Saturday, May 30, 2015

The future of the past

Almost at the end of his first year in office, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El-Damaty tells Nevine El-Aref about the challenges ahead.

When Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty began his tenure in Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s second cabinet last June, the country’s archaeologists and heritage professionals were encouraged. They felt that his track record would allow him to manage Egypt’s antiquities portfolio efficiently, being familiar with the ministry’s different sections and its many hidden doors. They also thought Eldamaty’s relative youth would stand him in good stead.

Over the ten months since his appointment, Eldamaty’s mission has been to embody a new vision and carry out an action plan to properly preserve the country’s antiquities, upgrade the skills of ministry staff and work to resume archaeological projects that are now on hold.

However, his management style has not pleased everyone, and there have been campaigns both against the minister and against the ministry’s stewardship of the country’s antiquities.

An Italian archaeologist recently claimed that the famous ancient Egyptian painting of the Meidum Geese, on display in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, was a fake. He claimed that the painting’s discoverer had painted over a real Pyramid Age painting. There have also been claims that the treasure of Tutankhamun has been mistreated.

The Weekly met with Eldamaty at his office in Zamalek to talk about his achievements and future plans.

Why has a campaign against the Ministry of Antiquities and Egypt’s heritage been taking place?

The campaign is not against the Ministry of Antiquities and Egypt’s heritage. On the contrary, it is a systematic campaign against the country as a whole. The Ministry of Antiquities is just the scapegoat. Several incorrect news stories about the country’s antiquities have been published in the media, while other stories have been stopped and positive news not published.

For example, the return of 123 ancient Egyptian artefacts from the United States was not highlighted in the newspapers, and nor were the discoveries made at Tapozires Magna on the north coast between Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh. These discoveries were made by the first Egyptian-Dominican archaeological mission, which unearthed a collection of noblemen’s tombs from the Roman Empire and a stele similar to the Rosetta Stone dating to the 21st year of Ptolemy IV’s reign. The stele is engraved with hieroglyphics and demotic texts, but the Greek text is missing.

But instead of reporting this, the media reported the robbery of the Mostafa Kamil archaeological storehouse, and when the stolen artefacts were returned and the criminals caught and put in jail the media did not give enough attention to this. The claims of forgery made against the Meidum Geese painting are unfounded and are not based on proper scientific studies. They depend on claims by an Italian archaeologist who in my opinion made these unfounded claims in order to draw attention to himself…

Why is the restoration work at the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria in limbo when an agreement has been signed between the ministry and the Italian government to speed up the work?

After almost ten years of being off limits to tourists, the Graeco-Roman Museum will soon once again be restored to its former glory and provide more facilities for visitors. This is thanks to the Italian government, which has provided the funds to rehabilitate the museum within the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed with Egypt in 2008 to strengthen ties of friendship, cultural and scientific cooperation, and the protection of cultural heritage between Italy and Egypt.

The work at the museum stopped as a result of the 25 January Revolution, but it restarted just last week. An agreement with Alexandria Governor Hani Al-Messeri has also been signed to grant the land behind the museum to the Ministry of Antiquities. This will be used as an extension of the museum to enlarge its display area and maybe also to build a new entrance.

The funds required for the restoration amount to LE10 million. The work is to be carried out over the coming 18 months, including the restoration of the building itself, replacement of the showcases, installation of new lighting, ventilation and security systems, and renewal of the overall display.

The façade of the museum is to be kept as it is, and the changes will be made inside the building only. A conservation laboratory, children’s facilities, a lecture hall, cafeteria and bookstore are planned. Under the new plans, the museum will include halls for the display of its permanent collection, a section dedicated to archaeological study and research, and a special museum for children. Italian architects will also use state-of-the-art techniques to make the museum more environmentally friendly.

The museological project is divided into three key parts: the main hall, the exhibition sections and the “multimedia isle”. The main hall will be dedicated to artefacts related to the main theme of the museum, which is the city of Alexandria. Within this section there will also be a “multimedia isle” conceived as a space for voices and images that will start with the descriptions of the city found within the writings of ancient authors, first and foremost in the Geography of Strabo, and will include a reconstruction of the ancient city and a kaleidoscopic narrative of voices and images of the monumental ruins of the city and its monuments.You Can Read All Meeting Points Here. 

Short Story : Sibling marriages among Pharaohs stunted their height !!!

Pharaohs of ancient Egypt may have created monuments that tower over men, but in real life they suffered from diminutive stature, a recent study involving involved hundreds of ancient Egyptian mummies has revealed.

“This is one indicator of the presence of extensive inbreeding among the ancient Egyptian royalty,” said Frank Rühli, director of the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, who headed the team of anthropologists and archaeologists that conducted the study.

Published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the study analyzed the height variations of 259 ancient royal and non-royal mummies spanning all major periods of the ancient Egyptian history.

Rühli added that proving the fact that inbreeding was common among royalty in ancient Egypt has been always difficult because “scientists were unable to get access to the mummies’ tissues for DNA analysis; a process that might harm their mummies.”

According to traditions in ancient Egypt, Pharaohs were believed to have the blood of the gods thus “sibling marriage was rampant as an acceptable way of retaining the divine and royal lineage,” archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post Thursday.

According to the study, “the average height of the pharaohs was at 166 centimeters (5’4″ ft.), while the queens and princesses had an average height of 156.7 centimeters (5’1″ ft.).  Meanwhile, the general population had a varying height range of 161 centimeters (5’2″ ft.) to 169.6 centimeters (5’5″ ft.) in males and 155.6 centimeters (5’1″ ft.) to 159.5 centimeters (5’2″ ft.) in females.”

An analysis of the remains of Egypt’s most famous Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, suggested that his death could be attributed to genetic impairments caused by the fact that his parents were brother and sister. The analysis was carried out in October 2014.

The tallest pharaoh among those under investigation appears to be Ramses II (1303B.C – 1212 B.C.), who stood at 173 cm (5.67 feet) while, according to the study, his wife Queen Nefertari “was an outstandingly tall woman for her time, at 165 cm (5.41 feet) — taller than the average man in the New Kingdom period (1580B.C.-1080B.C.)”
Source: Cairo post 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Uniting for Heritage

An international conference held in Cairo this week is spearheading efforts to protect and preserve the region’s cultural heritage, reports Nevine El-Aref.

Bokova and Eldamaty during the conference’s opening session and at the MIA
Ever since antiquity, cultural heritage has been a casualty of crime and conflict. As long as there have been tombs, there have been tomb raiders and illicit excavations. As long as there have been civilizations, there have been enemy armies bent on plundering them.

As the value of antiquities continues to skyrocket, organised criminals, armed insurgents and terrorist networks have turned to cultural racketeering to fund crime and conflict around the world.

Recent videos on social media showing Islamic State (IS) militants destroying ancient artefacts in Iraq’s museums and blowing up 3,000-year-old temples, destroying priceless heritage, have sent shockwaves through the archaeological community and international organisations.

In some of the videos, militants can be seen taking sledgehammers to the iconic winged bulls of Assyria and sawing apart floral reliefs in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud. Afterwards, the entire site was destroyed with explosives.

Destruction at the MIA in the aftermath of the car bomb
explosion in January 2014
photo: Khaled El-Fiqi
In an attempt to stand up against such crimes and stop the destruction of ancient temples and artefacts in Iraq by the extremist IS group, as well as the looting and smuggling of antiquities in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya, a two-day conference titled “Culture Under Threat: the Security, Economic and Cultural Impact of Antiquities Theft in the Middle East” was held in Egypt this week.

It was organised by two US-based NGOs, the Antiquities Coalition and the Middle East Institute, in cooperation with Egypt’s ministries of foreign affairs and antiquities and under the joint patronage of UNESCO.

Ten Arab countries attended the conference, including Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the United Arabs Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Egypt. The aim of the conference was to step up international efforts to stop the illicit trafficking of cultural objects and antiquities as a means of financing terrorism.

“Egypt holds a special place in UNESCO’s history because it has defined the gold standard in international cooperation for safeguarding the common heritage of humanity — this is precisely the spirit we need to instill today,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said at the conference.

The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud destroyed by I.S.I.S.
She pointed out that the 1960s salvage campaign for the Nubian temples in Upper Egypt had embodied such cooperation. UNESCO played a major role in the relocation of the monuments.

She added that it is important to see the same cooperation between Egyptian NGOs and the private sector to protect the Middle East’s cultural property and human heritage from looting and destruction, such as is now happening in Iraq and Syria.

Bokova highlighted Egypt’s efforts to regain looted and smuggled artefacts. As she said, “Egypt has succeeded in proving to the whole world its capability to protect its cultural heritage. An example of this is when the public made a human chain to protect the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square on 28 January 2011.”

“We need full cooperation between the security services and the antiquities authorities concerned, as well as to work on the regional and international levels in order to solve such problems,” Bokova said.

“The destruction of cultural heritage is being used as a tactic of war, to intimidate populations, to finance criminal activities, to spread hatred,” she added. 

The fact that ten ministers had gathered at the conference was “a strong symbol of our joint commitment to respond, and UNESCO is determined to live up to its responsibilities, because we believe the protection of heritage is far more that a cultural issue — it has become a security imperative,” she said.

ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN: Speaking at the conference, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty called for amendment of the 1970 UNESCO Convention that stipulates the return of all looted and illegally smuggled antiquities to their homelands. He asked that this be extended to include antiquities looted and smuggled before 1970...... Read More 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Recovered Artifacts, London: Egypt to recover Mamluk vase

The Vase
The Ministry of Antiquities took all legal procedures to return to Egypt a Mamluk glass vase. written by Nevine El-Aref

Today the ministry of antiquities took all legal procedures to recover a Mamluk glass vase from London.

Ali Ahmed, the head of the Antiquities Recuperation Department, told Ahram Online that the vase was put on display at an auction hall in London well known for trading antiquities. The ministry took all legal procedures to recover it.

He explained that the vase is very finely painted with red and green foliage and geometric decorations. It is one of the vases that was stolen from the galleries of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation and replaced with replicas.

News: Suspects arrested in case of stolen Memphis statue

They stand accused of having stolen a limestone statue of a sitting priest over 3,500 years old written by Nevine El-Aref.
The Recovered Statue
The Tourism and Antiquities Police on Tuesday arrested several men, accusing them of last year having stolen an ancient Egyptian statue from the warehouses of the Memphis archaeological site, near the town of Mit Rahina 20 km outside Cairo, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty has said.

The suspects included an archaeological inspector from the site, who stands accused of having stolen the statue from the warehouse, before replacing it with a replica, and illegally smuggling it to Brussels, the minister added.

The ministry managed to retrieve the statue and bring it back to Egypt a few months ago, the minister said.

The suspects are being held in custody pending investigations. Carved in limestone, the statue depicts a sitting priest and dates back to the Middle Kingdom, between about 2000 and 1700 BC.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

News: Russia tops tourist income to Egypt last year at $2.5bn: Ministry official

Income from Russian tourists to Egypt came on top of the list of the 10 countries that sent the most tourists to Egypt last year. Income amounted to $2.5bn, according to Adla Ragab, Chairman of the Sub-Accounts Unit of the Ministry of Tourism.
In a statement to Daily News Egypt, Adla Ragab said that the number of Russian tourists last year increased to 3.1 million, compared to 2.4 million tourists the previous year. Income from more than 3 million tourists was at $2.5bn, according to Ragab. Last year, tourism revenues in Egypt were at $7.3bn, compared to $5.9bn in the previous year.

Average spending for Russian tourists last year was at $58 per night, Ragab said, adding that the number of nights tourists spent in Egypt were 35m nights.
Despite the Rouble crisis in the last months of 2014, Adla declared that the tourist flow from Russia was not affected. On the contrary, it increased greatly by the end of 2014.

“Some regulations were issued by a number of economic institutions in Russia, urging citizens to spend economically in order to maintain the Rouble exchange rate,” said Elhamy El-Zayat, Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation. El-Zayat expects that the Russian tourist flow to Egypt will decline by 20% this year.

On the other hand, chairman of the Investors Association in Marsa Alam, Tarek Shalaby, believes that Russian tourist flow in the region is still low but is slowly improving. He added that the Rouble crisis was behind all of this.

According to Shalaby, occupancies at such times do not exceed 60%, but with the low exchange rate of the Rouble, the number of Russian tourists is even lower.

Missions working in Egypt, South Asasif Conservation Project: Start of the Season (Part 2)

South Asasif Conservation Project continues documenting the first days of the new season and celebrating the reunion with our great mission members and beloved activities at the site.

Dieter Eigner may look a little lonely on top of the entrance staircase in the tomb of Karabasken but we know that he the enjoyed the peace and quiet of this imposing environment. His documentation of every step is impeccable as always.

Erhart Graefe returned to his reconstructions of the texts of the Ritual of the Hours of the Day in the First Pillared Hall of the tomb of Karakhamun. We hope that this hard work will result in the reconstruction of the texts of the Seventh and Eighth  Hours in situ by the end of the season.

Gabriele Schier feels a deep connection with the remains of the superstructure of the tomb of Karakhamun. Thanks to her tireless recording of the bricks remaining in situ we hope to be able to produce a digital reconstruction of the superstructure after finishing clearing all related areas.

This week our heroes turned it 180 degrees and found a direct join with another confusing fragment. Immediately it became evident that what we were looking at all this time was not the lower part of the chair leg but its upper part. The register line transformed into the seat of the chair and a red stripe on the other fragment manifested itself as  the end of the folded cloth in the hand of Karakhamun. We were missing these pieces in the reconstruction of a seated figure of Karakhamun finished last year but could not recognise them as a part of it.

Today the newly identified fragments were added to the reconstruction of the figure of Karakahmun. To everybody’s   delight they fitted in perfectly well. Karakhamun’s figure, although very fragmentary, was reconstructed by Katherine Blakeney based on the remains of the ancient grid still visible in some places. The calculations were so precise and the placement of fragments by the conservation team so punctilious that the newly found frgment connecting the two parts of the previously reconstructed figure  went in very smoothly.     

We believe that the team will remain inspired and productive for the whole season and show great results.

News: Egypt Encourages Foreigners to Visit Ancestors’ WWII Graves

A new tourism project aimed at relatives of World War II (WWII) dead is scheduled to start, said Alaa Ezz, the Secretary General of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) and the Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations (CEEBA).

The project, entitled GOALS, aims to promote foreigners visiting deceased family members who were buried in Egypt during WWII. “We have around 180,000 people buried in El Alamein during WWII from the UK, Germany, France and Italy,” Ezz said. “We created a database of them.”

The project will be promoted gradually and immediate feedback is not expected. “It will be a long term project but we have done the math for the existing pyramid of children and grandchildren,” he said.

The government is expecting this project to bring in about one million tourists over the course of several years, Ezz noted. This is one of three projects the government is launching in cooperation with the European Union to increase tourism.

Ezz highlighted that the tourism sector booms in Alexandria during the summer season, but faces challenges for the rest of the year, as it relies mainly on “beach tourism”. These newly launched projects will seek to “activate during the rest of the year”.

Culinary tourism, which comprises 6% of the global tourism, will be one of the projects being promoted during the conference with the launch of the MedDiet project.

“[Through this project] we are trying to promote the Mediterranean diet  with placing labels on the restaurants [that serve such a diet] and through mobile applications and showing labels for certified restaurants at the airports,” Ezz said. This project is catering to Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Spain, Italy and Greece.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Our Treasures Abroad, Tel Aviv: Egypt sues Israel to restore 126 smuggled artifacts

2,300 Sarcophagus Of An Egyptian Woman. 
Photo Courtsey Of U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement
CAIRO: Egypt has taken legal actions to restore dozens of artifacts smuggled to Israel amid the rising illicit digging activities carried out in several Egyptian archaeological sites following the 2011 uprising, sources told Youm7.

The move comes after extended diplomatic talks, carried out between the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and officials from the Israeli government have failed, the source added. “In order to return the smuggled artifacts, the Israeli government stipulated the reinstatement of Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, who was pulled in protest at Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in November 2011,” according to the source.

Head of the Restored Antiquities Department (RAD) Ali Ahmad told The Cairo Post that there are 126 artifacts in question spanning several eras of Egypt’s Paranoiac history. “These artifacts, including clay vessels, vases and figurines were monitored during a routine search of international auction halls periodically carried out by members of the RAD,” said Ahmed.

In November 2014, former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim contacted the Interpol to “follow up with the responsible authorities in Jerusalem and to ask the Israeli authorities to conduct background checks on the proof of ownership and explain how it left Egypt as a prelude to reclaim,” AFP reported.

Based on UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv filed a lawsuit to restore the artifacts, the source said.

“The lawsuit in order to proceed, the Israeli court is expected to summon an antiquity expert from Egypt to rule on the authenticity of the mentioned,” the source said, adding the Egyptian government also has to prove “the artifacts are registered in the antiquities ministry’s archives and that they were stolen from archaeological sites, museums and the ministry’s storerooms.”

According to Ahmed, if an artifact was found on an e-commerce website or listed at an auction house abroad, the RAD contacts Interpol, the Egyptian tourism and antiquities police and the Foreign Ministry’s cultural relations department which, in its turn, informs Egypt’s embassy in the country where the artifact has been detected to stop the sale until it is proven the artifact left Egypt in a legal way.

“In order to stop the sale of an artifact, Interpol requires information including the laws of the country where the artifact was detected. Among required information is when and from where the artifact was allegedly stolen along with a full description of the registered artifacts,” according to Ahmed.

The artifact’s provenances (document that trace an artifact’s chain of ownership back to its excavation), is among the evidence required to prove Egypt’s legibility. Egypt’s political turmoil since the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and its consequent security lapses left much of the country’s cultural heritage vulnerable to looting. In spite of the efforts of the Egyptian government in tracking smuggled artifacts inside Egypt and in auction houses abroad, many items are unaccounted for.
Source: Cairo Post– By/Rany Mostafa

Re-Opening, Cairo: Aytmish El Bagassi Mosque welcomes visitors

The mosque of Aytmish El Bagassi near Islamic Cairo was inaugurated after restoration.. written by Nevine El-Aref

Today, the mosque of Aytmish El Bagassi in Babul Wazir district, near Islamic Cairo, was officially inaugurated after restoration. The mosque was built by Prince Aytmish El-Bagassi, who was the regent of the Mamluk Sultan Farag Ibn Barquq.

On the northern side of the mosque's façade there is a water fountain and a Qaranic school. The entrance is decorated with foliage motives and a ribbed dome. The façade is also heavily decorated with a style typical of the late 13th century.

During the inauguration, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, said that the opening of such a mosque highlights the ministry's need to preserve and protect its Islamic heritage, as well as to provide a new tourist attraction.

Eldamaty pointed out that the events hall adjacent to the mosque has also been restored because it provides services for the inhabitants of the area such as weddings and funeral ceremonies. It will host a series of cultural lectures and seminars in an attempt to raise cultural awareness for the residents of the district.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the assistant Minister of Antiquities' for Islamic Monuments, told Ahram Online that the mosque was like many Islamic monuments in the area because it is suffering from architectural problems. Cracks have spread all over its walls, masonry and the wooden decorative elements have been damaged.

However, Abdel Aziz explained that the walls have been consolidated and all the woodwork has been restored.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Missions working in Egypt, South Asasif Conservation Project: Start of the Season 2015

South Asasif Conservation Project Team
The South Asasif Conservation Project has opened for the 2015 season. Congratulations to all our mission members in Egypt and all over the world, as well as our friends and supporters!

We are so happy to be back at the site and reunite with our wonderful MSA conservation team. Everybody looks very cheerful on the first day photograph but the hard work started already on the next day. All the members of the team are happy to resume their usual activities and face new challenges. You can see our team Here

We will be regularly reporting on different kinds of activities in the South Asasif necropolis and our preliminary results. More mission members are arriving next week to take up the baton. Stay with us for the great season of 2015!
Related Post:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Short Story: Dance in Ancient Egypt

It is not known exactly what type of dance the Ancient Egyptians practised, but one thing seems sure: it was a common part of their celebrations and rituals.
Evidence from the Old Kingdom period (around 2,500 BCE) up to Graeco-Roman times (around 400 CE) shows women that look like they may be dancing, performing at religious ceremonies and festivals.

According to Andrea Deagona, a dancer and professor at the University of North Carolina: “Judging by what few written records there are, and going on the conservatism of dance traditions, my best guess would be that men and women have danced ‘solo-improvised dance based on torso articulation’ for several millennia in the Middle East, North Africa, and around the Mediterranean.”

There is no way of knowing for sure if the dancers depicted on manuscripts and monuments were professional performers or simply citizens. What is clear is that there were specialised dancers who performed for ritualistic purposes at celebrations and religious dates.

In addition, from the drawings and manuscripts, temples and tombs, part of the offering to the gods at the sanctuaries likely included music and dance, with figures drawn with their arms raised above their heads in a dance-like pose, starting from the Old Kingdom. Other evidence suggesting acrobatic dance, includes female figures in upside down postures was found, for instance, on the Karnak temple walls and on shards of pottery.

Flutes, cymbals and drums have been found preserved since ancient times. Reed-flutes similar to those used in Egypt today and reed mouthpieces were kept among the offerings in tombs. Researchers believe, based on these instruments, that the music of ancient Egypt may have been similar to some contemporary folkloric Egyptian music.

Percussion seems to be a key element in the dances presented. The closest contemporary music resembling ancient Egyptian in rhythm and sound is likely the Nubian music. Many scenes depict women playing lute-like instruments (similar to the modern ‘Oud’) and lyres.

Were these professional musicians or simply skilled amateurs? Did all levels of society participate, from aristocratic to average citizens? More research is needed to answer these questions.

Some specialists have suggested that dancers were associated with the mysteries of the goddess Hathor, and that devotees practised sacred dances at her temples; while other records show requests for hiring dancers for special festivities, suggesting that there were also “professionals” who practised this art form and that it was highly appreciated.

According to Deagona, the “hnr” were groups of musicians and performers that were apparently hired for celebrations. There are records of these entertainers starting from the Old Kingdom. There is also evidence that dwarfs were involved in such performances, as in this excerpt from a letter by Pharaoh Pepi II to Harkhuf:

“Come northward to the court immediately; thou shalt bring this dwarf with thee, which thou bringest living, prosperous and healthy from the land of spirits, for the dances of the god, to rejoice and [gladden] the heart of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neferkare, who lives forever.” (James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, p. 353).

Most of what is known about Ancient Egyptian dance is based on work done at the turn of the 20th century. As with most ancient records, there may be more we can find out: how common was dancing? Was it more like belly dancing?

Some of the costumes emphasize the hips, which suggests it was “torso articulated”, i.e., akin to belly dancing or oriental dancing in general (versus emphasis on the steps, like flamenco dancing and regional folkloric dances of Spain and France, for instance.

Patricia Spencer, a dancer who studied Ancient Egyptian records, thinks that the majority of women would probably only have danced in family situations and not in public. 

In her article “Female dancers in Ancient Egypt” she points out that “The dances depicted in Egyptian scenes appear, to our eyes, stiff and stylised since Ancient Egyptian artistic conventions were very rigid, with strict rules about how a human figure had to be depicted and a ‘canon of proportions’ to which all Egyptian artists had to adhere. Consequently, it was very hard for an Egyptian artist or sculptor to show any individuality and spontaneity in his depictions of dance and entertainment.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Exhibitions Abroad, Omaha: Explore ancient Egypt in new Durham Museum exhibit

The mummy display at the Durham will offer insights into who the buried person 
really was, based on forensic science.
Visitors will explore the mysteries of ancient Egypt in a new exhibit opening Saturday at the Durham Museum. “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” runs through Sept. 6 and is the museum’s major summer exhibit.

Visitors will use hands-on challenges, authentic artifacts and guidance from archaeologists to learn how modern science and technology can reveal the mysteries of Egypt, its culture and its people, the museum says. “It will give people a real sense of what Egyptian life was like,” said Jessica Brummer, a Durham spokeswoman.

Exhibit highlights include:

» Explore the Tomb — Explore this darkened re-creation of a tomb hallway decorated with artwork and hieroglyphics using mirrors and light sources to highlight sections of the wall.
» Mummy Display — This respectful display brings you face-to-face with a real Egyptian mummy. Learn the story of who this person was in life based on forensic evidence.
» Camel Climb — Climb atop this replica of a life-size camel for a photo. A computer game nearby challenges you to pack the right equipment and supplies for your excavation.
» Push and Pull — Move a block to discover the scale of the stones used to build the pyramids and experiment with the ancient Egyptian engineering and technologies that may have been used to move them.
» Build a Pyramid — Use specially shaped geometric wooden blocks to build a tabletop pyramid to understand the architectural and engineering challenges.
» Hieroglyphics — Learn about the language of hieroglyphics and decode an authentic message from ancient Egypt.

News: Antiquities Ministry announced Apis Bull of Hadrian is Safe and Sound

Ministry of Antiquities denies claims by activists that the Apis Bull of Hadrian has been damaged during transportation. Written by Nevine El-Aref 
The Apis Bull
The Egypt Heritage Task Force group on Wednesday wrote on Facebook that the magnificent statue of the Apis Bull of Hadrian had been broken to pieces while it was being transported from the Graeco-Roman museum storeroom to the Maritime Museum to prepare it for a European exhibition tour of Alexandria's underwater archaeology.

The statue is about 1.90 metres long, carved in basalt and dated to the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century CE. It was discovered to the west of Pompey's Pillar in Alexandria and represents the most successful imposition of Greek realism upon an Egyptian image.

The activists claim the statue is a masterpiece and should have never been moved for the exhibition as under the antiquities law, all unique heritage objects cannot travel to exhibitions abroad.

"The statue was moved to be packed to travel even before the official approval of the exhibition was taken," they claim in a statement, adding that the Ministry of Antiquities did not report the incident so that the company responsible for the exhibition would not have to pay the insurance. Instead, they claim, a foreign archaeologist who is also involved in the exhibition paid to get the statue restored.

The Apis bull upon discovery
"The statue was restored badly," one of the activists told Ahram Online but requested anonymity. She pointed out that the statue should not leave Egyptian soil.  "This is still being kept low profile, despite the fact that Ahmed Sharaf, the ex-chief of museums at the Ministry of Antiquities, has been imprisoned on other corruption charges since," she added.

However, the claims by activists have been disputed by the antiquities ministry. "All that has been published on Facebook or said by the activists is completely untrue and unfounded," Nadia Khedre, head of Museums Section in Alexandria, told Ahram Online.

"The statue is safe and sound," she confirmed, adding that it arrived safely at the Maritime Museum and was never broken. She describes what has circulated on the internet as an attempt to distort the reputation of Egyptian archaeologists and restorers.

Elham Salah, head of the Museums Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the statue has been in a bad condition since it was unearthed and was restored twice; once immediately after its discovery and the second ten years ago. The statue, she explained, was selected to travel in an exhibition abroad by a professional archaeological committee from the ministry. "The statue is under restoration now not because it was broken; it is a routine work for any artefact selected to travel to an exhibition," Salah asserted.

Salah called the media not to publish anything before being sure of the news they are publishing and to think more that such false news could have a bad impact on Egypt's heritage and archaeological work.
    Explore Alexandria City From Here

    News: Arab tourists’ Admission to Archaeological Sites to Rise by 100-300%

    CAIRO: The decision of the Antiquities Ministry to raise entrance fees paid by Arab tourists and locals to visit Egypt’s archaeological sites has drawn mixed reviews.

    “The timing of the decision is not appropriate as the country witnesses its record-low level in decades. The decision contradicts the promotion campaigns launched by the Tourism Ministry to revive the tourism sector,” a chairman of a leading travel agency told The Cairo Post Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

    He explained that the hike in entrance fees will lead to a hike in the travel packages offered by travel agencies. In March, the ministry said in a statement it will raise archaeological sites’ admission only for Arab tourists and local Egyptians adding that the hike, which ranges from 100 to 500 percent, will be in effect starting from June 1.

    In August 2014, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said “the ministry has been encountering financial problems with its total debt reaching 2.8 billion EGP due to the sharp decrease in its revenues (mainly from entrance fees) in the wake of the January 25 Revolution.” Despite ongoing campaigns to assure foreigners that the country is a safe destination, the tourism sector has been in constant decline since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

    According to Damaty, the ministry’s revenues during the 2013/2014 fiscal year reached only 125 million EGP ($17.8 million) compared to 3 billion EGP in the 2009/2010 fiscal year. “The current yearly income is only enough to pay the salaries of the ministry’s employees for just two months.” He added.

    According to the new price structure published in Youm7, admission to the Egyptian Museum will be for 10 EGP up from 4 EGP per person, 30 EGP for Luxor Museum up from 10 EGP, 10 EGP for Giza Pyramids up from 2 EGP. Sites in Aswan including the Temple of Philae and the High Dam will see a 500 percent hike from 8 EGP to 40 EGP per person. In November 2010, proceeds from museum and archaeological tickets sales reached 15 million EGP compared to 4.5 million EGP in November 2012, Damaty said.

    Director General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Amin defended the hike saying that the entrance fees have not increased since 2006 and that the value of the Egyptian Pound has increased in these nine years. “The money generated through the difference in prices of admission fees will be directed to complete the ministry’s suspended development projects, renovation work and other services needed to maintain the sites,” Amin told The Cairo Post.

    Egypt depends on tourism for around 20 percent of its hard currency. The sector’s total investments are valued at 68 billion EGP (U.S. $9.8 billion,) according to the Ministry of Tourism. 

    In 2010, which was the peak of Egyptian tourism during the past two decades, 14.7 million tourists visited the country and spent 98.5 billion EGP in revenue, according to the 2011 report of the National Accounts Division of the Ministry of Tourism.
    Source: Cairo Post– By/Rany Mostafa

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    News, Cairo: Great Museum to be inaugurated in May 2018

    The Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty has stressed that the ministry offers all its support to the Grand Egyptian Museum, considering it a particularly significant project. 

    "It is a great cultural site, which attracts a lot of tourists and spreads awareness of the Egyptian civilisation and archaeology, in addition to boosting the economy," he added.

    During the opening of the first International Tutankhamun Conference organized by the Grand Egyptian Museum, the minister said that the Grand Museum will feature up to 100,000 different artifacts, displayed in 15 showrooms, including a special hall for King Tut's belongings. 

    The museum will be partially opened in May 2018, said the minister. The conference, focused on one of the greatest archaeological treasures in the whole world, will be held annually in May.

    News: Egypt antiquities ministry responds to accusations of Alexandria excavation site 'destruction'

    The ministry defends itself against accusations of having "destroyed" the Al-Abd Theatre archeological site, discovered in 2012 during building work in Alexandria. Written by Nevine El-Aref

    one of the statues found at Al-Abd Theatre site
    Egypt’s antiquities minister has denied knowledge of activists officially accusing his ministry of "destroying" the Al-Abd Theatre excavation site in Alexandria.

    “I do not know anybody at the Egypt Heritage Task Force group, and none of them has ever met me, or given me any advice on the Al-Abd Theatre, as they claim,” Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online on Tuesday, referring to the group of activists who submitted a complaint to the prosecutor-general on Monday, accusing him, his ministry’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities department, and the Director of Antiquities in Alexandria of “destroying” the archeological site.

    After the Al-Abd Theatre was discovered in 2012 during building work, subsequent excavations eight metres below ground level uncovered catacombs, as well as Roman and Hellenistic-era statues, columns, and pottery.

    In March 2015, the “Permanent Committee of Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman Antiquities” decided to remove the objects and return the land to its original owner, according to Mahmoud Afifi, head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the ministry.

    "The site was evacuated and archaeologists took the unearthed artefacts to the museum,” Afifi said. The ministry then refilled the land with sand as, according to their technical report, the eight-metre-deep excavations had affected the foundation of the adjacent building, and cracks had started to appear on its walls, he said.

    This sparked a ferocious debate between the ministry and archaeologists, he said. After that, Eldamaty sent another archaeological committee, led by Afifi and one other ministry employee, to inspect the site.

    In their report, which they handed to the minister and to the permanent committee, they “suggested re-excavating the site and removing the archaeological remains to a more secure location, and handing the land back to its original owner,” Afifi told Ahram Online, adding that this should be done after building protective walls around the site.

    The permanent committee are to meet at the end of May to make a decision, the minister said.