Sunday, July 31, 2016

Short Story: The Pride of Dakhla Oasis

The village of Al-Qasr in the Dakhla Oasis is back on Egypt’s tourist track, writes Nevine El-Aref.

In the northwest of the Dakhla Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert is the mediaeval village of Al-Qasr with its mudbrick buildings, alleys, mosques, Pharaonic temple and seed mill. Its serenity was disturbed earlier this week when minister of antiquities Khaled El-Enany along with New Valley governor Mahmoud Ashmawi and other officials reopened the village to tourism after 15 months of conservation work.

El-Enany described the work as “wonderful” and “one of the ministry’s most important achievements.” He said the village was one of the most important Islamic settlements in Egypt, not only because of its distinguished architecture but also because it was the meeting point of several routes as well as being on a main road for trade and pilgrimage.

Ashmawi said the inauguration would help promote tourism to the New Valley and highlight the historical importance of the Dakhla and Kharga Oases.
“Al-Qasr is one of the most important Islamic sites in Egypt,” Ahmed Kamal, a member of the ministry of antiquities scientific office, told the Weekly. He added that it was one of the only surviving examples of Islamic civil architecture from the Ottoman era. It also contains a large number of documents that highlight the historical importance of the village.

Kamal explained that Al-Qasr, which means “palace” in Arabic, had gained its name because before the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the 7th century CE, the village already had huge buildings and the remains of a Pharaonic temple.

The village itself was built in the 12th century during the Ayyubid period on the remains of an earlier Roman settlement in order to serve as the capital of the Dakhla Oasis. It was in a defensive position facing marauding invaders from the southwest. Stone blocks from the earlier Roman settlement can still be seen in the façades of village houses, probably reused from older ones.

Al-Qasr was extended under the Ottomans and was built like all mediaeval towns in Egypt at the time, with narrow covered streets divided into quarters, districts and alleys that were closed with gates at night to protect them from invaders.

A few metres from the village’s narrow alleys, Kamal said the remains of a three-storey mudbrick minaret 21 metres high had been found near the Mosque of Nasr El-Din, erected during the Ayyubid period and considered one of the village’s landmarks. The minaret is the only original part of the Mosque that has survived from the 12th century, while the rest of the building was reconstructed in the 19th century.

The mausoleum of Sheikh Nasr El-Din is inside the Mosque, and the minaret and entrance are decorated with wooden lintels carved with verses from the Qur’an. A madrassa (school) is attached to the Mosque and a court building from the Ayyubid period is also nearby. This features painted arches, niches for legal texts, cells for felons and a beam above the door from which criminals were once suspended.

Kamal said the houses in the village were built during the Ayyubid and Ottoman periods in mudbrick and adorned with acacia wood lintels decorated with verses from the Qur’an or inscriptions with the name of the builders or occupants. The oldest house is that of a man called Ibrahim and dates to 1518.

The 13 old houses of the village are built in a way that decreases the temperature inside them to 12 degrees less than the weather outside. They have ventilation systems that allow the entrance of cool air, replacing the heat inside the house. The narrow alleys of the village also protect inhabitants from sandstorms.

The house of Abu Narfir was built on top of a Ptolemaic temple and some of the temple’s blocks were used in its construction. The door jambs are decorated with hieroglyphics, for example.

There is also a pottery factory and an old corn mill in the village. Mudbricks are still made in the ancient manner, and there is a foundry where men still work using bellows-fanned fire. Today, the village is best known for its traditional earthenware pots and palm-leaf basketry.

“In 2015, the first phase of a comprehensive restoration project started in the Al-Qasr Village in collaboration with the ministry of social solidarity and the Community Development Organisation in Al-Rashed,” Alsaeed Helmy, head of the Islamic and Coptic Department at the ministry of culture, told the Weekly.

He said the conservation work was funded by a Japanese grant of LE2.7 million and later increased to reach LE3 million. The work included the restoration of eight houses of the 13 that are extant, including the Al-Hag Ismail Seed Mill and the house of Hamam’s Sons. The second phase of the work is to start as soon as the required funds are available.

Waadalla Abul-Ela, head of the Projects Department at the ministry, said the work had been carried out under the supervision of ministry engineers and restorers. He added that all the walls of the buildings had been consolidated and covered with clay mortar in the same style, cracks repaired, damaged stairs replaced with new ones of the same design, and all wooden doors and windows maintained.

Ahmed al-Nemr, a member of the ministry’s scientific office, said the village had been archaeologically documented before and after its restoration and the second and final phase of the project was to be started soon.

After the inauguration of the village, El-Enany laid the foundation stone of a new set of state-of-the-art archaeological galleries in the Dakhla Oasis.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Our Exhibition Abroad, Japan: Antiquities Ministry Organize First Tour of Replica Exhibition

An exhibition of replica antiquities is set to travel to Japan by the end of this year. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities is to establish the first touring exhibition of antiquities replicas produced by the ministry following the success of the first local replicas exhibition inaugurated by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany early July at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

Amr El-Tibi, executive director of the Archaeological Replicas Unit at the ministry told Ahram Online that the exhibition comes within the framework of joint cooperation between the antiquities ministry and Al-Ahram Establishment, which would pay the packaging and transportation costs of the exhibition as well as insurance amounting to EGP37.7 million.

El-Tibi explained that the exhibition would be inaugurated in the fourth quarter of this year in Japan and will continue for 18 days, including nine days in Tokyo and nine days in Osaka.

Thee exhibition will feature 150 replicas of the King Tutankhamun collection in addition to a number of archaeological and scientific publications and books published by the antiquities ministry — similar to the current replicas exhibition in the Egyptian Museum.

Elham Salah, head of the Museums Sector at the ministry stated that the exhibition confirms the keenness of the ministry regarding new approach to increasing the ministry's income.

Salah added that the success of the replicas exhibition at the Egyptian Museum was central to the ministry's decision to tour the exhibition, starting with the planned exhibition in Japan.

Salah stated that the exhibition highlights the skills of the ministry’s staff along with efforts to revive an interest in heritage, not only in Egypt but abroad as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

News: A Map of Egypt's Archaeological Sites to Be Launched

A map of all of Egypt's archaeological sites and museums has been created and will be launched for the first time on sites around the country. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Geographic Information System (GIS) at the Ministry of Antiquities has created an archaeological map locating all the archaeological sites and museums over Egypt.

The map is in both Arabic and English and will be provided to all archaeological sites and museums.

Azza El-Kholy, the head of the GIS department, explained that it created this map upon a request from the Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany, and would facilitate museum and archaeological site visits for both Egyptians and foreigners.

El-Kholy pointed out that a number of departments participated in the preparation of this map including the permanent committees and missions as well as the department of space and property.

El-Kholy also added that the GIS is in the process of finalising a digital version of the map to be put on the ministry's web page that is set to be launched in August.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

News: UNESCO to Celebrate Egyptian Winner of #Unite4Heritage 'Photo and Story' Contest

The winning photo, captured by Egyptian photographer Mohamed Abdel-Gawad, shows traditional moulid dancing in Egypt. Writtebn By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Wining Photo
Yesterday  at the El-Manestirly Palace overlooking the El-Roda Nile Corniche, UNESCO celebrated the Egyptian winner of "The Photo and Story" contest held in 2015 as part of the global #Unite4Heritage campaign.

Ahmed Ebeid, general supervisor of the minister of antiquities’ office, told Ahram Online that the competition, which attracted more than 10,000 entries from all over the world, involved participants posting on social media their most inspiring photos of cultural heritage and explain why they matter to them.

The entries were narrowed down to the top 20, Ebeid said, and from there the winner was selected. The winning photo, captured by Egyptian photographer Mohamed Abdel-Gawad, shows traditional moulid dancing in Egypt.

The photo shows a woman dancing at El-Sayeda Fatimah El-Nabawiya’s moulid in Cairo’s El-Batiniya to a song by one of the local bands. Women frequently dance and sing during moulids.

Moulid celebrations involve rituals dating back to ancient Egypt, such as receiving the blessings of awliya, henna and lighting candles.

They are also an important place for Egyptians from urban and rural areas and of different sects and ages to gather, dance, celebrate and listen to chants and prayers.

The ceremony  attended by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Egypt's UNESCO candidate Moushira Khatab as well as top governmental officials.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Short Story: Learning From Papyrus

The Khufu papyrus archive on show at the Egyptian Museum shows the highly efficient administrative system in place during the pharaoh’s reign.
A collection of three dozen fragments of papyri has been put on display for the first time in a special exhibition in the foyer of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo after their discovery in 2013 in the entrance to two caves at Wadi Al-Jarf 119 km from Suez by a Franco-Egyptian mission led by French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet and Egyptian Egyptologist Al-Sayed Mahfouz, writes Nevine El-Aref.

Mahfouz described the discovery of the papyri as “very important” because they show the history of international maritime navigation in Egypt and of ancient Egyptian writing during the Old Kingdom. The papyri are written in early hieratic writing and hieroglyphics.

Wadi Al-Jarf is one of the oldest ports discovered anywhere in the world, though two others, Wadi Gawasis south of Safaga and Ain Sokhna south of Suez, are of similar structure and have also been discovered on the Red Sea coast dating from the later Middle Kingdom. The papyri make up “the oldest archive of ancient Egyptian writing ever discovered,” Mahfouz told the Al-Ahram Weekly, explaining that that they were older than the Al-Gebelein papyri dating to the end of the Fourth Dynasty and the Abusir papyri dating to the end of the fifth.

“We know from these papyri that the reign of Khufu was 26 years long and not 16 or 20 as had previously been thought,” he said. He added that the papyri contained documents recording the commodities delivered to workers in Wadi Al-Jarf in antiquity. These came from various places in the Nile Delta, confirming central control over the country’s affairs at the time. The text of the papyri is in the form of a table showing each category of commodity and registering what should be given to workers. Black characters show what has been delivered by the administration, and red is used to indicate what is still expected.

Among the papyri are two fragments of a large papyrus measuring 1.5 to 2m long known as the “Log of Merer” and showing the daily lives of workers at Wadi Al-Jarf. Mahfouz said that Merer, whose name means “beloved one,” was a middle-ranking official in charge of skilled workers and sailors, probably numbering around 40 men, at the time. These used to transport limestone blocks from the Torah quarries on the east bank of the Nile to the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza.

The blocks were moved across the Nile and by canal in two or three days. The document indicates that there was also a logistics centre called Ro-She Khufu where most of the procedures were carried out. This was under the authority of vizier Ankh-Haef, a half-brother of Khufu, who was probably the architect responsible for the construction of the Great Pyramid in its final stages as the original architect, Hemiunu, died during the construction work.

“This papyrus in particular is a very important discovery because it gives details of the administrators who directed the construction work on the Great Pyramid and the strong administrative regime during Khufu’s reign,” Mahfouz said, adding that it also showed that the Pyramid’s construction was a national project. A collection of ropes, the remains of boats, and anchors was also discovered.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

News: Construction of Grand Egyptian Museum to Be Completed by Year’s End and Partially Opened in Mid-2017 - Minister of Antiquities

Museum of Islamic Art will be reopened this month and the Museum of Malawi next month.

The Ministry of Antiquities aims to complete construction of the first phase of the Grand Egyptian Museum before the end of the year. The museum will be partially opened by mid-2017. Meanwhile, the ministry is considering a number of proposals and suggestions to increase its resources, following the decline in tourism revenues, which dropped down to EGP 229.8m from EGP 1.273bn in 2010.

Daily News Egypt recently sat down with Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany, who revealed that the ministry is reviewing potential new sources of revenue. These sources will be presented at the upcoming Supreme Council of Antiquities meeting next week. The most prominent ideas suggested are placing advertisements on tickets to archaeological sites and offering package ticket deals to tourists.

How will the ministry deal with the decline in revenue and lower visitor numbers? What are the new ideas for developing revenue resources?

The ministry is studying several proposals and ideas for implementation in the coming period in order to improve the ministry’s revenue sources. We are considering putting forward package ticket deals that include a number of archaeological sites and are valid for several days at discounted rates, depending on the number of days and the sites included.

This proposal is not something new. Many countries around the world offer similar kinds of tickets. These packages should encourage tourists to visit more archaeological areas as they will not need to waste time buying tickets at each site.

The ministry is also studying the launch of the first auction of its kind for companies to place their advertisements on entry tickets to archaeological sites before the end of this year. We are currently reviewing the feasibility of the proposal and whether to offer a collective bid or separate bids for each area.

Does the ministry have a vision to improve inbound tourism? What are the most important operational steps?

We must first admit that the tourism crisis has many reasons behind it. It has been impacted by events across the region. It is also influenced by security. The ministry is promoting Egyptian antiquities around the world via TV channels and international media.

The ministry has opened new archaeological sites and reopened palaces, museums, and monuments that were shut down in 2011 or the two years following. This aims to change Egypt’s image and assure tourists that Egypt is safe. Allowing the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to stay open at night also highlights the safety of the entire downtown district, which will attract more tourists. The government has also been developing airport security for the same purposes.

We have recently opened the Pyramid Complex of Unas in Saqqara and the Tombs of Nefertari in Luxor. We also lowered the ticket price for groups of 15 people or fewer from EGP 19,000 to EGP 1,000.

The ministry also opened the first permanent exhibition for high-quality replicas at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir last week. I want to point out that garnering large revenues is not necessary at first, as the exhibition will serve as an initiative to improve revenues by opening similar exhibitions abroad.

What is the ministry’s plan for fully utilising archaeological sites, cafeterias, and bazaars near them?

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has cut down the rent value by 60% for cafeterias and 70% for bazaars. We aim to encourage tenants to continue their leases.

The council has also launched a closed-envelope bid to rent out 15 closed cafeterias and bazaars near archaeological sites. The committee to decide on the bid will meet next week and award the cafeterias and bazaars, after receiving all technical and financial bids. The 15 cafeterias and bazaars offered last week were in Cairo, Giza, Suez, Luxor, and Aswan... Read More.

News: Former Minister Hawass Receives Cultural Award in Dominican Republic

Zahi Hawass received the Dominican Republic Cultural Award yesterday during his tour; the former minister asked the vice president to support Egypt's candidate for UNESCO director general. Wriien By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass received the Dominican Republic Cultural Award yesterday from the Dominican Republic's minister of culture Jose Antonio in a special event held in honour of Hawass.

Antonio gave Hawass the award for his efforts to protect and preserve Egyptian heritage, whether locally and internationally.

The Dominican minister asked Hawass to help the Dominican Republic to recover stolen artefacts that currently reside in Turin University in Italy as the former Egyptian minister once helped Peru in repatriating 100 artefacts from Hill University in the United States.

A 50-minute-long documentary on the Egyptian-Dominican excavation mission for the search for Cleopatra's tomb at Taposiris Magna was screened at a renowned cinema in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo.

Hawass announced that the mission, led by Kathleen Martinez, conducted a radar survey inside the Taposiris Magna temple in search of Cleopatra's tomb at a depth of 500 km, noting that the results would be announced soon.

Hawass With De Fernandez
During his Dominican tour, Hawass met Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez, vice president of the Dominican Republic, and asked her to support Egypt's candidate for the post of director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Moshira Khattab.

De Fernandez accepted the request and promised Hawass to discuss it officially with the Dominican minister of foreign affairs.

This was not Hawass' first meeting with De Fernandez. The duo first met in 2009 with late artist Omar Sherif when De Fernandez's husband was the president of the Dominican Republic.

Hawass asked the vice president to gather a group of 500 pioneer students every year to meet with prominent international figures in hopes that the students could benefit from such experiences experiences. De Fernandez agreed on such an idea and invited Hawass to be the first to meet the students.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Short Story: Boosting Revenues

The Ministry of Antiquities is developing new policies to help increase its revenues, reports Nevine El-Aref

With the decline of the tourism industry in Egypt in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution, the Ministry of Antiquities has been suffering from budgetary problems. Its budget is mainly dependent on ticket fees from archaeological sites and museums across the country, as well as touring exhibitions abroad.

The ministry has lost around LE1 billion of annual income, which reached just LE275 million in 2015. Its debts since 2011 have reached almost LE6 billion, as it has had to borrow from the Ministry of Finance in order to pay its employees and work on postponed projects.

Bazaars and cafeterias at archaeological sites and museums have closed their doors because of the decline in tourism, also leading to the loss of a good deal of income.

In order to help solve such budgetary problems the ministry on Thursday inaugurated its first ever replica exhibition at the bookshop of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, inviting a number of foreign ambassadors and cultural counsellors from the United States, France, Austria, Argentina, Italy, Serbia, Australia and Brazil to visit it.

The exhibition will last until the end of July and put on show a large collection of replicas of some of the ancient Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic artefacts in the museum.

Part of the museum exhibition halls has been transformed into a workshop with workmen and artisans carving, drawing, painting, modelling and decorating replicas of Egypt’s ancient, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic artefacts, or else hammering pieces of bronze to transform them into necklaces, earrings or bracelets embellished with semi-precious stones.

“During the period of the exhibition, artisans will produce clay, wood and copper replicas to show visitors how the ancient Egyptians made the authentic items,” Amr Al-Tibi, director of the Archaeological Replicas Production Unit at the ministry, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said there was a discount of 20 per cent on replicas during the exhibition days.

The replicas on display were from the unit’s production lines, he said, and presented a collection of replicas of the pharaoh Tutankhamun’s funerary collection and some of the Egyptian Museum’s treasured artefacts.

Among them are a collection of ceramic pots and gravures with foliage patterns as well as Coptic icons and engravings depicting the Archangel Michael and St Paul.

Al-Tibi said that in collaboration with Al-Ahram, the unit was organising a touring exhibition to Japan near the end of this year. “This replica exhibition is the nucleus of the permanent one at the Egyptian Museum. There will be another similar exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in the Bab Al-Khalq area of Cairo,” Elham Salah, head of the Museums Section at the ministry, told the Weekly.

She said that upon the reopening of the MIA, the ministry would establish a permanent replica exhibition to display reproductions from the collection of the MIA. A similar exhibition would be created in the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo.

National museums in governorates around Egypt would also exhibit collections of replicas from Egypt’s ancient Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic civilisations, she said.

Accompanying this exhibition is another one of books published by the ministry at a discount of 70 per cent until 2012, with 25 per cent reductions available on books published after 2012. The exhibition is designed to encourage reading among people in general and increase their archaeological awareness.

“The goal of the project is to create alternative financial resources to replace the tourism sector’s declining revenues, which have dropped to less than LE275 million from LE1.25 billion before the 25 January Revolution,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enany said.

“It will also help raise people’s awareness of Egyptian archaeology and the unique antiquities we display in our museums. There was formerly a gift shop in the museum with replicas of the original artefacts, but this shut down following the attack on the Egyptian Museum on 28 January 2011,” he added.

The Egyptian Art Revival Centre and the Replica Production Unit have been working hard for years producing a large number of high-quality replicas.

“Unlike other ministries, the Ministry of Antiquities relies on self-funding. This includes profits from ticket sales and books in museums and cafes at archaeological sites. We are trying to come up with innovative ideas in order to fund our various institutions,” Al-Enany told the Weekly, adding that other measures included decreasing the rents of bazaars by up to 70 per cent and cafeterias by up to 60 per cent as well as offering facilities to franchise-holders to help them pay their debts.

Reopening the bazaars and cafeterias has provided job opportunities to youngsters, as well as providing facilities to tourists at archaeological sites.

After the approval of the ministry’s board, Al-Enany has lowered the fees imposed on those filming for cinema or television at archaeological sites by 50 per cent.

Khaled Al-Manawi, former chair of the Chamber of Tourism Companies and Travel Agencies in Egypt, said the decisions would contribute to promoting tourism to Egypt.

Ahmed Awad, head of the National Cinema Centre, told the Weekly that the decision to lower the film fees would attract more international film directors to come to make their films in Egypt instead of other countries. Some of the latter had built replica cities on ancient Egyptian models to boost tourism and filmmaking, he said.

Elhamy Al-Zayat, chair of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, said that Turkey had succeeded in attracting tourism from Arab countries through the popularity of TV series shot at touristic sites.

He said the Egyptian decision would help promote tourism in Egypt, especially in areas rich in archaeological sites like Luxor.

“I have other ideas in mind in order to provide unconventional ways of financing. I think this could be achieved through investment and management services at archaeological sites, such as printing the logos of organisations on the backs of tickets, finding sponsors to organise exhibitions, and publishing ads on the ministry’s website,” Al-Enany added.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

News, Giza: Previously - Damaged Menkawre Statue Arrives Safely at GEM

Twefik and Zidan Examining The Statue Before Its Transportation
The alabaster statue of the fourth dynasty king Menkawre arrived safely to the Grand Egyptian Museum and did not suffer damage as claimed. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egyptian restorers were face to face Wednesday with an alabaster seated statue of King Menkawre at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir in an attempt to pack it for transportation to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking Giza plateau.

Tarek Tawfik, GEM Supervisor General, told Ahram Online that the statue is safe and was undamaged during packing as rumoured.

 The Statue at The Egyptian Museum Before Packing 
& The Statue During Packing
The statue, he continued, has been in very poor condition since it was discovered in 1908 at Menkawre's Valley Temple in Giza Plateau. The statue was suffering from cracks and was incorrectly restored when first discovered.

Tawfik said that the first individuals who attempted to restore the statue used gypsum and cement, which had negative impact on the statue.

Recently, he continued, employees at the Tahrir museum consolidated and packed the statue before its voyage to the GEM, where employees would repair the statue and restore it correctly.

"The statue is safe and in the same condition as it has always been in," Tawfik asserted.

Statue at Its Arrival at The GEM & 
The Statue on Its Way to The Lab at GEM
Eissa Zidan, director of GEM restorations, told Ahram Online that the packing procedures were carried out according to the latest techniques by consolidating the statue weak points with state-of-the-art Japanese paper called Tshou and covering it with cotton pillows which are in turn covered with the Tshou.

Zidan explains that the statue was also covered with a special kind of textile and cotton before it was consolidated with wooden beams padded with foam. Safety belts were also put around the statue with a special design named L-Shape.

The statue arrived safely at the GEM and it will be subjected to comprehensive restoration in order to prepare it to its permanent exhibition at the GEM.

The statue is depicting King Menkawre seated on the thrown with his royal skirt and crown decorated with the copra. His hand is on his feet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

News, Giza: Beams of Khufu's Second Solar Boat Transported to Grand Egyptian Museum

Packing of The Beams Before Its Transportation
Another collection of beams from Khufu’s second solar boat are set to be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum for restoration today. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An Egyptian-Japanese archaeological team has removed Tuesday a collection of 12 wooden beams from the pit of Khufu’s second solar boat in order to send them to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) on the Giza Plateau for restoration.

Eissa Zidan, restoration director at the GEM, told Ahram Online that over the next two days the team is scheduling to remove a collection of 30 wooden beams from the pit. 

Before its transportation to the GEM, these beams would be subjected in situ to preliminary restoration work and documentation via 3D scans.
lifting Up The Beams
Zidan explains that presently a collection of 685 wooden beams have been removed from the pit; 645 of the beams have been preliminarily restored in situ, and 389 of them have been transported to the GEM.

The Khufu boats were discovered inside two separate pits in 1954 when Egyptian archaeologists Kamal El-Mallakh and Zaki Nour were carrying out routine cleaning on the southern side of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The second boat remained sealed in the neighbouring pit until 1987 when it was examined by the American National Geographic Society in association with the Egyptian Office for Historical Monuments.

In 2009, 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.

The team cleaned the pit of insects and inserted a camera through a hole in the chamber’s limestone ceiling in order to examine the boat’s condition and determine appropriate methods of restoration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

News, Giza: Director of Technical Cooperation Visits Egyptian Museum, Giza Plateau

Yang(left)and Tawfik (right)at the lab for wooden artifacts
Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation visited the Grand Egyptian Museum and the Giza Plateau. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

During his visit to Egypt, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation Dazhu Yang paid a visit Monday evening to the Egyptian Museum and the Giza Plateau.

Yang was guided by Tarek Tawfik, General Supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), during his visit to the museum's wooden artifact laboratories and a number of the Tutankhamun collection exhibits that were transported to GEM for restoration.

Yang was very happy with the efficient work carried out in the labs and described the Egyptian restoration technicians as 'skillful'.

Tawfik also led Yang on a tour of GEM construction work and explained the museum's different construction phases, which began in 2002 and are still presently underway.

Yang then toured the Giza plateau, where he visited Khufu's Pyramid and the Sphinx

Monday, July 18, 2016

Short Story: Challenges For Antiquities

Three months after being appointed Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Khaled Al-Enani tells Nevine El-Aref about the challenges ahead.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enani began his tenure in Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s second cabinet in March. His mission has been to solve the ministry’s budgetary problems that have been likely to prevent suspended works from being completed, whether the construction of new museums or the development of existing ones.

Improving both the ministry’s infrastructure and personnel is another task, as is working in collaboration with the ministries of tourism, civil aviation and investment in order to provide the means to improve the infrastructure at Egypt’s archaeological sites and tourist destinations, to encourage and restore tourism, and to attract investment to the country.

Other pressing issues are the removal of encroachments on monuments or in archaeological site buffer zones, something that occurred during the breakdown of security after the 25 January Revolution, and the recovery of looted or illegally smuggled artifacts, whether from illegal excavations or incidents in the aftermath of the revolution.

Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to Al-Enani in his office decorated with replicas of ancient Egyptian and Islamic art to find out how much he has achieved and what challenges remain.

The walls are covered with ceramic gravures in foliage patterns. A replica of the well-known ancient Egyptian painting of the Meidum Geese decorates the office entrance wall, while a large map of Egypt showing the country’s archaeological sites is on the wall at the far end. The side tables are decorated with replicas of the lion god Sekhmet, the justice goddess Maat, the boy king Tutankhamun astride a panther and hunting on a papyrus skiff, and two large replicas of Islamic vases painted with foliage motifs and geometrical designs.

What are the challenges you have faced since taking up your post in March?
I have had six main challenges to deal with: the lack of budgetary resources; the postponing of archaeological projects, especially in the museums sector; the lack of highly qualified staff, especially in international law; the encroachment on archaeological sites after the 2011 Revolution as well as illegal excavations; problems from subterranean water at sites and the lack of documentation of Egypt’s monuments; and finally weak infrastructure at archaeological sites and museums and the lack of archaeological awareness among the population as a whole.

What were the causes of the ministry’s budgetary problems?
The main problem goes back several years, as the ministry’s budget has been mainly dependent on ticket fees from archaeological sites and museums all over the country. There has been no investment policy to feed its annual budget. This policy was sufficient earlier when the tourism industry in Egypt was growing and the number of tourists had reached its peak. But with the decline in tourism and the increase in the number of the ministry’s employees the ministry has entered financial deadlock.

The ministry has lost around LE1 billion of its annual income, which decreased to just LE275 million in 2015. Its debts since 2011 have reached almost LE6 billion, as it has had to borrow from the ministry of finance in order to pay its employees and for postponed projects. Bazaars and cafeterias at archaeological sites and museums have closed their doors because of the decline in tourism. This has meant that the ministry has lost a good deal of its income.

How are you managing the ministry’s budgetary problems?
To help solve these problems, the ministry took decisions such as decreasing the rental of bazaars by up to 70 per cent and cafeterias by up to 60 per cent as well as offering facilities to franchise-holders to help them pay their debts. The ministry has succeeded in recovering 40 per cent of its debts, instead of zero per cent five years ago. Reopening the bazaars and cafeterias has also provided job opportunities to youngsters, as well as providing facilities to tourists at archaeological sites.

The ministry discounted its publications by 70 per cent until 2012, giving 25 per cent reductions on those published after 2012. This is designed to encourage reading among people in general and increase their archaeological awareness. I have other ideas in mind in order to provide unconventional ways of financing and I think that this could be achieved through planned investment and management services at archaeological sites such as printing the logos of organisations on the backs of tickets, finding sponsors to organise exhibitions, and publishing ads on the ministry’s Website.... Read More.