Friday, January 20, 2012

Scholars struggle to preserve Egypt's heritage

The Chronicle (Ursula Lindsey)

When soldiers and protesters clashed in downtown Cairo in late December, the army's crackdown left at least 16 dead and hundreds injured. Another victim of the violence was the oldest scientific institute in Egypt, which was largely destroyed in a fire, along with much of its precious library.

The destruction of the historical archive of the Egyptian Scientific Institute caused an outcry. But while this is the most significant case of Egypt's historical heritage being damaged by the turbulence of the last year, it is hardly the only one. Since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak last February, antiquities and historical sites have faced a variety of new dangers.

"Threats to the heritage are diversifying," says Tamar Teneishvili, who oversees cultural programs in Egypt for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. "Who would have thought that the institute would burn that way? The situation is so unpredictable and volatile."

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