Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Story of Step Pyramid (5): Pyramid restoration restarts

Work on Djoser’s Step Pyramid in Saqqara is continuing despite a contracting controversy, writes Nevine El-Aref

When Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty announced the resumption of work at Djoser’s Step Pyramid in Saqqara this week, after some four years’ delay, the decision was generally applauded. But some archeologists are raising concerns about the company chosen to do the restoration.

They accused the ministry of negligence in awarding the work to the Al-Shorbagi Company, which, they say, was responsible for the earlier collapse of a block of the 4,600-year-old Step Pyramid.

Amir Gamal, representative of the Non-Stop Robberies pressure group, accused the company and the ministry of not following international restoration standards because they built a new wall around the pyramid. International rules prevent such new additions being made, he said. Gamal added that the company, hired in 2006, had not finished the work by 2008, as specified in the contract. “Meanwhile, the condition of the pyramid has been going from bad to worse,” he said. 

“The company does not specialise in restoration, and it has never carried out restoration work in Egypt,” Gamal said, adding that the Al-Shorbagy Company had previously only built cafeterias and other modern buildings at archaeological sites. “If the ministry is confident in the restoration work that is being carried out, it should release a technical report for all to see,” he added.

Ahmed Shehab, an official of the Preserving Egypt Antiquities Organisation, an NGO, said that he was concerned because a 2011 UNESCO report had said that the pyramid was at risk and there was no proper restoration plan.

“These accusations are unfounded,” said Kamal Wahid, director-general of Giza Antiquities. He added that the restoration work was being carried out according to plans approved by UNESCO, the Ministry of Antiquities and the relevant consultancy bureau. The Al-Shorbagy Company, in charge of the restoration, is registered with the government as an ‘A’ category company, like Arab Contractors and Orascom, which means that it is qualified for the work,” Wahid said. 
The company is following a plan drawn up by specialists in the field and its work is under the supervision of the ministry’s consultancy bureau, led by the well-known architect Hassan Fahmy, he added. An architectural committee, including professors of architecture from Cairo and Ain Shams universities and led by Mustafa Al-Ghamrawi, is also reviewing the restoration.

Wahid said that it is not true that a wall has been built around the pyramid, or that a block of the pyramid has fallen. “All the blocks scattered around the pyramid fell away over centuries as a result of environmental stresses,” he said, adding that these blocks had been collected, cleaned, and returned to their original positions as part of the first phase of the work........Read More

Monday, September 29, 2014

News: Newly recovered stolen Egyptian artifacts on display at Egyptian Museum

Ancient Egyptian artifacts - YOUM7 (Archive)
CAIRO: Over 50 Ancient Egyptian artifacts recovered from several European countries during the past year are now on display in a private exhibition at the Egyptian Museum.

“Among the restored artifacts on display is a 3,300-year-old limestone relief that was stolen from the tomb of the 18th Dynasty high priest Sobekhotep, located in the west bank of Luxor,” Dr. Aly Ahmed, the Antiquities Ministry’s Repatriated Artifacts Department head, told The Cairo Post Sunday.

A German couple bought the relief from a collector in Britain in 1986 but learnt it was stolen and returned it in mid July, said Ahmed.

“The limestone relief is in very good condition. It is 30 centimeters tall and 40 centimeters wide. It depicts two figures of Sobekhotep standing and making offerings to deities,” he added. The exhibition also includes four artifacts that were stolen and illegally smuggled to the U.K. in the aftermath of the 2011 January 25 Revolution.

“We monitored these artifacts on the lists of Bonhams and Christie’s auction houses in London in mid June and informed the Egyptian authorities to take the necessary legal procedures to recover them,” Ahmed said. Amongst the 12 artifacts are a red granite panel dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, a decorative limestone cobra head and a colored panel of limestone depicting a lotus flower.

According to Ahmed, the collection also includes eight wooden Islamic decorative pieces recovered from Denmark and an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus lid recovered from France. “The eight wooden pieces were stolen from the pulpit of the 14th century Ganem al-Bahlawan Mosque in Cairo’s Darb al-Ahmar district in 2008, and then illegally smuggled to Denmark,” Ahmed added.

It is estimated that around $3 billion in Egyptian antiquities have been looted since the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and the consequent security lapse across Egypt, according to the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities, a U.S.-based initiative partnered with Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry.

During the past four years, Egypt has recovered over 1,600 artifacts and is currently working on other cases in many European countries, Ministry of Antiquities Museums Sector head Ahmed Sharaf previously told The Cairo Post.

“It is impossible to provide an accurate number of the artifacts that have been stolen since the January 25 Revolution,” he said.

Reopening, Kharagh Oasis: Hibis Temple to be reopened in November

Hibis Temple
CAIRO: Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty has inaugurated the reopening of the 2,500-year-old Temple of Hibis, which is the largest and best preserved temple in Egypt’s Western Desert, Ahmed Mutawa, director of the ministry’s Archaeological Sites Development Department, told The Cairo Post Thursday.

“The third and last phase at the Hibis Temple restoration project, worth 30 million EGP ($4.3 million), has been completed and the temple will be opened for the public in November after decades of renovation,” said Mutawa.

The 71 million EGP project started in 2007 and included the restoration of the temple’s walls, carvings and paintings along with the drainage of groundwater present from the agricultural lands surrounding the temple, Mutawa added.

Located in Al-Kharga Oasis 600 kilometers southwest of Cairo, the temple dates back to the reign of Persian King Darius I in the 27th Egyptian Dynasty (c. 525 B.C.), and was also used as a garrison until 330 B.C., former Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Abdel Halem Nour el-Din told The Cairo Post Thursday.

“A Sphinx avenue flanks the façade of the limestone temple and goes through its gates, courts and sanctuary. It also contains evidence of use in later periods, including the early Christian and Islamic periods, when the temple is strongly believed to have been used by Muslim Pilgrims en route to Mecca,” said Nour el-Din.

Being surrounded by agricultural lands, the Hibis Temple has been severely damaged during the past five decades due to the groundwater and the locally rising water table caused by farming and irrigation activities in the area, according to Nour el-Din.

“In June 1999 and due to the temple’s deteriorating conditions, the then head of SCA, Gaballa Ali Gaballa, decided that the Hibis Temple had to be dismantled and reassembled on a higher and safer spot, two kilometers to the southwest of its original location,” Nour el-Din added.

In late 1999, Zahi Hawass was appointed as secretary-general of the SCA. He visited the temple and decided to conduct the renovation work of the temple without moving it. “From the first time I visited the site I could see that if the temple was moved it would be destroyed.  The reliefs and the stone blocks were badly restored in the past and were very fragile,” said Hawass on his personal website.

To avoid problems from the surrounding agricultural fields, the SCA bought all the land around the temple to provide a safe zoning area, according to Hawass.

“Today the temple is beautifully restored and remains in its original location… I still think that this is one of the best decisions I ever made as secretary-general,” Hawass added.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

News: Sekhemka sale - Northampton Museum facing 'disciplinary'

Sekhemka Statue
A council that sold an ancient statue of an Egyptian priest for nearly £16m is to face a disciplinary session of the Museums Association. 

Northampton Borough Council must explain the reasons for the sale of the 4,000-year-old Sekhemka statue.

It could face a further loss of funding at the meeting on 1 October. The council said the Arts Council had also withdrawn access to funding and it would respond to the Museums Association when this was resolved. 

Funds raised by the sale of the limestone Sekhemka statue in July were to be used to help expand Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Negotiations were under way to begin a scheme to double the museum's exhibition space.

Lost funding risk
The council said: "We are waiting to hear from Arts Council England and once we have considered their response we will comment further on how we intend to respond to the Museums Association."
Expansion plans include doubling the size 
of the museum's exhibition space
Sharon Heal, head of policy at the Museums Association, said: "We are genuinely concerned some local authorities could raise finance by disposing of parts of their collections by sale."

The association said it had a range of sanctions, such as suspending membership and taking away accreditation, which could mean losing funding.

"A summit of other funders, including the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council, would also be called later in the year," Ms Heal said.

"We already have a red list to protect heritage sites at risk. Now we will ask the summit members to create a similar list for collections."
Related Posts:

News: Abydos Temple to opened for visit at night

Minister of Antiquities, said that the temple will be fully equipped to be open for visitors at night and extend opening times and the visitor’s center to be finished soon.
There is also a project to lower the underground water at the Osirion to open it for public.
Source: Luxor times
For More Pictures: 
* Abydos Temple Click Here 
* The Osirion Click Here 

Related posts for Abydos:
Volume 2 - Abydos temples
King Seti I : Father & son of Ramsess

Saturday, September 27, 2014

New Opening, Alexandria: Marina Al-Alamein archaeological site is set to open in April 2015

Restoration work in Marina Al-Alamein archaeological site in Alexandria has resumed to open in mid April.

Eldamaty inspecting Marina site
Marina Al-Alamein is a well-known summer resort on Egypt's north coast where holidaymakers can enjoy sun, sand and sea in the summertime.

Now, another tourist attraction can be added as the antiquities ministry has resumed restoration work at the archaeological site of Marina Al-Alamein, which was a major Greco-Roman town and port known as Leucaspis 2000 years agoLeucaspis was probably destroyed by an earthquake in the late third century AD, but was partially inhabited again in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. 

A small basilica church uncovered in the eastern sector is considered to be the best evidence of this later occupation. The recent site includes the remains of more than 50 different structures in the town and necropolis. A commercial quarter was also found as well as the town centre with its baths, markets and a civic basilica.

Remains of a temple
In addition to the restoration of some of the authentic buildings and columns found, a new parking lot for tourists is to be established and the existing mounds located next to the site entrance will be relocated and reshaped into a panoramic hill. 

The tourist itinerary will be updated and a trial run of the tourist walk traced in the field. Completion of the site presentation project together with signage and lighting on site and a tourist guidebook in English will be also among the development works.

The Polish Archaeological Institute in Cairo and the American Research Center in Egypt carried out excavation and restoration works since the 1980s when Egypt's government started development of the north coast and archaeological traces appeared during construction.

The Necropolis
The Polish excavations yielded a vast collection of findings, including lamps, glass vessels and pottery from Cyprus, the Aegean, Asia Minor and Italy. Several sculptures were also found and among the most remarkable discoveries were a lead coffin and mummies in one of the side chambers of a tomb.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty gave the go-ahead for the restoration and development work yesterday during his inspection tour around the site. He promised to officially inaugurate the site in April.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Egypt in the middle of " Times Square, New York "

Cairo Luxury Hotel: Fairmont Towers Heliopolis

At the heart of Cairo’s diplomatic and presidential neighborhood, few minutes away from Cairo International Airport elegantly stands the Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis, a luxury Cairo, Egypt hotel. Located in the city of the sun, Heliopolis, where ancient Egyptians chose to celebrate life, creation and the sun, the hotel enables its guests to easily reach Cairo International Conference Center, the palace of the modern Heliopolis founder, Baron Empain, the Virgin Mary’s Tree, and many more of the legendary Cairo attractions.

The design of Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt hotel comprises a unique mix of contemporary art and authentic décor that echoes modern Cairo along with the distinct Egyptian heritage. From the unequalled spacious guest rooms to the state-of-the-art conference facilities, from the water passages across diverse array of restaurants’ themes to the mesmerizing day-lighted atrium, every detail of this luxury Egypt hotel accentuate the pleasing interaction of light, water, and natural living elements.
The new butler service at Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis, Cairo offers new definition of engaging and personalized service, providing guests with a subtle and exclusive standard of luxury unrivaled by other Cairo, Egypt hotels.

With 840 guest rooms and suites providing the most lavish Cairo, Egypt accommodation, more than 17 superlative dining choices, 69 thousand square feet of Cairo banquet space, unrivalled range of guest services and recreational facilities that incorporate squash, tennis, and beach-volley courts, fully-equipped health club, 3 swimming pools, kids pool and play ground, beauty salon, and convenient shopping choices, Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis portray a destination on its own.

News, Suez Canal: Developments in Qantara

A new rehabilitation project is shaking the dust off ruins that reveal Egypt’s great military history..... by Neviinn El Aref 

Bone remains of worriors in the leberation war
Two weeks ago, archaeologists and heritage officials applauded when President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi gave the go-ahead for the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project (SCCDP). The project will widen parts of the existing waterway and create a second, parallel canal. The scheme will not only develop Egypt’s economy and provide jobs, but it will also open up new tourist destinations.

The new waterway is ten km south of Qantara, the eastern gateway to Palestine and Syria in ancient times and the starting point of the famous Horus Road, the longest military road in Egypt and the only one to have retained physical evidence of its ancient fortresses and military structures.

Excavators uncover the Qantara’s forts
Horus Road was a vital commercial and military link between Egypt and Asia and has borne the marching feet of no fewer than 50 armies. From west to east, the pharaohs Thutmose III and Ramses II crossed Sinai with their military forces. From east to west came the Assyrian hordes, the Persian army of Cambyses, Alexander the Great and his mercenaries, Antiochus and the Roman legions, and Arab conquerors led by Amr Ibn Al-As.

“Digging a parallel canal, ten km from one of Egypt’s most important archaeological sites, is certainly good news for archaeology,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Al-Damati told the Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that the project is a good opportunity to spruce up a planned development project for archaeological sites located within the vicinity of the Suez Canal, especially at Qantara.

“The chequered history of Qantara is a reminder of military battles from Pharaonic times to the early 1970s,” Al-Damati said. He added that the development projects at these sites were part of the ministry’s efforts to protect and preserve the country’s monuments by developing and opening new archaeological sites. “This will provide employment, security and tourist income,” Al-Damati said.

A relief of Ramses II before a god – beside - The relief of Seti I engraved on Karnak Temple
Collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) began in February last year when the SCCDP plan was in its initial stages, he said. The ministry provided the SCA with maps identifying the location of archaeological sites, in order to prevent encroachment or destruction of the sites when the new waterway is built.

This is why the digging work is to be located ten km south of Qantara, an area of no known monuments or archaeological sites. No work will take place at Qantara west, he said. “News that the SCCDP is violating one of Egypt’s archaeological sites is unfounded and false,” Al-Damati told the Weekly.

As a first step towards development of the sites and to make them more tourist-friendly, a committee had been set up, which he will lead, to study all the archaeological sites in this area and to see which sites are appropriate for restoration and eventual opening to the public.

A relief depicts Ramses II before the god Geb
“I want to open seven archaeological sites in Qantara, three on the east and four on the west, while the other sites will follow one by one,” Al-Damati said, adding that all of the selected sites will be restored and opened to the public by the time the SCCDP is completed. The three sites in east Qantara are Tel Abu Seifi, Pelusium and the Habwa Fortress. Those to the west are Tel Al-Dafna, Tel Al-Maskhouta, Tel Al-Seyeidi and Ein Al-Sukhna.

A site management component will be included in the development project. It will provide a tourist route so visitors can enjoy the different architectural styles of the ruins, together with information panels and a high-tech security and lighting system.

A visitor centre, bookstore, souvenir shop and cafeteria will be built. Two buildings displaying a “Panorama of Ancient Egypt Fortresses”, similar to the October War Panorama in Nasr City in Cairo, are also planned for the area. Al-Damati told the Weekly that preliminary project work will be carried out by the Ministry of Antiquities. This includes required studies and documentation of the monuments. The ministry plans to sign international cooperation agreements with several European countries in order to complete the actual development work.

A lintel of a door from the reign of king Ramses II
He did not give details of these agreements, but said that they involved countries interested in the area and in the cultural heritage of Egypt. “This is a new tourist site with very distinguished monuments that relate to Egypt’s military history through the different time periods,” Al-Damati said, adding that once work starts a new site could be completed every three months. The scene of several battles: “The development of Horus Road as a tourist attraction has finally gained momentum,” archaeologist Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the archaeological committee of the Horus Road development project, told the Weekly.

During the ancient Egyptian era, Qantara East, the start of Horus Road, was the scene of several battles, among them those led by the pharaohs Ahmose I in his war of liberation against the Hyksos, Seti I in his military campaigns against rebels in Sinai and Canaan, and Ramses II in his war against the Hittites.