Friday, August 20, 2010

The Museum of Islamic Art

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

If anyone were to ever ask me the question, "What is the most difficult project that you have had to work on as the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities?" I would have to answer, "The Islamic Museum." This is the story.

The Islamic Museum in Cairo, now on Port Said Street, was first opened in the Al-Hakim Mosque in 1881 with 111 objects on display. When I began my current job in 2002, the Port Said Street museum was closed and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) intended this lovely neo-Mamluk building to be used to display Islamic art and a building in the Citadel to be used to display architectural objects. I thought that this division was counterintuitive. How would it be possible truly to distinguish between art and architecture? The two complement each other. I decided that the existing museum should continue to display both and that we should find an alternative use for the building in the Citadel.

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