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.

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