Sunday, February 26, 2017

Re-Opening, Dakhla Oasis: Openings In The Oasis

Three mudbrick houses and the remains of a villa in the Dakhla Oasis have been opened to the public after restoration. Written By/ 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 Al-Wadi Al-Gadid Governor Mohamed Suleiman Al-Zamalout and Netherlands Ambassador Laurens Westhoff and other officials opened three houses and a villa in Al-Qasr to visitors after the completion of conservation work.

El-Enany described the work as “wonderful” and “one of the ministry’s most important achievements”. He said that the Al-Qasr 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 trade routes as well as being on a main route for pilgrimage.

The newly inaugurated buildings are in the Rabaa Al-Shihabiya area of the village and include the Beit Al-Qadi, the Beit Al-Qurashi and the Beit Othman. The remains of the fourth-century Villa of Serenus, once a council member in Amheida (ancient Trimithis), were also restored and reopened.

Ahmed Al-Nemr, a member of the Ministry of Antiquities’ Scientific Office for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Serenus Villa had been uncovered in 1979. While surveying the late antique city of Amheida, a team from the Dakhla Oasis Project had discovered the upper part of the Villa’s lavishly decorated walls, he said.

 El-Enany during the opening of Al-Qasr’s restored houses 
The main building, including decorated rooms, was subsequently excavated in 2004 and 2007 by a team from Columbia University in New York directed by Roger S Bagnall. Well-preserved decoration was found in four rooms depicting geometrical patterns as well as figurative scenes. “At the time of their discovery, both the paintings in situ and the collected fragments posed considerable conservation problems,” said Fred Leemhuis of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

He explained that the layer of plaster was very thin and extremely fragile. The best way of conserving this precious building for future generations was by refilling it with sand after extensive documentation, Leemhuis commented. “Because this unique villa would be destroyed by being exposed to the public, a plan was made to build a full-size reconstruction of the main house,” Leemhuis said.

Al-Nemr said that in order to recreate the full splendour of the building a decision had been taken to reconstruct the painted decoration. The project has been financed by a grant from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Cairo and administered by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo. Soon after archaeologist Nicholas Warner had finished work on the building, a decoration team led by Dorothea Schulz moved in and started reconstructing and recreating the decoration.

In a report in the newsletter of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, Schulz wrote that the decoration of the two smaller rooms consisted of an intricate geometrical pattern. The biggest room, the Domed Room, was completely decorated from the floor to the highest point in the dome. There are geometrical “wallpapers” all around the room, the report said, composed of many different patterns.

While the wallpapers are still in situ and could be copied without problems, the dome had collapsed in antiquity and had taken a lot of work to reconstruct from thousands of fragments, the report said. The Serenus Villa replica was inaugurated during the minister of antiquities’ visit as a visitor centre. El-Enany described the reconstruction work as “spectacular and well worth a visit”. “The replica villa is a complete example of how top officials or a family of high social status built and decorated their homes in antiquity,” he said. Photographs and banners showing the detailed work are also on display, as well as photographs of the villa’s original conditiond.... READ MORE.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.