the above link for more information.

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