Showing posts with label Short Story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short Story. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2018

Short Story: Living Through The Past

The values that built Egypt’s ancient civilisation are still very much in evidence today, writes Hussein Bassir.

Civilisation began in Egypt’s Nile Valley and Delta. The ancient Egyptians, the builders of this unique civilisation, were distinguished for their skill, perseverance, calmness, forbearance, faith and tolerance.

Egypt is also a meeting place for civilisations, a crucible for cultural exchange, and an object of desire for invaders throughout its long history. The names given to the land have been numerous. The name Egypt comes from the ancient term Hutkaptah, meaning “temple of the soul of Ptah”, the god of the ancient capital Memphis. The ancient Egyptians belonged to both the Semitic and Hamitic peoples.

The written story of Egypt begins around 3000 BC. When the legendary king Menes unified Upper Egypt (the south) and Lower Egypt (the Delta) and established a centralised state around 3000 BC, values and standards were introduced that still govern the state of Egypt today.

Egypt then entered the period of the Old Kingdom, the age of the Pyramids, which lasted from 2686 to 2160 BC. During this time, the Egyptians built the Pyramids at Giza and Saqqara, and carved the statue of the Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau, which represented the Pharaoh Khafre, builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza. These magnificent monuments bear witness to the archaeological, engineering, astronomical and administrative skills of the ancient Egyptians.

After this golden age, Egypt entered a period of decline, before emerging as a powerful force in the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC), the age of Egyptian classical literature. Following this second golden age, the country embarked on the most difficult period in its ancient history, namely the occupation by foreign tribes known as Hyksos, meaning “rulers of foreign lands”.

These crept over the country’s eastern borders and took control of large parts of the land when the Egyptian state was weak. After a long and bitter struggle, the Upper Egyptian Pharaoh Ahmose I (1550-1525 BC) managed to expel the Hyksos from Egypt by driving them into neighbouring Palestine. The New Kingdom, the final golden age of ancient Egypt, was now established.

Egypt adopted a new foreign policy based on expansion and foreign conquest and brought numerous other powers under its control. This period, which lasted until 1069 BC, is known as the age of empire. Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) is considered the founder of the Egyptian Empire in Asia and Africa, while other famous Pharaohs of this age include Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, Seti I, Ramses II and Ramses III….. READ MORE. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Short Story: A Year of Many Discoveries

Egyptian and foreign Egyptologists excavating at archaeological sites across Egypt have made more than 30 discoveries this year, reports Nevine El-Aref.
Coincidence has always played a major role in making new discoveries. Among the most famous examples are the uncovering of the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, the funerary collection of the Pharaoh Khufu’s mother Hetepheres, the Pyramids Builders’ Cemetery on the Giza Plateau, and the Valley of the Golden Mummies in the Bahareya Oasis.

This year, coincidence led to the discovery of more than 30 treasures, something which made the Ministry of Antiquities describe 2017 as “the year of discoveries”.

“It seems that our ancient Egyptian ancestors are bestowing their blessings on Egypt’s economy, as these discoveries are good for the country and its tourism industry,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said that many new discoveries had been made. In the Gabal Al-Selsela area in Aswan, 20 tombs were discovered by a team from Lund University in Sweden, for example, while in Luxor an Egyptian-Japanese mission discovered the tomb of a royal scribe.

An Egyptian-German mission in Matareya outside Cairo made international headlines when it discovered fragments of a colossal statue of the Pharaoh Psamtick I.

An Egyptian mission from the Ministry of Antiquities discovered the inner parts of a pyramid from the 13th Dynasty, as well as the remains of a burial that would once have been inside the pyramid.

At the Tuna Al-Gabal archaeological site in Minya, a mission from Cairo University stumbled upon a cachette of non-royal mummies of men, women and children buried in catacombs eight metres below ground level in the desert neighbouring the local bird and animal necropolis.

“This discovery has changed our understanding of the Tuna Al-Gabal site,” El-Enany told the Weekly, adding that in Luxor several other important discoveries had been made. An Egyptian-European mission working at the Colossi of Memnon and the funerary temple of Amenhotep III had uncovered 136 statues of the goddess Sekhmet, most of which are life-size, as well as a beautiful alabaster statue of queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep, carved on the side of a colossal statue of the king.

A team from Jaen University in Spain also discovered the tomb of an official in Aswan. A Spanish mission in western Thebes discovered the remains of a funerary garden, a first in the area’s history.

A mission from the Ministry of Antiquities stumbled upon the almost-intact funerary collections of Amenemhat, the goldsmith of the god Amun-Re, and of Userhat, chancellor of Thebes during the 18th Dynasty, in the Draa Abul-Naga Necropolis at Luxor. The mission also uncovered two yet-unidentified tombs that are particularly rich in their funerary collections.

“These finds are not only a matter of luck, but are the result of the hard work of archaeologists across the country working in sometimes very difficult conditions,” El-Enany said. “Antiquities are the soft power that distinguishes Egypt,” he added, remarking that news of new discoveries always catches the headlines and the attention of the whole world.

TOMB DISCOVERIES: Among these discoveries were the three major ones made by the Egyptian mission in the Draa Abul-Nagaa Necropolis on Luxor’s west bank, which provide a better understanding of the history of the Necropolis and the lives of the tomb-owners.

The tomb of Userhat housed a collection of ten well-preserved painted wooden coffins and eight mummies in various states of preservation, for example. A collection of more than 1,000 ushabti figurines and wooden masks were also uncovered alongside with skeletons, wooden anthropoid masks, figurines in faience, terracotta and wood and various clay pots.

Archaeologist Sherine Shawki, a specialist in osteology, told the Weekly that early studies carried out on the mummies and skulls had revealed that one of the individuals had been anaemic and probably suffered severe toothache while a second had undergone primitive surgery.

The tomb of the goldsmith 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.....READ MORE.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Short Story: Princess Tomb

The recent discovery of the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess from the Fifth Dynasty has opened a new chapter in the saga of the Abusir necropolis, says Nevine El-Aref.

An archaeological mission from the Czech Institute of Egyptology at the Charles University in Prague, who is carrying out routine excavations on the north side of the Abusir necropolis, 30km south of the Giza Plateau, has been taken by surprise with the discovery of an important rock-hewn tomb.

The tomb belonged to a Fifth-Dynasty princess named Sheretnebty, and alongside it were four tombs belonging to high–ranking officials. An era enclosed within a courtyard. The tombs had been robbed in antiquity and no mummies were found inside them.

According to the Czech mission’s archaeological report, a copy of which has been given to Al-Ahram Weekly, traces of the courtyard were first detected in 2010 while archaeologists were investigating a neighbouring mastaba (bench tomb). However, active exploration of the royal tomb was not undertaken until this year, when it was discovered that the ancient Egyptian builders used a natural depression in the bedrock to dig a four-metre-deep tomb almost hidden amidst the mastaba tombs constructed around it on higher ground. Four rock-hewn tombs were also unearthed within the courtyard surrounding the royal tomb.

The north and west walls of the princess’s tomb were cased with limestone blocks, while its south wall was cut in the bedrock. The east wall was also carved in limestone, along with the staircase and slabs descending from north to south. The courtyard of the tomb has four limestone pillars which originally supported architraves and roofing blocks. On the tomb’s south side are four pillars engraved with hieroglyphic inscriptions stating: “The king’s daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the great god, Sheretnebty.”

Miroslav Barta, head of the Czech mission, says early investigations have revealed that the owner of the tomb was previously unknown, but that it most probably belonged to the family of a Fifth-Dynasty king. The preliminary date of the structure, based on the stratigraphy of the site and analysis of the name, Barta says, falls in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty. It is surprising that the tomb should not be located in Abusir south, among the tombs of non-royal officials, considering that most members of the Fifth-Dynasty royal family are buried 2km north of Abusir pyramid.

While digging inside Sheretnebty’s tomb, the Czech archaeologists found a corridor that contains the entrances to four rock-hewn tombs of top officials of the Fifth Dynasty. Barta says two tombs have been completely explored so far. The first belonged to the chief of justice of the great house, Shepespuptah, and the second to Duaptah, the inspector of the palace attendants. Both tombs probably date from the reign of King Djedkare Isesi.

The remaining two are still under excavation, but early investigation reveal that one belonged to the overseer of the scribes of the crews, Nefer, whose false door is still in situ. This tomb has a hidden tunnel in which excavators have unearthed three statues of the owner, one showing the deceased as a scribe…READ MORE. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Short Story: New Gold of Tutankhamun

Gold appliqué sheets from Tutankhamun’s chariot were put on display at the Egyptian Museum this week, revealing the technology used to decorate ancient Egyptian vehicles, writes Nevine El-Aref .

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was buzzing with visitors this week who had flocked to the institution’s second floor to catch a glimpse of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s unseen treasures.  Glittering against black backgrounds inside glass showcases, a collection of gold appliqué sheets that once decorated the boy-king’s chariot had been put on display for the first time 95 years after its discovery.

When British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, he stumbled upon a collection of decorative gold sheets scattered on the floor of the treasury room near the chariot. Due to its poor conservation, Carter put the collection in a wooden box that has remained in the depths of the museum’s storage rooms ever since.

In 2014, a joint project by the Egyptian Museum, the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, the University of Tübingen and the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz carried out an archaeological and iconographic analysis of this important but largely ignored collection supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a research body, and the German foreign office. It is this collection that has now been placed on display.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the exhibition as “special and important” because it not only highlights a very significant subject but also celebrates the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo after its closure in 1939 due to World War II.

“The exhibition is a good opportunity for the public to admire for the first time one of the golden king’s unseen treasures,” El-Enany said, adding that several artifacts from Tutankhamun’s treasured collection were still hidden in the Egyptian Museum. “This will not last long,” El-Enany promised, saying that all the boy-king’s unseen and non-exhibited artefacts would be transported to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau after its soft opening at the end of 2018.

Director of the German Archaeological Institute Stephan Seidlmayer said that studies carried out on the appliqués had revealed that they once adorned the horse-trapping, bow-cases and sheaths of weapons associated with Tutankhamun’s chariot. They exhibited unusual stately and playful designs, combining ancient Egyptian patterns with Levantine motifs, he said.

“They attest to the large network of social and cultural interconnections which has characterised the eastern Mediterranean from antiquity to the present time,” Seidlmayer said. He added that scientific analyses using the latest technology had revealed the sophisticated composition of the artifacts which rank among the highest products of ancient craftsmanship.

They reflect the wide-ranging trade network which incorporated the nearer and farther regions of the Near East and the Mediterranean that extended into parts of Middle and Western Europe. Raw materials, food products, and luxury goods were traded along different routes by land and sea.READ MORE.        

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Short Story: Aliaa Ismail First Female Egyptian Egyptologist

Egyptian Egyptologist Aliaa Ismail 
From Madrid to Seti I, Aliaa Ismail’s journey takes an in- teresting path between heritage and technology. When the 26-year-old chose to major in Egyptology, she never imagined that she would one day be the onsite manager of one of Egypt’s most important archaeological projects. 

Ismail double majored in architectural engineering andEgyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC). “At AUC, I really got to enjoy Egyptology as it really was something unique and very specific to my heritage. It’s always good to be involved in your heritage,” she says.

Under the supervision of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiqui- ties, the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative utilizes digital technology to preserve cultural heritage. 
Ismail’s role as director of the training center for Luxor’s 3D scanning and documentation is to lead a team of scientists working on cre- ating exact facsimiles of tombs, including Seti I’s tomb, that are, or will soon be, closed to the public for conservation. 

She explains that “3D scanning is basically a method for understanding the surface that you are dealing with. When you look at something, what you see is not what you get.For example, a flat wall is not flat, it has details, it has scratches, very minor things that you cannot see but only feel,” explains Ismail.  “What we try to do is get this data that you can only feel into a form where you can actually see it. Understanding objects in this way allows you to conserve them and to docu- ment them better because it gives you a permanent record as they exist right now.”

Located in a small lateral valley in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, the tomb of Seti I was discovered in October 1817 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, and quickly made international headlines with exhibits held in London in 1821, and later in Paris. The tomb, which is the largest in the Valley of the Kings, remained closed to tourists for some four decades before be- ing officially reopened in 2016.

In collaboration with the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in Spain and the University of Ba- sel in Switzerland, the Mapping Project focuses on sustain- ability and knowledge transfer, and depends both on devel- oped technologies and human skills. It began in March 2016 with the recording of the vast Nineteenth Dynasty tomb of Seti I, and will include the development of a new training center for digital technology in conservation at Stoppelaëre´s House, also known as Hassan Fathy’s house. 

“The Factum Foundation would like to have an Egyptian team of up to 10 people onsite in Luxor. What we’ve started doing is training them two at a time, and the ones we have now are brilliant and very recep- tive to understanding new technology,” says Ismail, explaining the eventual results will help enable conservators, scholars and historians to see various layers of each artifact and understand the complex history that comes with it, just by its texture and color.

Although Ismail now gets along well with the team, she says it was a real challenge at first. “I’m leading a team of men and that’s hard in a place like Luxor where women are perceived to [have a lower status] than men,” says Ismail. “I had to establish myself in a manner enabling them to perceive me [positively], and not be threatened by me as a woman, as a boss.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

INTERVIEW: Architect Mohamed Dessouki on The Desperate Need to Save Alexandria’s Parks.

It was back in 1922, upon writing his ‘Alexandria: a history and a guide,’ that E.M. Forster wrote that “if one would judge Alexandria by her gardens, one would have nothing but praise.” Written By/ Dina Ezat

Almost a century later, Mohamed Dessouki, a founding member of Save Alex, a pressure group dedicated to preserving the city’s heritage, fears that the country’s most prominent Mediterranean port city is facing a challenge in preserving its floral wealth as well as its architectural heritage.

“Public gardens have always been at the heart of city planning and life in general in Alexandria. Today, this concept is being seriously challenged, as we see a declining interest in preserving gardens, and certainly an attempt to attach parts of municipal gardens to clubs that only serve those affiliated to the power elite,” Dessouki, who is also the founder of the Walls of Alex blog, said in an interview with Ahram Online.

Dessouki says that many think of preserving Alexandria only in terms of a beautiful but highly eroded architectural history, but only a few give adequate attention to the botanical heritage of the city.

“This botanical history is by no means less significant than the architectural heritage of Alexandria. In Save Alex, as well as in the Walls of Alex, we voice concern about both issues among other things that relate to the beauty of this harbour city,” Dessouki said. Most recently, Dessouki has been campaigning to fight the declining awareness of the city’s botanical wealth.

In a series of lectures and articles, this preservation activist has been sharing information and pictures of the long history of four main public parks and gardens in the city; the municipal gardens (better known as elshalalat, or the waterfalls), El-Nozha (which holds both the zoo and Alzohour flower garden), Antoniadis and El-Montazah. These parks were planted and flourished mostly during the heyday of Alexandria in the second half of the 19th century.

Dessouki notes, however, that the beginning was actually during the reign of Mohamed Ali at the start of the 19th century, when the ambitious and visionary ruler of Egypt decided to dig the Mahmoudiya Canal, which brought the Nile water to Alexandria near the southern entrance to the city, which had been suffering growing neglect.

“It was this canal that helped give the city its many acres of exotic botanical wealth, and it has also held a special place in the hearts of those who lived in and loved the city,” Dessouki said.... READ MORE.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Short Story: Remembering A Pharaoh

The life of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II is being relived in a major exhibition in Milan, reports Nevine El-Aref.
It seems that the shadow cast over Italian-Egyptian relations is about to disappear. The ambassadors of both countries have returned, and the ancient Egyptians will be spending the autumn in Milan in “The Extraordinary Discovery of Pharaoh Amenhotep II” exhibition inaugurated last week at the city’s Museum of Cultures (MUDEC).

It tells the story of the 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep II, son of Thutmose III, the sovereign of a lavish court and heroic central figure in a rich historical period that historians have baptised a Golden Age.

A wonderful display of artifacts and photographs has been carefully selected from the most important ancient Egyptian collections in the world for the Milan exhibition. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has loaned nine pieces, and other source institutions include the Stichting Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, and the Giovanni Barracco Museum of Ancient Sculpture in Rome. These museums and other private collections have loaned for the occasion statues, weapons, items from daily life at court, burial assemblages and mummies.

The exhibition also sees the collaboration of the University of Milan, which has loaned the original excavation documents for the Pharaoh’s tomb, as well as the collaboration of the Milan civic museums network, in particular the Castello Sforzesco Museum that has provided finds from its Egyptian collections while it is temporarily closed for renovation.

The exhibition poster featuring a beautifully carved marble bust of Amenhotep II can be seen everywhere on display in Milan, in the city’s streets, stations, shops and restaurants. The MUDEC where the exhibition is being held has been turned into an ancient Egyptian ceremonial arena for the occasion. To the music of harps, young men wearing golden nemes (ancient Egyptian head coverings) and silver kilts in the ancient Egyptian style with golden collars and belts greet exhibition visitors.

Further inside the exhibition, the atmosphere becomes more dramatic, providing an impressive setting for the granite, limestone, marble, wooden, golden and faience objects on display. All in all, visitors are taken into a truly epic experience to explore the life and history of Amenhotep II in a succession of poetic dramatisations as well as an audio-visual demonstration......  READ MORE.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Short Story: Restoring The Baron’s Palace

Restoration work at the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis finally started this week after years of delay, reports Nevine El-Aref.

The legendary Baron Empain Palace on Orouba Street in Heliopolis is no longer an abandoned edifice built in an Indian architectural style. Earlier this week, the palace and its garden were buzzing with restorers and workers wearing yellow helmets and bearing electronic equipment and manual tools, all signalling that after years of negligence the long-awaited restoration project has begun at the Baron Empain Palace.

“In 18 months, the exquisite Palace of Baron Empain will open its doors to visitors not only as a tourist destination but also as a theatre and a cultural and social centre,” Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project and responsible for the restoration of the palace, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said that the work had started in collaboration with the Armed Forces Engineering Authority which had assigned the Arab Contractors Company to execute it with a budget of LE113.738 million.

“This budget is part of a larger amount of LE1,270 billion provided by the government to the Ministry of Antiquities to restore and develop eight archaeological sites and monuments that are in dire need of work,” Abdel-Aziz said.

He said that these sites included the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra, the King Farouk Rest House at Giza, the Alexan Palace in Assiut, the Jewish synagogue in Alexandria, the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, the Giza Plateau Development Project and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Fustat in Cairo.

In order to achieve the work, Abdel-Aziz said that a comprehensive study of the palace’s condition and detailed architectural and archaeological surveys had been carried out before starting any restoration work.

The studies had also included the palace’s photographic documentation and exploratory drilling in some parts of the palace to inspect the condition of its foundations. An integrated documentation file of all architectural elements and façades has been prepared using 3D technology and comprehensive monitoring stations.

According to the Palace Rehabilitation Project agreed upon in principle by the ministry’s Permanent Committee for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, after restoration the palace will be used as a cultural centre, with its front garden hosting a cafeteria and exhibition area and its backyard being converted into an open-air theatre.

The basement will be a social centre, while the ground floor will be used for different purposes. The first floor will be used as a “royal wing” where visitors can spend the night. A new cultural centre devoted to reading in particular will also be provided in the palace.

The story of the palace started in 1904 when Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain arrived in Egypt to construct a railway line linking the lower Egyptian city of Mansoura to Matareya on the far side of Lake Manzala.

He became entranced by the country and its distinguished civilisations. Although his company, the Chemins de Fer de la Basse-Egypte, failed to complete the intended project, Empain remained in Egypt and married an Egyptian, Yvette Boghdadi.


Two years later he established the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company, which laid out plans for the new town of Heliopolis 10km northwest of Cairo.

When it was finished, Heliopolis was a luxurious and leisured suburb with elegant villas with wide terraces, apartment buildings, and tenement blocks with balconies, hotels and facilities, as well as recreational amenities including a golf course, racetrack and a large park.

While workmen were busy constructing the new suburb of Heliopolis, Empain asked French architect Alexandre Marcel to build him a magnificent palace in the Avenue of Palaces (now Orouba Street) that would stand out from the others being built in the same period....  READ MORE. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Short Story: Documentation Work Begins

State-of-the-art technology is being used to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Delta. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

In a step towards scientifically documenting all archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt, the Antiquities Documentation Centre (ADC) of the Ministry of Antiquities has started to document the Esna Temple south of Luxor and the Tanis archaeological site in the Sharqiya governorate in the Delta.

Director of the ADC Hisham Al-Leithi told Al-Ahram Weekly that the documentation of the Esna Temple had started in 1993 but had stopped due to the high level of subterranean water that had leaked inside the temple and the beginnings of the restoration work

The whole project to document all the archaeological sites in Egypt was also stopped in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution due to budgetary problems. Al-Leithi said that the ministry had resumed the documentation project earlier this year and had started with the Esna Temple and the Tanis site.

The documentation project, he explained, aims to register every inch of every monument in Egypt according to the most up-to-date scientific and archaeological techniques.

“The actual documentation methods will consist of computer-data sets, plans and sections, as well as photographs, drawings and illustrations, recording forms, logbooks, site notebooks, diaries and dive logs,” Al-Leithi said. He added that GIS systems, 3D reconstructions, applications that support on-site recording processes, modern measuring techniques and data-processing software used in geophysical research would also be used.

The Esna Temple is located in the town of Esna roughly 50km south of Luxor. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, although Esna was first mentioned in the Pharaoh Thutmose III’s annals when it was part of the Upper Egyptian region extending from Al-Kab in the north to Armant south of Luxor.

During the ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom, Esna was an important centre for trade, as it was the focal point of trading convoys from Sudan going to Thebes. During the Graeco-Roman period, Esna was called Latopolis in honour of the Nile perch that was worshipped there. In 1971, a necropolis dedicated to the Nile perch was uncovered west of the town.

The Esna Temple is one of the most important archaeological sites in Esna, Al-Leithi said, adding that the temple goes back to the reign of the 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III and was built on top of the remains of a Saite temple. The present temple, he continued, was built during the Ptolemaic era, although most of its engravings and decorations go back to the Roman period.

The temple is dedicated to the god of the Nile, as well as other deities such as the ancient goddess of war and weaving Neith, god of magic Heka, goddess of the Nile Satet, and the lion goddess Menhet.

The temple was built almost nine metres below ground level and was completely uncovered in 1843 during the reign of the khedive Mohamed Ali. Earlier the area had hosted French soldiers during the French expedition to Egypt in 1799. “The names of some of the soldiers are engraved on the upper surface of the Temple,” Al-Leithi said.

Some masonry blocks attesting to the construction during the reign of Thutmose III were reused at the site, and the oldest complete part of the temple is the back wall of the hypostyle hall, built during the Ptolemaic period and showing scenes depicting Ptolemy VI Philometer and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes.

The rest of the temple was built by a series of Roman emperors, including Claudius, and Decius. The hypostyle hall is decorated with 24 pillars beautifully carved and painted with different floral designs. 

Texts describing the religious festival that once took place at the temple and depicting Roman emperors standing before ancient Egyptian deities are also inscribed on the pillars.

On the northern wall of the hall, the pharaoh is depicted catching wild birds or conquering evil spirits. The decorations also include a number of calendars, while the ceiling is decorated with Egyptian astronomical figures on the northern side and Roman zodiacal signs on the southern side.... READ MORE.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Short Story: Who’s Your Mummy? Genetic Secrets of Ancient Egypt Unwrapped

DNA from mummies found at a site once known for its cult to the Egyptian god of the afterlife is unwrapping intriguing insight into the people of ancient Egypt, including a surprise discovery that they had scant genetic ties to sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists on Tuesday said they examined genome data from 90 mummies from the Abusir el-Malek archaeological site, located about 115 km south of Cairo, in the most sophisticated genetic study of ancient Egyptians ever conducted.

The DNA was extracted from the teeth and bones of mummies from a vast burial ground associated with the green-skinned god Osiris. The oldest were from about 1388 BC during the New Kingdom, a high point in ancient Egyptian influence and culture. The most recent were from about 426 AD, centuries after Egypt had become a Roman Empire province.

“There has been much discussion about the genetic ancestry of ancient Egyptians,” said archeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Are modern Egyptians direct descendants of ancient Egyptians? Was there genetic continuity in Egypt through time? Did foreign invaders change the genetic makeup: for example, did Egyptians become more ‘European’ after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt?” Krause added. “Ancient DNA can address those questions.”

The genomes showed that, unlike modern Egyptians, ancient Egyptians had little to no genetic kinship with sub-Saharan populations, some of which like ancient Ethiopia were known to have had significant interactions with Egypt.

The closest genetic ties were to the peoples of the ancient Near East, spanning parts of Iraq and Turkey as well as Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Egypt, located in North Africa at a crossroads of continents in the ancient Mediterranean world, for millennia boasted one of the most advanced civilizations in antiquity, known for military might, wondrous architecture including massive pyramids and imposing temples, art, hieroglyphs and a pantheon of deities.

Mummification was used to preserve the bodies of the dead for the afterlife. The mummies in the study were of middle-class people, not royalty.The researchers found genetic continuity spanning the New Kingdom and Roman times, with the amount of sub-Saharan ancestry increasing substantially about 700 years ago, for unclear reasons.

“There was no detectable change for those 1,800 years of Egyptian history,” Krause said. “The big change happened between then and now.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Short Story: Zamalek Arts Centre Reopens

The Aisha Fahmi Palace Arts Centre in Zamalek reopened to the public earlier this week after seven years of restoration

Overlooking the Nile Corniche in the elegant Cairo district of Zamalek stands the Aisha Fahmi Palace, its distinguished Italian architecture relating the history of the fine arts in Egypt and the role played in promoting them by international and Egyptian artists and architects.

After it was constructed by Italian architect Antonio Lasciac in 1907, the 2,700 metre square palace was the residence of Ali Fahmi, the head of the army during the reign of king Fouad I. After his death, his sister, Aisha Fahmi, made the palace her home, spending the rest of her life there until her death in 1962.

The Ministry of Culture then bought the palace, transforming it into ministry offices. In 1971, it became a storehouse for the Ministry of Information, and late president Anwar Al-Sadat suggested converting the palace into a residence for his deputy. However, in 1975 the palace was given to the Fine Art and Literature Authority and converted into the first fine arts complex in Egypt.

This complex, or mogamaa al-fonoun, went on to host several international exhibitions displaying the works of renowned modern artists such as Picasso and Dali. In the early 1990s, the palace was put on Egypt’s heritage list because of its distinguished architectural style and its exquisite artistic elements.

The palace is a three-storey building including 30 rooms and two halls, a basement level and a roof terrace. The basement was originally used as a residential area for servants, the first floor was the reception area, while the second floor was originally Fahmi’s living area. The palace’s ceilings are decorated with frescoes embellished with golden arcades. Some of the walls are decorated with French tapestries, while others are covered with silk.

Probably the most striking rooms in the palace are the Japanese, billiards and green rooms. The Japanese room is the smallest room on the first floor, and its walls are covered with red silk decorated with golden Japanese lettering and scenes of landscapes in Japan. One of the room’s walls is decorated with drawings relating a folkloric Japanese tale. The ceiling is covered with wood painted with images of Japanese bonsai trees.

The room is furnished with Japanese furniture in red, gold and black. The most distinguished pieces in the room are two large golden statues of the Buddha on red bases.

The billiards room is a medium-sized room equipped with all the required equipment for playing billiards, such as the table, the cues and the competitor board, the latter being rather like the board used in horse racing where the names of the horses are written and on which the winning horse is put on top.

The green room is a very distinctive room. On each of its walls, there is a picture of a woman in a gold frame, all the pictures being in different styles and by different artists. The restorer of the palace, Mohamed Abdel-Baki, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the portraits of the women are thought to be pictures of Aisha Fahmi and her friends.... READ MORE.

New discovery, Sakkara: Hawass Announces New Archaeological Discovery in Saqarra

The Egyptian Mission working in the Saqqara antiquities area next to the pyramid of King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of the ...