Egyptian Cultural Heritage News Briefs


  News Briefs for Spring 2000
  Camels, Horses, and Hawkers at Giza
  Hierakonpolis Under Threat
  A Boost for GEM
  The Sun Temple of Re-Horakhty at Iunu Discovered under Cairo Market
  Egypt’s Cultural Heritage under Threat of Destruction
  A New Heritage Law to be Implemented
  News on the Grand Egyptian and Other Museums
  Renovation Work on Pharaonic Monuments around Egypt
  Renovating Islamic and Coptic Heritage
  On the Trail of Illicit Antiquities
  More on the Ramesses II Statue Move
  Renovation of Silver Artefacts
  ICOM: Egypto-Sudanese Cooperation
  Faiyumi Sites to be placed on Tourist Map
  A Return to Recuperative Tourism
  World Heritage Alliance Launched
  ECHO Wishes UNESCO a Happy Diamond Anniversary
  United Nations- Egyptian Heritage Commemorative Stamps
  Theban Mapping Project completes KV Masterplan
  Cultural Heritage News Briefs for Autumn/Winter 2005
  Red Sea Archaeological sites
  Climate Change and its Impact on the Nile Delta
  One Man’s Crusade to Protect Egypt’s Cultural Heritage
  Heritage Protocols between Egypt and Qatar see Return of Akhenaten Items
  New ICCROM Publication in Arabic
  Cultural Heritage News Briefs for Winter/Spring 2005
News Briefs for Spring 2006

  • The planned eviction of the Qurna villagers and demolition of the village on the 16th April was postponed. This postponement was not totally unexpected as there have been numerous attempts at moving the Qurna villagers from the archaeological area in the West Bank at Thebes in the past, all of which did not take place, even though new and better accommodation was provided for them elsewhere in Luxor. This will surly not be the last attempt at moving this village, and one day the government will probably be successful.
  • The new visitor centre for the Valley of the Kings was opened on the 15th May 2006. This centre has signage in English, Arabic and Japanese and will offer video footage provided by the SCA and National Geographic Channel. This centre will also house the new ticket office and offer books and plans on the archaeological monuments of the region.
  • At Saqqara, the new Imhotep Museum and Visitor Centre were opened to the public after their initial inauguration by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak and Mrs. Bernadette Chirac. The museum and visitor centre are welcome improvements to the Saqqara Plateau and helps the visitors understand better the monuments they are visiting. The Saqqara Plateau is one of the largest necropolises in Egypt, housing 18 pyramids, many Early Dynastic, Old and New Kingdom tombs, along with the Serapeum: a gallery of tombs for the Apis Bull. Many of the objects in the new museum were donated from the French Institutes (IFAO) excavations at Saqqara, which have also this year (2006) discovered the eighteenth pyramid at (South) Saqqara. The Imhotep Museum houses some architectural parts of Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex, the mummy of King Merenre Nemtyemsef I of Dynasty VI, the most complete of the Old Kingdom royal mummies, along with many other select pieces, including Pepy I’s sandals and parts of his kilt. There is also the Lauer Library where visitors can do some studying.
    The Entrance to the Imhotep Museum
  • The Saqqara Plateau is in the process of having a wall built round it, similar to that, which encloses the Giza monuments. Many of the buildings, including Emery’s House will be moved from the Saqqara Plateau and a research centre for archaeological missions is being constructed on the floodplain below. However, it appears that the constructors did not conduct a survey of the area before the building below the plateau commenced, as mud-brick structures, possibly of the Early Dynastic Period, can be seen in their trenches.
  • This April restoration of the Great Sphinx at Giza commenced. Archaeologists, conservators, geologists and other scientists are carrying out the work under the auspice of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), hoping to rectify previous mistakes in the restoration of the monument. Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the SCA, said “the Sphinx had suffered the greatest damage when workers used cement to restore the statue in the 80s.The Sphinx is like a human being. When you put cement on its body, it stops the breathing of the limestone." The work is to focus on the neck and chest of the Sphinx, which have suffered most from erosion and desert winds. The last restoration work was undertaken in 1996 and was the result of a large international effort.
    Scaffolding yet again surrounds the Great Sphinx at Giza
    View of the Great Sphinx at Giza from the Sphinx Temple.
  • Polish archaeologists and conservationists working in Sudan will found a museum devoted to early Christianity in Nubia in the town Banganarti, where they will display their finds in the area. The museum, scheduled to open in 2008, will feature fragments of three early-Christian churches excavated by Polish teams, the earliest dating from the time of Nubia's reversal to Christianity in the 6th-7th century AD, as well as portraits of Nubian kings. Among the objects to be displayed are parts of the Church of the Archangel Raphael, one of the medieval world's main pilgrimage sites, whose basement contains tombs of Nubian rulers.
  • On the 18th April Egypt celebrated World Heritage Day in the garden of the Egyptian Museum for the third consecutive year. The Cairo Opera Symphony Orchestra played classical melodies in front of French archaeologist Auguste Mariette's mausoleum. Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, Supreme Council of Antiquities Secretary-General Zahi Hawass, and renowned actor Omar Sharif were seated along with Egyptian actresses Nadia Lutfi and Layla Elwi. Archaeologists, restorers and curators, prominent cultural figures, foreign and Egyptian journalists and television presenters also attended.

    The idea of holding an "International Day for Monuments and Sites" to be celebrated simultaneously throughout the world was approved by the UNESCO General Conference at its 22nd session in November 1983 recommending that member states examine the possibility of declaring 18 April each year "International Monuments and Sites Day". This is now traditionally called World Heritage Day, and is celebrated worldwide.

    This year in Egypt Farouk Hosni honoured former culture minister Tharwat Okasha and renowned writer Neamat Fouad for their devotion to archaeology and all their efforts to enhance, protect and preserve Egypt's heritage. Dr Hawass said the era of President Hosni Mubarak had witnessed several crucial decisions related to archaeology. The first was the halting of the Cairo Ring Road, which was scheduled to pass over the Giza Plateau.

    On the fringe of the events, the culture minister opened a photographic exhibition in the museum's millennium hall. The photographs featured the Saqqara necropolis during the 19th and 20th centuries as well as the famous archaeologists who worked there such as Mariette, Selim Hassan, Sayed Tawfiq and Jean Philip Lauer.

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    Camels, Horses, and Hawkers at Giza

    One of the factors that most detracts from the tourist experience of a visit to the Giza Plateau is the constant haranguing by hawkers and by camels and horses traders. Two years ago as part of the Giza Plateau Site Management Masterplan the horses and camels were moved further out to the desert west of the archaeological area. This was an ideal solution for visitors, camel and horse traders and the site alike, for those tourists that wanted to ride a camel or horse could do so if they so wished and the animals and their owners did not damage the archaeological remains.

    However, this situation did not last long and these annoying irritants to the visitors crept back again onto the Giza Plateau, mingling amongst the archaeological remains and pouncing on poor unsuspecting tourists. Some months ago, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the head of the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) attempted to remove the horses and camels again from the archaeological area into the desert. This however led to a stand off between the stable owners and the police, with the result being that the camels and horses were used to block the path to the pyramid area so that no visitors could pass. Now the owners of the stables and other hawkers have managed to force their way back in amongst the monuments.

    Horses again encroaching on the monuments at Giza

    This situation cannot be allowed to continue, for not only do these animals damage one of the most famous World Heritage Sites, but also their activities interfere with visitor flow throughout the archaeological area. With the planned visitor centre and other improvements to the site, such as pathways through the plateau aimed at regulating visitor flow and limiting the amount of damage to the site caused by visitors, this outmoded tourist ‘attraction’ must be removed permanently from the site. Tougher measures are required if the visitor experience is to be improved and the police must act decisively in conjunction with the (SCA) to enforce the rules at the site.

    The SCA have recently completed a wall around the archaeological area to protect it from encroachment by the nearby village where most of the camel and horse traders and other hawkers live. Although this wall is extremely ugly, it was a deemed a necessary step, for example at the site of Lisht the local villagers have built their cemetery right up to the pyramids, although there is plenty of space for the cemetery without encroaching on the archaeological area. Existing laws protecting archaeological sites, such as those allowing a site a buffer zone from development, should be enforced. These tough measures are not only for the benefit of the archaeology and the visitors but also for the hawkers of souvenirs, camels and horses; for they may actually destroy the goose that lays the golden egg through their actions. By limiting their encroachment and moving the rides into the desert, Giza will again be truly one of the wonders of the world instead of a disappointing and annoying experience to tick off and never repeat.

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    Hierakonpolis Under Threat

    The site of Hierakonpolis (ancient Nekhen), located near Edfu in Upper Egypt, is one of the most important political centres in early Egyptian history and as the city of Horus the Protector of the Egyptian King one of the foremost religious centres. Many extraordinary structures have been uncovered, including a ceremonial complex (3300-3000 BC), a palace or administrative compound (3000 BC), high status tomb complexes, houses, breweries and bakeries. Although the site is not indentured on the UNESCO World Heritage List (the Heb-Sed temple of King Khasekhemwy c. 2700 BC, is inscribed on the World Monuments Fund List), the site is without any doubt as important to Egypt’s history as Giza, Thebes (Luxor) and Amarna. The famous Narmer Palette and Macehead were found at the site nearly a hundred years ago by Quibell and Green. For over 30 years now, an international team has been investigating the site, first under the general directorship of Walter Fairservis with the prehistoric and early historic research under the directorship of Michael Hoffman, from 1996 until 2002 under the co-directorship of the late Barbara Adams and Renee Friedman, and since 2002 under the directorship of Renee Friedman. These modern excavations have increasingly become a race against time and for all intents and purposes large-scale rescue archaeology. For, although the archaeological area is clearly demarcated with a fence, local development and agriculture is continuously encroaching on archaeological land.

    A few years ago, Renee Friedman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that the Egyptian government has plans to resettle 100,000 people in the region of Hierakonpolis. If these plans are actually put into effect, they will result in added pressure on this already endangered site and it will destroy irreplaceable cultural heritage. It is imperative that this site, one of the best preserved early sites in Egypt, is saved for future generations to learn from. One of the ways to combat this is to erect a large solid wall around the whole site, similar to that erected at Giza by Dr Zahi Hawass. Although not very pleasant to look at, a fence like that at Giza is more of a deterrent to not only stop illegal farming practices but also looters. Renee Friedman and her team excavate a large amount of valuable information each season, which is helping to elucidate this formative period of Egyptian civilization, however, as this project is not government funded, but relies on grants and donations, it is a matter of how these limited resources can best be utilised to rescue the site. For those wishing to help save this site visit the Friends of Nekhen website ( where you can become a member or make a donation.

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    A Boost for GEM

    The new Grand Egyptian Museum got a welcome boost on the 1st May, for they received notice of the hoped for $300,000,000 loan from the Japanese Government. This will enable them to continue to the next stage of the project’s development. In the courtyard of the Prince Taz Palace in Mediaeval Cairo, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni and Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul- Naga met the Japanese Ambassador to Egypt to exchange notes on a long-term loan offered by the Japanese government to help in the construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The loan of $300 million provides 70% of the total budget projected at $550 million. The loan will be due after a 10-year grace period, to be settled in instalments through another 30 years with an interest rate of 1.5 per cent

    President Hosni Mubarak laid the foundation stone for GEM on the 4th February 2002. It is set to be the world's largest museum - larger than the Metropolitan Museum in New York or the Louvre in Paris. A board of trustees headed by First Lady Mrs Suzanne Mubarak will be set up in an attempt to put into effect the previously launched fund-raising campaign in Egypt and abroad. A Web site calling for Egyptians and foreigners to shoulder part of the burden of bringing the GEM into light will also be launched.

    The project of the millennium, as it has been described, will provide 5,000 new job opportunities for Egyptians with differing levels of education, as well as providing them with technical support through periodical training courses in different museological fields. The museum will be equipped to cope with an estimated three million visitors annually. It will also house a fully-computerised information centre for Egyptologists and a training centre where short courses on Egyptology will be given to museum curators and conservators. Specialised courses for IT specialists will also be held. A special section for children will be created in order to help youngsters learn about their heritage. The mission of the museum is to preserve, document, conserve, research and exhibit collections, as well as to educate and entertain visitors. A separate building will house the conservatory, library, mediatheque and other resources. The GEM will not, however, replace the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Tahrir Square altgether, as the latter will continue to house 10,000 masterpieces of Pharaonic art and sculpture from different historical periods.

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    The Sun Temple of Re-Horakhty at Iunu Discovered under Cairo Market

    In 2005, local landowners proposed to develop the area of the Suq el-Khamis (Thursday Market), which lies in the Ain Shams and Matariyya districts near Heliopolis, a suburb in the northwest of Cairo. Some of this area they proposed to turn into a shopping mall. As this area is known to lie over the ancient city of Iunu (Heliopolis) the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) invited the German Institute (DAIK) to undertake joint excavations with them to investigate the ancient site, possibly for the last time before building work begins.

    During the first season, 25th August to 6th October 2005, the northwest remains of a large limestone temple, along with statues and other artefacts were recovered. Many Amarna period blocks were found in a secondary context, reused in the extant remains of Ramesses II’s temple. It therefore appears that the Sun Temple at Heliopolis continued to function as a place of sun worship during the Amarna Period. The major part of the excavations focused on the great open courtyard of Ramesses II’s Temple. In this court were found many statues of kings and gods, two to three times life size. Many of these statues date to the beginning of Dynasty XII of the Middle Kingdom to the reign of Senusret I. A further two statues of Senusret I, 4-4.5 m tall were found in this court. These set of statues were complimented by the Dynasty XIX statues of Ramesses II, one being a seated quartzite statue of the king. There were also a few artefacts from the late Ptolemaic Period found.

    The ancient city of Heliopolis – Iunu, was the centre of Pharaonic sun worship, and is today located beneath the Ain Shams and Matariyya districts of Heliopolis. Little remains of what was once one of the ancient Egyptians' most sacred cities, since much of the stones used in the temples were later plundered. The area is now covered with residential neighbourhoods, close to the modern district of Heliopolis. However, in the past, other areas of the ancient city of Iunu have been discovered, particularly during the early part of the twentieth century by British and Italian excavators. Many of the remains from these excavations have ended up in private collections in Europe and America. The most famous remains at Heliopolis is the red granite obelisk of Senusret I, which still stands about 20.4 meters high, virtually in situ near Tell Hisn. This is the oldest of all the standing obelisks in Egypt. At the foot of Senusret’s monument is a small open-air museum containing parts of the some of the monuments that have been discovered at the site, such as the small quartzite obelisk that would appear to be of even greater antiquity, given that it bears the name of Teti, the first pharaoh of Dynasty VI. Also on display is the base of a large Dynasty XVIII obelisk in situ, along with a few granite blocks that presumably belonged to it, probably dating to the reign of Thutmose II, although this was usurped by Ramesses II, as testified to by his inscriptions. Other objects in the small museum are inscribed with names such as Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, and Amenhotep III. The oldest monument in the museum is the ruins of a Dynasty III shrine of King Djoser, of which only fragments now survive. Two of these fragments bear the name of Netjerikhet, and another shows the king seated with the ladies of his family gathered at his feet. Other fragments of this shrine indicate that the scenes may be connected with the celebration of a Heb-Sed festival and with the Heliopolotian Ennead. Each of the nine traditional gods was probably shown, as in the fragment that depicts the god Geb shown in human form, and the god Shu, who was attested to have been included in the shrine. The open-air museum has recently been paved with blocks of stone, and a route laid out for tourists, starting at a colossus head of Ramesses II and ending at the obelisk. It will also take in the nearby "Tree of the Virgin", where legend has it that the Virgin Mary rested during the holy family’s sojourn in Egypt.

    To the north of the open–air museum is a spot called Arab al-Tawil, the location of the burial places of the Mnevis bulls. However, the two tombs of the Mnevis bulls that have been excavated, one dating to the reign of Ramesses I and the other to that of Ramesses II, do not form part of an impressive complex such as the Serapeum, where the Apis bulls were buried.

    A leaking sewage system, exasperated by the rising population, and the general rise in the water table caused by the Aswan High Dam, made the groundwater rise in the Matariyya and Ain Shams districts. Several Old Kingdom tombs of high priests dated to Dynasty VI have been found in this area southeast of Senusret’s obelisk, near the southeast corner of the enclosure. Saite tombs have also been discovered in this area. In 1988, while the foundations were being dug for a new apartment block, an empty, but very well preserved tomb was discovered more than six meters below ground level, that of Panehesy - ‘divine father of Heliopolis’ and treasurer of Psusennes II. When it was discovered it was covered in sewage and causing the limestone and hieroglyphs to disintegrate. In 2002, to protect Panehesy’s tomb from the rising ground water and salinisation, the monument was dismantled and relocated to a dry area well above ground level at the open-air museum.

    Systematic excavations inside the western sector, mainly by the SCA, have revealed the ruins of what appear to be workshops, dwellings, a Ramesside pylon, a monumental gateway built by Ramesses III, and a large temple complex with monuments dating back to the New Kingdom. Among the most fascinating architectural elements still visible, according to Dr. Hawass, are the temples of Ramesses II and Ramesses IV, and a chapel built by the latter's son Nebmaatre. Equally visible, near the temple remains, are rectangular mud-brick foundations, circular granaries and a granite column of Meneptah depicting the king making offerings to various gods as well as figures of bound and humiliated enemies commemorating a victory over Libyans.

    During the Graeco-Roman Period Heliopolis became a kind of warehouse for ancient remains – reusing the various architectural elements of the monuments or using them as a quarry for ready made blocks they needed for their many building projects such as the famous Pharos lighthouse. Augustus removed the famous Cleopatra’s Needles, which were first erected at Heliopolis by Thutmose III, but were later transported by the emperor to stand outside the entrance to the Ceasareum, before being moved again in the late nineteenth century, one to the banks of the Thames in London in 1877, and the other to Central Park in New York in 1879. Many of the sphinxes in Graeco-Roman cemeteries come from Iunu. Further destructing occurred in the Coptic Period when stones from the temples were used in the building of basilicas and in the Fatimid era when more of the stones were used to build mosques and the city walls of Cairo.

    The city of Iunu (Coptic On) has a long history dating back to the Maadian culture c. 4,000 BC, the indigenous culture of Lower Egypt. However, the first temple was built at the site during the Early Dynastic period with sun temples being built all through the Old Kingdom. The city remained important throughout most of Egypt’s Pharaonic history and the temple went through numerous rebuilds, with other temples also being erected in the city. The Dynasty V Sun Temple of Niuserre at Abu Ghurob, near Abusir is believed to have been modelled on the great Sun Temple Complex of Iunu. The city was a centre of astronomy as reflected in the title of its high priest’s, wr-m3w, "Chief of Observers" or "Greatest of Seers”. This title was held by the architect Imhotep during the reign of King Djoser Netjerikhet of Dynasty III and possibly dates to the earlier reign of his father - Khasekhemwy in Dynasty II.

    In February 2006, the DAIK/SCA team resumed their excavations in the area of the Suq el-Khamis and discovered more of the temple and statues of Ramesses II. This season work is concentrating on excavating the entrance and western side of the temple. Magazines for the storage of wheat, a kiln for making amulets and columns with cartouches of Ramesses II have been discovered. It is now believed to be the remains of the famous Sun Temple of Iunu dedicated to the God Re-Horakhty. The partially uncovered site is the largest sun temple ever found, and the whole complex was originally larger than Karnak and the city possessed more monuments than Thebes. The walls of the city ended up as a huge trapezium about 1,200 meters west to east, and 1,000 meters north to south. Theses walls remained sufficiently well preserved at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Expedition to make a reasonably accurate record. A century later, in 1898, in some places the walls were still ten to twelve meters high, practically nothing is left today. The walls were some 15.6 meters thick. In comparison with the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak, the outer wall measures 480 meters by 550 meters and is nearly twelve meters thick. Thus, if the temple of Re had escaped the ravages of time and humans, it would have certainly been the grandest temple in Egypt today, dwarfing that of Karnak.

    Along with architectural elements of the Sun Temple, such as the green pavement stones, many artefacts have been found this season, including a pink granite statue weighing four to five tonnes whose features resemble those of Ramesses II. Although the statue is in need of restoration, it is one of the largest and most important so far found at the site. Also found was a five-metre-high seated statue wearing a leopard skin robe of a priest with cartouches bearing the name of Ramesses II. This statue is in the style of Dynasty XII, and is possible a Senusret I statue that Ramesses usurped. A 3-tonne head of royal statue, possibly Senusret I, has also been recovered.

    Dr. Zahi Hawass said that the market under which the majority of the temple lies has to be removed so that the archaeologists can excavate the entire site. Under Egyptian law 117 this area of Heliopolis was placed under SCA supervision, and where substantial archaeological remains are found the SCA has the power to declare the area an archaeological protectorate. In the area of the DAIK/SCA excavations a shopping centre was due to be erected last year. However, Dr Hawass has declared that this area of high archaeological importance and the SCA are planning on preserving it and classifying it as an archaeological site and opening it to the public, may be in two years time. Dr Hawass stressed that the developers and landowners would be compensated for their loss of land. Declaring this site an archaeological protectorate is a significant advance in the protection of one of Egypt’s most historically important areas to be discovered in many years.

    Urban excavation and management of cultural heritage is not unique to Cairo. In London the archaeological unit of the Museum of London – MoLas - have been piecing together a mosaic picture of ancient and historical London for many years. Before every new building is erected in London the MoLas archaeologists evaluate and record the archaeological deposits at the site. Indeed, the MoLas system of urban single context recording and excavation has become so wide spread that it is now the industry standard for urban excavation. The type of excavation in large urban centres differs greatly from research excavation in rural areas, for it is only when developers knock down existing buildings or start to develop areas that archaeologists have a chance of conducting watching briefs and observing what lies beneath the surface of the modern city. If any archaeological remains are observed in London or elsewhere in the UK, the developers are legally bound to pay for the archaeological investigation of these remains. Although Egyptian Law 117 does not at present provide the legal framework to enforce that watching briefs are conducted at building sites throughout Egypt, it is hoped that the new law may encourage more cooperation between developers and the SCA and as the law already exists it provides compensation to developers for loss of land. The majority of sites discovered in urban environments in the UK are recorded and have their artefacts removed before the developers continue their work, only very rarely are sites deemed so historically important that they are preserved in situ like the Sun Temple at Heliopolis. However, in Alexandria many watching briefs have been conducted allowing a mosaic of the ancient city to be constructed. This new initiative in Cairo may lead to a fuller understanding of not only the ancient city of Iunu, but also of Memphis and Babylon which all lie beneath the modern city of Cairo (Also see Egypt’s Cultural Heritage under Threat of Destruction below and the DAIK site: also see

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    Egypt’s Cultural Heritage under Threat of Destruction

    This October (2005) concern is again being raised about the damage being done by the encroachment of agricultural land on Egyptian monuments. Egyptian reliefs and even whole monuments dating back thousands of years could disappear within a decade if action is not taken soon. To try and combat the rise in the water table that traditional methods of framing creates the government is trying to persuade farmers to use drip irrigation, a method that uses relatively little water. However, it has had little success because farmers prefer the traditional method of flooding farmland with Nile water. Draining the area around archaeological sites is also an effective solution but is expensive, and donations from the international community are not always forthcoming. Although a Spanish Mission working at the Temple of Horus at Edfu, are trying to find solutions to this problem by using the latest technology to combat the rise in the water table that is threatening to undermine the temple. One solution may be to dig a trench around the temple and fill it with gravel to drain the area and then use hydrological sensors to monitor the level of water.

    As Egypt's population grows (if the annual 1.78% growth rate is maintained the population will double to 120 m by 2050), agricultural land moves closer and closer to ancient temples and funeral monuments. Water for irrigation is weakening temple foundations and eroding the carvings. The limestone temples absorb groundwater, which is wicked up by capillary action into the permeable foundations. Through the actions of heat this water evaporates, depositing salt crystals and oils that degrade the surface of the stone of the buildings. The crystallisation of these salts in the pores of the stone, combined with the changing day and night time temperatures cause it to expand and eventually the reliefs and paintings on the surface crack and flakes off. Stagnant water around the columns also fosters the growth of bacteria and fungi, compounding the problem. The extension of farming practices into the desert is affecting sites and monuments the length and breadth of Egypt. Nigel Hetherington from the Theban Mapping Project commented that “when the towering rock face statues of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt were under threat from flooding during the construction of the Aswan dam in the 1960s, an international rescue effort led by UNESCO relocated the statues block by block. The gradual erosion of monuments over a number of years, however, is not dramatic enough to capture international attention. The problem is that it's not a sexy enough topic. When Abu Simbel was going to be flooded, it made a real impact. People could see the size of the lake and that the temples were going to disappear, but this is such a slow process."

    In part, the ground water salinisation problem is explained by the fact that seasonal fluctuations in the level of the River Nile have been regulated since the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s. The Nile's flow now has a lower amplitude, which means that artificial irrigation is necessary. Before the dam, the annual flood supplied water and nutrient-rich silt to farmland in the Valley and Nile Delta. Today this land is watered by artificial irrigation channels to which chemical fertilizers are added, causing increased salinity in the ground water.

    In his role as Conservation Manager of the Theban Mapping Project Nigel Hetherington has studied past photographs of the Theban monuments. He notes that photographs taken 10 years ago show beautiful reliefs, today when we return to the same reliefs to further document them, they are simply not there. This is not an isolated case of water destruction and many other instances can be cited. At the site of Hierakonpolis (Kom el-Ahmar), one of Egypt’s most important Predynastic sites and earliest capitals in Egypt’s history dating back to 3,600 BC, Dr Renée Friedman and her team are fighting a constant battle with the local farmers. Each year when they return to the site for their winter season they find the farmers have encroached even further on the antiquities land. Therefore, rather than following their research design they continually have to conduct rescue archaeology of the most threatened parts of the site. The part of the site where one of Egypt’s most famous early monuments, the Narmer Palette, was found is now in serious danger of being totally destroyed due to the action of farmers. The wadis behind the site are being prepared for a land reclamation programme, which involves flooding vast areas of land. The effect of this will be to raise the water table and will seriously undermine the excellent state of preservation that the site now enjoys. At the Predynastic Nile Delta site of Kafr Hassan Dawood, when excavations were first initiated in the early 1990s the water table was well below the bottom of most of the graves being excavated. Today an industrial farmer, not the local villages, has placed fields around three sides of the antiquities land; the local village occupies the one remaining side. The fragile human remains and grave goods are soaking up the moisture from this increased water table, destroying valuable information about the rise of state in Egypt. This damage from the rising water table is not confined to Pharaonic remains but is also affecting more recent sites, such as the World Heritage Site of Abu Mina, the Coptic monastery located in the West Delta near Alexandria.

    Aerial view of the Ramesseum on the West Bank of Luxor showing the encroachment of agricultural land on the monuments

    Egyptian laws are at present too weak or sporadically imposed to deter farmers from grabbing land, and the erosion caused by these farmers could also damage Egypt's tourism industry, the country's main source of foreign exchange. Millions of tourists a year are drawn to archaeological sites such as the mortuary temple of Ramesses II, known as the Ramesseum, or the massive temple complex of Karnak. Both are under threat from farming and the damage can already been seen on many parts of these monuments as well as others, particularly the Luxor Temple (see the 2002 entry below entitled Egyptian Cultural Heritage News Briefs.

    Dr Zahi Hawass is hoping that his proposed new heritage law will protect what remains of one of the world's greatest civilizations. This new law imposes stricter buffer zones around archaeological sites and monuments; protecting the land around ancient sites from farmers trying to take it without permission. Hawass stated that “The present antiquities laws do not punish anyone who takes land; this is why I'm asking for a change in the law now; so that taking antiquities land is a crime. That is the only way to stop those people from taking more land for agriculture.” Hawass expects this new heritage law to be presented to parliament in January. ( and (

    However, help is also on its way in the form of a Swedish consulting company called SWECO, who in 2004 received an order to supervise a U.S.-led project aimed at rescuing the ancient World Heritage Listed temples of Luxor and Karnak from rising groundwater. The bases of the temples are eroding as a result of rising groundwater, which causes water with a high salt content to be absorbed by the foundations. As the water evaporates, the salt in it crystallises and disintegrates the porous sandstone used to build the temples.

    The SWECO team have previously found solutions that can save the temples and lower the groundwater. Now they will supervise activities of the US-led team including conservators from the SCA to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented correctly when work is started. SWECO's contributions are being funded by a grant from SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, to the figure of around €1.1 million. The remaining funding, approximately €4.4 million, has been provided by USAID.

    Consultants from SWECO have developed a technical solution for ground water mitigation in which the water level will be lowered with the help of pumps, some 20 wells and nearly six kilometres of underground drainage pipes laid at a depth of around 7 metres will surrounded the two temples. The wells have to be drilled by hand, down to 30-40 metres, since the vibrations would otherwise cause structural damage, explains Anna-Jeanette Larnelius Löw, SWECO's project manager. In all aspects of the project, SWECO's goal has been to find a solution that is sustainable for the long term. In order to ensure that the system will continue working in the future, those responsible for operating the equipment must be provided with the necessary knowledge and information. The project is scheduled to start in January 2006 and has a tight schedule, with the planned completion of the project in 18 months time.

    This is not the first time that SWECO has also participated in saving Egypt’s cultural heritage. For example, 40 years ago SWECO took part in relocation of the Abu Simbel Temple, which would have otherwise been submerged after construction of the Aswan High Dam. (

    Continuing on the theme of threats to Luxor’s cultural heritage, Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund, quotes the West Bank as an example of a project under investigation ( She said, “One of the sites that we've had on several watch lists is the ancient Egyptian monuments at Luxor. First, the Valley of Kings was listed and now the entire West Bank of the Nile, at the place of Ancient Thebes. It's a very complex situation involving too much tourism, too much development, a rise in the water table as a result of the building of the Aswan Dam, more agriculture encroaching on the monumental sites as a result. And there are archaeologists throughout the area who are working against the clock to try to excavate ancient monuments and sculpture that are in the ground that are deteriorating very, very rapidly as a result of all of this. And what the watch listing is calling for is a plan for the whole area that will protect the sites and use these economic generators to support the preservation rather than to undermine the very thing that people go there for".

    The Minister of Culture, Farouq Hosni agreed to carry out a joint project with the Higher Council of Luxor City with the aim of reviving the history and culture of the City, presenting it in the form of an integrated panorama and turning it into an open-museum with total costs of LE250 Billion, the brunt of which is being born by the Ministry of International Co-operation. He said the project, which started this autumn, will be carried out in stages. There will be a number of projects that have the intention of putting Luxor in a new position on the tourism map. There are more than 25 of these projects and they cover tourism, social development, cultural works and economic development. The planning process for these projects has been finished and the money has been allocated.

    This November a conference, attended by all the leaders in the public and security sectors, was held to discuss the masterplan for Luxor. Some of the main projects are: installing lighting on the West Bank and reopening the Ramesses Road (El Kebas Road) that connects Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple; relocation of the people of Qurna who currently live amongst the tombs of the Nobles on the West Bank of Luxor to a new city - Tarif - specially built for them; development of Luxor railway station; development of Karnak Temple Square; building new anchorages and landing places along the Nile; and the building of four new schools in various places in the city of Luxor. There is also a transport training program that will enable the youth of Luxor to find new job opportunities.

    The tomb of Nefertari is currently closed to tourists and hopefully will remain so identifiably. However, private groups can gain access by paying $5000 for a group of 20 for a maximum visit time of 20 minutes. The ethics of this is debatable, however if the money was to be re-directed to conservation work than it would be worth considering making this a larger-scale venture. Currently this money goes to the treasury like all SCA ticket revenue and the SCA receive a grant for their work each year. This is not an unusual state of affairs and happens in many other countries. In September 2005, 107,450 tourists from different nationalities visited the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, compared to only 3,797 Egyptians. The revenues from these foreign tourists hit LE 5.832 million compared to LE 7,594 from Egyptians. This raises two major points:

        1. How can the Egyptian tourist agencies attract more Egyptian nationals, and

        2. How can the damage done to the tombs in Luxor be limited, while still maintaining the same level of revenue?

    A crowd management programme has been introduced on the West Bank of Luxor to control the flow of tourists into the tombs by a rotation, with limited numbers allowed in each morning, afternoon, and evening. A site that lists which tombs and temples are open in the Luxor area, and what the entrance fee is:

    A thought provoking article has just appeared on the Tour Egypt website by Jane Akshar ( This article titled Destruction of Luxor’s Heritage highlights the damage caused by water and tourism to Luxor’s monuments. As Akshar states, this is not a new story and many people over the last twenty years have raised concern at the deterioration of the monuments. Many tourists and local people may see these ancient monuments, having survived for so many thousands of years, as indestructible. They are not, and many could disappear in our lifetime, with increased irrigation and the impact of the Aswan (high) Dam together with Lake Nasser increasing humidity in the region. The water table is rising annually and the porous limestone and sandstone soak it up. This not only dissolves the rock but also leaves salt deposits. This article goes on to say that it is not only in Luxor that monuments are under threat, but sites up and down the Nile Valley are being affected.

    Another disturbing article highlighting the disregard for Egypt’s monuments, entitled Ancient Capital Laid to Waste by Jill Kamil appeared in Al Ahram Weekly. This article details how the ancient city of Bubastis (Tell Basta) has systematically been destroyed. This site was one of the Delta’s major cities, and has remains dating back all the way back to the Predynastic Period, through the Old and New kingdoms and reached the height of its importance in the Third Intermediate and Late Period. The glory and magnificent beauty of the city was commented upon by Herodotus when he visited the site. Tel Basta subsequently suffered the fate of so many ancient Delta cities; during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries its great monuments were used as convenient quarries, stripped of limestone for the construction of modern buildings and, as attested by the number of chips that dotted the landscape, for millstones. It was plundered by robbers in the pay of antiquities dealers, by sebakhin in their search for fertiliser, and by local traders who openly sold antiquities at Zagazig railway station. British chemist Alfred Lucas, who worked for the Antiquities Service from the mid-1920s to the 1940s, wrote that dealers in antiquities were always present to meet passengers at the railway station and show them objects for sale from Tell Basta.

    The decision in 1904 by the colonial government to establish a railway link between Cairo, Mansoura and Belbeis meant a large section to the west of Tell Basta was to be cut-off. The site could have been avoided, but indifference to Egypt’s cultural heritage and a preference for the pyramids and temples in the south meant that the bureaucrats took the easy route. Two years after work began, workmen engaged by the Egyptian State Railways found two hoards of gold and silver about 160 metres west of the main temple. The workmen hid the treasure until nightfall when they were able to divide it among themselves. By the time news reached them, the Antiquities Service was able to recover only part of the horde, including a silver jug with a gold goat handle which is now in the Egyptian Museum (No. 53262). A month later a second hoard was discovered some metres from the first. This time the authorities were ready, and these coins are now in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo. As the railway work continued, with extensions continuing up until the 1920s, further gold and silver objects continued to be found, most dating from Dynasty XVI although some were from the earlier reign of Ramesses II.

    During the Second World War, when Egypt was on the frontline of the war against the Nazis and under British military control, even greater destruction was wrought on the site. In 1943, news reached Prof. Etienne Drioton, the then Director-General of the Antiquities Service, that workmen were actively engaged in levelling the land to build a military road across the tell. Drioton sent the then antiquities inspector Labib Habachi to check the report. Habachi described the site as "as disaster". He found that a military road to connect Port Said with Alexandria via Mit Ghamr was well underway and already traversed about three feddans of the site. He described the once beautiful temple as a mass of broken papyrus bud columns, pillars and lintels. Blocks of stone with inscribed texts, he wrote in his report, were impacted into the earth, and he confirmed that the tell was still being systematically depleted both for raw material to make bricks for houses in the ever-expanding urban area surrounding it, and by the sebakhin. Antiquities, he wrote, were totally disregarded, "unless they were gold and silver". It seems incredible to us today that such an important archaeological site should have been so neglected for so long. At present an SCA/DAIK archaeological mission are engaged in excavating and recording what is left of the site.

    A letter on the Reader's Page of the Cairo Magazine by Raoul Chomka, titled Comments on Qatameya, focused on the building of a new shopping centre on the site of the city of On at Heliopolis. Chomka detailed how after the German Archaeological Institute has finished excavating at Heliopolis (Matariyya), builders moved in. The ancient city of On was one of the most important religious sites in Egyptian history, the remains of the temple area being older and larger than that of Karnak. Now, once the archaeologists have left the building of a huge shopping mall has started right on top of the temple! This construction work will cut right through the temple’s main axis and its causeway. The Supreme Council of Antiquities doesn’t want to get involved so as not to cross the authorities in Heliopolis. The German Institute is frightened and don’t want to say anything, as they might lose their permit to excavate. How is this allowed to happen? Would they build a shopping mall over Karnak? Chomka states that On deserves at least one article before its centre is destroyed. The DAIK will in due course publish the results of their excavations, but this ancient city deserves to be saved for posterity. Do we really need more KFC and MacDonald’s? Cairo can do without another shopping centre, but the unique remains of On should stand as a monument to the ingenuity of the Egyptian people ( The 1983 Law 117 placed Heliopolis under SCA supervision, it now oversees (and has the right to reject) any construction proposals. Where monuments are found and can be harmlessly removed, Hawass explained earlier this year, the area is cleared of archaeological objects and handed over to its owner. But where irremovable monuments are found, the land is declared an archaeological protectorate and the SCA compensates the owner with either a fair price or another piece of land. This law has facilitated some wonderful discoveries, not least the finding of Panehsy's tomb, which was dismantled and is now on display in an open-air museum at the site along with a four metre-high quartzite colossus of Ramesses II and a royal granite sarcophagi. The question must then be asked, why has the great temple at On not been dismantled and moved or left in situ? ( and (

    Another report on this summer’s German excavations reports that statues and artefacts dating back to the time of Ramesses II were unearthed. In ancient times Matariyya was an important political and cultural centre; probably the location of one of the world's first universities, as well as a religious centre. An excavation team in Suq el-Khamis (Thursday Market) also found the remains of a large temple and unearthed several statues. (

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    A New Heritage Law to be Implemented

    To combat the trade in illicit antiquities, aide the recovery of stolen artefacts and increase protection of archaeological sites, the Egyptian government is to introduce a new law to update and replace Law 117. This new law has already been drafted and is awaiting the approval of the People’s Assembly in the coming months. Ashraf Ashmawy, legal consultant in the SCA, told Al-Ahram Weekly that changes in the 1983 heritage law 117 focussed on five articles. The first was properly and legally to identify three main terms -- the SCA's permanent committee, the inviolable area around every monument, and the land found next door to the archaeological site -- in an attempt to provide all the necessary security measures and a healthy environmental atmosphere around archaeological sites. The second article to be repealed is the section of the law allowing possession of antiquities. A year after the approval of the law all owners of Egyptian antiquities must hand over all objects to the SCA, which in its turn will install them in their archaeological storehouses. Ashmawy continued that Article 7 of the old law stipulating that the police were the only department authorised to remove any encroachments on archaeological sites or monuments had been changed. Such responsibility is to be given to the SCA's secretary-general, or to someone he entrusts, while the police agencies will only be a safeguarding agency while executing the secretary-general's decision. Article 30 has been added to the law stipulating that the SCA is the only authority competent to carry out restoration and preservation work for all Egyptian monuments, archaeological sites and historical edifices. The minister of culture will have the authority to assign any scientific authority or mission to execute any such work, but under complete supervision of the SCA's secretary-general. As for penalties for breaking the law, according to Ashmawy all these have been doubled or tripled. The new penalties will be as follows:

  • A smuggler in illicit antiquities – life imprisonment and a fine of LE100,000 – 500,000

  • Anyone caught stealing, hiding or collection authentic antiquities, or owns them without permission – 25 years imprisonment and a fine of LE50,000 to 250,000

  • Stealing or aiding an abetting in the robbery of a genuine artefact or piece of a monument or deliberately disfiguring artefacts or monuments -15 years imprisonment and a fine of LE50,000 to 100,000

  • The writing of graffiti or affixing of billposters and billboards to walls of monuments will be a violation of Egyptian cultural heritage – six to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of LE150,000

    This last point is a subject that ECHO has been highlighting for many years ( and along with the other new improvements to the law welcomes wholeheartedly. The new law will grant clemency to anyone who confesses to or divulges information leading to prosecution of anyone involved in an antiquities crime. Experts assigned by the SCA will check the authenticity of any confiscated objects in an attempt to guarantee a fair and accurate decision. In late December ECHO will deliver to Dr Zahi Hawass a dossier it has compiled on a group of antiquities it believes were smuggled out of Egypt during 2000 and went through Port Geneva, a freeport in Switzerland on their way to unscrupulous antiquities collectors. This group of artefacts includes a rare Dynasty II ceiling stele, believed to have been stolen from the site of Helwan. ( and (

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    News on the Grand Egyptian and Other Museums

    In November 2005, the Minister of Culture - Farouk Hosni said that the first two sites in the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which the ministry has established at Cairo, Alexandria Desert Road will be inaugurated early next year. The two sites are the power station and the World Center of Restoration, which represent the beginning of the $500 million giant museum, which is considered the largest in the entire world. The museum will be built on an area of 117 feddans (just over 100 acres), and will embrace more that 100,000 antiquities that tell the various stages of Pharaonic civilization. The museum will be implemented over the coming five years, and will provide more than 3,000 job opportunities to distinguished graduates. The Minister added that President Hosni Mubarak is closely following the progress of the various stages of the project and contributes by effectively surmounting any difficulties or obstacles that delay the construction of the museum. However, the results of the ‘archaeological survey’ and ‘watching brief’ that should have been conducted in this archaeologically rich area before the building project started and as the construction continues has not yet been made public.

    The GEM masterplan, unveiled on 22 June, is impressive. The façade will be constructed of translucent alabaster, allowing the day-light to penetrate inside the museum's halls. An enormous main courtyard will extend toward the Pyramids like five fingers, each facilitating alternate tours through the 24-square-kilometer permanent exhibition space. The museum's grand staircase will follow a chronological route through the collections, culminating in a view of the Pyramids from the uppermost floor. The museum complex will centre on the Dunal Eye, an area containing the main exhibition spaces around which will spread a network of streets, piazzas and bridges, linking together the museum's many sections. Around the Dunal Eye gardens will be landscaped according to the topography of the site, in a pattern of spirals. Objects are to be arranged in both chronological and thematic order. In each of the chronological epochs: Predynastic. Early Dynastic, Old Kingdom, First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period, New Kingdom, Late Period, Ptolemaic Period, Roman Period, certain key events will be highlighted as distinguishing historical milestones. The various (chronological) topics and themes proposed are for conceptual clarity divided into five main categories:

        I. Kingship & Social Organisation (including demonstration)

        II. Religion, Ideology and Afterlife

        III. Knowledge, Arts and Crafts, Science and Technology

        IV. Nile, Agriculture and Economy

        V. Domestic life.

    Schematic plan of how the new GEM will look when it is finished.

    Throughout the GEM these strands cut-across the boundaries between periods and are hence trans-temporal, historical tracks. To render this visually so that a visitor can immediately recognise the period and track, the periods may be set as tones of a hue. The hue (colour) represents the track, while the tone (value, i.e., how dark the colour is) represents the time period. A large central display of the matrix will be installed on a wall and smaller displays, or information nodes, will be visible in different parts of the museum. Pyramids located at various key points of the museum will serve as billboards for the major developments in the various cultural fields of Egyptian civilisation in each period and will serve as an orientation device in two senses; 1) to orient the visitor from one period to the next, and 2) to highlight the key features of each period facilitating a quick grasp of the vast collections exhibited. It will serve as a very brief summary to the period concerned. Running through the museum will be main thoroughfares, which pass through several plazas that serve as the transition from one period to the next. Each plaza is marked by an orientation pyramid, which will carry the basic information of the period. The plaza serves as a transitional, information, recreational, and rest area. The plaza will provide access to the internet, an electronic museum guide, and access to further information on any aspect of Egyptian civilization, site location, glossaries, etc. The main thoroughfares will go through the various periods of Egypt’s history. A second order of “streets” will lead off the thoroughfares to cut through the museum to see particular aspects the visitor may wish to see. There will be two main types of museum tour, the fast and the comprehensive tracks.

    The winning Henegan Ping design team looked to monuments and archaeological sites throughout Egypt for inspiration. Computer animated simulations (illustrating scenes like Carter’s first glimpse of Tutankhamun’s tomb), a children’s learning centre and special-needs access make the museum sound futuristic compared to the century-old Egyptian Museum in Midan Tahrir. A separate building will house the conservatory, library, mediatheque and other resources. A large piazza will separate the Eye from a series of flexible spaces, including an auditorium that can be converted into three smaller conference rooms, temporary exhibition spaces and commercial areas. The museum will be equipped to cope with an estimated three million visitors annually. It will also house a fully-computerised information centre for Egyptologists and a training centre where short courses on Egyptology will be given to museum curators and conservationists. Specialised courses for IT specialists will also be held and extensive restaurant and shopping facilities are being planned. According to officials, preserving Egypt’s heritage for future generations is a top priority. Since the museum is located at a crossroads of desert plateau and habitable fertile land, agricultural themes have been integrated into the overall plan. The museum will link to the Pyramids via a tree-lined esplanade, through which tourists will be able to walk, take a shuttle bus or perhaps even negotiate a camel ride. (

    A review of some of the costs and benefits associated with the planned GEM: The U.S. portion of the travelling Tutankhamun Exhibition is expected to raise more than $36 million, although the money will have to go through the treasury before it gets to finance the new GEM. The tour, organised jointly with commercial entertainment companies, represents the increasing drive to use private capital to market Egypt's archaeological scene. Still, revenue from the tour falls far short of financing the new museum's huge cost. With only $100 million coming from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Mansour hopes international cultural institutions and foreign governments will step in with the rest of the money the project requires. Negotiations are continuing between the Japanese Bank for International Development and the Egyptian government to get a low-interest loan for $300 million. While the Arab Development Fund has already donated $1 million to the project, which helped finance the international architectural competition. The main goals of the GEM are not just to reduce the crowding in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo, which will retain 60,000 artefacts on display with some 5,000 masterpieces of Egyptian art, but to provide a new experience that will attract visitors and contribute both to the generation of income needed for the safekeeping of the collections and the enhancement of the visitor’s understanding of Egyptian civilization. (,0,4930516.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels#Scene_1)

    After the many problems that have beset the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo, over the last couple of years, particularly the disappearance of valuable antiquities from the basement, the Museum Sector of the SCA, headed by Mahmoud Mabrouk has initiated plans to develop the basement of the museum to allow visitors access. With threats from the Peoples Assembly still ringing in his ears after the disappearance of the Graeco-Roman bracelets in early 2004, the Minister of Culture, Farouq Hosni promptly ordered Supreme Council for Antiquities Secretary General Zahi Hawass to make a complete inventory of every item in the museums basement after discovering that the last one took place when Egypt was still under British tutelage (71 years ago, to be precise). Therefore, 18 months ago, Hawass appointed a committee to catalogue the 110,000+ artefacts stored in the basement, as well as all those on display, in an electronic database. A contract, reportedly worth LE 12 million, had already been signed six months earlier with a state-owned company to insure and reorganise the basement. However, this “basement development company” that has been in charge of the museum for the past two years was the company at which the two culprits who stole the pieces from the Egyptian Museum were employed. The company in charge of the basement has since been relieved of its duties, and a new security company has been engaged. The new outfit is set to sign a contract with a British company, which will take over the task of registering the monuments and organising the pieces.

    The cataloguing of artefacts, which has so far succeeded in registering 22,000 objects, approximately one-fifth of the pieces, is taking the form of recording each artefact’s history, the material from which it is made, a detailed written description including its measurements, who found it and where, how and when it was discovered, and the historical era it belongs to. A photograph and where available a drawing of each object will be kept with the file. In addition to this, the location of each antiquity in the basement will be registered.

    The basement of the museum is a maze of arched passageways and naked light bulbs hanging from decaying wires. It is packed with wooden crates, hundreds of them, sometimes piled floor to ceiling. Many of these boxes have not been opened since the museum was first built, and have been gathering dust ever since. When the clean-up first began many of the objects were caked in a thick layer of dirt, with lids and bottoms of coffins from different tombs all mixed up. Cobwebs cling to ancient pottery and stelae. Around 600 coffins and 170 mummies have been located so far. No one knows what may have been stolen over the years. Right now, it is a mess. There are human remains on shelves, human skulls sitting in crates, wooden biers, stelae, pieces of masonry, amulets, and pottery bowls and jars scattered all over the place. There are boxes of antiquities that were confiscated by the Anti-smuggling Squad, affiliated to the Interior Ministry. These boxes were placed in the basement as it was considered by these authorities as the only place safe and secure enough for storing antiquities. The contents of some of these boxes were confiscated by police more than 30 years ago, but the museum has not been allowed to open them as they have been sealed by the judicial authorities. Hawass points out that as bad as the basement is, the same applies to a number of storage areas and buildings — the Saqqara storage building, for instance, is suffering from rot and many of the pieces have turned to powder.

    The processing and cataloguing of the basement will take many more months, but once it is completed modern lighting, as well as new digital lockers for storing artefacts will be installed. The basement will also have facilities and be prepared to allow archaeologists and post-graduate students conduct research on these stored antiquities. These researchers will also be allowed access to the database of the basement's contents. There are two stages to the basement development project: 1) the securing of the basement, as well as improving the lighting in all its halls, galleries and corridors; 2) cleaning, and clearing a third of the basement area for the company, which has been hired for the development project. As well as refurbishing the basement, the descriptions on the display cards of the exhibits in the galleries are being up-dated, giving more accurate information about the artefacts on display. The whole project is expected to finish sometime late in 2006.

    In October 2005, the Minister of Culture - Farouq Hosni inaugurated the second Royal Mummy Room in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo. Wafaa el-Sadek, Director General of the museum was quoted as saying the new display in Room 52, costing $260,000, is fitted with state-of-the-art technology to ensure the preservation of these regal mummies. There are 12 additional mummies displayed at the museum, the majority for the first time, including mummies of Thermoses III and Amenhotep II. At present, 11 mummies from the Thebes are on display in Room 56, which was opened in 1994. The majority of the royal mummies come from the 1881 mummy cache in Tomb DB320, with additional ones coming from the 1898 cache in KV35 and a few other tombs. The Cairo Museum holds around 50+ royal mummies, not all of whom are kings; some are queens while others are princes and princesses. Although the majority date from the New Kingdom some, such as those of King Merenre, and the partial mummies of Queen Meresankh III, King Unas, Teti are from the Old Kingdom. Only one Middle Kingdom mummy is held in the museum, that of King Hor. The new showroom, which occupies an area of 170 square meters, has been designed like a tomb in order to make visitors feel like entering a real cemetery that dates back to the New Kingdom.

    The European Union (EU) has just approved a grant of €75,000 to the SCA for restoring a number of antiques at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo. The project will last for three years and is expected to conserve around 10,000 antiques, according to Zahi Hawass.

    October 2005 saw the AGM of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) held in Alexandria. In his speech, delivered by Sabri Abdel-Aziz, head of the Ancient Egyptian section at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawass revealed the council's new philosophy “to convert Egyptian museums from large showcases for genuine artefacts to huge cultural and educational institutes". A lengthy and detailed overview of the AGM, and an important insight into ways in which Egyptian heritage is being stored and displayed. (

    Work is continuing with the laying of foundations for the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, located in the Ain El-Sira Lake area of Fustat in the heart of Old Cairo. Construction work in the 32 feddans grounds should be completed by 2008 and will house the first heritage preservation facility as well as the first national archive. The first stage of the project - preparing the site for construction work by carrying out a routine but extensive pre-building inspection to check if any antiquities were buried below ground and the building of an up-to-date storehouse, similar to the ones at the Louvre and British Museum, has been completed. The total cost of the museum amounts to LE567 million funded wholly by the Save Nubia Fund (SNF) under the supervision of the UNESCO.

    To access these new museum storage facilities magnetic cards from two inspectors will be required. To tighten security measures and abort any attempt at theft, each showcase has its own code connected to a special device which in turn registers the time and the ID code of the curator who opened it. A laboratory to restore pieces in the museum's chosen collection was also among the achievements in the first phase. The second phase of the project, the actual construction, is now in its early stages. The museum building will actually occupy only five of the 32 feddans, with the remainder being taken up by landscaping and outdoor exhibits consisting of antiquities found during the course of the pre-building inspection.

    The planned four storey building -- of which the first two floors will be devoted to exhibits, the third to archival facilities and the fourth to an archaeological and historical library -- has an exceptional architectural design to integrate with its surroundings as well as symbolise the ages in Egypt's past. It is influenced by the architectural paradigms of its brilliant collection; hence the exterior features a somewhat neutral, simple look that suits its timeless quality. Its large, square shape represents the base of a pyramid, while a gallery equivalent to a pyramid ramp leads to a smaller building representing the valley temple which will encompass a 400 square metre educational institute and a conference hall. To emphasis the pyramid-shape of the complex, the building has a benben -shaped top which will house the archaeological library.

    The museum will represent Egypt's diverse civilisations from the prehistoric to modern times. On display will be 150,000 artefacts carefully selected from the principal museums in Egypt: the Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic museums in Cairo, the Graeco-Roman and Alexandria National museums in Alexandria and the Luxor Museum, as well as major archaeological storehouses such those at Giza, Saqqara and Mansura. The exhibits will highlight the skills and achievements of the Egyptian people over the past 100,000 years.

    The Nile, handwriting, handicrafts, society and faith are the five main component themes of the museum. As Egypt's source of life and stability, the Egyptian civilisation, essentially based on agriculture, was born on the banks of the Nile. In the Nile pavilion visitors will be able to traverse the various epochs beginning with prehistoric right through the Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic, up to the modern era. One of the most important subjects will be the section telling the history of Lake Nasser; its creation, its importance and its role in changing the irrigation system and agricultural methods of Egypt. The irrigation system exhibit will start with the reign of Narmer, founder of the First Dynasty, and continue until the time of Senusret III of the Middle Kingdom. In this pavilion, a section will be dedicated to Egypt's flora and fauna. In the handwriting section visitors will see the scientific aspects of the nation's evolution in science through astrology, mathematics and medicine. Successive eras witnessed Egypt's economic prosperity which helped expand the Egyptian market and developed industrial life in Egypt. Various kinds of handicrafts will be on show relating to copper and other metals as well as sculpting, carving and architecture. The various echelons of Egyptian society and its governmental system will be explained in the ethnographical section, along with the different faiths.

    To attract more Egyptian visitors a commercial zone along with a cafeteria, restaurants, a cinema and a theatre would be installed in the museum garden. Bazaars and shops would be also built and rented out for LE2-3 million per month, an income which will serve for the museum's maintenance.

    The outdoor exhibits will include several of the discoveries made during the inspection digs. Abdel- Moneim said that among these were a Fatimid laundry found during the 1960s by Le Service Egyptien des Antiquitiés, the oldest existing plan of an Islamic house dating back to the year 75 of the higra, along with blocks bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions. The oldest dyeing factory ever found with more than 100 clay dyeing pots will also be in the outdoor exhibition. As for ancient Egyptian artefacts found in the debris, such as Wadjet eye and scarab amulets, these will be placed in a special showcase as objects recovered from the sand. (

    Building work is well underway on the first museum in Egypt dedicated to the time before the Pharaohs – The Prehistoric Museum, which is being constructed in Qena. Located on the Nile Corniche, close to the railway bridge, the museum will cover the Palaeolithic, Epi-Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods. Until now, these periods of Egypt’s history have largely been ignored by the majority of Egyptian museums. Over 3,000 artefacts have so far been allocated for this new museum, the brainchild of Dr. Mahmoud Mabrouk. These artefacts will come from various SCA magazines (storehouses) located around Egypt. A blueprint for the museum exhibition space has already been drawn up, including rooms for exhibitions about the life of during the prehistoric periods and how the first urban communities and nation state were established. There will also be displays about the agricultural work and industries during the Predynastic, as well as the ceramic vessels and other utensils used. Meanwhile, moving forward in history, there will be an exhibition about the life and times of the early kings of Egypt. The founding of this innovative new museum is sure to draw more tourists to Qena, which at present is generally overlooked by visitors. Qena is a very appropriate location, bearing in mind that the oldest skull ever found in Egypt was found here, while this Upper Egyptian Governorate is home to many ancient tombs and other structures. ( The importance of these periods in Egyptian state formation was recently highlighted by the well-attended international conference – Origines 2, which hosted papers on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt ( The Egyptian delegation at this conference was headed by Dr Mohammed Abdel Maksoud, Director of the Delta Region of the SCA and Mr Khaled Saad, the recently appointed Director of the new Prehistoric Department in the SCA. ECHO would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Saad on his new position. This new museum will surly be a must on the list of places to visit for all those professional archaeologists that attend the Origines and Poznan ( conferences and the thousands of other people that are interested in the rise of civilization in the Nile Valley.

    In October, the Minister of Culture, Farouq Hosni opened the Imhotep Museum in Saqqara. Zahi Hawass said the museum is the first of its type in Egypt as it tells the life story of the 'Pharaonic Architect who built the Step Pyramid for King Djoser'. Construction of the museum took three years at a cost of LE5 million. The new museum will showcase 1,500 unique antiquities and will soon become part of the Egyptian tourist map. Mahmoud Mabrouk, Director of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Culture said the design of the museum is in symmetry with the Saqqara Plateau and has the majestic pyramids of Saqqara in the background.

    The Al-Arish Museum in Sharm el-Sheikh will soon be ready to receive tourist as 1400 antiquities have now been put on display, the majority having been moved to it from eight other museums around Egypt. The museum will also contain a Roman Theatre and a Cafeteria. The construction of the Al-Arish Museum, which covers 30 acres, took five years at a cost of LE50 million, said the Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni. Celebrations marking the inauguration of Al-Arish Museum coincided with the October victory celebrations and will be open to visitors early next year. The Al-Arish museum displays the history of Sinai from the prehistoric era until the Islamic conquest.

    Aiming at turning the beautiful city of Rosetta into an open-museum, the SCA has undertaken a huge project that includes the restoration of 22 Ottoman houses and a number of mosques. Hawass says the $4.5 million project will take three years to complete. One of the SCA’s main challenges, however, is the problem of underground water, which is endangering the Azul Bath and the Zaghloul Mosque (see below Restoration of Islamic and Coptic Heritage).

    The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni will inaugurate the Rosetta National Museum after refurbishing works in the second half of November 2005. The rehabilitation operations of the museum took two years to be completed at a total cost of LE 4 million, said Dr Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the SCA. Hawass continued, that the rejuvenation operation of the museum came about as part of a national plan undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and the SCA with a view to creating a number of provincial and specialised museums in Egypt. The plan is aimed at shedding light on the history of Egyptian cities and their historical importance. The whole project is meant to sensitise the Egyptian people to the archaeological value of Egypt.

    The Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria has closed for refurbishment. The work is expected to last for up to two years. The work will include restoration of the main building and the library. The museum’s showcases are also to be upgraded so that artefacts can be kept in a better micro-climate and displayed more effectively to visitors. The Tanta Museum in the central Delta still remains closed for restoration work, a state of affairs that is likely to last for at least another year. However, papers were signed this summer for the development of a new museum in Minuf, just to the west of Tanta. This museum will house many of the artefacts from the region, including those excavated from the Graeco-Roman site of Quwaysna.

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    Renovation Work on Pharaonic Monuments around Egypt

    This autumn the permanent committee of the SCA agreed to allow a German archaeological mission to conduct a study of the Tuna al-Jebal tombs in Minya, Middle Egypt, in preparation for renovating them. The German mission will launch an archaeological survey of the area and then start conservation work on the tombs before instigating a site management plan to transform the site into a tourist destination.

    An urgent project will start soon to preserve the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari on the instructions of Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni. The project will cost LE7 million, as part of a grant from the American Research Centre in Egypt to preserve and develop the Valley of the Kings. The total grant is estimated at US$10 million. Supreme Council for Antiquities Secretary-General Zahi Hawass said that the project includes providing the Temple of Hatshepsut with close circuit cameras to monitor visitors inside the temple for security purposes. He explained that visitors will only be allowed in through one entrance, which will be an electronic gate for checking visitors' personal belongings. Hawass added that lighting round the temple will be upgraded to allow visitors entry at night, especially in the summer. ( The temple has been under restoration for over 40 years by a Polish team and was investigated by Howard Carter amongst many others. When the temple was originally found it had the remains of a ruined Coptic monastery on it. This monastery was demolished so that the temple could be excavated.

    At the mainly intact Roman city of Marina, on the Mediterranean coast in the West Delta, the SCA in collaboration with a Polish team are transforming the site into an 'archaeological site museum'. Due to its historic and archaeological significance, measures have been taken to protect it from the creeping urbanisation of modern summer resorts. The Third Century AD site was first discovered in 1986 when a Chinese company was engaged in construction work exposed parts of columns and baths. A survey, conducted to probe the area revealed further remains of the 1.5 km city.

    Excavations at the site have revealed 28 villas and 200 tombs, along with temples, palaces, cisterns, and baths. In the cemetery is a memorial to the Roman emperor, Caesar Commodus. The team have also managed to outline the features of the city and the roads that linked it to a harbour. Remains of the harbour were found underwater, including quays and breakwaters. Several painted death masks - known as the 'Faiyum Portraits' - were found in good condition. Items used for everyday life, such as lamps, spoons, glasses and chairs were also found. A statue of the Aphrodite, sitting on a white marble rock was also among the excavated items. Stables have been located alongside villas and the city was found to have had an advanced sewerage system. The conservation of this Classical city includes renovation of the mud-brick walls along with restoration of the tombs and memorials.

    For the past decade the Cintec (manufactures of structural reinforcement anchors based in Newport, Wales, U.K.) team have been doing their bit for archaeology in ancient Egypt, stabilising mosques many hundreds of years old, after damage from the earthquakes of the early 1990s. However, today they are in the middle of their most exciting venture yet: restoring the Temple of Hibis in the Kharga Oasis. The temple, originally built in the Persian Period, c. 558 BC, was dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The temple, one of the largest and best preserved in the oasis under went restoration work in the 1950s. As these restorations were unsightly and insufficient to do the job the Cintec team are replacing these with anchors. These anchors literally stitch the building back together again. Cintec anchors are sympathetic to the building lying dormant until the masonry moves, then they hold the building together. The building then has great strength and is flexible enough to withstand great movements. The anchors can be as large as any building and unlike traditional methods of anchoring hold the building along its entire length, instead of at key points. (

    Christian Leblanc, Director of the archaeological mission of the Centre National des Recherce Scientific (CNRS) and his team have made plans to move the visitors’ entrance to the Ramesseum from the middle of the second court to the first court. This will give visitors a much better idea of the way the temple was originally entered and viewed. The water damage to the temple is mainly in the area of the first court because of the underground rock. Christian Leblanc would like to purchase the agricultural land in front of the temple and make it like Medinet Habu with a paved area in front of the first pylon. This is a very long-term plan.

    The gateway of the first pylon was bricked up in 1991, a fortuitous move as there was an earthquake in 1992. At present the first pylon is quite unstable and ruined. The team would very much like to take it apart and reassemble. However this would take much work and resources. If it goes ahead a separate team would be required to conduct work on it. Because of the nature of the gateway this could be rebuilt without affecting the pylons as it is a separate structure. The excavations in the area around the temple have revealed a school near to the bakeries and kitchens. This is the first time a school and its documents have been found together and has greatly increased our knowledge about schools.

    The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project (Memnon/Amenhotep III Project), under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo (DAIK) and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), is casting light on a great Dynasty XVIII monument that was swept away soon after its completion. The project under the direction of Dr Hourig Sourouzian, is concerned with the excavation and conservation of the mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III (1387-1348 BC), which was originally constructed by his chief architect - Amenhotep son of Hapu. The aim of the project is to preserve as much as possible of the entire temple complex, stabilise and conserve its remains as much as possible, build an on-site museum, move tourist buses a safe distance away, and prepare a tourist circuit to present the temple with dignity to the visitors. Unlike many of the other temples in the Luxor area, where walls, sometimes even ceilings remain, all that is left of Amenhotep’s mortuary temple are hundreds of inscribed masonry blocks and pieces of statues. The position of there scant remains give the team clues as to the locations of pylons and walls that are no longer there. The bad state of preservation of the archaeological remains leads to the general assumption that the temple, of which the colossi were part, was totally swept away by a particularly high flood or an earthquake some time after its completion. All that remained were collapsed pylons, walls, columns and statues, some of which were re-used by later Pharaohs for their own temples, or collected by modern travellers and scholars. The ruin was subsequently obscured - all, that is, but for the seated colossi and a quarter of a mile to the rear, a sandstone stele inscribed with a dedicatory text.

    Colossal statues of Amenhotep III standing in front of his mortuary temple.

    Although the mortuary temple has been subjected to several archaeological campaigns, some taking away inscribed blocks and stelae in the past, no archaeological missions, apart from some spasmodic interventions by the SCA, had worked within the temple proper for decades and as such, it has never been systematically excavated and planned. In 1989 it was feared that the Colossi of Memnon were tilting markedly to the south; and the following year, at the request of the SCA, a photogrammatic survey of the seated statues was conducted by Reiner Stadelmann, then director of the German Archaeological Institute and husband of Hourig Sourouzian. It was reassuring to note that the statues were not under threat of collapse as was feared. However, some years later, in the temple proper, a devastating fire erupted in the area of the Peristyle Court. This fire in the mortuary temple was the catalyst for the project, along with the other common Egyptian threats of a rising water table caused by irrigation of the surrounding fields, salt from subterranean water, and creeping vegetation. The fire caused serious damage, splitting some of the beautifully inscribed stones; some reliefs were seriously damaged by the heat and dense smoke.

    The mortuary temple of Amenhotep III and the stele at the back of the temple.

    In 1997, with the backing of professors Gaballa A Gaballa and Sabri Abdel-Aziz, a permit to conduct urgent conservation work was applied for from the SCA. A year later, the site of Kom Al-Hettan (the name for the area where the temple is located) was included in the list of the world's 100 most endangered monuments by the World Monuments Watch, and with a grant by the World Monuments Fund, the DAIK team started emergency conservation. In 1998-99, a multinational team consisting of 30 members from 12 countries was formed to start emergency work and draw up a long-term project, and in 2000 the team embarked on a really ambitious plan to produce a detailed archaeological and topographical study of the area in the form of maps. One of the first steps in any archaeological conservation project is to fully document the remains, for which it was necessary to excavate and identify the remains, as well as record the locations of the disappeared pylons and other architectural elements. The team also looks for monuments recorded as having been seen in the past, but are no longer visible on the site. The project also gained a generous donation from Madame Monique Hennessy through the Association des Amis des Colosses de Memnon, the continuous efforts of Monsieur Fouquet, vice-president of the association; lately, Frderverein Memnon founded by Dr Ursula Lewenton, gave a generous donation of equipment to lift colossal statuary, and the project was again selected in 2004, by the World Monuments Watch. Thanks to the grants from Robert W. Wilson's 'Challenge to Conserve our Heritage', Jack A Josephson, a supporter of the World Monuments Fund, and one by the ARCE/AEF, the team has been able to move ahead with emergency conservation and plans for a dewatering project.

    Last season, with the help of air cushions the mission concentrated on lifting the huge torso of the northern colossus located next to the Second Pylon of the temple, a 450-tonne structure. The decorated parts of the colossus were treated by a conservation team, and on completion of the work, the whole thing was wrapped in fabric to prevent the action of sun, salt and vandalism over the holiday season. To help plan the extent of the temple resistivity and magnetrometry surveys have been conducted. The conservation and restoration of the temples many pieces of statuary is also on of the missions major tasks, finding small pieces of a statue and putting them back together. One of the most important discoveries was that of a statue of Queen Tiye, the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III, which had been lying on her side in the mud near the Second Pylon beneath the collapsed colossus of the Pharaoh. The queen once stood to the right of the Pharaoh's throne, and her statue, including crown and feathers, measures 3.25m in height. The excavation of this exquisite statue required the area to be dewatered using heavy pumping equipment. Another fascinating discovery was that of a large statue of a hippopotamus.

    Plans for the coming (2005/2006) archaeological season, include provisions for dewatering the temple precinct, starting the area of the Peristyle Court, where trial trenches have been carried out in preparation for the project. Underground water remains a serious problem, and any comprehensive site management or long-term conservation plan will fail so long as the site continues to be threatened by water leakage, salt, vegetation growth, fire, and bacterial damage. Once the Peristyle Court is completely excavated, planned and conserved, the team plans to open it to visitors, with space reserved for statuary in a kind of modern open-air museum.

    The Egyptian-French committee assigned to save Karnak Temple have so far completed the restoration of the Priests' Residences in the vicinity of the Sacred Lake, the northern wing of the fourth pylon, and parts of the reliefs found on the outer part of the Hypostyle Hall. Earlier this year the team uncovered a rare Dynasty XII statue of King Neferhotep I under the Hatshepsut Obelisk. This statue was part of a dyad. As the second statue lies under part of the portico, the team are currently working on plans on how to remove the pair of statues without damaging the obelisk or portico.

    The Festival Hall of Thutmose III and Hatshepsut’s Obelisk at Karnak.

    A Japanese team has completed the first phase of the restoration of the Tomb of the Dynasty XVIII ruler Amenhotep III. This first phase included cleaning the tomb and photographing the walls with their engravings of the King and the gods. Other work involved repairing some of the engravings that were damaged and strengthening the walls and columns. Meanwhile, the fungi and bacteria on the walls were killed by the team, using chemicals that would not harm the engravings. Other work involved repairing some of the engravings that were damaged and strengthening the walls and columns. Meanwhile, the fungi and bacteria on the walls were killed by the team, using chemicals that would not harm the engravings. By taking X-rays of the monument, the Japanese members of the team were able to pinpoint the constituents of the paints used by the Pharaohs to colour their engravings, including the pigments orpiment (used to make a yellow colour), hematite (for white) and arsmeti (for orange).

    The SCA has launched an LE10 million project for the renovation of the temple of Serabit el-Khadim and the nearby turquoise mines in the central Sinai. The temple was originally constructed in Dynasty XII, built in honour of the Goddess Hathor. These two sites will then be open for eco-tourism. ( This site management plan is part of a larger scheme of site management programmes that are intended to not only create a better experience for tourists, but preserve the sites and bring in more funds. This programme will also give archaeologists the opportunity to make important discoveries. Other sites that are having site management plans developed for them include: Saqqara, Amarna, Meidum, Beni Hasan, Tanis, and Tell Basta. In about two years, all the main archaeological sites will be managed and protected. Outside the exits of the sites will be interpretation centres with shops inside selling replica artefacts, books, slides, and other products. However, these centres main function will be to inform the visitors about the sites they are about or have just visited.

    In February solutions for solving the problem of water beneath Graeco-Roman Temple of Khnum at Esna were invited. The high level of subterranean water at Esna was caused by the construction of the Esna barrages, which raise water levels behind them. The water has slightly affected the walls and foundation of the temple. Moreover, the ground level of the city of Esna is now about nine metres higher than the level of the temple. The absence of a drainage system in the city has also added to the rising subterranean water level. One of the suggested solutions is to dig a ditch around the temple and use pumps to remove the water already there. The only excavated part of the temple is the Hypostyle Hall; the rest still buried under the modern city of Esna. A restoration project to remove the soot along with accumulated salts will be implemented side-by-side with rescue project. Another solution being considered to save what remains of the temple from any further damage is dismantling it and relocating it to a more suitable location. The decision as to where exactly it should be relocated has yet to be made.

    In April 2005, the Sobek Temple at Kom Ombo reopened after a renovation project costing L.E.15 million. A new museum displaying mummified crocodiles and built near the restored temple was also inaugurated.

    In March 2005 the Minister of Culture, Farouq Hosni re-opened the two tombs of Kings Thutmose III and Merenptah at the Valley of the Kings after a six-month closure for restoration. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said the two tombs of Kings Ramesses III and Ramesses VI, in the meantime, will be closed for regular rejuvenation works.

    On the recommendation of Subterranean Water Research Institute studies, the SCA is currently supervising the implementation of such dewatering projects in several Upper Egyptian sites. Commenting on the projects, Mohamed Abdul Fatah, head of the Central Administration for Egyptian Antiquities, said that the Osirion in Abydos, Sohag, had witnessed high subterranean water levels owing to large plantations in the vicinity of the archaeological site. The lack of a sewerage project for the surrounding housing agglomeration has made the situation worse. Fatah went on to say that the water has adversely affected reliefs on the walls of the tomb. A Swiss team working with the SCA started work on a plan to save the Osirion last winter. The major problem focuses on the subterranean chamber that connects the temple with the Nile, and flooded when the Nile waters rose. At present there are a lot of fallen stones in this chamber, which due to the high ground water remains permanently flooded. The Swiss team are expected to start work this winter on removing the fallen stones and sealing the chamber so that ground water cannot leach in. The structure will then be renovated using the fallen stones and then reopened to the public.

    The Ashmunein area in Minya is another site being treated from subterranean water. Despite the significance of the site throughout the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman ages, it has suffered much in modern times from underground water. Ashmunein was the capital of the 15th Upper Egyptian province, located to the west of the Nile. It retains traces of temples dating to the Middle and New Kingdoms. There are also remains of a Coptic basilica constructed on the foundations of a Ptolemaic temple built in the Greek architectural style.

    The SCA is working with a German University to restore the tomb of Mentuhotep, opposite the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor. The tomb is in a bad condition due to a large part of the inscribed blocks having collapsed. The upper layer of the tomb is made of limestone followed by a layer of argil. This has collapsed due to a combination of factors including subsidence, erosion and corrosion. The limestone layer also suffers from many fissures. The temple is to be fully restored, which will include reassembling the relief inscriptions in order to read the texts and compare them with texts in other tombs. This requires a combination of the skills of reading hieroglyphics, restoration and geology being used together in a task likely to take about ten years.

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    Renovating Islamic and Coptic Heritage

    This last year has been a busy year for the SCA renovating Islamic and Coptic monuments. In December 2004 the Prime Minister - Dr. Ahmed Nazif, accompanied by the Minister of Culture, inaugurated five newly restored religious sites on el-Mu’izz el-Din Allah Street, in the heart of Islamic Cairo. The sites include the al-Ashraf Barsbay School; Sheikh Ali el-Mutahhar Mosque and Sabil; the Dome and School of el-Nasser Mohammed Qalaoun; Barquq Madrasa (School and Khanka), and the el-Silha Dar Mosque.

    Over the last five years Mohammed Ali’s Palace in Shubra, once known as the Egyptian Versailles, has been subjected to a comprehensive LE25 million restoration project. These exquisite early 19th Century buildings feature a blend of rococo and baroque styles. Complete with groves of shrubs, a labyrinth, a hippodrome, and a great expanse of water surrounded by galleries flanked by four pavilions, it also includes a mosque and large avenues lined with trees.

    This magnificent palace originally took 13 years to build (1808 to 1821) and covered an area of 11,000 feddans. However, over the years it has lost many of its features. It originally consisted of 13 buildings used by Mohamed Ali Pasha as a guest house for foreign ambassadors and members of his family. During World War I, the main palace, built in white marble in the early 19th Century Orientalist style, with loggias and balconies adorned with metalwork and stucco arabesques, was demolished by Aziza, a member of the royal family, when it was rumoured that the British were thinking of using it for military purposes. Parts of the garden were destroyed during the construction of the Cairo-Alexandria agricultural road in 1935. A few years after the 1952 Revolution the palace garden became the premises of Ain Shams University's Faculty of Agriculture, and the site was turned into a farm complete with chicken coops, rabbit hutches, a barn, research laboratories and cultivated areas used by students for experiments. Today three sections of the original palace complex are still in place: the gabalaya, used as a residence for women; the fasqiya, a nymphaeum complex used for receptions and festivals, and the saqiya (watering well), which once supplied the palace with water from the Nile.

    The Shubra Palace has been owned by the SCA, which caused conflict with Ain Shams University. The Faculty of Agriculture refused to evacuate the buildings and the SCA did not want to start restoration work as long as the faculty was still occupying the premise. However, in 2000 the Minister of Culture - Farouk Hosni embarked on an inspection tour around the palace and called for an immediate restoration project to save it. After several meetings at which both sides tried to reach a compromise solution, it was agreed to build a wall separating the palace from the faculty, while the chicken coops and rabbit hutches which encroached on the saqiya, as well as the student hostel, were moved out of the palace site. A separate entrance has been created for the palace.

    Iman Abdel-Moneim, Director of the Shubra Palace restoration project, said that the renovation was conducted in three phases. The first aimed at reinforcing the foundations of the three buildings (the gabalaya, which was in especially bad condition, the fasqiya and the saqiya) and protecting them from water leakage. The second phase focused on the ceilings, many of which had beautiful paintings, walls, floors and marble columns and the decorative items of the fasqiya, while the third phase was devoted to the garden which included several exotic plant species and the badly damaged marble bestiary water fountain basin decorated with frogs, lions, serpents, fish and crocodiles.

    Another of Mohammed Ali Pasha’s monuments to be renovated is the Kusha Hall, which is being restored as part of an overall plan to renovate the Gawhara Palace at the Saleh El-Din Citadel. The Kusha is supported by four gilded columns, linked from above by a gilded network bearing the initial F. The thrones of the bride and bridegroom are placed under the columns. Among the items displayed in the hall are a wedding photo, crystals and watches dating back to the l8th Century, in addition to a French styled salon. The SCA are also renovating the Bab Al Azab area situated within the walls of Citadel. The project, which will last for two years, is to be implemented over three phases. Zahi Hawass said that the Bab Al Azab project will include the establishment of a school for restoration and a museum with post- Pharaonic era displays. These will be located on a site used as army barracks until 1984. Under the project, Bab Al Azab will also enjoy a research centre, a convention hall, workshops and retail outlets.

    Renovation work on the Barquq Complex on el-Mu’izz Street

    Also as pert of the masterplan for renovating the World Heritage site of Islamic Cairo, Mrs Mubarak reopened the magnificent Prince Taz Palace. The renovation of this Mamluk monument took two years of hard, serious and careful work and cost LE20 million. The palace was built in the 14th Century AD by the well-known Mamluk Prince, Seifuldin Abdullah Taz ben Katghaj. The location of the palace was very carefully chosen, as it lies in the heart of Islamic Cairo, in the popular district of Khalifa. It's located in el-Siufia Street, off el-Saliba Street, which was one of the most important roads in Mamluk Cairo. Prince Taz, a prominent figure in Mamluk Egypt, is described in the history books as being brave, very generous and a patron of scientists. He emerged in the reign of Sultan al-Saleh Ismail bin el-Nasser Mohammed (1343-1345 AD), who was succeeded by his brother al-Mozfer Haji, who later inaugurated Taz’s palace.

    Over the centuries the Taz Palace, which had large gardens with a fountain surrounded by halls, rooms, haramlek (halls where females only were allowed in) and stables, witnessed various events that took their toll on the building and its architecture. The original 14th Century architecture of the palace had almost disappeared, after concrete ceilings were introduced, new walls were built and WCs added. The palace was also used for long years as a storage depot by the Ministry of Education. As part of its ambitious plan for restoring Islamic Cairo, the Ministry of Culture retrieved the Taz Palace from the Ministry of Education and initiated the project to restore the old architecture of the palace. The project was divided into four stages, the first of which was the most urgent: shoring up leaning walls and mending the cracks. The second stage included unearthing the palace's sewerage network, the tank that supplied the palace with water and a well over which there was a wheel that lifted the water to feed the animals originally kept there. The baths of the palace, laying to the east of haramlek, were badly decayed and needed much conservation work. The third stage focused on strengthening the foundations and walls of the palace. The fourth stage involved repairing the mashrabiya (latticed woodwork) and windows, painting the building in its original colour, and conserving the pottery, glasswork and ornaments belonging to the palace.

    Rosetta (Rashid), in the West Delta is most famous for being the town in which the Rosetta Stone - a black basalt slab that enabled Champollion to decipher hieroglyphics - was found. Rosetta is much more than a find site, for it also boasts Egypt's largest number of Islamic structures outside of Cairo. These monuments include twenty historic mansions, ten mosques, a public bath, a mill, a citadel, a gate and remains of an old wall. These all date back to the Ottoman age with the exception of the citadel and the gate, which date to the Mamluk period. All the magnificent monuments of Rosetta are now unfortunately surrounded by modern buildings that have affected them almost as badly as other factors.

    Although several of these structures have undergone restoration in the past, many of the mansions have large wall fissures with disintegrated floors. The SCA has launched a programme to restore the architectural and ornamental aspects of Rosetta's Islamic monuments. This will include replacing some of the buildings' existing wooden ceilings with new ceilings of the same pattern. The interiors will be refurbished using paint made from original material in order to convey the same impression of age. Rust will be also removed from the ironware in houses which will then be coated with Vaseline to protect them.

    Among the houses to be renovated are: a three-story building constructed in 1808, Bayt Osman Al Amasyli, the owner of which was a soldier in the Turkish army; the 9th Century Abu Shahin Mill, where the grindstone was originally driven by donkeys; and the Bayt Al Maizouni, built in 1740, which belonged to the father of Zbeida, the wife of Mino, the third commander of the French expedition in Egypt. Renovation work will also be conducted on the Azuz Baths, which are over 100 years old and comprises two wings. The first wing, the reception wing, leads to a corridor with a marble fountain in the centre. At the end of the corridor lies a wooden compartment where the master of the place would sit to receive people. The second wing was flanked by bathing rooms and had a marble floor ornamented by another fountain. Two magnificent domed ceilings cover both wings, fitted with coloured glass windows to allow adequate lighting. Annexed to the bath building was a small house used as a residence for the bath owner and its workers. The Ali al-Mahali and Al-Abbas Mosques, constructed in 1721 and 1809 respectively, are two of the city's mosques included in the renovation plan.

    The restoration of the four-storey mansion of Arab Killy, built by the governor of Rosetta in the first half of the 18th Century is almost complete. The Arab Killy House - now the Rashid National Museum, originally documented Egypt’s struggle to free itself from colonialism. This house is the largest in Rosetta, with a large ground-floor area. It reflects the tall style of architecture, construction and carpentry typical of the time. Designed to echo the Islamic style, the house contains, as well as its exquisite mashrabiya, decorative inscriptions, grouted burnt bricks alternatively coloured red and black and its very fine mashrabiya (lattice woodwork) façade, inlaid sea shell work, it boasts a ceiling dome and a densely-ornamented door. The Rashid Museum is shortly to be opened to the public, the exhibits now reflect the history of the town, particularly the Islamic history. Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the SCA, said the highlight of the exhibition was a life-size replica of the Rosetta Stone donated by the British Museum in response to an official request submitted by Hawass to the museum's ancient Egyptian department. The replica stone, which arrived late November, will be on show in the museum foyer.

    The Qaitbey Citadel at Rosetta is also due to be renovated, with segments of it having collapsed in recent years. Before embarking upon the project, a barrier is to be erected around the citadel to prevent water leakage within. The interior of the citadel resembles that of its more famous brother at Alexandria. It was in the citadel of Rosetta that an officer of the French expedition found the Rosetta Stone in 1799. (

    In the St Katherine’s Protectorate in the southern Sinai the SCA have initiated a site management project for St Katherine’s Monastery. The project comprises of three stages, the first includes a comprehensive documentation of all manuscripts at the monastery, the second focuses on compiling an encyclopaedia on the monastery from an Egyptian-Graeco perspective and the third includes filming a documentary on the monastery in cooperation with its custodians, tracing the emergence of monasticism in the world as a whole and in Egypt in particular. This project is part of the larger management plan for the St Katherine’s Protectorate, which ECHO Trustees were instrumental in during 2001, when they documented all the early sites and created a management programme for them, a programme which has since been implemented.

    In February 2005 the SCA sent an appeal to UNESCO urging it to participate in saving the World Heritage Site of Abu Mina. Another appeal concerning Coptic monuments was sent by the monasteries of Wadi El-Natrun (where the Pope often goes for meditation). Most of the monasteries are suffering from the encroachment of underground water and from the advent of highways, which are causing cracks in the ancient walls surrounding them.

    The 4th Century AD Monastery of Anba Antonius (St. Anthony) in the Eastern Desert is still undergoing renovation at a cost of LE25 million. The project, which began four years ago, is now almost half completed. However, because the monastery has several extensions added in later years, the project has classified the existing structures into religious, archaeological and modern religious dwelling places and services structures. The archaeological part includes the monastery, a mill, an oil press, Anba Morqos Church, the Church of the Virgin and a fortress. The residence includes the monks' cells and a guest palace which was initially a mere room with an annexed area for cooking. In the age of Patriarch Kirilus IV, it was converted into a palace comprising four rooms and a hall.

    Restoration work is continuing on some structures and the surrounding wall. Excavations are also to be conducted to uncover the extension of the fortress that goes back to the 6th Century AD. The school, modern monks' cells in and outside of the wall, and the dining hall that was used for offering food to Bedouins, which are all classified as non-archaeological, will undergo some changes so that their facades will integrate with the rest of the archaeological structures on site.

    Conservators from the Centre of Egypt Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences have spent the last year rehabilitating wall paintings in the church of al Muallaka in Cairo.

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    On the Trail of Illicit Antiquities

    The recovery of stolen antiquities and the prosecution of those responsible have had a high-profile since Zahi Hawass took office in 2002. The illicit trade in antiquities is a global market, stretching from the Egyptian desert to Chinese tombs to Peruvian monuments, and pulls in some of the most- respected names in art and academia. The highly organised theft of Egyptian antiquities would seem to suggest that the thieves themselves have easy access to these unique artefacts and that it's just as easy for them to smuggle them abroad. By putting tremendous pressure on scientists, archaeologists, antiquities experts and museums abroad, officials at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) have managed to retrieve some of these items smuggled out of the country by gangsters who secretly trade in Egypt’s cultural heritage. Sometimes in the past Egyptian authorities have threatened the smugglers with the curse of the Pharaohs and it's actually worked - some of these thieves have returned the artefacts they've stolen after suffering mysterious accidents. However, there seems to be no end to the corruption in the antiquities sector. The thefts are never ending and in fact they are on the increase.

    In April 2002 one of the largest hails of illicit antiquities ever found was impounded at Heathrow Airport. Egypt recovered 56,000 out of a total of 113,000 objects held at Heathrow, reflecting the mutual cooperation between Egypt and the UK. According to investigations by Scotland Yard, the shipment belonged to Mamdouh Michael, an Egyptian residing in Zurich, who claimed that he had inherited the artefacts from his father in 1956. Because Michael did not provide documents that proved his ownership, a British Museum expert was brought in to check the artefacts' authenticity. In June 2002, an Egyptian antiquities committee also examined them, and concluded that the objects were smuggled out of Cairo in 1997. Zahi Hawass said a joint SCA/Egyptian State Security effort subsequently found that the artefacts had been officially registered in SCA documents. State Security's Hisham Abdel-Meguid said the objects would now be used as evidence in a major antiquities smuggling case that is currently in court. This foiling of antiquities smuggling was followed in late 2002 / early 2003 when seven artefacts stolen from antiquity warehouses throughout Egypt were put up for sale in Australia. However, these criminals were arrested in January 2003 as these items, including a statuette, bow, amulets and an axe went up for auction. A previous auction of 11 stolen artefacts was also stopped in Australia. The Australian authorities have been closely cooperating with the Egyptian police and lawyers throughout this case, with the artefacts themselves being used as evidence in the trial of the 10 men accused of the theft. Officials also intercepted some of the smuggled antiquities at Cairo Airport and recovered other the US, Germany and the Netherlands, making a total of 57,000 smuggled objects recovered.

    In August 2005, Judge Gamal Eddin Safwat jailed three men for life over this smuggling scam. Safwat said before announcing the sentences that “smuggling antiquities abroad is one of the most dangerous crimes because of the negative impact it has on the country’s economic interests”. The men found guilty included the former head of the SCA department that inspects the collections of registered antiquities traders, Dr Abdul Karim Abu Shanab. He was convicted of providing the smugglers with certificates showing genuine artefacts were imitations, so they could be carried through customs under the guise of replicas, accepting bribes and forgery. Abu Shanab said after being sentenced “This is injustice. I have done nothing. This is all because of personal problems between myself and the antiquities bureau of investigations to remove me from my position”. Nothing does not include selling a nation’s cultural history, their very identify. Abu Shanab’s lawyer said they would appeal.

    Four other defendants received sentences ranging from fines to 15 years in prison. They included a Swiss citizen and a German of Egyptian origin. Four of the seven, including the Swiss and German nationals, were convicted in their absence. Another three were acquitted. Officials estimated that the 57,000 pieces that the smuggling gang exported were worth about $55m. The items they tried to smuggle included human and animal mummies, coins, statues and wooden sarcophagi. During the police investigations many of the stolen artefacts were found hidden in tunnels under the villas of three relatives of the accused – businessmen, who were convicted at an earlier trial. The cache of artefacts in the tunnels also included certificates allegedly signed by Abu Shanab. Egyptian law says only reproductions of antiquities can be exported, so many of the items were given certificates to show they were replicas. ( and (

    In September 2005 it seemed the curse of the Pharaohs had struck in the Egyptian Museum's basement. When archaeological inspectors from Giza asked for the return of 14 objects placed on loan with the museum last April, to celebrate World Heritage Day, curators realised that three statues dating back to 2649-2150 BC had vanished. In an attempt to find the missing statues Zahi Hawass appointed a committee of “seven to eight” archaeologists and 40 inspectors to search the colossal basement. Hawass said the committee’s task was to 'survey and list everything in the basement' in order to bring some order to the cluttered abyss. According to museum curator Lotfi Abdel Hamid, there are approximately 120,000 artefacts on display in the museum and another 110,000 in the basement; although no one really knows the exact numbers. However, after sorting through the overwhelmingly large collection of stored artefacts, no sign of the missing objects were found. That was until October, when the Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP) arrested two men who were trying to sell the objects by showing photographs of the objects to dealers. Following a tip off, police captured the men, both of them employees of a company contracted to do restoration work in the museum, in a sting operation with officers presenting themselves as antiquities dealers.

    The three missing artefacts were a limestone statuette of a seated commander of the royal guard that is 23.5cm tall, a dyad of the director of artisans, Neferref-Nessu and his wife that is 35cm tall and a wooden box without a cover that contains a burnt clay statuette of Osiris. Police said that the suspects smuggled the artefacts out of the building in bags that they used to remove rubble from the basement of the museum, which explained why they were not searched at the gates. The thieves then hid the artefacts in a house overlooking a canal in Ayatt, Giza. The two criminals are expected to be sentenced to between 10 and 15 years hard labour. The arrests came just days after the Minister of Culture - Farouk Hosni ordered a probe into reports about damage to the famous copper statue of Merenre, also during restoration work at the museum. Hosni has called for a full investigation into the theft and security at the museum is expected to be increased with all museum staff being thoroughly searched on leaving the premises. There is also going to be an ID made of each object so that its movements within the museum can be more easily traced. Work is also underway to upgrade the storage facilities at the museum. A training course run under the supervision of UNESCO will increase the knowledge and skills of the museum curators and raise their awareness of new methodologies. ( and ( and (

    The entrance of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo.

    These are not the first objects to go missing from the museum’s basement. Last year a statue of the Nile God Hapi was misplaced, but was eventually found after a thorough search of the basement. Also last year, 38 gold bracelets some decorated with precious stones excavated from Kom Ombo in 1905, dating to the Graeco-Roman Period went missing. Eventually 17 employees of the museum were arrested for their theft. After all these problems in the Egyptian Museum the last straw for the Minister of Culture – Hosni Farouk was a fire breaking out in the Beni Suef Cultural Palace, killing 30 people. He immediately offered his resignation, but this was rejected three days later by President Hosni Mubarak after please from some 400 intellectuals for him to stay. However, in the continuing fall-out from these unfortunate incidents the Director of the Museum Sector of the SCA - Mahmoud Mabrouk was asked by Zahi Hawass to stand down in late November 2005.

    This summer, in a speech at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin held at UNESCO in Paris, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said “Egypt had been deprived of five key items of Egypt's cultural heritage". A campaign has been launched for the return of these five items. The five items are:

    1. The Rosetta Stone – British Museum, London

    2. The Bust of Nefertiti – Ägyptisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

    3. The Zodiac Ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple – Louvre, Paris

    4. The statute of Hemiunu, the nephew and vizier of Pharaoh Khufu, builder of the Great pyramid - Roemer-Pelizaeu Museum, Hildesheim

    5. The Bust of Anchhaf, builder of the Khafre Pyramid - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    Zahi Hawass said UNESCO had agreed to mediate in its claims for artefacts currently at the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris, two German museums and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. (, (, (,1280,-5139396,00.html),

    Zahi Hawass has stated that Egypt exerts tremendous efforts for restoring smuggled antiques from abroad, noting that 3000 artefacts had been restored during the past three years. To this end the SCA has compiled a catalogue of antiquities taken out of the country since the ratification of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and has warned that it will refuse to cooperate with museums refusing or failing to return stolen antiquities. Further measures may also be taken in the rescinding of archaeological permits to missions from countries that fail to cooperate, therefore effectively ending their research in Egypt and seriously damaging their ability to conduct Egyptology.

    This autumn Egyptian authorities have demanded that institutions in Britain and Belgium return two Pharaonic reliefs it says were chipped off tombs and stolen 30 years ago, threatening to end their archaeological work in Egypt if they refuse. Zahi Hawass said “he would cut off the Catholic University's excavation mission at a site in Deir al-Barsha, near the southern town of Minya, if the relief was not returned, and would suspend the Fitzwilliam Museum's 'scientific relationship' with archaeologists working here if the British institution did not cooperate." The two reliefs concerned are reported to be 4,400-year-old reliefs, taken from two tombs uncovered in 1965 near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. These demands are the latest in a series of attempts by Egypt to recover ancient treasures that were taken out of the country, either through theft or what the Egyptians have termed "imperialism." "We are not afraid of anything; anyone who makes a mistake should be punished. This is history. We need our history, and anyone who steals our artefacts has no place in Egypt," Hawass said. The Fitzwilliam Museum said no one could immediately comment on the report. There was also no immediate comment from the Catholic University. A third relief was returned to Egypt from the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels this autumn after Egypt's antiquities council put on hold a request by the museum to extend its excavation work, the statement said. With the return, the council has agreed to allow the work to continue. (

    In its fight to regain priceless Egyptian artefacts, the SCA has started a crackdown on websites that sell stolen antiquities. According to Akhbar Al Adab, the council has identified many websites that are selling illicit antiquities. The SCA is taking legal steps to retrieve some antiquities to be sold at auctions around the world. SCA Secretary General, Zahi Hawass said 13 websites were advertising Egyptian antiquities for sale at auction in August, while the total for July was 22 websites. The SCA's Archaeological Department has collected all brochures of these auction halls and forwarded them to the Public Funds Prosecution in order to take the needed legal steps to reacquire the items. He added that a SCA committee has carefully compared the antiquities in the brochures with photos of Egypt's missing antiquities. Some of the missing items belong to an Egyptian trader, while others have gone missing from the museum at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology and the storehouse of the university's Faculty of Arts, as well as from an archaeological area at Marina in Egypt's North Coast. (

    German police seized 86 ancient Egyptian antiquities (mainly funerary objects and jewellry) at a freight depot in Berlin after a tip-off from the Egyptian Attorney General. The treasures were being consigned from Switzerland to the US after being sold for two million dollars. They were seized at the end of October but this was not made public at the time. The Egyptian Ambassador in Berlin became suspicious of the artefacts due to be sold and warned colleagues back home in Egypt and a team from the SCA flew to Germany to recover the precious artefacts. The Berlin state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into the origin and legitimacy of the ancient Egyptian sarcophagus dating to the 4th Century BC, seized as part of the haul.

    These pieces are linked to the largest smuggling case ever judged in Egypt, which saw seven people handed long prison sentences in August, according to the Secretary General of the SCA, Zahi Hawass. The antiquities had been smuggled out of the country by brothers Farouq and Mohammed el-Shaer, Abdel-Karim Abu Shanab and others, who were recently sentenced to up to 15 years with hard labour by Cairo Criminal Court for smuggling offences. Prosecutors in Egypt have since established that the artefacts left Egypt in the 1970s, contravening the 1970 UNESCO agreement, before spending many years in Switzerland. (

    In August 2005, a Briton was held on suspicion of smuggling antiquities. He was arrested at Cairo airport with 66 Medieval Islamic manuscripts in his possession. The manuscripts were discovered as the man’s bags were passed through the airport’s x-ray machines. The manuscripts covered a range of topics including early Arabic medicine and magic and also contained excerpts from the Bible in both Arabic and Coptic. Egyptian authorities have managed to foil an attempt to sell 50 Pharaonic artefacts at the Medusa Auction House in Canada. Dr Zahi Hawass said that the SCA has been monitoring 43 auctions all over the world to trace Egyptian artefacts on sale there. Hawass continued, that the Prosecutor-General was notified and the Canadian authorities contacted in order to halt the sale and have the artefacts returned to Egypt. The Canadian authorities have already taken measures to impound the pieces until Egypt sends a technical and judicial committee.

    A stolen stele has been was recovered from the Royal Museum for Art and History in Brussels, Belgium. The Old Kingdom stele was originally stolen from Egypt by thieves in 1965 and smuggled to Belgium where it was sold to an antiquities collector. In 1973 it was purchased by the Brussels museum. In April 2005 an Egyptian delegation travelled to Belgium to receive the invaluable work of art from the museum.

    In July 2005, an inscribed block of Egyptian alabaster, which was originally removed from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings and smuggled out of the country in 1958, was posted back to the SCA. Apparently the decorated block had been in the possession of a friend of Jack A. Graves, an emeritus professor at the California State University. Graves sent a letter to Zahi Hawass explaining that just before his friend died he had given him the piece, feeling guilty that he had stolen the monument and asked that it be returned to its rightful owners. The block, which refers to Seti I is now in the Egyptian Museum being studied. The return of this block was preceded two years ago by the return of four fragments from Seti I tomb (KV) by the Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. These pieces of the tomb had been in the museums possession since 1875, when they were bought from an antiquities trader.

    In spring 2005, an Australian institution working in the ancient arts domain returned to Egypt a number of rare Coptic scripts in response to the international campaign launched by UNESCO to restore stolen Egyptian monuments. The institution sent a letter to Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities clarifying that it possesses these rare scripts which date back to the fifth century. The institution expressed readiness to conduct conservation work on the scripts and publish them scientifically before handing them to Egypt.

    In February 2005 8 Al-Alfi Street, in Downtown Cairo was raised by police, archaeologists retrieving a huge cache of artefacts hidden since 1971. The collection included a number of anthropoid sarcophagi, painted mummy masks, ushabtis, limestone reliefs, necklaces, amulets, and scarabs, as well as a group of Graeco-Roman statues, Islamic vessels, clay chandeliers and coloured textiles. In 1971 a Frenchman named Gérard Razier was arrested at this same address, and subsequently sentenced to six months imprisonment for illegal possession of antiquities, although the sentence was later quashed on appeal. The objects remained confiscated in the apartment until 1992, when archaeologists from the SCA paid the place a visit and were surprised to discover that the apartment was co-owned by the Frenchman and an Egyptian by the name of Mohamed Ali Farag, who had used it as a cinema production office prior to 1971. However, for some unknown reason the antiquities officials failed to do anything about retrieving the antiquities in the apartment.

    In 2004 Farag was sentenced to five years imprisonment for his role in a major Swiss-Egyptian antiquity smuggling ring headed by Tareq El-Seweissi, former head of the National Democratic Party's Giza district office. As part of recent SCA efforts to combat illegal smuggling of artefacts, the El-Seweissi case re-ignited interest in the El-Alfi Street cache. All but three of the 3052 objects recovered from Al-Alfi Street have now been examined, documented, restored and put on display at the Egyptian Museum. The three objects not put on display in the museum were found to be fake, prompting fears that the originals may have been sold.

    Another welcome move in the fight to save cultural heritage being stolen and placed in the hands of private collectors is the reinstating of the Antiquities Market column of the Journal of Field Archaeology published by Boston University. “For over 20 years (1974-1993) the "Antiquities Market" section of the Journal provided news and commentary on the illicit traffic in antiquities and on issues of cultural heritage relevant to field archaeologists from around the world. Much has happened in recent years; military conflict, natural disaster, development, political or religious extremism, calculated looting, and the illicit sale of antiquities all combine to jeopardize the very existence of archaeology. What is clear from all the various efforts and questions is that globalization is bringing us all closer together, and that we need a more concentrated international initiative for how we document and preserve the archaeological record. Concrete proposals for such initiative are required. The restoration of the 'Antiquities Market' is intended to reopen dialogue on these pressing issues by discussing specific sites in jeopardy and instances of looting, highlighting current trends, and encouraging all those who value the past to work to protect cultural heritage". (

    An article looking not only at the recent dramas at the Getty Museum, whose curator goes on trial in Autumn 2005, but at the incidence of smuggled items in other U.S. museums and the efforts of nations to protect themselves against smuggling. This article states that in the three years since Hawass took over, Egypt has recovered 2,000 objects from overseas, mostly from auction houses and dealers ( and ( In another article, from Science Daily, it states that Italian investigators have reported that some antiquities in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and a major private collection were illegally excavated and exported (

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    More on the Ramesses II Statue Move

    The scaffolding surrounding the colossal statue of Ramesses II in Midan Ramesses, Cairo is to be taken down by the end of the year. The scaffolding was initially erected so that the statue could be assessed for its structural stability. The SCA, worried that the pollution and vibrations from the traffic and trains were damaging the statue employed the Arab Contractors to assess the logistics of moving the 90 tonne, 12 m high colossus to its proposed new location in the grounds of the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. This location is not far from its original home in the Temple of Ptah at Mit Rahina (Memphis), where a second colossal statue of Ramesses II is housed in a special museum. When the statue was originally excavated in 1882 it was found in six pieces and was only put back together again using huge iron bars inside the body in 1955 when it was to be erected at its present location.

    The Arab Contractors sub-contracted the accurate 3-D recording of the statue to one of the world’s largest geomatics companies - Plowman Craven & Associates (PCA). Using a Leica HSS2500 laser scanner in combination with photogrammetry a millimetre accurate 3-D computer model of the statue was able to be made, including all the joints where the six pieces of the statue are joined, as well as visible fault lines and cracks. This has allowed a structural analysis of the component parts of the statue before it is dismantled and moved. This assessment also supplies the necessary information to create a purpose built cradle to hold the colossus. Zahi Hawass said that the scaffolding had now served its purpose as the assessment of the colossus was now complete and that it was only right that people should once again be able to gaze on this talisman of the city of Cairo. For more information on the uses of laser scanning in protecting Egypt’s cultural heritage see Current World Archaeology 9: 25-30.

    Scaffolding surrounding the colossus of Ramesses II in Midan Ramesses in the centre of Cairo.

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    Renovation of Silver Artefacts

    The Minister of Culture, Farouq Hosni has approved plans to renovate silver artefacts and antiques on display at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the renovation is part of a master plan by the Ministry of Culture to maintain the metal artefacts through a €75,000 grant from the European Union. Some 1,400 ancient pieces, including sarcophagi, jewellery, crowns, belts and statues will be conserved.

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    ICOM: Egypto-Sudanese Cooperation

    Egypt and Sudan are to promote cooperation in the antiquity field. In September 2005, the start of a massive Egyptian-Sudanese project in the field of antiquities was announced by Regine Schuiz, Chairperson of the International Committee of Egyptology at the International Council of Museums (ICOM). At a news conference held on the sidelines of a conference of museums at Alexandrina Bibliotheca, Schuiz told reporters the project would be held under the umbrella of ICOM and UNESCO. She said that cooperation will involve the establishment of a museum for Nubian antiquities in Sudan's Wadi Halfa near the borders with Egypt (

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    Faiyumi Sites to be placed on Tourist Map

    In early September 2005, the Minister of Culture - Farouq Hosni, approved an LE 3 million Egyptian-Italian project to renovate and develop archaeological sites in the area of Medinet Madi, located in Gharaq Depression in the Faiyum. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said that further excavations would be conducted in the Temple Area, dating to the Middle Kingdom and Ptolemaic period. Hawass added that the aeolian sand presently covering the cemetery adjacent to the temple would be removed, and the whole site would be renovated. This project is expected to be completed within 12 months, and aims at providing the facilities required to put this area on the local and international tourist maps.

    The government has launched a development project of the Wadi al-Hitan (aka Wadi Zeuglodon or Whale Valley) Protectorate (nature reserve) in the Wadi Rayyan, Faiyum Governorate. The project aims at placing the area, newly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, on the eco-tourist map. Wadi Rayyan is separated from the Faiyum Depression by a limestone ridge and is a depression in its own right. This depression, like the Faiyum, lies at 42 m b.s.l. Today, the once barren desert depressions have been transformed into large reservoirs in the hope of irrigating the desert. However, one of the two large artificial lakes has turned from fresh water to salt water, like other lakes in the Western Desert - Qarun and Mariut – therefore halting the project.

    The Egyptian Prime Minister, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, received a report from Maged George, State Minister for Environmental Affairs on this area, asserting that this are houses several geological components, water springs and rare fossils as well as a great number of whale skeletons dating back 40 million years. Nazif has decided to form a committee comprising of the ministries of higher education, environmental and foreign affairs, Faiyum Governorate in addition to a number of Egyptian universities experts to take part in drawing up a comprehensive plan for boosting investment in the natural and archaeological sites in whole of the Faiyum Governorate.

    The Ptolemaic temple forecourt in front of the Middle Kingdom temple of Amenemhet III at Medinet Madi.

    As well as having 212 archaeological sites in the Faiyum Depression and another 29 on its boarders dating from the Qarunian (7200 BP-6200 BP to the Late Antique Period (AD 306 – AD 640) the Faiyum area is rich in palaeontological deposits. Many fossils have been found in the area north of Lake Qarun dating to the Eocene, Oligocene and Pliocene epochs. The environment of the periods that created these fossils was similar to modern day Uganda: subtropical and tropical forest with plenty of trees, vines, and mangroves. Within the forests were freshwater swamps and rivers and the area had plenty of rainfall. By the beginning of the Oligocene, 37 million years ago, the sea that had covered much of Egypt had receded northward to the Faiyum – Siwa line, creating a coastal plain along the shore of the Tethys Sea. The delta of one of the Gilf Rivers lay in what is now the Faiyum Depression, emptying out into the Tethys Sea. The deposition of a variety of reptilian and mammalian fossils began in the Mid-Eocene, over 40 million years ago. There are four major geological formations that contain these ancient fossils: the Upper Eocene Birket Qarun Formation (40 million years ago); the Lower Oligocene Gebel Qatrani Formation (37.28 million years ago); Mid-Eocene Qasr el-Sagha Formation (45 million years ago); and the Lower Pliocene Fluvio-Marine Formation (45-25 million years ago). The strata in these various formations represent some of the richest fossil deposits in the whole of Egypt, and there discovery has affected research worldwide.

    Fossil hunting in the Faiyum has a history of over 150 years, with one of the earliest palaeontologists being Georg Schweinfurth, who discovered the ancient whale Zeuglodon osiris in 1879. At the beginning of the 20th century Hugh Beadnell and Charles Andrews collected thousands of fossils, including Palaeomastodon, which is the oldest known elephant. The first American palaeontologists to work in the Faiyum were Walter Granger and George Olsen who collected 27 crates of fossils, starting in 1907. This association of American palaeontologists with the Faiyum has remained strong, with probably the most famous being Elwyn Simons who from 1961 to 1986 mounted 17 expeditions, dividing the tens of thousands of fossils he collected between the Cairo Geological Museum and Yale Peabody and Duke University in the USA.

    Petrified forest, north of Lake Qarun in the Faiyum.

    Petrified wood is found all over the Western Desert, although that found in the Faiyum Gebel Qatrani Formation are from very diverse species, which are typical of a tropical climate. One of the oldest reptiles found in the Faiyum is Gigantophis, a Middle Eocene snake measuring 9 meters long found in the Qasr el-Sagha Formation. The most common reptiles found in the Faiyum are turtles and tortoises, such as the Testudo ammon, a giant tortoise or Podocnemis blankenhorni and Stereogenys pelomedusa, both tropical river turtles. The bird fossils of the Faiyum represent one of the most diverse and best known Paleogene record in Africa. There are thirteen bird families represented, with eleven of them still living in the upper Nile River and Lake Victoria region, an area that approximates the climate of the Faiyum millions of years ago.

    Over 20 orders of mammal fossils are to be found in the Faiyum. The most common is Megalohyrax eocaenus, a large Lower Eocene hyrax. One of the animals that has only rarely been found outside of the Faiyum is Arsinoitherium, a mammal similar to a rhinoceros, which lived 45 to 25 million years ago and is found in the Fluvio-Marine Formation. Predators such as Apterdodon, Pterodon and Hyaenodon preyed on the large slow moving creatures that grazed in the Faiyum some 45 to 25 million years ago. Southwest of the Faiyum Depression lies Wadi el-Hitan; this was once a bay of the Tethys Sea measuring 8 km2. In this wadi over 240 skeletons of the ancient whale Zeuglodon, the Basilosauris isis have been found in the Lower Eocene Birket Qarun Formation, these whales averaged 20 m long. A smaller ancient whale called Dorudon, averaging 3-5 m has also been found here. These fossils, which are over 40 million years old, are important links in the evolutionary chain of whales moving from land to sea creatures.

    The most important fossils, however, are those of the thirteen primate species found in the Gebel Qatrani Formation, which roamed the Faiyum’s Eocene and Oligocene forests 35 to 28 million years ago. Gebel Qatrani is the only place in Egypt (and Africa) where these particular primate species have been found. They precede the famous primate species Australopithecus and the later Homo species found by people such as the Leaky’s. There were two distinct groups of primates in the Faiyum – lower sequence primates and upper sequence primates. The lower primates are the rarest and include Oligopithicus savagei and Qatrania wingi. These were small primates that may be the link between Eocene prosimans and Oligocene anthropoideans. There have been found numerous examples of the upper sequence of primates, the oldest being the late Eocene Catopithecus browni and Proteopithecus sylviae, which were short faced monkeys. Other squirrel monkey-like primates have also been found. The most important of the primates are the five species of so-called ‘Dawn apes’. The largest of these primates was Aegyptopithecus zeuxis (30 to 28 million years old), the other four species of dawn apes were: Propliopithecus chirobates, Propliopithecus ankeli, Propliopithecus haeckeli and Propliopithecus markgrafi. These primates appear to be the ancestors of the two branches that formed later into the great apes, with Aegyptopithecus zeuxis being an ancestor of this line, and Propliopithecus haeckeli and Propliopithecus markgrafi being progenitors of the hominid line, which later produced Australopithecus africanus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus and eventually Homo sapiens.

    Dr Hossam Kamel, Director of the Faiyum Protectorates has raised concerns regarding the mining activities in the region. The threat comes from companies quarrying basalt from the fossil-rich area. Several local companies are using heavy equipment and explosives to extract basalt from a three-seven metre layer of stone that runs throughout the area, particularly in the Gebel Qatrani region. The extraction of basalt, Kamel says, is taking place on a large-scale and some invaluable fossils may be lost forever in the process ( and As well as basalt quarrying, there is imminent danger from gravel quarrying to many Epi-Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Graeco-Roman sites located to the north of Lake Qarun, the majority of which were discovered by Gertrude Caton-Thompson in the 1920s and 30s. A land reclamation project to the north of Kom Aushim has already destroyed the famous Neolithic K-Pits and probably Kom K, sites that attested some of the earliest agricultural practices in Egypt. A proposed tarmac road to take tourists to the famous sites of Qasr Sagha (Middle Kingdom Temple) and Dimai (Ptolemaic to Roman city) cuts straight through these Epi-Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites. The bringing of tourists through these fragile sites with lithic scatters marking their existence is a grave threat, for tourists may pick up these exquisitely made tools, depriving them of their context and archaeologists valuable information on the beginnings of Egyptian civilisation. If eco and cultural tourism is to be encouraged in this region, then it has to have governing rules advising tourists on how to behave in such a fragile and finite environment (

    Prof. Mustafha Fouda, head of Nature conservation at the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) states that the Wadi Rayyan needs permanent supervision by trained personnel to ensure that environmental laws are not broken. Rangers will patrol the Wadi al-Hitan region and coordinate with local residents to enforce the environmental protection plan for the area. New regulations require visitors to obtain a permit and to be escorted by a ranger when sightseeing at this beautiful spot. Cars, except for those specified by the Protectorate officials, will be banned from entering the region and will have to use the specified car park. An ecolodge is to be built just outside the Wadi to allow visitors to stay overnight, and signposts and light structures will be erected to provide the necessary facilities. Plans are also well developed to promote local folkcrafts, which will be sold in a visitor centre near the new open-air museum; the latter will hold a replica whale skeleton. A scientific cooperation initiative has been struck between the Protectorate and the University of Michigan. This agreement will allow students to receive training in both Egypt and the US. A survey of the Wadi Rayyan region is being funded by a twinning agreement with the Italian National Park of Gran Sasso. Expertise on the logistics of running the Wadi Rayyan National Park is also being provided by the Italian mission. This type of safeguarding of natural heritage should be expanded to the area north of Lake Qarun before it is too late. As well as the archaeological remains that are at risk many fossils are in grave danger. Sites such as Kom W are still safe, but for how long is the question. At present these sites of world importance are not even registered as archaeological sites by the SCA. The first step in their protection is to get them recognised by the Egyptian heritage bodies such as CultNat, the EAIS and the SCA. ECHO has made provisional agreements with CultNat and the EAIS and is at present preparing a dossier listing all the sites in the Faiyum and the exact co-ordinates and importance of each site to present to these authorities. This GIS and database will in due course be posted on the web.

    Land reclamation in the area of the K-Pits.

    Quarrying for gravel in the area of Epi-Palaeolithic to Neolithic sites north of Lake Qarun.

    The towering walls of the city of Soknopain Neos at Dimai.

    The Middle Kingdom temple at Qasr Sagha.

    The proposed new road to take tourists to visit Dimai and Qasr Sagha.

    In December 2005, the Minister of Tourism - Ahmed el-Maghrabi and the Minister of Environment - Engineer Maged George agreed on boosting environmental tourism, particularly in the Western Desert, the Bahariya Oasis and Faiyum. El-Maghrabi stressed the necessity of paying heed to eco-tourism to help develop communities there. On his part, George underlined the importance of eco-tourism, which attracts a special category of tourists, a matter which in turn leads to achieving economic progress in the surrounding areas.

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    A Return to Recuperative Tourism

    During the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century many tourist would go to Egypt to convalesce in the belief that the warm climate would help their ailments. Today many patients go to Eastern Europe or India to have operations. A new Egyptian governmental directive has been drawn up involving several ministries interacting with oversees trading offices to promote recuperative tourism. The Prime Minister, Ahmed Nazif, announced this August the creation of a Recuperative Tourism Office to develop the countries 1350 health springs, which are popular in combating chronic skin diseases. The office will concentrate on developing the natural potential of the sandy areas in Safaga on the Read Sea Coast and Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert. The governments plan also involves developing hospitals at these locations, providing them with state-of-the-art technologies and improving the training of the medical staff.

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    World Heritage Alliance Launched

    In November the United Nations Foundation and Expedia announced the launch of the World Heritage Alliance, an innovative joint initiative to promote sustainable tourism and awareness of World Heritage sites and communities around the world. This partnership believes conscientious travellers can contribute directly to nature conservation, historic preservation, and poverty reduction through sustainable tourism.

    There are currently 812 designated World Heritage sites that span 137 countries and offer an extraordinary range of travel experiences. These sites have been internationally recognized for their outstanding value and are protected by the 1972 World Heritage Convention, signed by 180 countries and administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

    World Heritage sites include many of the most iconic travel spots on the planet, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; the Egyptian Pyramids; the Taj Mahal in India; England's Stonehenge; the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador; and 20 sites in the United States, including Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty. But the list also encompasses scores of lesser-known places of singular importance, including Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Buddhist Borobudur Temple Compounds in Central Java, Indonesia; the archaeologically rich Orkhon Valley in Mongolia; and the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand, home to more than 125 separate species of birds.

    The World Heritage Alliance aims to:
  • Inspire Travellers to Explore and Experience More

  • Promote Economic Development
  • Encourage Public Awareness and Involvement
  • Engage the Travel Industry

    About the United Nations Foundation

    The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner's historic $1 billion gift to support United Nations' causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the United Nations. Through grant-making and building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. For more information, please visit (

    For more information, please visit:

    Friends of World Heritage: (

    Expedia, Inc.: (

    World Heritage Alliance: (

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    ECHO Wishes UNESCO a Happy Diamond Anniversary

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), marked its 60th anniversary on Wednesday 16 November with a call for world peace and the respect of human diversity. The constitution of the UNESCO was prepared by a conference convened in London in 1945 and UNESCO came into being on 4 November 1946. UNESCO’s primary aim is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication to make war unthinkable. Today there are 191 members and six observer status nations. Meanwhile, a two-day symposium of some 60 historians, anthropologists and philosophers, gathered in the Paris (France) to reflect on the UNESCO’s mission and its goals for the next five years. Born from an agreement signed by 37 countries in London, exactly 60 years ago, the UN’s cultural organisation is probably best known around the globe for its list of over 800 protected World Heritage Sites. They notably include the Abu Simbel temple complex near Aswan on the upper Nile, for which UNESCO mounted a spectacular rescue operation in the 1960s and 70s, after Egypt decided to build a dam that would have put the 3,300 year-old masterpieces under water. (

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    United Nations- Egyptian Heritage Commemorative Stamps

    In August the United Nations printed a commemorative edition of stamps celebrating Egyptian cultural heritage as part of their World Heritage series ( The United Nations Postal Administration issued a set of six commemorative stamps and three prestige booklets on the theme 'World Heritage — Egypt'. This is the eleventh United Nations stamp issue to illustrate World Heritage sites. It is the ninth in a series of stamps and prestige booklets focusing on either one specific World Heritage site or a group of World Heritage sites in one geographical location. The sites to be included are: Memphis and its Necropolis — the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (37c stamp), Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (80c stamp), Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae (F.s.1,00 stamp), Islamic Cairo (F.s.1,30 stamp), Abu Mina (€ 0,55 stamp) and the Saint Katherine area (€ 0,75 stamp). These stamps are part of UNESCO’s 60th anniversary celebrations (see this fascinating article on the Al Ahram Weekly website for more details of the celebrations

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    Theban Mapping Project completes KV Masterplan

    The Theban Mapping Project's online survey concerning the future of the Valley of the Kings has now closed. Nigel Hetherington, Conservation Manager on the project says that this has become one of the largest public consultations ever undertaken on the future of a World Heritage Site. The resulting site management masterplan (funded by the World Monuments Fund) has been completed and hopefully implementation will begin later this year. Prof. Kent Weeks hopes that this project will be the template for other conservation work in the Thebes area. In addition, a revised version of the TMP’s ‘KV 5 a preliminary report’ is due out in March 2005.

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    Cultural Heritage News Briefs for Autumn/Winter 2005

  • A three year cooperative mission, between a research team from the National Institute for Geophysics and Astronomy, "Helwan Observatory", the Computer Science Lab in the Technology Institute, Tokyo, as well as the Supreme Council for Antiquities will resume its project to survey and determine sites to evaluate/excavate for monuments in the Kharga Oases region. Such enterprise aims at the detection of antiquities around Al-Zaiyan Temple in the Polaq district in Al-Kharga Oases, in which state-of-the-art remote sensing and geophysical technology will be used to determine and locate significant archaeological sites. Notably, a similar field of study was conducted to locate the underground water surrounding Hebes Temple in the New Valley.

  • LE 40 million to be invested in upgrading Port Said Museum, which will then be able to display stored items in the near future.

  • The Nubian Rescue Mission at the 4th Cataract in the Sudan, where a huge hydro-electric dam is being built is progressing well. Polish, German, US and British teams are in a race against time to survey and excavate Prehistoric, through Pharaonic, Meroitic, Christian and Islamic monuments from the 160 km long area due to be flooded in 2007. (

  • The Luxor Temple Avenue has had its concrete tiles replaced with more appropriate stone ones.

  • Egypt’s President - Hosni Mubarak - will inaugurate early next year the plan to electronically secure the Giza Plateau, a project that has been implemented over the past 3 years by the SCA in cooperation with the National Security Agency. The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, said that the project cost LE 55 million, and includes the establishment of a 15-km fence around the plateau, to protect it from unplanned buildings. The fence is entirely away from the panorama of the pyramids, and does not have a negative impact on the aesthetic scenery of the Plateau. The plan also includes providing the area with about 20 electronic gates to regulate and control visits from the security point of view.

  • The sound and light systems in the temples of Karnak and Philae have been upgraded with the latest technology, as the old systems, which were never designed for use in the ancient temples, were damaging the monuments.

  • The Minister of Tourism - Ahmed Al Maghrabi said that tourism in Egypt has recorded an increase of 5.1% this year from January to October, in comparison to the same period last year. An estimated 7.2 million tourists have visited Egypt during this period. He added that tourist nights have also netted an increase of 3.8% underlining that this represents a breakthrough for Egyptian tourism. Al Maghrabi stated that the government is keen on cutting down of Customs and Imports as well as granting facilitation for establishing trade centres on international standards, which nourished the marketing of goods in Egypt.

  • Remains of a well, a basin and water canals have been recently discovered at Shikhoun Mosque.

  • The cave of Abu Serga church at Misr Al Qadima, visited by the Holy Family during their flight from Roman oppression has been treated for the effects of rising underground water.

  • In October 2005, the SCA’s restoration of the Prince Taz palace in Khalifa was opened by First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. The palace, built in 1353 by Prince Seif El-Din Taz in the Bahariya Mamluk era, was being used as a Ministry of Education storage facility, but the 1992 earthquake severely damaged it. The ministry initially decided to demolish the palace, but later decided to try to restore it. The palace is to be turned into a cultural center.

  • The Sunken Antiquities Administration in Alexandria is working with Southampton University to draw up a map of archaeological sites on the shores of Mariut Lake. Similar projects, involving Russian, French and British teams are also underway to map various other parts of the city and eventually create a GIS map showing ancient Alexandria. A complete mapping project of Alexandria hasn’t been conducted since Mahmoud Bey El-Falaki conducted his survey of the city in 1865/6 prior to its major redevelopment.

  • The International Papyrus Institute in Italy has offered a £50,000 grant for the first papyri restoration laboratory in the Middle East. The laboratory is to be part of the Egyptian Museum.

  • The activities of the executive committee for setting up the Nubia Museum in Aswan and the Civilization Museum in Fustat (Old Cairo) were held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris during autumn 2005.

  • France has returned a 31 kg stele dating from the reign of Psamtek I of the 26th Dynasty, which originally came from the Temple of Isis at Giza.

  • A 25% rise in admission fees for tourism and antiquities sites will be used to restore and preserve the sites, according to Elhamy El-Zayat, head of the Egyptian Federation of Tourism Chambers.

  • This winter French underwater archaeologists have discovered further parts of the foundations of the ancient Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria, the seventh wonder of the world. The director of the Alexandria national museum, Ibrahim Darwish, said Sunday that the lighthouse, which was destroyed by two earthquakes in the 11th and 14th centuries, had occupied an area of 800 sq m north of the city's eastern harbour. The lighthouse consisted of three towers stacked one on top of the other and reached 120-137 meters high. On top of the lighthouse, there was a bronze chalice holding smouldering coal. A complicated system of mirrors made it possible for travellers to see the smouldering coal from a distance of up to 60 miles. The lighthouse was built by the Greek architect Sostratus for King Ptolemy II (284-246 BC). It was erected on the eastern side of the island of Pharos at the entrance to the harbour of Alexandria. In July 2005, Governor Salam El Mahgoub called on Egyptian and international organizations to restore the lighthouse, a project that will cost $100 million.

  • Shali, the picturesque mud-brick city in the Siwa Oasis, has been added to the World Heritage Antiquities recorded by the UNESCO.

  • In Beijing, an international joint research group from the Catholic University in Leuven and Beijing University discovered a collection of Egyptian art that was believed lost for many years already. The find consists of over 50 stelae and 60 rubbings made with charcoal on paper. A special find is a stela which depicts Cleopatra as a male pharaoh. This is only the second known example of such a depiction. The majority of the retrieved items are items belonging to the Greek-Roman epoch. The first exposition of the retrieved collection items began at the Beijing Museum in August 2005.

  • In September 2005, the Governor General of Aswan - Samir Youssef ordered the investigation of a senior antiquities inspector responsible for Pharaonic noblemen's graves on the west bank of the Nile. In the meantime, the inspector has been demoted to a humble administrative post as a punishment for neglecting his duties. The Governor is having the performance of all the archaeologists, inspectors and security guards working in the Aswan Inspectorate reviewed, in preparation for the new tourist season. In related news, Youssef has allotted an area of land near the river in Aswan for the use of camel rides and as a car park for taxis. He has also given instructions for the creation of a new guidebook for Aswan, as well as repairing roads, paths and walkways to benefit visitors and constructing a new jetty for tourist boats to berth.

  • A bank robber dressed as an Egyptian mummy staged a successful raid on a bank in Vienna, Austria. The bandage-clad robber walked into a bank in the Austrian capital and stood in line waiting to be served. He then passed the cashier a piece of paper saying he had a hand grenade hidden in his bandages - and demanded all the money. He then quietly walked out with a bag filled with cash before police could arrive. Well, mummy usually holds the purse strings.

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    Red Sea Archaeological sites

    In August 2005 Mr Khaled Saad, of the Prehistoric Antiquities Administration, said that the Ministry of Culture plans to convert Red Sea archaeological sites into tourist attractions ( He also stressed that Red Sea is also distinguished for its natural heritage, which compliment the archaeological sites. A comprehensive restoration plan is to be implemented along roads leading to these sites. For instance, there are many rock art sites in and just off the wadis that run through the Red Sea Hills, inscribed there by ancient Egyptians who travelled through this area on commercial or military journeys. The Red Sea is also famous for not only prehistoric sites, but Pharaonic and Classical sites as well, including: Wadi Al Gimal, Marsa Alam, Sharm Al Louli and Wadi Al Gawasis. Excavations are proving that some of these sites were ports and that the inhabitants traded over long distances. Among the sites to be restored are the remains of the Roman-Byzantine Abu Shaara fortress. The limestone fortress lies on the coast and was central for trade, storage, administration and military purposes.

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    Climate Change and its Impact on the Nile Delta

    An article in the August Issue of Cairo Magazine focuses on the impacts of the changing environment on the future of the Nile Delta ( It looks primarily at the economic and social consequences of increasing salinity and higher water tables, and the predicted loss of much of the present costal regions. The effects of the rising water table and increased salinisation are already being severely felt at many of the Delta’s archaeological sites, a point previously highlighted by many of ECHO’s trustees. The potential impacts of further increases in both the water level and salinity, as well as a demographic movement would be disastrous for the archaeology of the region. Many sites on the coast will become submerged, whereas others, not already under cultivation or swallowed by urban sprawl will be eaten up by the needs of the displaced population. However, a dyke system similar to that employed in the Netherlands may be a solution to the rising sea level if installed along the Mediterranean Coast. A 12 year plan to investigate the best methods of mitigating the effects of climate change is being proposed by Egypt’s Ministry of Scientific Research and Academy of Scientific Research.

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    One Man’s Crusade to Protect Egypt’s Cultural Heritage

    One of the first crusaders fighting to save Egypt’s cultural heritage was Prisse d'Avennes, a contemporary and colleague of John Gardner Wilkinson. This remarkable man was determined to save the stone blocks and columns of Karnak from being used to build the Pasha’s saltpetre factory. However, his fortitude provoked several violent incidents. He was beaten, stabbed and jailed, but was still not deterred. One of his young assistants, George Lloyd de Beynestyn, having been assailed by a fellah, used the butt of his gun in self-defence, but accidentally shot himself instead. To see more on the exploits of this great CHM pioneer and his attempts to preserve Egypt’s cultural heritage visit:

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    Heritage Protocols between Egypt and Qatar see Return of Akhenaten Items

    In July 2005, the Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni came under heavy attack at the Peoples Assembly when Dr. Zakaria Azmy questioned the usefulness of an antiquities protocol between Egypt and Qatar, stating that most Gulf countries look on monuments as heathen statues that must be pulled down. The minister replied that Sheikh Saud Bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani the director of the National Culture, Heritage and Arts Council of Qatar, had always been interested in Egyptian antiquities, so much so that he has agreed to give back 80 pieces from the Amarna Period. Dr. Zahi Hawass came by the pieces during his visit to Qatar last December, and it was during that visit that Sheikh Saud promised to give them as a present to Egypt ( The artefacts will eventually be exhibited in the Tell el-Amarna Site Museum, expected to be completed in two years time.

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    New ICCROM Publication in Arabic

    As part of the publication activities of the ATHAR Programme, ICCROM announced this spring (2005) the publication in Arabic of Management Guidelines for World Cultural Heritage Sites by Bernard M. Feilden and Jukka Jokilehto. This publication is the translation of the 2nd English edition, published by ICCROM in 1998. As noted by the ECHO and ATHAR Programme partners, a serious deficiency in organising educational activities for professional archaeologists and heritage managers in the Arab speaking countries is the lack of published material in Arabic. In order to address this need, ICCROM, through its ATHAR Programme, is making available in translation some key titles. These are primarily for professionals and course participants from the Arab Region. ICCROM is grateful to the Directorate-General of Cooperation for Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy for making this publication possible through the ATHAR Programme. (

    Management Guidelines for World Cultural Heritage Sites by Bernard M. Feilden and Jukka Jokilehto. This publication is the translation of the 2nd English edition, published by ICCROM in 1998.

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    Cultural Heritage News Briefs for Winter/Spring 2005

  • Several rejuvenation projects undertaken by the Ministry's Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) will be inaugurated by the end of this year, including the temples of Al-Sibou'a Wa Omda in Aswan. A road linking these temples with those of Abu Simbel will also be constructed. Al Sibou'a Wa Omda is composed of five huge temples and a tomb to be refurbished soon, the Minister said, adding all these temples date back to the 18th and 19th Dynasties while the tomb dates to the Late Period.

  • In his regular Dig Days column in Al-Ahram Weekly Dr Zahi Hawass has written an interesting article - Protecting History, which proffers his views on site management.(

  • In May 2005 the government began implementing an ambitious LE863 million programme to restore the civilised face of the capital. This will be achieved through an effort to limit pollution, over-population and traffic jams, as well as giving a face-lift to some of the more run-down areas of the city and re-landscaping some of the gardens along the Corniche. The new programme is being executed in cooperation with the private sector in the framework of the new millennium development goals which include protection of the environment.

  • Switzerland has recently ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This agreement will give the Egypt a legal right to demand the return of illicit antiquities that have been smuggled to Switzerland. Switzerland in the past has been famous for illicit antiquities auctions. The signing of the agreement is a severe step forward in the fight to stop antiquities smugglers.

  • Mrs Suzanne Mubarak hosted a meeting for the British-Egyptian committee which was formed to consider the further expansion of Suzanne Mubarak's Children Museum within the framework of the society's activities. The Children’s Museum received more than 100,000 visiting children last year. The museum gives the child an overview of Egypt's ancient history as well as geographical milieu such as the deserts, rivers, seas and oases through state-of-the-art audio-visual media.

  • In March 2005, the SCA has approved a plan to retrieve the 12 pieces of the Pharos gate from the sea bed of Al Silsilah Bay. Once rescued it will be used as the main gate at the entrance of the park facing the Bibliotheca. The project will be headed by teams from Marseille University and the French Alexandrian Studies Centre. Supervising the salvaging process is a group of archaeologists from Marseille University and the French Alexandrian Studies Centre.

  • The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni said restoration works are underway in 150 Islamic monuments inside Old Cairo, in addition to 22 others scheduled to finish in July 2005, including that at Bab el-Azab.

  • Two artefacts, a pottery jar and a statue of Anubis, have been recovered from the US by an Egyptian legal team. These objects had originally been stolen from an SCA magazine. They were eventually found in New York at the Metropolitan Museum and an auction house. The chief of the Egyptology Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dr. Arnold, gave the Egyptian team the First Dynasty pottery vessel at a news conference in New York. The Anubis statue was rescued from an auction house just before it was sold. This piece dates back to the Third Intermediate Period.

  • In December 2004, Egyptian lawyers brought back an ancient mural from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In press statements on this occasion, the Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni said that the mural, discovered in Helwan, Egypt by archaeologist Ibrahim Zarqana, was among 12 pieces that were auctioned off in Bonham’s, London in October. He continued, when the Metropolitan Museum discovered that the mural, which dates back to the Early Dynastic Period, was stolen from Egypt; it immediately contacted the Egyptian authorities. Zahi Hawass formed a panel of archaeologists to examine the mural in the US before bringing it back to Egypt. Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, director of the restored monuments department, said that the other 12 antiquities were also stolen from Egypt, adding that Egypt succeeded in stopping the sale of three of them in October 2004. A detailed report on the rest of the stolen pieces was sent to Scotland Yard in preparation for sending them back to Egypt. The Egyptian Embassy in London received seven artefacts in February 2005 that date back to the Predynastic Period, from Bonham’s after intensive contacts with the British authorities and the auction hall officials. The Egyptian Ambassador in London, Gihad Madi, said these pieces were stolen from the museum of the Cairo University, Faculty of Arts in 2002, adding that documents and evidence proving Egypt's rights were offered to the British authorities and the auction hall. Thanks to this Anglo-Egyptian cooperation the artefacts are all now safely back in Cairo University’s Archaeological Museum.

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