Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday morning - Round-up of the news to date

I am just focusing on the news as it relates to Egypt's heritage and tourism. Summing up from yesterday for those who have only just come to the blog, the news is as follows. See the previous posts for all links to sources and videos.

As in all situations of social uprising there always opportunists who take advantage of the chaos to loot homes, businesses and musums. In the case of Cairo the Egyptian Museum was entered from the top by, it has been reported, "nine convicts." Whoever they were they attempted to steal two mummies, which were seriously damaged in the attempt, with the heads being detatched from the bodies. At the same time a number of glass cabinets were smashed and some of the items contained within were damaged. Hawass says that no items were stolen and that it will probably be possible to restore the damaged items. A number of films (including this recent one on YouTube and this from Al Jazeera showing more, with Hawass interviewed) are available online which shows some of the damage inflicted, including some objects from the Tutankhamun collection. Tim Reid has speculated on his blog that cartonnage from the mummy of Thuya is part of the damage filmed at the museum. Initial attempts to protect the museum were carried out by young Egyptians who formed a cordon, and they were replaced by the Tourism Police and the military who took up posts outside. Footage shows them inside the museum, fully armed. This morning there was footage on the BBC of the museum completely surrounded by military protection, within the museum fences.

The Coptic Museum in Cairo was also looted, according to the BBC, and this was protected by local Copts.

Another threat to museums is the damage inflicted by protestors is the burning of buildings. The party headquarters next to the Egyptian Museum was in flames yesterday, and there were concerns about what would happen if it collapsed. There was another report (unconfirmed) that a museum in Alexandria was set alight.

Reports say that in Luxor the Luxor Museum was surrounded by tanks to protect it, and that measures have been taken to protect Karnak Temple.

The pyramids of Giza have been closed and are also under military protection.

As far as archaeologists working in Egypt are concerned, most seem to have followed the guidelines which suggested that they stay indoors and away from the trouble. I have not heard of anyone being hurt.

Tour companies seem to have taken measures to prevent more tourists arriving in Cairo, and many have made arrangements to remove tourists already in Egypt. There are reports of people of all nationalities arriving at airports to search for flights.

As of this morning the US has advised its citizens to leave the country and will start filght evacuations from Monday. The UK Foreign Office has adviced that only essential travel should be made to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor and estimates that there are currently 30,000 tourists in Britain. Roadblaocks have been set up on the roads into Sharm El Sheik, where a curfew appears to be in place and, according to a report on BBC News 24, tourists are being confined to their hotels.

Following Mubarak's announcements of new cabinet positions there's still no sign who will replace Farouk Hosni as Minister of Culture, if such a replacement is made. I assume that Hawass will retain his position as Vice-Minister of Culture. We'll just have to wait and see. For those who are interested here is Mubarak's speech about the protests, with English translation, with my thanks to The Economist for the link:

Al Jazeera has been an invaluable source of information on the situation in Egypt in general and the Egyptian Museum in particular, but according to an Al Jazeera news release the Egyptian authorities are revoking the Al Jazeera Network's licence to broadcast from the country, and will be shutting down its bureau office in Cairo. An Al Jazeera spokesman said that the company would continue its strong coverage regardless: "Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists. In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update!
Any idea of which mummies were damaged?

Andie said...

As I said in my post, Tim has suggested, on the basis of video footage, that some damage may have been done to the mummy of Thuya, but there is no other information available at the moment. When full communications are restored more information should become available.

Anonymous said...

For those who are able to read German.

"El-Saddik: Wächter und Polizisten plünderten Ägyptisches Museum

Die langjährige Direktorin des Ägyptischen Museums Wafaa el-Saddik hat das Wachpersonal und Polizisten für die Plünderungen der Kunstsammlung in Kairo verantwortlich gemacht. "Das waren die Wächter des Museums, unsere eigenen Leute", sagte el-Saddik dem Berliner "Tagesspiegel". Einige von den Polizisten hätten offenbar vorher ihre Jacken ausgezogen, "um nicht als Polizisten erkennbar zu sein". Eine zweite Gruppe der Täter sei von hinten über eine Feuerleiter durch die Dachfenster eingestiegen. Die Zerstörungen befänden sich alle im ersten Stockwerk, wo sich auch der Schatz des Tutanchamun befinde, sagte el-Saddik. "Es sind sehr viele Figuren auf den Boden geworfen und zerstört worden, darunter auch Götterfiguren aus dem Schatz des Tutanchamun". Die Plünderer hätten mehrere pharaonische Schmuckstücke gestohlen. Auch der neue Anbau mit dem großen Andenkengeschäft, was erst im November eröffnet worden ist, sei "total ausgeraubt", sagte el-Saddik. Wafaa el-Saddik war von 2004 bis Ende 2010 Direktorin des Ägyptischen Museums, eine der berühmtesten Antikensammlungen der Welt."

Best regards