Monday, June 29, 2015

News, Luxor: Egypt's Karnak temple theft claims 'unfounded'

Sultan Eid, head of Luxor Antiquities, has denied media reports that artefacts have been stolen from Karnak temple galleries.written by Nevine El-Aref

He told Ahram Online that all the artefacts are safe and sound. The car which was parked at the western gate of Karnak temple, he continued, belonged to the archaeological mission of the American Research Centre in Cairo which is working in Khonsu temple and tomb number 110 at Assassif on Luxor's west bank.

The car, Sultan asserted, was not filled with artefacts, as claimed, but with samples of rubble, sand and cement that were transported to the restoration laboratory inside Karnak temple for study.

If these samples prove a success, Sultan explained, they would be used in the restoration of tomb number 110 at Assassif.

The car transported these samples a month ago, not a week ago as reported, and it was done after taking all security and safety measures and under the supervision of the Tourism and Antiquities Police.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

News: ‘Egypt’s Sunken Treasures’ exhibit to tour Europe in September

Collection of Artillery Discovered in Alexandria
CAIRO: A set of 293 ancient Egyptian artifacts, estimated to have spent 2,000 years underwater, will tour several European capitals in September, Antiquities Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Dubbed as “Egypt’s Sunken Treasures,” the exhibit will start the tour with Paris on Sept. 7.  The exhibit will then travel to Zurich, Berlin followed by the British Museum in London before the artifacts are returned to Cairo,” director of the Antiquities Ministry’s underwater archaeology department Mohamed Mostafa told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

Expected to attract over 3 million visitors, the exhibit will feature finds from underwater excavations conducted by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (EIUA) since 1992 in Alexandria and Aboukir Bay, Mostafa said.

According to an agreement signed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and EIUA founder Franck Goddio, the EIAU will pay the SCA 600,000 euro ($720,000), with an extra euro per visitor when the number of visitors exceeds 100,000.

“The exhibition includes 293 artifacts that have been carefully selected from different museums across Egypt; 18 artifacts from the Egyptian museum, 22 from the collection of Alexandria’s Greco-Roman Museum, 31 from the Alexandria National Museum, 15 from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Museum and 207 artifacts from the collection of the Department for Underwater Antiquities,” former head of the ministry’s museums sector Ahmed Sharaf told The Cairo Post.

Among the artifacts on display are several colossal statues in pink granite, well-preserved statues of the Egyptian goddess Isis, Nile-God Hapi and a very well preserved sphinx, said Sharaf.

The collection will also feature ceramics, jewelry, coins, and items from everyday life and firearms that belonged to the naval fleet of Napoleon’s mission to Egypt (1798-1801).

“The exhibit aims to promote Egypt’s inbound tourism, enhance the cultural relations between Egypt and the E.U. countries and increase the revenues of the Antiquities Ministry in order to fund suspended archaeological projects,” said Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty in a statement Monday.
Source: Cairo Post – By/Rany Mostafa

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

News, Cairo: Restoration of Tutankhamun's funerary mask to start in August

The funerary mask of the golden king Tutankahmun is to go into intensive care for restoration. Written by / Nevine El-Aref

Beginning in August, visitors of Tutankhamun's galleries at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir will not be able to admire the king's distinguished gold funerary mask which will leave its original display for intensive restoration to repair the improper restoration carried out recently.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask will go for restoration in August after the completion of the scientific studies carried out to discover the material used in its restoration and how to remove them without causing harm.

"A month ago I assigned a scientific committee, led by me, to carry out a comprehensive analytic study on the mask since its discovery in 1922 in Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well as the restoration work carried out on it until now," Eldamaty said.

Eldamaty said that German restorer Christian Eckmann assisted him in such studies because he is an expert in metal restoration. The committee includes the head of the German Archaeological Institute, Tarek Tawfik, the head of the metal restoration section at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, and a German CT-scan expert. The ministry has bought new CT scanning equipment to complete the study.

After the completion of the study, Eckmann will travel to Germany with the results, where he will create a gypsum replica of the mask using the proper materials, according to Eldamaty.

In August, he will then return to Cairo where an international conference is to be held to explain to the public and scholars the method selected to restore the beard through state-of-the-art technology. Then, the restoration itself is to start and all the work will be documented.

In January 2015, it was reported that the blue and gold beard of the mask was broken during a cleaning process at the Egyptian Museum and that conservators hurriedly glued the beard back on with epoxy resin, damaging the artefact.

The ministry of antiquities held a press conference where experts asserted that the mask is safe and that the botched restoration carried out in August 2014 is reversible.

New Discovery, Sakkara: 8 million mummified animals, mostly dogs, in catacombs at Egypt site

(CNN)For centuries, dogs have been humans' loyal, domesticated companions. They've been wild animals, doing what's needed to survive. And in ancient Egypt, they served as bridges to the afterlife, with the hope that they'd intercede with the god Anubis on their owner's behalf.

Archaeologist Salima Ikram examines the mummified remains of an adult dog in a wall niche.
But only now is it becoming known the extent to which dogs served this latter role -- 8 million times over.

That is the number of dead animals, most of them dogs, estimated to have laid in the catacombs of Anubis around Saqqara, one of Egypt's most historic and oft-visited sites, according to a group of British researchers. While such mass burials aren't unprecedented, given the numerous animal cults of ancient Egypt, this one's scale makes it unique.

"We're very pleased and somewhat surprised by the results," the project's director Paul Nicholson from Cardiff University's School of History, Archaeology and Religion said Saturday. "We hadn't expected that there would be so many animals, and it opens up a new series of questions."

One question that experts can at least partially answer is why an Egyptian might have brought an animal, dead or alive, to such a place.

Nicholson, who has been studying animal cults since the 1990s, explains that people wouldn't have come simply to kill or even bury an animal so much as allow it to move onto a different plane. A dog, especially, would be a good fit because it might then interact with Anubis, an ancient Egyptian god of the dead depicted with the body of a man and head of a dog or, its close relative, a jackal.

"The important thing was to provide a representation of the god with a fitting burial," Nicholson said. "It's not some sort of blood sacrifice. It's a religious act that's done for the best possible motive."

The animal's owner would hope that, by doing this, "some good will come to you," the Wales-based Egyptologist noted. "Maybe you're hoping that the animal will help someone in your family who has died recently (so that) Anubis will take care of that (relative)."
A member of the archaeological team sits inside the maze of burial tunnels
in the catacombs of Anubis.
Just as Egyptians' view of Anubis, and dogs, has been common knowledge for some time, so too have the dog catacombs of Anubis. This includes a map from 1897 that shows their location clearly marked.

Still, most of the focus was on temples outside the catacomb. Until, that is, Nicholson's team -- with the support and help from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and sponsorship from National Geographic -- began working on the Saqqara site around 2009 and began exploring deep inside.

They found a series of unadorned tunnels, in some cases filled with animal remains and in other cases cleared out. (Nicholson speculated that some may have been taken out for use in fertilizers, as has been done with other animal remains.)
Those that they found were wrapped in bandages and mummified, including some with a resin applied. One shouldn't imagine an ornate King Tut, though: They were likely stacked on top of each other and "survived very badly," Nicholson said.

"It would be quite difficult to easily find complete, nicely wrapped mummies," he added. "What you have got is the decayed remains of the mummies."

To estimate how many there are, the team took a sample and extrapolated from there how many likely filled up the catacomb. One reason the number is so high is because many of the animals were very small; while there some were mature and likely had full lives, Nicholson speculated that some were "being especially bred for the cult."

The catacombs are believed to date from between roughly 750 to 30 B.C., up to the time Egypt's society was interacting more and more with those of Europe, including ancient Greece and Rome.

A summary of the Cardiff team's findings was published this week in the journal Antiquity. Nicholson and his co-authors, Salima Ikram and Steve Mills, are now working on a more complete study. And the work continues at the Saqqara site, which includes other animal catacombs and many monuments like the step pyramid of Djoser, as well as in laboratories to discover more about the animal remains, such as patterns of sex and age.

"We are very curious about where the animals came from," Nicholson said. "We're learning quite a bit about the Egyptians' interactions with animals. It's an exciting thing."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

iCruise Egypt - Vol. 14: Sonesta St. George - The Most Unique, Luxuries, and Sophisticated Nile Cruise

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Recovered Artifacts, Cairo: Antique coins smuggling attempt foiled by Cairo airport authorities

CAIRO: An attempt to smuggle five antique coins was foiled by the authorities at Cairo International Airport Sunday, Youm7 reported.

The coins, dating back to the Mohamed Ali Dynasty (1805-1952), were seized with an Italian passenger heading to London, Cairo airport security director Major general Ayman Abdel Fatah told Youm7.

Officials at the archaeological unit at the airport inspected the objects and approved their authenticity, Abdel Fatah said.

The antique coins have been confiscated to be delivered to the Ministry of Antiquities, in accordance with the provisions of 1973 Antiquities Protection Law 117, head of the Archaeological Unit for Confiscated Antiquities (AUCA) Ahmed Rawy told The Cairo Post Sunday.

The seized coins constitute two milliemes dating back to the reign of Sultan Hussein Kamel, who ruled from 1914 to 1917, along with two dimes and one millieme minted with King Farouk’s portraits, Rawy said.

The passenger has been arrested and the objects confiscated to be taken to the Egyptian Museum to ascertain where they came from, he added.

Since the outbreak of January 25 Revolution in 2011 and its consequent security lapse across Egypt, the Tourism and Antiquities Police, in coordination with Cairo airport’s authorities, thwarted several attempts to smuggle ancient Egyptian antiquities.

“This is not the first attempt to smuggle ancient Egyptian artifacts and it will not be the last,” Rawy said, adding that due to strict security measures at the 40 archaeological units at Egyptian ports of entry, “it is no longer possible to smuggle any of Egypt’s archaeological heritage out of the country.”
Source: Cairo Post – By/Rany Mostafa

Monday, June 22, 2015

News, Cairo: Thirty wooden beams of Khufu's second solar boat arrive to the GEM

The arrival of the beams at the GEM
A new collection of beams of King Khufu’s second solar boat have been restored, arriving to the Grand Egyptian Museum for eventual display. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

A collection of 30 wooden beams of King Khufu’s second solar boat have arrived to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) after restoration. The new batch is to be stored in the museum galleries for reconstruction and later display.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the GEM houses now 203 wooden beams of King Khufu’s second boat, which was removed from its pit on the southern side of the Great Pyramid.

He explained that the beams were inside the pit since it was first discovered in 1954 by Egyptian archaeologists Kamal Al-Mallakh and Zaki Nour during routine cleaning on the southern side of Khufu’s Great Pyramid.

Packing of the beams
Al-Mallakh then removed the timbers, oars and beams of the first solar boat and left the second one in situ until 2009 when a Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University headed by Sakuji Yoshimura offered to remove the boat from the pit, restore and reassemble it, and put it on show to the public.

Eissa Zidan, restoration director at the GEM, explained that Japanese and Egyptian restorers removed 468 wooden pieces of the second boat from the pit and to date have restored 342 pieces according to the latest scientific methods.

Yoshimura said that the project would continue until 2018, when reconstruction of the second solar boat will begin. He added that recent restoration work was in the way of “first aid,” and that complete restoration would be done when the boat is reconstructed.

News, Cairo: Development initiative at Islamic Cairo districts kicks off June 21

CAIRO: An initiative that aims to develop Cairo’s districts of Islamic heritage will be launched June 27, Cairo Governor Galal Saeed told the state TV.

“The development initiative will start with the most densely populated districts including al-Gamaleya, al-Hussein, al-Megharbeleen, al-Darb al-Ahmar and al-Sayeda Nafisa,” Saeed said.

The initiative, scheduled to be concluded by the end of Ramadan, is under the auspices of Cairo governorate and the Interior Ministry, Saeed said, adding that the initiative will remove all encroachments and street vendors around historic buildings in the said areas.

It also aims to restore the old mosques, madrasas (old Islamic schools), sabils (donated drinking water fountains for public use), hammams ) traditional public bathroom) and fountains,  as well as to develop the area’s infrastructure by paving streets and sidewalks as well as maintaining street lights, Youm7 quoted Saeed.

Encroachment and misuse by residents and vendors have caused harm and environmental pollution to the Islamic monuments found along Al-Muizz Street and its neighboring alleyways. In 2001, Egypt launched the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project (HCRP), which aimed to protect and restore and develop the historical Al-Muizz Street into an open-air museum.

On Tuesday, Antiquities Ministry created a new department aiming at raising awareness among school students of the importance of Islamic sites located in residential areas.

“The move aims to curb violations committed on daily basis outside historical mosques located along Al-Muizz Street and al-Darb al-Ahmar district. The new department started to dispatch fresh graduate Egyptian archaeologists to primary and preparatory schools in Cairo to raise the cultural awareness of the students,” head of the Coptic and Islamic Monuments Department at the Antiquities Ministry Mohamed Abdel Latif told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

Stretching from the Citadel of Saladin in the south to the northern city walls, Islamic Cairo is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979 and houses Egypt’s most renowned Islamic monuments.
Source: Cairo Post – By/Rany Mostafa

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Missions working in Egypt, South Asasif Conservation Project: The Arrival of Samson

Today we are celebrating a big day in the history of the South Asasif Conservation Project. Our dream of obtaining a stone-cutting machine has finally been realized.

For years we had a group of stone cutters preparing blocks and slabs of limestone for the reconstruction of the architectural features and decoration in the tomb of Karakhamun. The work was very hard (especially during the summer months when we tend to have our seasons) and rather slow.

This season, thanks to the help of our wonderful supporters, we were able to deliver the magical machine from Cairo. The team was excited and intrigued. Nobody knew how it was going to cut our huge blocks of limestone.

The trials performed yesterday and today were highly successful. The wonder machine can cut blocks of different sizes and thin slabs. The surface of the cut blocks is so smooth that it does not require additional treatment. Its speed and quality of work gives Karakhmun new hope to be reconstructed in our lifetime.

Today the team voted on two important issues – the gender and the name of the machine. It turned to be male and named Samson. As it was Erhart Graefe’s suggestions he was appointed the Godfather of Samson. Delilah is still in the works.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Short Story: Freedom in isolation - Saint Anthony Monastery

For the monks, a life in the desert isolates the heart and removes temptations affecting hearing, speech and sight. Stefan Weichert explores Saint Anthony, the world’s oldest functioning monastery in the Red Sea

With every step, every footprint, with every millimetre that brings you just a little bit closer to Saint Anthony Monastery, the feeling of being a tiny, insignificant person in an enormous world increases.

A 20-metre-high wall, built between the fifth and sixth century, surrounds the world’s oldest functioning monastery and makes it look like a fortress in the middle of the desert with nothing else for miles away. Today, visitors are welcomed through a small metal door, but it wasn’t always like that as threats from raiders made the monks cautious. They left the gate closed, allowing in only people they knew and supplies delievered by rope.

Inside the two-kilometre-long walls, everything seems most welcoming, and the breathtaking community comes alive with several churches, a garden and cells for monks to practise their religion. The silence inside is striking; only wind snatching the palm trees and sand irritating your eyes make you feel mortal.

Rising up from the sand, two tall towers pointing towards heaven with the Coptic Cross on top, are the first you will encounter in one of the bastions of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Many travellers have visited the monastery since the community was established in the fourth century and tried to describe the sight and grasp the beauty that met them. Among them is the Armenian historian known as Abu Salih, who visited the monastery in the 13th century.

In a book entitled The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and Some Neighbouring Countries, published in 1895, Abu Salih wrote: “This Monastery possesses many endowments and possessions at Misr (Egypt). It is surrounded by a fortified wall. It contains many monks. Within the wall there is a large garden containing fruit-filled palm trees and apple trees and pear trees and pomegranate and other trees… and it is said that the number of palms which the garden contains is about a thousand trees, and there stands in it a large, well built fortress... there is nothing like it among the other monasteries inhabited by Egyptian monks.”

FIGHTING THE DEVIL: It might seem odd to build a monastery out in the desert, 160 kilometres southwest of Cairo next to the Red Sea mountains, but it was obviously done because of the life of Saint Anthony who many consider the “Father of Monasticism”.

Saint Anthony was orphaned at the age of 18 and became inspired by the words of the Gospel: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.” He followed the example and gave his possessions to the people who needed it the most, then sought a life in solitude with God.

Later in his life, Saint Anthony ventured into the wilderness to seek isolation. He found a natural cave, close to where Saint Anthony Monastery was built, which he made his home for the last 43 years of his long 105-year-life. Being in the desert, Saint Anthony fought with boredom and sinful thoughts, which made him ask God what he could do to get rid of them. In the image of a worker, God told him to follow the workers’ example – work, pray, work and pray.

Saint Anthony once said: “I saw the traps the Devil puts all over the world and I said to myself sadly, ‘What can one do to pass through these traps?’ and I heard a voice saying, ‘Humility is the way.”’  A monastic community developed after Saint Anthony’s death during the reign of Julian the Apostate in memory of their spiritual father who taught them that being in the desert would free them from three temptations: hearing, speech and sight; allowing only their heart to remain effected.

In the beginning, monks lived in caves separated from each other, but as more monks arrived in the area, they started to live closer, then built Saint Anthony Monastery in 356 AD, as we know it today. They lived completely self-sufficiently, which drew interest from raiders that attacked the monastery multiple times throughout the years to get access to the monks’ resources.

To remain protected, the monks built a fortress inside the walls to retreat in case of an attack. Only one entrance leads into the 15-metre-high, closed, sandstone built fortress. Monks would flee to safety by crossing a drawbridge from another building, by that way removing the only accessible way in.

Inside, the monks would have everything to survive for days such as water that came from a tunnel leading to a spring from the surrounding mountains. It created the foundation for a monk’s life in the desert. They believe it is a spiritual oasis and evidence of God´s care for his people.

LIFE OF THE MONKS: Tourists from all over the world are a normal sight in Saint Anthony Monastery today. They walk around in the narrow streets, some speaking Arabic, some English and others German, but all fascinated by the creations of men. Monks operate as tour guides and proudly speak of their life today and how it was in the past.

As their spiritual father lived his life, the life of the Saint Anthony Monastery monks consists of prayer and manual labour. Hard work is important for the monks to stay self-sufficient and to protect them from monotony. Manual labour today takes the form of work in the garden, the kitchen, bakery, workshops, construction or research in the library, and the making of handicraft. It was obviously different in the old days.

Furthermore, explains a monk at the monastery, life within has not been cut off from modernisation as it was prior to the 20th century, when travelling to the high walls took three to four days by camelback. Tourism has created a gift shop, and as one of the monks showed us around, his cell phone starts ringing. He apologises with a smile and quickly returns to his task. In addition, requests by younger monks for modernisation have created the need for the Internet and more modern toilets.

It’s not to the liking of all the monks, and the monastery tries to find a balance between the spiritual life and the needs of the people. To avoid the daily tourist and the selfies, and the noise and questions that come with them, some monks leave during visiting hours to the mountains or inside their cells to be able to practise their ancient rituals, then return after tourist have left. 

Some monks take refuge in the old library where about 1,700 handwritten manuscripts are kept. The library had more handwritten manuscripts before the 15th century, but an attack by raiders resulted in burned manuscripts and a damaged monastery, one of many dark periods in the monastery’s history.

Most of these attacks came from raiders who penetrated the monastery’s defence installations, but not many monks had predicted the real danger rising from inside the monastery itself. Their servants, the Bedouins, attacked and killed all the monks, destroying the monastery and its library in the 15th century.

Obviously, the monastery was eventually rebuilt, but with the arrival of the new millennium, it needed renewed work. After eight years, the $14.5 million restoration work was completed in 2010. It made the monastery appear spotless for tourists to see while giving them a unique peak into the Coptic Orthodox religion and the life of the monks.

It reminds people of a time when self-sufficiency was necessary to survive and lives were valuable. The restoration work was carried out on an ancient wall, a tower, two main churches and the monks’ quarters.

How to get there

Saint Anthony Monastery is located about 300 kilometres from Cairo, around a three-and-a-half-hour drive. Ain Sokhna is about 85 kilometres away, so you can take the scenic coastal road to Zaafarana from there. When you reach the lighthouse station in Zaafarana, a sign-posted turn showing the direction towards the monastery will appear. 

Visiting times are between 4am and 4.45pm. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated daily in the monastery´s churches from 6am to 8am. To be allowed to enter the monastery grounds, people are required to wear modest clothing. Furthermore, visitors are encouraged to be quiet. No smoking is allowed.

News: Ministry Announced - Late period bronze artifacts are in GEM storage, not missing

Claims that nine Late period artifacts are missing are unfounded, antiquities ministry says in statement. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

Claims that nine Late period bronze artifacts are missing from the stores of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) are unfounded, the Ministry of Antiquities has said in a statement.

GEM Director General Tarek Tawfik told Ahram Online that the artifacts are in store #91 and are in a state of good conservation. Tawfik said the pieces have been in the same place since February when they were transferred from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

Tawfik urged the media not to publish news before checking the facts. "These unfounded rumours have negative effects on Egypt's reputation in conserving and protecting its heritage," Tawfik said.

Monday, June 15, 2015

News: Egypt’s Nubians push for a return to their original homeland

CAIRO: A delegation of Nubian leaders voiced their concern over the government’s lateness to settle them on their original homeland on the two banks of Lake Nasser, south of Aswan.

Prominent Nubian leaders met in Aswan Saturday to discuss ways to push for issuing a legislation which secures their resettlement. They accused the cabinet of being reluctant to issue a law that regulates their settlement.

“We are putting on hold all our negations with the cabinet over our resettlement. We will oppose any draft law being issued without getting back to us,” Ahmed Azmy, head of the Nubian General Federation said Saturday.

Nubians were displaced from their original homeland when the High Dam project flooded their lands and villages in 1964. To the south of the dam, Lake Nasser was created and President Nasser built them new houses to the north of the Aswan Dam.

The Nubians, one of the most ancient ethnic groups on earth, have complained they have not been properly compensated since then given that the new locations were far from the Nile in desert regions and lacked any sources of livelihood.

Egypt’s constitution, passed in January 2014, states that the country ensures the development and implementation of a plan for economic and urban development of borders and disadvantaged regions including Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh and the areas of Nubia.

According to the constitution, “The inhabitants of these regions participate in these projects and are prioritized in the ensuing advantages. The cultural and environmental patterns of the local community shall be taken into account.”

On June 2, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim el-Heneidy announced in a press conference that a unified draft law on the resettlement of Nubians is being prepared per a cabinet request.

The ministry assigned a committee to prepare a draft law on the issue, Heneidy said, adding that 1,150 Nubians, interviewed by the committee, expressed their wish to return back to their homeland.

Back Home, Germany: Egypt recovers 2,700-year-old statue from auction house

The upper part of the statue
CAIRO: Egypt stopped the sale of a 2,700 year-old Egyptian statue that was put up for sale in a Germany-based auction hall, the Antiquities Ministry’s Restored Artifacts Department (RAD) head Aly Ahmed told The Cairo Post Sunday.

“The statue, along with dozens of other ancient Egyptian artifacts was stolen from the storerooms of the Antiquities Ministry in Aswan’s Elephantine Island, which were looted in 2013,” said Ahmed.

The 4.5 inch-high statue was monitored on display at Aton Gallery for Egyptian Art in Oberhausen city west of Germany, Ahmed said, it represents an ordinary man standing and carrying an antelope over his shoulders.

“The statue was unearthed by a Swiss archaeological mission that carried out Excavations at Khnum Temple on the Elephantine Island in 2008. It dates back to the Late Period [(664B.C.-332 B.C.)], which ended with the conquest by Alexander the Great and establishment of the Ptolemaic Dynasty,” said Ahmed.

After the statue was monitored in the auction house, the Antiquities Ministry reported the case to the Interpol to carry out comprehensive investigations to verify how the artifacts left Egypt, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty was quoted by Youm7 Sunday.

“The ministry asked the Interpol to contact the auction house in order to show the artifact’s provenance. If it fails to prove ownership or show an export certificate, the ministry would take legal steps to get the artifacts back to Egypt,” said Damaty.

The artifact’s provenances is a document that trace an artifact’s chain of ownership back to its excavation, it is among the evidence required to prove Egypt’s legibility, said Aly.

Egypt’s ancient sites have been targeted for thousands of years but the upheavals and the security lapse following the 2011 revolution have helped looters and tomb robbers target museums and several archaeological sites for treasures to sell on the black market.
 Source: Cairo Post– By/Rany Mostafa

News: Tourism income expected to grow 47% by end of current FY - Ministry official

Tourism revenue rose by $5.5bn in three quarters of FY 2014/2015, compared to $3.1bn during the same period of previous year

Tourism activity for the current fiscal year (FY) 2014/2015 will see income rise 47% to $7.5bn, compared to $5.1bn in the previous year, according to a Tourism Ministry official. In the first half (1H) of the current FY, tourism revenues rose to $4.5bn compared to $2.2bn during the same period last year, the official said.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said in a report on Sunday that tourism revenues in the last nine months of the current FY 2014/2015 increased to $5.5bn. This compared to $3.1bn in the same period in the previous fiscal year.

Tourist flow increased during the 1H of FY 2014/2015, according to the Egyptian Tourism Federation’s Chairman Elhamy El-Zayat, who added that the current year will be better than the previous one. “However, we will not fully recover as we still suffer tourist recession that would affect the tourism income in Egypt,” said Zayat.

Marketing campaigns carried out by the Ministry of Tourism during 1H of FY 2014/2015, which covered the Arab as well as Western and Eastern Europe markets, have significantly contributed to the growth of Egypt’s tourism income, El-Zayat said.

Recently, Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh have become the most popular tourist areas in terms of occupancy, compared to lower occupancy in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. Red Sea occupancies range between 40% and 60%, and are expected to exceed 70% in August, according to Chamber of Hotels member Tarek Shalaby.

The tourist flow coming from Russia has begun to recover with the improvement of the rouble’s exchange rate against the dollar, according to El-Zayat.

The Russian tourists in Egypt represent 31% of the total annual flows, where Europe represents 35%, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Last year the number of Russian tourists reached approximately 3.1 million, resulting in an income of $2.5bn.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

News, Cairo: The NMEC receives its first batch of artifacts

The first batch of antiquities is to arrive to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

limestone reliefs
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) received on Saturday the first batch of a treasured collection which will be put on display at the Museum's official inauguration in 2016.

The batch includes ten artifacts carefully selected from the store galleries of the Saqqara necropolis which show limestone reliefs engraved with scenes depicting the daily and religious life of ancient Egyptians as well as an 18th dynasty army leader before becoming a king.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty and the NMEC director general Khaled AL-Anani received the objects, with the former describing the batch as "a milestone towards the NMEC official inauguration."

Al-Anani told Ahram Online that the objects will be conserved and would remain in the NMEC galleries until its opening.

UPDATED: Egypt postpones scrapping on-arrival visas for individual travellers

On arrival visas will still be available for foreign tourists until an electronic visa system is introduced on a yet to be announced date. Written by Ayat Al Tawy

Egypt on Thursday postponed the date it would stop issuing on-arrival visas for individual travellers until an online visa system is put in place, a foreign ministry spokesman told Ahram Online.

Officials said in mid- March that the system remains unchanged for tour groups, which can still purchase visas at the airports. Individual foreign tourists would be required to obtain prior visas at Egyptian consulates abroad, a move officials say is meant at bolstering border security.

The changes were supposed to take effect on May 15, but foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said the date has been delayed until an electronic system for issuing the visas is set up.

The measure "aims to organise the process of foreigners entering the country in a manner that respects national sovereignty and considers national security, without affecting tourism flow rates," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry spokesman said work is underway on the "technical sides" of the electronic visa system, without giving a specific time-frame. The new regulations had sparked criticism from local and international tour operators and travellers who have long considered the visa requirements reasonable.

In 2014, around 10 million tourists visited Egypt, a sharp slump from a record 2010 figure of over 14.7 million who visited the country's ancient sites and sea resorts.

Luring back tourists is key to efforts to shore up Egypt's flagging economy, with the vital industry contributing 11.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product and generating over 14 percent of foreign currency revenues. The country aims to attract 20 million visitors annually by 2020, recently appointed tourism minister Khaled Rami told Ahram Online in an interview in March.

This is not the first time such restrictions are introduced and shelved. In September 2011, authorities approved rules that would have forced individual tourists to apply for visas in their home countries before entering Egypt, but the plans were suspended three days later.
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News, Cairo: Qayt Bey's loggia to become Handicrafts Centre

The now restored open gallery is part of a funerary complex built by the Mamluk sultan in the 15th century. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

After restoring the Sultan Qayt Bey loggia in Cairo's Mamluk cemetery, Egypt's antiquities ministry is to transform it into a centre to sell local handicrafts.

The European Union's delegation in Egypt is to provide the budget for the loggia's transformation and the ministry is to supervise the works, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the Minister of Antiquities' Deputy for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, describes the project as "important" because it would contribute to conserving the monument through constant use and regular maintenance.

"It will also help to promote the handicrafts produced by local residents and raise awareness of the country's cultural heritage," Abdel Aziz said.

The construction of Qayt Bey's funerary complex started in 1470 and was completed in 1474. It includes the loggia, whose features include stained glass, as well as a mosque, a mausoleum, a waterwheel, and animal drinking troughs.

When it was first built, Qayt Bey's complex made up an entire royal quarter in the then lightly urbanised desert cemetery area east of Cairo.
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