Friday, November 04, 2011

The post-revolution state of Egypt's heritage

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

The 25 January Revolution seems to have cast the Pharaohs' curse over the antiquities and museums sector in Egypt, which has seen more than its share of bad luck in the past nine months.

The early days of the uprising saw thieves taking advantage of the temporary lack of security to loot several archaeological sites and museums around the country, including the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, the Saqqara and Abusir necropolises in Giza, and sites in the Delta and Upper Egypt. Although some of the stolen items were later recovered, many are still missing.

Meanwhile, certain developed sites such as Al-Muizz Street in mediaeval Cairo saw renewed damage to their structure as residents in the area encroached on the unique Islamic monuments that have lined the street since the Mamluk era. And, hampered by a budget shortfall caused by the drop in the tourist industry in Egypt, construction work on new museums such as the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking Giza plateau and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) were put on hold. Also delayed were development and restoration projects at several archaeological sites and monuments, such as Djoser's Step Pyramid in the Saqqara necropolis.

On the administrative level the case was even worse.

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