Saturday, January 29, 2011

A note about the protests in Cairo

A number of people have asked if I have any information about what is happening to the Cairo Museum during the current protests. Thanks to Rhio Barnhart for letting me know that the Associated Press report that the Egyptian army have secured the museum. This followed local people forming a human chain around the museum to protect it:

The greatest threat to the Egyptian Museum, which draws millions of tourists a year, first appeared to come from the fire engulfing the ruling party headquarters next door on Friday night, set ablaze by anti-government protesters.

Then dozens of would-be thieves started entering the grounds surrounding the museum, climbing over the metal fence or jumping inside from trees lining the sidewalk outside.

One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: "We are not like Baghdad." After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, thieves carted off thousands of artifacts from the National Museum in Baghdad — only a fraction of which have been recovered.

Suddenly other young men — some armed with truncheons taken from the police — formed a human chain outside the main entrance in an attempt to protect the collection inside.

"I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure," said one of the men, Farid Saad, a 40-year-old engineer.

Another man, 26-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, said it was important to guard the museum because it "has 5,000 years of our history. If they steal it, we'll never find it again."

Finally, four armored vehicles took up posts outside the massive coral-colored building in downtown Cairo.

There is a summary on the BBC News website of the broader political situation in Cairo, where President Mubarak has dismissed his government and will be forming a new cabinet today, Saturday. There are also two videos on the page with scenes from Egypt. There was a supporting but peaceful protest in London yesterday. UK Foreign Office recommendations for travel are displayed on their website.

I haven't seen anything about how holiday companies are handling the situation but I was speaking to Jane Akshar yesterday and she says that there are no such violent protests taking place in Luxor, where life appears to be continuing as normal. In a recent post on her blog Jane suggests that the reason for this is an ultra pragmatic approach to the need for economic self preservation.


Ron said...

If nothing else, this should put an end to the arguments about returning artifacts to Egypt. The bust of Nefertiti is SAFE in Berlin. Let it stay there. This region of the world will always be on the edge.

Anonymous said...

Sixty years ago I would rather have been in Cairo than Berlin!