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

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