Thursday, September 21, 2017

News, Cairo: Ottoman-Era Artifacts Seized at Cairo Airport to Go to Museum of Islamic Art

The pieces include Coptic textiles, a collection of headdresses decorated with Arabic calligraphy, and Ottomman-era manuscripts and medallions. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

On Wednesday the Museum of Islamic Art will receive a collection of Ottoman-era Egyptian artefacts that were seized early this week at Cairo International Airport.

The objects were in the possession of a passenger who was trying to smuggle them to Istanbul.

Upon confiscation, an archaeological committee led by Hamdi Hamam, the director-general of the antiquities unit at the centre, approved the authenticity of the objects.

The pieces include 34 Coptic textiles decorated with foliage ornamentation in a bad conservation condition, a collection of headdresses decorated with Arabic calligraphy, and three 18th and 19th century manuscripts.

A round Ottoman tapestry woven in red velvet is also among the seized collection, as is a collection of Ottoman medallions and manuscripts.

Mamdouh Osman, the museum director, said that the objects would be restored and put on special display at the museum.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

News: No Unauthorized Egyptian Artifacts at Louvre Abu Dhabi - Cairo

The Egyptian cabinet's Information and Decision Support Center has denied media reports that Egyptian pharaonic antiquities have been sold or smuggled to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel,
surrounded by sea water. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opens
its doors to the public on November 11, 2017
In an official statement on Tuesday, the IDSC said that the antiquities ministry has said that Egypt has not sent any antiquities to make a debut at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, set to be officially inaugurated in November.

Images have been circulating on social media showing a number of Emirati officials inspecting pharaonic antiquities inside the museum, raising speculation that Egypt had given up the items.

The ministry clarified that the antiquities pictured were from archaeological collections already in the Paris Louvre. The Paris branch of the museum currently includes about 50,000 pieces in its Egyptian collection, dating from 4,000 BC to the fourth century AD.

"Egypt has no right to interfere to stop the antiquities from being presented based on the law," the IDSC statement added, pointing that the acquisition of any antiquities by international museums was "legal."

"The antiquities were transferred outside the country legitimately before the issuing of a 1983 law that banned the trade in antiquities," the IDSC said, adding that prior to the passing of the law, countries that conducted excavations in Egypt had the right to have a share in the antiquities found. This is not the first series of denials by officials on the issue.

On Monday, the head of the Egyptian museums department at the antiquities ministry, Elham Saleh, denied the rumors that the Abu Dhabi items had been smuggled out of Egypt, calling on the media to ensure the accuracy of their reports.

Egypt has been making efforts to retrieve smuggled artifacts from foreign countries. It has called upon other countries to prevent illegal exchange, transfer, import or re-export of antiquities within their territories. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the result of a 2007 agreement between the UAE and France.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Short Story: Goldsmith’s Tomb Uncovered

The 18th Dynasty tomb of the goldsmith of the god Amun-Re has been uncovered in the Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank, reports Nevine El-Aref.

Despite the heat wave that hit Luxor on Saturday last week, hundreds of Egyptian, Arab and foreign journalists, the crews of TV channels and photographers, as well as foreign ambassadors to Egypt, flocked to the Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on the west bank of the Nile to explore the newly discovered tomb of the goldsmith of the ancient Egyptian god Amun-Re.

Although the tomb belongs to a goldsmith, its funerary collection does not contain any gold. Instead, it houses a collection of stone and wood ushabti figurines of different types and sizes, mummies, painted and anthropoid wooden sarcophagi, and jewellery made of precious and semi-precious stones.

“It is a very important discovery that sheds light on the necropolis’ history and promotes tourism to Egypt,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that although the tomb was not in a very good condition because it had been reused in a later period, its contents could yield clues to other discoveries.

“It contains a collection of 50 limestone funerary cones, 40 of which are evidence of the presence of four other official tombs,” El-Enany asserted.

He added that the discovery of the goldsmith’s tomb had come to light in April when the same Egyptian excavation mission had uncovered the tomb of Userhat, a New Kingdom city councillor. While removing the debris from the tomb, excavators had stumbled upon a hole at the end of one of the tomb’s chambers which had led them to another tomb.

“More excavations within the hole revealed a double statue of the goldsmith and his wife depicting his name and titles,” El-Enany said, adding that the find was significant because of the high number of artefacts found intact in the tomb.
In the courtyard of the tomb, he said, a Middle Kingdom burial shaft had been found with a family burial of a woman and her two children. “The work has not finished,” El-Enany said, adding that the excavation would continue in order to reveal more of the tomb’s secrets as another hole had been found within the burial shaft that could lead to another discovery.

“I believe that due to the evidence we have found we could uncover one, two, or maybe other tombs in this area if we are lucky,” El-Enany said.

Luxor Governor Mohamed Badr attended the ceremony as well as MPs, the Greek and Cypriot ambassadors to Egypt, the Chinese cultural attaché and the Swiss head of mission.

Mustafa Waziri, head of the excavation mission and director of Luxor antiquities, said that the tomb had got its number (Kampp 390) as German Egyptologist Frederica Kampp had registered the tomb’s entrance but had never excavated or entered it.

The tomb, he continued, belongs to a goldsmith named Amenemhat and could be dated to the second half of the 18th Dynasty. It includes an entrance located in the courtyard of another Middle Kingdom tomb numbered Kampp150. The entrance leads to a square chamber where a niche with a dual statue depicting the tomb’s owner and his wife is found.

The statue shows the goldsmith sitting on a high-backed chair beside his wife who wears a long dress and a wig. Between their legs stands a little figure of one of their sons.

The tomb has two burial shafts, a main one for the tomb’s owner and the second one located to the left of the tomb’s main chamber. The main shaft is seven metres deep and houses a collection of mummies, sarcophagi and funerary masks carved in wood along with a collection of ushabti figurines. The second shaft bears a collection of 21st and 22nd Dynasty sarcophagi which deteriorated during the Late Period.... READ MORE.

News, Cairo: Metro Station Police Foil Security Guard's Attempt to Steal Artifact from Coptic Museum

The museum worker had hidden the stolen piece under his clothes. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Police arrested a man today at Mar Girgis metro station in Old Cairo, on suspicion of stealing an artefact from the Coptic Museum, general-secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Amin, announced.

Amin told Ahram Online that the alleged criminal was a security guard at the museum, and during his shift he chopped off a wooden decorative element from a door panel from the church of St Barbara.

The man hid the stolen piece inside a plastic bag under his clothes and left the museum after finishing his shift.

The police arrested him at the metro station, which is a short walk away from the museum.

Elham Salah, head of the museum department within the antiquities ministry, told Ahram Online the case was sent to the general-prosecutor and the stolen item was now in police possession during investigations.

According to Coptic tradition, St. Barbara lived in the Levant during the third century AD, and who tortured and killed after she became a Christian.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

News, France: Egyptian Embassy in Paris Celebrates Bicentennial of Abu Simbel Temple Discovery

El-Enany Delivers His Speech at The Petite Palais
The ceremony was attended by French elites, the French minister of defence, and a number of foreign ambassadors. Written By / Nevine El-Aref.

In a gala ceremony held on Wednesday night at the Petite Palais in Paris, Egypt’s embassy in France celebrated the 200-year anniversary of the discovery of the Abu Simbel temples. The ceremony was attended by French elites, the French minister of defence, and a number of foreign ambassadors in Paris.

During the ceremony, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany, delivered a speech relating the history of the temple salvage operation in collaboration with UNESCO, in 1962 during the building of the High Dam. He also highlighted the archaeological value of both temples and the efforts exerted by the Egyptian government to preserve the country's heritage and to speed up all archaeological projects put on hold in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.

At the end of his speech, El-Enany invited the attendees and all French citizens to visit Egypt and to explore and admire its unique heritage. A replica exhibition was held on the margins of the ceremony, where a replica of King Tutankhamun’s chariot and models of both Abu Simbel temples were displayed.

Also on display were bronze busts of three people who played a major role in the Nubia salvage operation: minister of culture during the salvage operation Tharwat Okasha, Egyptologist Selim Hassan, and French Egyptologist Christian Noblecourt. 
These busts were created by the antiquities ministry’s replica production unit and were borrowed by the foreign ministry for the celebration. The busts will be returned to their original displays at the Abu Simbel Visitor Centre after the exhibition is closed.

Tharwat Okasha (1921-2012) participated in many cultural heritage projects, especially rescuing the Abu Simbel temples. He played a pivotal role in the international campaign to save the monuments of Nubia. 

Selim Hassan (1893 -1961) was the head of the Egyptian mission which evaluated the impact of the construction of the High Dam on the monuments of Nubia. He published many reports and much research on the topic.

Christiane Desroches Noblecourt (1913-2011) was the first French woman to lead an archaeological excavation (in 1938). She was also known for making an appeal for international support to save the monuments of Nubia. She is the author of many publications on Egyptian civilisation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Short Story: Fox Grotto Reopens

The Fox Grotto Museum near Marsa Matrouh has been officially reopened after seven years of closure. Nevine El-Aref attended the ceremony.
On Egypt’s Mediterranean coast near the town of Marsa Matrouh stands the Fox Grotto Museum welcoming visitors and summer holidaymakers. After seven years of closure for restoration and development, the museum, the place where German army field-marshal Erwin Rommel, the so-called “Desert Fox,” hid in the area’s cliffs and planned German military operations against the British during World War II, was finally reopened by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Matrouh governor Alaa Abu-Zeid this week.

Rommel was one of Germany’s leading field commanders in World War II, and he was famous for his courage, determination and leadership. He fought the 12-day Battle of Alamein against the British from 23 October 1942, only to retreat on 4 November in the face of an onslaught by British troops. According to a plaque at the Cave Museum, Rommel died in October 1944, having been accused of plotting against the life of German dictator Adolf Hitler and given the choice of either standing trial or quietly committing suicide to ensure the safety of his family. Rommel chose the latter course, and his death was announced as having been due to a heart attack.

The cave is located in front of Rommel Beach in Marsa Matrouh, and it was originally cut out of the rocky cliffs during the Roman period as a storage space due to its position near an ancient seaport. When the German troops entered Al-Alamein, Rommel selected the cave as his headquarters because it was hidden in the cliffs overlooking the harbour. In 1977, the idea of transforming the cave into a museum was launched as a way of paying tribute to Rommel’s career. However, the plan was not put into effect until 1988, when it was opened to the public in order to display a collection of Rommel’s personal possessions, many of them donated by his son Manfred, as well as weapons, shells and military equipment used during World War II.

The museum is not like any other in Egypt, as it is cave-shaped with showcases installed within its walls. Some artefacts are exhibited freely on the rocks. It contains Rommel’s full-length leather coat, clothes trunk, photographs, field telephone, compass, military attire, maps he drew himself, battle plans and medals he received. Copies of a newspaper produced by Rommel’s troops in Africa during the war called Al-Waha (Oasis) are also on display, as well as boxes housing the files of German soldiers from the time.

“The reopening of the Cave Museum highlights the aim of the Ministry of Antiquities to promote tourism through opening new attractions as well as increasing archaeological awareness among people in general,” El-Enany told the Al-Ahram Weekly. He described the development of the museum as “a positive example of collaboration between the ministry and the governorate.” The Matrouh governorate had allocated a budget of LE2.5 million to restore the cave.... READ MORE.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Discovery, Luxor: Amun-Re Goldsmith Tomb Uncovered in Draa Abul Naga Necropolis on Luxor's West Bank

The tomb was discovered along with a number of others by an Egyptian archaeological mission led by Mostafa Waziri. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities on 
September 9, 2017 AFP 
In a gala ceremony held in Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor's West Bank on Saturday, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced the discovery of an 18th Dynasty tomb of god Amun-Re’s goldsmith, Amenemhat (Kampp 390), and a Middle Kingdom burial shaft for a family. Luxor Governor Mohamed Badr attended the ceremony as well as members of parliament, the Greek and Cypriot ambassadors to Egypt, as well as China's cultural attaché and the Swiss head of mission.

The discovery was made by an Egyptian archaeological mission led by Mostafa Waziri. The newly discovered tomb includes an entrance located in the courtyard of another Middle Kingdom tomb, Kampp 150. 

The entrance leads to a squared chamber where a niche with a duo statue depicting the tomb owner and his wife is found on one end. The statue shows Amenemhat sitting on a high backed chair beside his wife who wears a long dress and wig.

Between their legs stands, on a smaller scale, a small figure of one of their sons. Waziri told Ahram Online that the tomb has two burial shafts: the main one for the tomb’s owner and his wife. It is seven metres deep and has a collection of mummies, sarcophagi and funerary masks carved in wood along with a collection of ushabti figurines. 

The second shaft was uncovered to the left of the tomb’s main chamber and bears a collection of 21st and 22nd dynasty sarcophagi subject to deterioration during the Late Period.

In the open courtyard, the mission stumbled upon a collection of Middle Kingdom burial shafts, where a family burial of a woman and her two children was unearthed. It includes of two wooden coffins with mummies and a collection of head-rests.

Osteologist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi, who studied the mummies’ bones, explains that early studies on these mummies show that the woman died at the age of 50 and that during her life she was suffering from cavities that led to abscesses in her jaw and a bacterial disease in her bones. "This woman probably cried extensively as the size of her carbuncular are abnormally enlarged," Shawqi said, adding that inside the coffin the head-rest of the deceased woman was found as well as a group of pottery vessels.

Studies on the mummies of her two children show that they were two adult males of age ranging between 20 to 30 years old. Both mummies are in a very good state of conservation with the bones still having mummification liquids.

Waziri asserted that one of the male mummies shows that he was suffering from cavities during his life while the second shows that it was probably put later in the same coffin because the bones were bare. 

Archaeologist Mohamed Baabash, who is a member of the excavation team, said that during excavations the mission stumbled upon several funerary objects, some of which belong to the tomb owner.

Among the discovered artifacts are limestone remains of an offering table; four wooden sarcophagi partly damaged and decorated with hieroglyphic text and scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities; and a sandstone duo statue of a trader in King Tuthmose III’s temple named “Mah.” 

A collection of 150 ushabti figurines carved in faience, wood, burned clay, limestone and mud brick was also unearthed. The mission also unearthed a collection of 50 funerary cones, 40 of which are evidence of the presence of other tombs belonging to four officials.

The exact location of the latter has not been yet found. These officials are Maati, Bengy, Rourou and vizier Ptahmes. The other stamps belong to Neb-Amun, the grain harvester and supervisor of Amun's grain storehouses, whose tomb is probably TT145, and Nebsenu, the high priest of Amun whose tomb is probably Kampp 143.
  • More about tombs of Dra Abu El-Naga CLICK HERE
  • All related posts about the city of Luxor CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Short Story: Documenting The Palace

The Palace of Prince Omar Tosson in Cairo’s Road Al-Farag district is to be documented for the first time, reports Nevine El-Aref.

In the Road Al-Farag district in Cairo stands the 19th-century Prince Omar Tosson Palace, its architecture largely hidden behind four modern school edifices.

The palace was nationalised after the 1952 Revolution like other former royal palaces and buildings in Egypt, and it was converted into a secondary school. Subsequently it was badly neglected.

The palace was originally built after 1886 and comprises a basement and two upper floors. The basement has a long corridor leading to the Nile Corniche where a yacht was once docked to transport the prince on his journeys outside Cairo.

The first floor has a main hall with several chambers to host visitors, a library, dining rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and rooms for servants. The second floor houses the private rooms of the prince’s family and a special wing for him with separate bathrooms and side rooms.

The palace has two gardens, the first outdoors and the second indoors as a small winter garden. There is a small extension building once used for storage. The ceilings of the rooms in the palace are particularly distinguished, being carved in wood and bearing gilded decorative elements.

The palace was registered on Egypt’s Heritage List of Islamic and Coptic Antiquities in 1984, but it was still badly neglected. Several restoration projects were drawn up, but none was implemented.

However, all this is in the past, as today steps towards the palace’s restoration are being taken by the Ministry of Antiquities and Cairo University’s Construction Engineering Technology Laboratory.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the palace project aimed to document it using the latest technology and 3D laser scanning to analyse the architectural and decorative elements of the palace as well as its environment... READ MORE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

News, Giza: Chinese Cultural Attaché in Egypt Visits Grand Egyptian Museum

Tawfik with Yuewen at the GEM
Chinese cultural attaché to Egypt Shi Yuewen visited the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza on Tuesday. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Yuewen visited the museum’s laboratories and witnessed restoration work being carried out on artefacts that are to be among the museum's collection, Tarek Tawfik, supervisor-general of the GEM, told Ahram Online.

The museum, which will see a soft open in 2018, will hold the Tutankhamun halls and a number of gigantic ancient Egyptian colossi, such as the colossus of King Ramses II, which was transported to the GEM from Ramses Square in downtown Cairo in 2006.

Yuewen said that the upcoming period will witness increased cooperation between Egypt and China in the archaeological field.