Atlantis Online

the Dawn of Civilization => Africa, the Cradle of Life => Topic started by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 09:47:10 pm

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 09:47:10 pm

                                             2008 - A FRUITFUL ARCHAEOLOGICAL YEAR

       Nevine El-Aref sums up this year's most interesting archaeological events and highlights the 2009 agenda

This year saw several important discoveries, the restoration of ancient Egyptian, Coptic and Islamic monuments, and the return of artefacts smuggled illegally out of Egypt.

Almost every day, excavators carrying out routine excavation or cleaning stumbled on a new discovery. It might be potsherds or decorative fragments, but it could be a major discovery leading to further understanding of Egypt's history and culture.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 09:52:56 pm

Clockwise from top left:

the Egyptian Museum's restoration lab;

Giza Plateau;

Ibn Tulun Mosque minaret;

underwater archaeologists before a stele;

the hypostal hall of Seti I Temple;

restoring Haremohab tomb and a fresco at the Coptic Museum

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 09:57:30 pm

One of the most important discoveries of 2008 was made at the forefront of Karnak Temple in Luxor. According to archaeologists it has changed the landscape and the history of this great religious complex. Supreme Council of Antiquities' (SCA) archaeologists found a Ptolemaic ceremonial bath, a private ramp for the 25th-Dynasty Pharaoh Taharqa, a large number of bronze coins, an ancient dock and the remains of a wall that once protected the temple zone from the rising Nile flood.

SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawass says further excavation will lead to the ancient harbour and canal that once connected the temple to the Nile. According to an old map, this canal was used to gain access to the west bank of the river in a position corresponding to Hatshepsut's Deir Al-Bahari Temple, which was built on the same axis.

The first evidence that the Nile once ran alongside the temple is found in the so-called Madrasa area, 50 metres southwest of the first pylon. It includes remains of what was a massive, sandstone embankment wall built some 3,000 years ago to reinforce the bank of the river, which has since moved.

The discovery of the embankment has changed the thinking about the temple's ancient façade. Previous theories, based on depictions found in several 18th-Dynasty private tombs such as that of a government official named Neferhotep, were based on the view that Karnak Temple was linked to the Nile by a canal through a rectangular pool dug in front of the temple. Boraik says this theory was supported by the uncovering in the 1970s of a small part of this embankment, which was assumed to be the back wall of the pool.

Archaeologists now believe that the pool depicted in ancient drawings was backfilled in antiquity and that the temple was expanded on top of it, built out to the edge of where the Nile flowed 3,000 years ago.

One of the most important discoveries in the area was the remains of a great circular Ptolemaic bath with an intricate mosaic tiled floor and seating for 16 people, with some seats flanked by dolphin statuettes.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:01:19 pm


The latest technology has helped, more or less, solve the enigma of the mummy of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I, the father of Queen Hatshepsut. Up to now the mummy of Tuthmosis I was assumed to be known until this year, when a CT scan of the supposed mummy the Pharaoh indicated that it belonged to a young man who was not even placed in the royal pose and had an arrow embedded in his chest, while Tuthmosis I is known to have died of natural causes.

Not only were the pose and the cause of death wrong, but the dates did not fit. The mummy was that of a man 30 years of age, making it impossible for him to be Hatshepsut's father since she died at the age of 50.

To solve the riddle, CT-scans and DNA tests were being conducted on three unidentified mummies, Pharaoh Seti II and two other mummies of unknown females and were discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in tomb number 21 in 1817, but were later deliberately damaged.

CT-scans and DNA analysis were carried out on two foetuses found in Tutankhamun's tomb, one four months old and the other two months, in order to identify their genders and the identity of their mother and grandmother. It was long thought that Ankhesenamun was Tutankhamun's wife and step-sister and their grandmother was Queen Nefertiti, wife of the monotheistic King Akhenaten.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:02:47 pm

At the Valley of the Kings on the west bank at Luxor, Egyptian excavators cleaning the corridor of Pharaoh Seti I's tomb unearthed a quartzite ushabti (human representation) figure and the cartouche of Pharaoh Seti I, the second ruler of the 19th Dynasty, while a number of clay vessels were also unearthed along with fragments from the tomb wall paintings that may have become dislodged and fallen off after its discovery.

The length of the corridor was remeasured and found to be 136 metres long, not the 100 metres recorded in the original report by Belzoni, the tomb's discoverer. Geological studies revealed the corridor was not carved inside the tomb as one single piece but was formed of separate parts, each with its own architectural features as if it were a gate leading towards the afterlife. Utensils used by the famous 19th-century tomb robber Abdel-Rassoul and his family were found in the dust, among them a tea caddy, cigarette packets and a fly whisk.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:04:02 pm


The SCA undertook an underwater exploration on the Nile bed at Aswan, this time searching for objects that sank more than 2,500 years when obelisks, blocks and statues were transported from the quarries at Aswan to the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Underwater archaeologists raised a complete portico of the Khnum Temple and two huge unidentified columns. Several 26th-Dynasty decorative pieces, along with Roman amphora and a number of clay vessels, were also removed from the river.

Japanese archaeologists working on the Giza Plateau enabled King Khufu's second solar boat to be seen by the public. They inserted a tiny camera through a hole in the boat chamber's limestone ceiling to transmit video images of the boat to a small TV monitor. The images screened show layers of wooden beams and cedar and acacia timbers, as well as ropes and other materials.

At Saqqara the discovery of the subsidiary pyramid of Queen Sesheshet, mother of the Sixth-Dynasty King Teti, was another clue to understanding more about this enigmatic dynasty, while the discovery of the tombs of King Unas's favourite singer and the supervisor of his exploration missions revealed new burial patterns.

There were also several small finds such as Ptolemaic artefacts from the north coast near Alexandria, traces of a fortified New Kingdom city in North Sinai, and a Byzantine wine factory in South Sinai.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:05:13 pm

The SCA embarked on several restoration schemes, among them was the restoration of the Arab Kelly house in Rosetta with a view to transform it into the city's national museum.

The house illustrates the history of Rosetta from the city's construction in ancient times right through to the modern era. On display are 600 artefacts carefully selected from the Islamic and Coptic museums and the Gayer Anderson House in Cairo, along with another 200 objects unearthed from archaeological sites around Rosetta. These include Omayyid and Ottoman gold and bronze coins, pots and pans, versions of the Quran and a number of 18th- and 19th-century weapons such as arrows, swords, knives and pistols. Tapestry, military and national Ottoman and Mameluke costumes are also exhibited.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:06:42 pm

The Karnak Temple forefront, which for decades was a stage for encroachment, chaos and grime and a large parking lot have been transformed into one of the most beautiful areas of the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor. The LE85 million Karnak development project has been implemented in collaboration with the Luxor City Council and is now almost in place. Following 18 months of studies and field work, all infringements on the archaeological site have been removed, clearing a plot for further excavation.

In the meantime, bazaars neighbouring the temple walls have been removed from what was formerly the Luxor stadium on the Nile Corniche. The vacated area is now a one-storey commercial zone with a vast parking area along with a visitor centre, built in the same colonial style as George Legrain's house -- now demolished -- to provide visitors with all the information they need about the history of Karnak and what lays within its enclosure walls. A memorabilia gallery commemorates the early French archaeologists who worked at Karnak, including Auguste Mariette, Gaston Maspero and Georges Legrain, and tells their stories through photographs taken during excavation and restoration as well as copies of their publications and correspondence.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:07:54 pm

In the heart of Fatimid Cairo, all the monuments that line Al-Muizz Street have been restored. The whole street will become a pedestrian zone. Thirty-four monuments on Al-Muizz Street and 67 in neighbouring alleyways have now been restored. The treatment of road surfaces and street furniture enhances the experience of visitors to Al-Muizz Street, which lies between Bab Al-Fotouh and Bab Zuweila and was the main thoroughfare of the Fatimid city. The road has been lowered to its original level and a high-tech drainage system for rain water has been installed, while nearby houses have been spruced up and painted in colours that are sympathetic with the street's historic buildings.

This is the first phase of a major plan aimed at reviving mediaeval Cairo which began with refurbishing 62 Islamic monuments, including Cairo's old walls and gates. Also restored were the Abul-Abbas and Shaikhoun Mosques and two Islamic buildings in Al-Khalifa close to the Ibn Tulun Mosque. In Sayeda Zeinab, the historic mosque and khanqah (hostel for itinerant Sufis) of Prince Shaykhu and the sabil-kuttab (water fountain and Quranic school) of Prince Abdullah Kathuda, which reflect the brilliance of the mediaeval Mameluke period when Islamic architecture flourished in Cairo, have been restored and opened to the public.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:11:12 pm

At the Giza necropolis the first phase of a site management plan that will serve the twin goals of establishing a suitable visitor reception centre and preserving the plateau from the inherent dangers of mass tourism has been completed. The site is protected by an 18.5m enclosure wall equipped with 200 mobile and fixed CCTV cameras which will keep the inside areas and the surrounding streets under round-the-clock surveillance. The cameras will videotape any movement in or out of the plateau. A movement alarm system is also installed there, consisting of electronic sensors using infra-red rays that will trigger an alarm if anyone tries illicitly to enter the site or perpetrate any illicit excavation.

The entrance opposite the Mena House Hotel, which after the completion of the project's three phases will be for VIPs and private visits only, is controlled by electronic security gates. Electronic ticket machines will count the number of visitors moving in and out, and will accurately control the number of visitors at all times. It is accompanied by an early warning system and a burglar alarm. According to Hosni, since the device was installed the ticket income has increased from LE500,000 to LE800,000 per day.

More facilities have been provided on the site such as high- standard toilets, a large parking area and a small bookshop selling archaeological and historical books as well as replicas.

Under the second and third phases, all the paved roads around the monuments will be removed and replaced with paths in the style of those seen in ancient Egypt in an attempt to restore some of the area's original features. A special path for tourists will be built. All the administrative buildings and storehouses within the archaeological site will be removed, and a new lighting system will be installed at strategic places around the plateau while a conservation laboratory will be established for the preservation of artefacts. Another parking area will be created outside the plateau at the entrance on the Giza- Fayoum road, just behind the second pyramid of Khafre, which will be reserved for tourists and group visits. Access to the site will be limited to pedestrians.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:12:26 pm

RETURNED ANTIQUITIES: This year a number of illegally smuggled artefacts have been recovered from the UK, the US and Switzerland.


The greywacke head of the 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III was returned to Egypt after two decades of being shunted back and forth between Switzerland, the UK and the US, while 79 pre-dynastic artefacts, including plain stone reliefs, ceramic and alabaster pots, and jewellery made of shells, stolen from a Maadi museum are back from the US and the lost eye of Pharaoh Amenhotep III's limestone statue, found on Luxor's west bank in 1970, was back in Egypt following 36 globetrotting years.


Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:15:20 pm

EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES ON DISPLAY: Several exhibitions have been held at home and abroad. At the Egyptian Museum, one exhibition was on the history of the museum itself since its construction in the early 1990s, and another showed Egypt's foreign relations in ancient times.

The Arab World Institute in Paris held an exhibition on "Bonaparte and Egypt... Fire and Light" to highlight a very important episode in Franco-Egyptian relations. The exhibition suggested a new view of the rapport between France and Egypt in the 19th century, especially in the era that followed Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt between 1798 and 1801.

In Monaco, the "Queens of Egypt" exhibition was opened by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak and Monaco's head of state Prince Albert II. It draws on the latest discoveries to bring some exceptional and fascinating ancient Egyptian women out of the shadows. This display of 250 artefacts carefully selected from 40 museums around the world, revealed the many facets of some of the mothers, wives and daughters who played a prominent rule in political life.

In Madrid, King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia opened the "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" exhibition at the Antiguo Matadero de Legazpi. The 489 objects had been selected from several Alexandrian sites, with 30 on loan from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Museum, 39 from the Alexandrian National Museum, and 372 drawn from the SCA storehouse of the General Underwater Monuments Department.


The SCA's agenda includes the opening of a number of restored ancient Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic monuments and museums, among them those at Rosetta, Suez and Helwan;

the Royal Jewellery Museum in Alexandria; the Royal Carriage and the Islamic museums;

the Qualawun, Al-Set Meska and Al-Layth mosques; and several sabil-kuttabs (water fountains and Quranic schools) and houses.

Those still under development include the Tel Basta area in Zagazig governorate;

the Kom Al-Shokafa tombs and the Sawari Column (Pompey's Pillar) in Alexandria; and

Abu Rawash, Saqqara and Abu Sir, Edfu and Komombo.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:25:16 pm

                                                     A PALACE IN HEAVEN

By David Stanford
Egypt Daily News
October 3, 2008


During excavations around the
Sheikhu Mosque, this hammam
was unearthed and has now
been fully excavated.

The children playing football in a side street near the Ibn Toloun Mosque last Sunday evening were well aware
that somebody important was visiting their neighborhood.

The main road was being sluiced down by street cleaners and holes filled with rubble. A dozen or so serious-looking men with walkie-talkies were prowling the area in search of security risks. And throughout the evening a steady flow of journalists and professionals in suits could be seen entering a newly-renovated mosque on Sabil Street, which runs between the Ibn Toloun Mosque and the Citadel.

The local children had been hoping to see Suzanne Mubarak that evening. In the end, they had to settle for Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq and Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, resplendent in
his jet black bouffant and open-neck shirt.

Flanking them as they took their seats for a video presentation were Cairo Governor Abdel-Azim Wazir, and the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, who burst in somewhat late, having been held up
by the traffic and street cleaners.

The object of all this frenzied attention was the Sheikhu Mosque, a fine 14th century structure in the Mamluk
style, which was being officially re-opened after four years of painstaking conservation work. Across the road,
its sister building, the Sheikhu Khanqah was also being unveiled, as were two sabil/kuttabs — drinking fountains
for passersby with Quran learning rooms above them.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:26:43 pm


              The prayer hall inside
              the Sheikhu Mosque.

The mosque and khanqah were named after the Amir Sheikhu, who built them between 1349 and 1355, during the early Mamluk period.

Sheikhu was an Amir Kabir (Grand Prince) under the Sultan Al-Nasir Hassan. His responsibilities were primarily military, and he was an important member of the Sultan’s power structure. In keeping with the tradition of the time, Sheikhu constructed the two religious buildings towards the end of his life, an act of religious devotion intended to make up for a somewhat worldly career.

Abdullah Al-Attar, an official from the Ministry of Culture present for the unveiling, explained the origins of the buildings.

“Amir Sheikhu was a military man,” he told Daily News Egypt. “Many such princes were quite radical and concerned with power. However, by the end of their lives, they would build mosques in order to purify the negative deeds they had done during their life. They wanted to go to heaven, and in the Quran it says that those who build mosques will have a palace in heaven.”

The Sheikhu Khanqah performed a role roughly similar to that of a madrassa, although the term ‘khanqah’ is borrowed from the Persian language and was originally associated with the Sufi sect. The khanqah’s role as a place of religious contemplation and study can be seen in the warren of small rooms built off the main courtyard.

“These study areas are traditionally for old men who maybe have families and jobs, but who want to come here for a few hours in the night to study and pray,” continued Al-Attar. “Such a man wants to travel to heaven in his mind, and then return to his family or work in the morning.

“The idea is to allow people to separate from society for a while and just be with God.”

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:27:49 pm

The simple prayer rooms contain no furniture, just a few small shelves and a window overlooking the courtyard. In line with the principles spelled out in the UNESCO-inspired plan for salvaging such sites, the rooms will be returned to their original use once the building is handed over to the Ministry of Religious Endowments later this month.

Touring the site amid a flock of journalists, Dr Zahi Hawass admitted to being no particular expert on Islamic architecture; he is more at home in a Pharaonic tomb. But he was nonetheless enthusiastic about the work done on Sheikhu Mosque and its associated structures. Rather than replacing the damaged structures with new materials, he said, the focus has been on conserving the existing fabric of the buildings.

“As you see, the work we are doing here for the first time is not reconstruction, it is conservation,” Hawass told Daily News Egypt. “That’s why when we hire companies to do this work, we have to be sure that they have the expertise in conservation and restoration. And you can see this expertise in the way they have cleaned the walls, for example, as well as the ceilings.”

The detail present in the buildings is indeed impressive. Elaborate Quranic inscriptions in blue and white decorate the ceiling of the main prayer hall in the khanqah. The two minbars (imam’s pulpits) boast delicate carving in stone and wooden mashrabiya screens, while damaged marble floors and mosaics have been patched and re-laid. Everywhere are the distinctive red-and-white-striped arches typical of Mamluk architecture.

In one corner of the khanqah’s prayer hall sits an enclosed space with a smooth marble floor. As conservator Mamdouh Ouda explained, beneath the floor lies the Amir’s tomb, the stone structure above it having been pilfered at some point by “the common people.”

On the walls above the Amir’s resting place are two frescos depicting scenes from Mecca, both of which have been restored to something of their former glory.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:28:54 pm

These renovations in Sabil Street are just the latest in a long line of such works in the area commonly known as Islamic Cairo, which runs roughly from the Northern Gates of the Fatimid city wall down to Ibn Toloun Mosque and the Citadel in the south. Several hundred such monuments from the times of Saladin through to the 19th century have been listed by UNESCO since 1979, and each year a couple of dozens see the light magically renewed.

The primary value of such works is in saving the nation’s cultural and religious heritage. But the government is also very much aware of the area’s potential for boosting tourism.

“This renovation work cost Egyptian government LE 11 million, and although we have a close relationship with UNESCO, it was all paid for from our own funds,” said Al-Attar.

“We have more than a thousand Islamic and Coptic monuments just in Cairo, and it’s a problem for us. Today we opened four buildings. In other areas it is possible to restore just one or two buildings per year, but in Cairo we have to restore much faster, maybe 25 or 30 buildings per year. Because if we didn’t do that, they would just crumble.”

It seems the children of Islamic Cairo can look forward to plenty more high-level delegations in the coming years. Maybe next time it will be Suzanne Mubarak. 

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:30:05 pm

Clockwise from above:

the minaret and dome of Shaykhu mosque;

the minbar;

Hosni and Zaqzouq inspecting the restoration of the khanqah 's marble floor;

the main façade of sabil-kuttab Prince Abdullah

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:31:34 pm

9 - 15 October 2008
Issue No. 917

Published in Cairo by
AL-AHRAM established in 1875   

                                                      Mameluke makeover

Three restored Mameluke edifices in Cairo's Sayeda Zeinab district have reopened to the public. Nevine El-Aref attended last week's inaugural ceremony.
As Muslims were celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni and Minister of Endowments Hamdi Zaqzouq attended the official reopening of three restored Islamic buildings in Al-Saliba Street in Sayeda Zeinab. The historic mosque and khanqah (hostel for itinerant Sufis) of Prince Shaykhu and the sabil-kuttab (water fountain and Quranic school) of Prince Abdullah Kathuda, which reflect the brilliance of the mediaeval Mameluke period when Islamic architecture flourished in Cairo, have been restored and are again open to the public.

All three monuments were suffering from the same classic problems: leakage of subterranean water, misuse by the area's residents, structural deterioration and serious environmental damage from air pollution, humidity and decaying foundations, and not least the effects of the 1992 earthquake which caused cracking to all three monuments and the collapse of some archaeological elements. Some parts of their original floors had completely vanished, as well as parts of their mashrabiya (wooden lattice work) façades.

"Restoring these monuments is a milestone in the efforts to preserve and protect Cairo's Islamic heritage," Hosni told the assembled guests and reporters. He said the opening marked the end of a 10-year restoration project that cost the ministry almost LE12 million.

Almost 140 Islamic monuments out of the 400 scheduled for restoration have reopened following completion of the work within the framework of the rehabilitation project, while the others are in the process of restitution. The overall vision is to develop the whole area as an open-air museum. So far 45 sabils, kuttabs, mosques, madrasas, wekalas (merchant centres), and khanqahs have been restored and are ready to open their doors to worshippers and visitors. "We will attempt to recapture the area's original fame and splendour after 100 years of negligence," Hosni said.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:32:37 pm

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Zaqzouq stressed the strong amity and mutual cooperation between the ministries of endowments and culture, both of which he said had placed the preservation of Islamic monuments at the top of their list of priorities. "We are exerting all our efforts to protect and preserve Egypt's Islamic monuments, specially the mosques which are under mutual supervision and guardianship from both ministries," the minister said. He described the news recently published in the press about the waves on the surface in the relation between the ministries of endowments and culture as "a media boom".

The first monument to be inaugurated was the mosque of Prince Shaykhu, the commander-in- chief of the Mameluke army during the reign of Sultan Hassan. The great Arab historian Al-Maqrizi described this mosque as one of the most outstanding and beautiful mosques in all Egypt. Its façade is divided into five recessed walls crowned by tiers of muqarnas (honeycomb-like architectural ornamentation adorned with domes and cobles), below which are window openings. On the upper area is a band of inscription carved into the stone in naskh script (a style of Arabic calligraphy). The entrance, located on the left of the façade, is in the style of Mameluke portal design, consisting of an archway with a ceiling topped with a semi-circular dome adorned with muqarnas.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:33:29 pm

The entrance is decorated with polychrome marble decoration, and the spandrels of the arch are adorned with vegetal leafy motifs carved into the stone. A slender minaret made up of three stories tops the entrance. The first and the second stories are octagonal, while the third is crowned by a pinnacle in the form of a small dome.

The minaret is identical in height and form to the minaret of the khanqah opposite. It is adorned with an inlaid casing of red and white stones, arranged in geometric pattern and made up of zigzag lines that assume the form of a linked chain of V-shaped letters.

The mosque is composed of a rectangular courtyard surrounded by four iwans (vaulted halls). Among the most distinguished features in the iwan al-qibla are the minbar (pulpit) and the dikkat al-muballigh (a raised area from which prayers are reiterated to worshippers).

The mosque's minbar is made of stone carved with beautiful geometric decoration.

"This minbar is considered to be one of the very few surviving examples of that kind in Cairo, since almost all pulpits are wooden constructions," Mohsen Sayed, director of Islamic and Coptic monuments section, told Al-Ahram Weekly. He continued that the dikkat al-muballigh, which is also made of stone, is thought to be the first stone dais in Egypt, while daises built of wood and marble were more familiar.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:36:09 pm

The third monument is the sabil-kuttab of Prince Abdullah Kathuda, who was the patron of architecture of his time. The edifice offers richness and ingenuity in its decorative architectural style. It consisted originally of a sabil - kuttab, a house, bakery and a group of bazaars, but through the ages most of this complex had vanished except for the sabil-kuttab and remains of the house as well as three bazaars. The splendid monument is a two- storey building divided into two connected parts; the sabil-kuttab and the houses. The architecture of the sabil-kuttab is typically Mameluke, with mashrabiya façades and with living apartments with a wide open court and four chambers.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said all the restoration had been carried out according to the latest and most scientific methods. "Every effort was made to ensure that all original architectural features were retained," he said.

Hawass added that the restoration of the sabil- kuttab had two important advantages: individual monuments were being preserved for future generations, and the entire neighbourhood was being revived and upgraded.

Abdallah El-Attar, consultant of Islamic and Coptic antiquities at the SCA, said the aim of the restoration was chiefly to strengthen the foundations and protect them from future damage. This was achieved using the "micro- pile system" which, he said, was the installation of sharp pointed columns beneath the archaeological complex to reinforce its foundations. The walls were reinforced, missing and decayed stones were replaced and masonry cleaned and desalinated. The edifice now stands as proudly as it did in the past.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:37:54 pm

                           Egyptian Minister of Tourism to open ATS Annual Fall Conference

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The American Tourism Society (ATS) Annual Fall Conference will take place in Cairo, Egypt, October 27-30, 2008, under the auspices of H.E. Zoheir Garranah, Egyptian Minister of Tourism. Mr. Amr El-Ezaby, Chairman, Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) will join H.E. Zoheir Garranah to officially open the conference on Tuesday, October 28th at the five-star Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah Hotel. Renowned Egyptian Archaeologist, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, will be the keynote speaker. H.E. Akel Biltaji, Chair of the ATS Mediterranean/Red Sea Council Region will officially call the meeting to order.

The three-day conference, the first ever ATS meeting in Egypt, will be jam-packed with key tourism industry sessions in the mornings and afternoon tours to some of the famous sights and sounds of Cairo including The Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Salah El-Din, Mohammed Ali Mosque, the Khan El Khalily Bazaar (a shopper’s paradise), and the Pyramids and the Sphinx, part of a World Heritage Site region, and the only ancient Wonder of the World still standing.

Following a welcome reception on Monday evening October 27, the first conference sessions will take place on Tuesday, October 28. In addition to H.E. Zoheir Garranah, Mr. El -Ezaby, and Dr. Hawass, other opening day speakers will include H.E. the Hon. Margaret Scobey, United States Ambassador to Egypt, David T. Parry, ATS Chairman and Chairman, Academic Travel Abroad, Phil Otterson, ATS President and Executive Vice President Internal Affairs, Tauck World Discovery, Don Reynolds, ATS Executive Vice President. Alex Harris, ATS Co-founder and Hon. Chairman and Chairman, General Tours, will present the first annual Alexander W. Harris Founder’s Award.

One of the program highlights of opening day will be the “Presidents Panel” featuring the Presidents of major travel industry organizations including Bob Whitley, United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), Bruce Beckham, Tourism Cares, Robin Tauck, Tauck World Discovery, Lisa Simon, National Tour Association, as well as a representatives of the American Egypt Chamber of Commerce and the Egyptian Tourism Federation. The panel will be moderated by Cathleen Johnson, Executive Vice President, Edelman Public Relations International.

Phil Otterson will give an overview of the expansion of the ATS Tourism College initiative “now an integral part of each conference. This is in keeping with the ATS policy that the organization gives back something to the destinations where it meets.” This year the ATS Tourism College program will take place on Sunday, October 26, at the Helwan University, prior to the opening of the ATS Conference itself. The sessions will focus on two topics suggested by the Helwan University professors, E-Marketing led by ATS Board Member, Dave Spinelli, Global Web Solutions and Mike Wargo, Travelocity; The Market for Special Interest and Cultural Travel session will be led by David Parry, ATS Chairman and Chairman, Academic Travel Abroad.  A large number of students are expected to participate in Sunday’s seminar while 50 students will participate each day of the conference itself.

The ATS Conference program on Wednesday, October 29, will feature ATS Tourism College  initiatives and educational sessions that focus on greater interaction with the local travel industry partners, as well as expand on the Tourism College training program.

A US Tour operator panel, moderated by Bob Whitley, President USTOA, will target the Egyptian delegates, focusing on “Trends in North American Tourism.” The first keynote speaker for the Wednesday Sessions will be Bruce Beckham, President, Tourism Cares, who will present “Tourism Cares – Restoring the Past, Preserving the Future.” The second keynote address for that day will be given by El Hamy El Zayat, Chairman, EMECO Travel, who will provide the American delegates with an overview “Trends in Egyptian Tourism.” The Egyptian Tourism Federation will present a panel on “Egypt: Realities vs. Perception,” moderated by Mohamed Salmawy, President, Egyptian Writers Union followed by an update “Tourism 4 Peace” presented by Mr. Rafi Baeri, Dan Hotels, Israel.

American Express Company, represented by ATS Board Member, Donna Flora, Sr. VP, Travel Industry Relations, will host all ATS delegates for a final Gala Dinner at the famous Mena House Oberoi, adjacent to the Pyramids.

Post Conference Five-Night National Tour Association (NTA) Product Development Cruise on the Nile.

The ATS post-conference National Tour Association Product Development Tour will be a luxurious Nile Cruise on the inaugural voyage of the new 5-star deluxe Tamar Henna. Delegates will have the opportunity to view Egypt’s splendors from the comfort of the deck, and then disembark to more intimately experience the unparalleled sights of these exceptional ancient cities. The first ATS / NTA partnership initiative, the cruise will provide Egypt with an opportunity to introduce new tour operators to some of the more famous highlights of Ancient Egypt.

All ATS conference tours and land arrangements are being handled by Wings Tours, the official ATS Conference Ground Operator. Egypt Air, the official ATS conference carrier, will be offering special rates for ATS delegates. As it enters a new era of expansion, Egypt Air is now a partner in the Star Alliance.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:46:15 pm

                                                              BLOOMING IN CAIRO

Written by John Feeney •

A daring “green” experiment closely linked to Cairo’s past is blossoming in an unlikely spot—next to the city’s ancient eastern ramparts, on the site of a vast, almost equally ancient rubbish dump. For half a millennium, residents had tossed and hauled household garbage and building debris “over the wall,” creating a hilly landfill that rose as high as 40 meters (130') in the medieval heart of Cairo. Today, the site has been turned into a park modeled on the traditional Islamic garden, offering peace and quiet, and a view like no other.

The $30-million park project was spearheaded by the Aga Khan, whose family ties to Cairo date back to its founding by the Fatimids in 969. A thousand years later, in November 1984, as part of his interest in inviting local residents to contribute to the modernization of the Muslim world, the Aga Khan called a conference entitled “The Expanding Metropolis: Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo” to address the city’s rapid population growth, the decline in the quality of its housing and associated problems.

When the meeting concluded, the Aga Khan decided to give a park to the city as a substantive contribution. He had a vision of providing Cairo with a large, open public area with trees, flowers and running water, in the manner of a traditional Islamic garden, “which would enhance the life of local communities” and also serve as a case study for a variety of modern urban development challenges. A park, he thought, would be an ideal gift, if only enough space could be found in this teeming city of 17 million souls where, according to one report, the amount of green space per resident was only about 350 square centimeters—the area of a man’s footprint.

By comparison, densely populated Miami has about 14 square meters of park per resident (150 square feet, or 400 times as much as Cairo)—and Cairo has no beaches.

A short time later, a most unlikely large, open space was suggested for the park: a 30-hectare (74-acre) desert area called al-Darassa, just outside the walls that enclosed Fatimid Cairo. A more desolate location—though occupied by a police horse stables—could hardly be imagined. Since no other land was available, the site was selected, and a bold plan was drawn up to lay out a lush green park with trees, pavilions and running water atop centuries of accumulated debris. It was a most derelict spot, but also a most historic one. Overlooking al-Darassa to the south stood the 11th-century Citadel, built by Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (Saladin), whose Ayyubid dynasty supplanted the Fatimids. To the west lay the 12th-century Ayyubid city, a densely packed area of crowded tenements, domes, minarets and mosques forming one of the richest treasure houses of Islamic architecture in the world. To the east sprawled the vast 15th-century Mamluk City of the Dead, with its ornate mausolea.

About 1500 meters (1 mi) from al-Darassa stood one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar, “the most blooming,” founded by the Aga Khan’s ancestors a dozen years after they began building Cairo. The new public area was named Al-Azhar Park, after the university.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:47:16 pm

But there was a problem. While the Cairo police horses could be moved to greener pastures with relative ease, three giant water reservoirs—each 80 meters (260') in diameter and 14 meters (46') deep—were slated to be installed in al-Darassa to provide much-needed drinking water for Greater Cairo. Undaunted, the planners decided to lay out the new park over the covers of the new water reservoirs, which thus had to be completed before work on the new park could begin.

With the assistance of Sasaki Associates of Boston, developers created a new master plan before the reservoirs were completed in 1995. The park would be built on a grand scale, based on the traditional Islamic gardens of the past: There would be shaded takhtaboush sitting areas, Persian and Timurid elements in the park’s water channels and a bustan, or orchard.

In 1996, the police horses were sent packing and the Cairo Governorate released the site to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). The project grew to include rehabilitation of the Darb al-Ahmar district immediately to the west as well as the restoration of several important monuments on the skyline of the old city: the 14th-century Um Sultan Shaaban Mosque and the Khayrbek Complex, which includes a 13th-century palace, a mosque and an Ottoman-era house. A school and 19 residences were also embraced in the project, and parallel social-development schemes involved a housing-credit plan and a microfinance program that gave local residents opportunities to restore their own houses and start small businesses. The trust had done similar projects in Hunza in Pakistan, in Samarkand and in Zanzibar, but this was its biggest and most complex undertaking ever.

In 1997, a team of Egyptian, French, Italian and American architects, engineers and landscape and horticultural specialists started work on the park. A fleet of earth-moving machines began the job of carting away 500 years of rubble —tens of thousands of truckloads amounting to more than 1.5 million cubic meters (1.96 million cu yd)—more than half the volume of the Great Pyramid. Then the excavators made a most unexpected discovery. On the west flank of al-Darassa, under rubbish mounds 30 meters (100') deep, they uncovered a totally buried section of the 12th-century Ayyubid wall built to protect Cairo, complete with its gates, towers, interior chambers, passageways and galleries. The AKTC called the find “one of the most important archeological discoveries of the past decades” relating to medieval Egypt. Plans were changed to incorporate the newly discovered wall into a broader project: It would be restored and used to both set off and link the new park and the old Ayyubid city.

Water, of course, was a key aspect of the project. The builders of the big Mughal gardens of India which, like the new Al-Azhar Park, covered whole hillsides, had paid careful attention to this. Luckily, a large-diameter water pipeline passed nearby that carried water from the Nile to an agricultural area, and a new spur was built to the park site. Agricultural soil and sand were trucked in.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:49:58 pm

At the same time, stonecutters working in a quarry in the nearby Moqattam Hills (where the casing of the Giza Pyramids had also been quarried) began carving out the thousands of limestone blocks required to build the park’s pavilions. Marble to line the waterways and fountains came from a quarry near Suez, more was brought from Carrara, Italy, and some specially colored marble came from as far away as India.

Meanwhile, horticulturalists took special steps to make the barren site bloom. Experiments to determine the best plant varieties to use in the park continued for five years at the American University in Cairo’s desert agricultural research center. Special nurseries were established to propagate some two million plants, and more than 665,000 plants—trees, shrubs, grass, climbers, succulents and ground cover—were established.

By 2004, 20 years after the Aga Khan had broached the idea, Al-Azhar Park was ready to receive its first visitors. It offered what many of the thousands of Cairenes who flocked there had only dreamed of—or perhaps read about in Castilian envoy Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo’s account of his visit to Tamerlane’s garden in Samarkand in 1403: There was a great garden with many shade trees and all kinds of fruit trees, with channels of water flowing amongst them.

The garden was so large, great numbers of people enjoyed themselves in the summer, with great delight, by the fountain and under the shade of the trees.

As in the Mughal gardens of India, visitors enter the park through an imposing arched pavilion where a dozen foaming jets of water shoot out of the marble-lined pavement before them.

To the left of the fountains, a broad, palm-lined avenue stretches south to a startling view of the Citadel and the Muhammad Ali Mosque. Shaded resting places on both sides of the walk provide refuge from the summer sun.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:51:00 pm

In the opposite direction, another stone-paved avenue leads to the green hills covering the three underground reservoirs. The top of the central one offers panoramic views of Cairo’s domes and minarets. From this spot, on a clear day, one can see as far as the Pyramids of Giza, across the Nile some 15 kilometers (9 mi) to the southwest.

The park’s northernmost hill is surmounted by a grove of date palms, a playground and a five-star restaurant designed by Egyptian architects to recall the Fatimid archways in nearby medieval Cairo. In the entrance court, flush with the floor, plays an eight-jet mosaic marble fountain of the traditional design used to cool the interiors of Cairo’s medieval houses. From there, a narrow, marble-channeled stream flows down the center of almost the entire park. It irrigates formal Islamic gardens of plants and flowers, rests awhile in quiet pools, then murmurs off down a sloping chute, called a chadar in the Mughal gardens, carved to make the water ripple and glisten in the sunlight. On through the park, the water irrigates the bustan of mango and orange trees and flows down to a tranquil lake.

In keeping with the Mughal architectural concept of setting a pavilion on a water surface, the Lakeside Café appears to float. Here, as in the five-star restaurant, water flows through the interior, cooling the tree-filled courtyards. There is another takhtaboush sitting area for visitors, who can look out across the lake to sweeping views of Cairo’s domes and minarets, hypnotically beautiful when silhouetted by a flaming sunset. To enhance an evening’s magic, lanterns set low to the ground light the park at night.

The construction of Al-Azhar Park out of a 500-year-old rubbish mound took more than 20 years, but the dream has been fulfilled. Cairo’s medieval midden now enhances the lives of Cairenes. Taking its cue from the 1000-year-old Al-Azhar University, “the most blooming,” the new park is meant to flower for another thousand years, offering a place of peace and contentment to generations of Cairenes.

 Filmmaker, photographer, writer, chef and friend, New Zealand–born John Feeney contributed
articles and photographs, mostly from his beloved Egypt, to

Aramco World and Saudi Aramco World for some 35 years until his death in 2006. 


This article appeared on pages 12-17 of the July/August 2008 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:52:42 pm

                           Egyptian Minister of Tourism to open ATS Annual Fall Conference

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The American Tourism Society (ATS) Annual Fall Conference will take place in Cairo, Egypt, October 27-30, 2008, under the auspices of H.E. Zoheir Garranah, Egyptian Minister of Tourism. Mr. Amr El-Ezaby, Chairman, Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) will join H.E. Zoheir Garranah to officially open the conference on Tuesday, October 28th at the five-star Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah Hotel. Renowned Egyptian Archaeologist, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, will be the keynote speaker. H.E. Akel Biltaji, Chair of the ATS Mediterranean/Red Sea Council Region will officially call the meeting to order.

The three-day conference, the first ever ATS meeting in Egypt, will be jam-packed with key tourism industry sessions in the mornings and afternoon tours to some of the famous sights and sounds of Cairo including The Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Salah El-Din, Mohammed Ali Mosque, the Khan El Khalily Bazaar (a shopper’s paradise), and the Pyramids and the Sphinx, part of a World Heritage Site region, and the only ancient Wonder of the World still standing.

Following a welcome reception on Monday evening October 27, the first conference sessions will take place on Tuesday, October 28. In addition to H.E. Zoheir Garranah, Mr. El -Ezaby, and Dr. Hawass, other opening day speakers will include H.E. the Hon. Margaret Scobey, United States Ambassador to Egypt, David T. Parry, ATS Chairman and Chairman, Academic Travel Abroad, Phil Otterson, ATS President and Executive Vice President Internal Affairs, Tauck World Discovery, Don Reynolds, ATS Executive Vice President. Alex Harris, ATS Co-founder and Hon. Chairman and Chairman, General Tours, will present the first annual Alexander W. Harris Founder’s Award.

One of the program highlights of opening day will be the “Presidents Panel” featuring the Presidents of major travel industry organizations including Bob Whitley, United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), Bruce Beckham, Tourism Cares, Robin Tauck, Tauck World Discovery, Lisa Simon, National Tour Association, as well as a representatives of the American Egypt Chamber of Commerce and the Egyptian Tourism Federation. The panel will be moderated by Cathleen Johnson, Executive Vice President, Edelman Public Relations International.

Phil Otterson will give an overview of the expansion of the ATS Tourism College initiative “now an integral part of each conference. This is in keeping with the ATS policy that the organization gives back something to the destinations where it meets.” This year the ATS Tourism College program will take place on Sunday, October 26, at the Helwan University, prior to the opening of the ATS Conference itself. The sessions will focus on two topics suggested by the Helwan University professors, E-Marketing led by ATS Board Member, Dave Spinelli, Global Web Solutions and Mike Wargo, Travelocity; The Market for Special Interest and Cultural Travel session will be led by David Parry, ATS Chairman and Chairman, Academic Travel Abroad.  A large number of students are expected to participate in Sunday’s seminar while 50 students will participate each day of the conference itself.

The ATS Conference program on Wednesday, October 29, will feature ATS Tourism College  initiatives and educational sessions that focus on greater interaction with the local travel industry partners, as well as expand on the Tourism College training program.

A US Tour operator panel, moderated by Bob Whitley, President USTOA, will target the Egyptian delegates, focusing on “Trends in North American Tourism.” The first keynote speaker for the Wednesday Sessions will be Bruce Beckham, President, Tourism Cares, who will present “Tourism Cares – Restoring the Past, Preserving the Future.” The second keynote address for that day will be given by El Hamy El Zayat, Chairman, EMECO Travel, who will provide the American delegates with an overview “Trends in Egyptian Tourism.” The Egyptian Tourism Federation will present a panel on “Egypt: Realities vs. Perception,” moderated by Mohamed Salmawy, President, Egyptian Writers Union followed by an update “Tourism 4 Peace” presented by Mr. Rafi Baeri, Dan Hotels, Israel.

American Express Company, represented by ATS Board Member, Donna Flora, Sr. VP, Travel Industry Relations, will host all ATS delegates for a final Gala Dinner at the famous Mena House Oberoi, adjacent to the Pyramids.

Post Conference Five-Night National Tour Association (NTA) Product Development Cruise on the Nile.

The ATS post-conference National Tour Association Product Development Tour will be a luxurious Nile Cruise on the inaugural voyage of the new 5-star deluxe Tamar Henna. Delegates will have the opportunity to view Egypt’s splendors from the comfort of the deck, and then disembark to more intimately experience the unparalleled sights of these exceptional ancient cities. The first ATS / NTA partnership initiative, the cruise will provide Egypt with an opportunity to introduce new tour operators to some of the more famous highlights of Ancient Egypt.

All ATS conference tours and land arrangements are being handled by Wings Tours, the official ATS Conference Ground Operator. Egypt Air, the official ATS conference carrier, will be offering special rates for ATS delegates. As it enters a new era of expansion, Egypt Air is now a partner in the Star Alliance.

Post by: Bianca on January 05, 2009, 10:55:19 pm

                                                 Open doors to sunny shores

Archaeologists working around the Mediterranean met two weeks ago in Cairo to discuss intercultural

                                       relations between the countries of the region,

reports Nevine El-Aref
Al Ahram,
Nov. 28, 2008


Anticlockwise from top:

imported jugs from Cyprus;
Narmer's palet;
painted tiles from Medinet Habu;
the exhibition gate at the Egyptian Museum;
Hawass and Kim;
a painted tile;
a shipwreck;
Khufu's solar boat

photos courtesy of

Far from being a modern concept that came to pass only with the formation of the European Union and the Barcelona process, the dialogue between the different cultures of the Mediterranean region has been in place since time immemorial. This is becoming increasingly clear as more and more archaeological finds are discovered. Indeed, considering the Mediterranean as an entity deserving research in its own right has recently become a topic of discussion.

In the light of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) organised a conference to look into intercultural contacts in the region. This was the first international convention to address this topic in a southern Mediterranean country.

The conference focussed on theoretical and methodological issues related to the study of intercultural contacts in archaeology on the one hand, and on actual case studies of intercultural contact on the other.

Papers presented at the meeting dealt with a wide variety of topics, including the methods and theory of the study of contacts in archaeology, immigration patterns in different countries including Egypt, trade and exchange, the import and local imitation of foreign objects, the adoption of foreign religious ideas, influences in artistic and architectural styles and seafaring. Although ancient Egypt is often seen by the wider public as a unique, united and rather isolated culture, the presentations made clear that Egypt had many and far- reaching contacts all over the Mediterranean. Not only did Egyptian objects and ideas reach the furthest corners of the region, but Mediterranean people, ideas and objects were also welcomed in Egypt itself.

Seven internationally renowned speakers presented keynote addresses, including Manfred Bietak, the director of the Austrian Institute for Archaeology in Cairo and the director of the excavations at Tell Al-Dabaa in the Nile Delta.

Bietak explained that over the last nine years the Austrian Academy of Sciences had carried out a large research programme in order to synchronise the divergent regional chronologies of the second millennium BC. Sciences and humanities were combined for this programme to include dendro- chronology, Egyptian and Mesopotamian historical chronologies, and archaeological branches of most of the eastern Mediterranean, especially ceramic research. Very helpful were index markers such as Levantine painted ware, different groups of Eell Al-Yahudiay ware, Kamares ware, Middle and Late Cypriot pottery varieties and Mycenaen ware, which mark specific datum lines with their first appearance in the local markets of the Eastern Mediterranean. With their help and with a control of combinations of ceramic types and other artefacts, it was possible to create a dense network of data for a common chronology. For the time being, Bietak continued, this was based on historical Egyptian chronology. A datum line was also created with a first appearance of pumice of the Minoan Thera eruption not before the late Bronze Age in the Levant and not before the beginning of the Tuthmoside period in Egypt.

"The evidence makes it highly likely that the Thera eruption did not happen in the second half of the 17th century BC, as radio carbon dates suggest, but around 1500 BC," Bietak said.

Post by: Bianca on January 07, 2009, 07:22:53 pm

                                                  DIGGING IT:   ARCHAEOLOGY IN EGYPT


Dr. Mark Lehner describes the ARCE field school,
which teaches Egyptian students archeology

(Staff photo N. Hamedani).
AT AN OCT. 6 presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, Dr. Mark Lehner, director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), discussed archeological endeavors in Egypt “as cultural capacity building.” More specifically, his lecture focused on how archeology in Egypt opens the door to exchanges between Egyptians and foreigners.

Beginning his remarks with a dreamlike photograph of the Pyramids of Giza, Lehner noted that just as “in the popular imagination there’s kind of a fog around the pyramids, as far as who built them and why,” there also is a “fog that surrounds the contemporary Middle East” for many Westerners.

The scholar has excavated in Egypt for over 30 years, producing the only scaled maps of the Giza Sphinx. His more recent focus has been on uncovering the lost city that would have housed the 20,000 to 30,000 pyramid workers.

Under Lehner’s direction, the American Research Center in Egypt’s (ARCE) field school receives financial support from a USAID Egyptian Antiquities Conservation grant, among other international cultural philanthropic and academic organizations. While he considers the field school as “cultural capacity building from the bottom-up”—that being the “robustness behind all successful business organizations”—Lehner acknowledged that the support from the top-down “allows us to be successful, to make change.”

ARCE works with the Egyptian system, explained Lehner, who has a longstanding working relationship with Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.  When an excavation takes place in Egypt, Lehner said, an Egyptian inspector is assigned to the project by law. However, he added, they are “there for a legal reason, but they are not very empowered.” The Egyptian inspectors usually graduated from Cairo University with a monument degree, or a focus on Egyptology as art history, Lehner said, meaning they had little hands-on practice in contemporary archeological practices. Through ARCE, Egyptian inspectors are rotated in to work side-by-side with contract archeologists from around the world and the field school’s local students.

An interdisciplinary approach is being taken in reconstructing the lost city [of Giza], using the standards of “settlement archeology,” which examines not only sediment layers, but pottery remains, bone fragments, plant remains, and so on. This approach enables the archeologists to reconstruct what life would have been like for the builders of the Giza pyramids, right down to their food sources.

Unfortunately, Lehner lamented, although his field school observes the strictest of excavation rules, it more frequently is the case that “information is being destroyed all over Egypt” due to inexperience and inadequate practice.

In an effort to counter this trend, the ARCE field school has published manuals and offers a rigorous lecture series nightly, along with tutorials and exams, so that the students and inspectors who graduate are fully equipped.

Many of the inspectors, who already are in charge of overseeing excavations, go on to provide lectures in Arabic about what they learned at ARCE, which Lehner described as the largest mission in Giza that is so international in scope. In fact, ARCE’s holiday card had to be written in 15 languages—including Japanese, Turkish, Swedish, Norwegian, French, English and Arabic.

—Nina Hamedani

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 09:34:46 am

                               Hieroglyphics Cracked 1,000 Years Earlier Than Thought

(Oct. 7, 2004)

— Western scholars were not the first to decipher the ancient language of the pharaohs, according to a new book that will be published later this year by a UCL researcher.

Dr Okasha El Daly of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology will reveal that Arabic scholars not only took a keen interest in ancient Egypt but also correctly interpreted hieroglyphics in the ninth century AD – almost 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

It has long been thought that Jean-Francois Champollion was the first person to crack hieroglyphics in 1822 using newly discovered Egyptian antiquities such as the Rosetta stone. But fresh analysis of manuscripts tucked away in long forgotten collections scattered across the globe prove that Arabic scholars got there first.

Dr Okasha El Daly, of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, explains:

“For two and a half centuries the study of Egyptology has been dominated by a Euro-centric view, which has virtually ignored over a thousand years of Arabic scholarship and enquiry encouraged by Islam.

“Prior to Napoleonic times little was known in the West about the ancient civilisation of Egypt except what had been recorded in the Bible. It was assumed that the world of the pharaohs had long since been forgotten by Egyptians, who were thought to have been incorporated into the expanding Islamic world by the seventh century.

“But this overhasty conclusion ignores the vast contribution of medieval Arabic scholars and others between the seventh and 16th centuries. In reality a huge corpus of medieval writing by both scholars and ordinary people exists that dates from long before the earliest European Renaissance. Analysis reveals that not only did Moslems have a deep interest in the study of Ancient Egypt, they could also correctly decipher hieroglyphic script.”

Following the Roman invasion of Egypt in 30 BC the use of hieroglyphics began to die out with the last known writing in the fifth century AD.

While Western medieval commentators believed that hieroglyphics were symbols each representing a single concept Dr El Daly has shown that Arab scholars grasped the fundamental principle that hieroglyphics could represent sounds as well as ideas.

Using his unique expertise in both Egyptology and medieval Arabic writers, Dr El Daly began a seven year investigation of Arabic writing on ancient Egypt.

“The manuscripts were scattered worldwide in private as well as public collections and were mostly not catalogued. Even when they were, they were often wrongly classified so I had to go through each one individually - it is not like researching in modern books with an index which you can check for relevant information,” says Dr El Daly.

“A specialist in only Arabic or Islamic studies reading these manuscripts would fail to grasp their significance to Egyptology. Conversely Egyptologists think that Arabs and Moslems had nothing useful to say about ancient Egypt, so there wasn’t any need to look at manuscripts that were mainly the domain of scholars within the disciplines of Arabic/Oriental studies.”

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 09:36:39 am

The breakthrough in Dr El Daly’s research came from analysis of the work of Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn Wahshiyah, a ninth century alchemist. Ibn Wahshiyah’s work on ancient writing systems showed that he was able to correctly decipher many hieroglyphic signs. Being an alchemist not a linguist, his primary interest was to identify the phonetic value and meaning of hieroglyphic signs with the aim of accessing the ancient Egyptian scientific knowledge inscribed in hieroglyphs.

“By comparing Ibn Wahshiyah’s conclusions with those in current books on Egyptian Language, I was able to assess his accuracy in understanding hieroglyphic signs,” says Dr El Daly.

“In particular I looked at the Egyptian Grammar of Sir Alan Gardiner which has a sign list at the end, it revealed that Ibn Wahshiyah understood perfectly well the nature of Egyptian hieroglyphs.”

Dr El Daly added: “Western culture misinterprets Islam because we think teaching before the Quran is shunned, which isn’t the case. They valued history and assumed that Egypt was a land of science and wisdom and as such they wanted to learn their language to have access to such vast knowledge.

“Critically they did not, unlike the West, write history to fit with the religious ideas of the time, which makes their accounts more reliable. They were also keen on the universality of human history based on the unity of the origin of human beings and the diversity of their appearance and languages. Furthermore, there are likely to be many hidden manuscripts dotted round the world that could make a significant contribution to our understanding of the ancient world.

Dr Okasha El Daly is based in UCL’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, one of the world’s largest collections of artefacts covering thousands of years of ancient Egyptian prehistory and history. On Wednesday 6 October UCL launches the biggest university fundraising campaign, Advancing London’s Global University - the Campaign for UCL, which will seek to raise £300 million over the coming decade, including £25 million to build a purpose built museum, the Panopticon, that will house UCL’s collections of Egyptology, art and rare books in an environment that preserves them for all to see.

The Panopticon, which means ‘all-visible’ in Greek, will be unlike any other museum in the UK because the entire collection will be on display and publicly accessible. Other highlights will include works by Durer, Rembrandt, Turner and Constable; an unrivalled collection of John Flaxman’s drawings and sculpture; the first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost and the George Orwell archives.


Adapted from materials provided by University College London.
Email or share this story:   
Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

 MLA University College London (2004, October 7). Hieroglyphics Cracked 1,000 Years Earlier Than Thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from­ /releases/2004/10/041007085716.htm

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 09:40:29 am

The influence of the ancient Egyptian civilisation is far-reaching. Rania Khallaf celebrates the New Year with the Pharaohs painted by a Japanese artist

Portraits of Egypt and Kinoshita in his atelier in Hiroshima Right: Moon Bound 200x400 cm, 2007

Al Ahram Weekly
Jan. 12, 2008

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 09:43:50 am

                                             Egypt captured by a Japanese brush

Al Ahram Weekly
Jan. 12, 2008

The influence of the ancient Egyptian civilisation is far-reaching. Rania Khallaf celebrates the New Year with the Pharaohs painted by a Japanese artist
On 1 January, an exhibition of oil paintings by Japanese artist Kazzu Kinoshita opened at the Opera House Art Gallery.

The 10-day exhibition, partly funded by the Japan Foundation and entitled "To Their Posterity: The Messages from Egyptian Pharaohs", takes the motif of antiquities of the ancient Egyptian civilisation as its main theme and includes works produced over the past 15 years.

The paintings are all huge: "The Tower", 183x326 cm, features the Pyramids; "Glow" features the Sphinx with a backdrop of trees: while "The Path" features the Sphinx with the Pyramids in the background.

Kinoshita was born in Hiroshima in 1942. He began showing his work at the age of 20, holding his first solo exhibition in 1971. He began painting Egypt in 1994, when his wife insisted that he accompany her on a tour of Luxor and Aswan. "I was really hesitant, because I seldom travel outside Japan," Kinoshita told Al-Ahram Weekly. "However, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Egyptian antiquities and the natural scenery. I did not make many sketches during that visit; but when I went back to Japan I felt that something had ignited in me."

Kinoshita started watching videos on the ancient history of Egypt. That winter he returned to Egypt, and in the summer of 1995 he made a third visit. After that he was a frequent visitor.

He uses a predominance of red and blue in different degrees. "It might have been because of the hot climate in Upper Egypt, but these were my colours that I was using even before coming to Egypt," he says. "I started working under this title 'To Their Posterity' some 20 years ago. I have always been deliberating the motif of the mystery of chance encounter."

The first exhibition under that title was held in 1999 in Hiroshima, where he exhibited some of the paintings currently on show at the Opera House. "The exhibition was warmly received by Japanese art lovers, who were really astonished by the great history of Egypt, largely because Japan is not a country with such a 'stone culture'."

The real message Kinoshita thinks the Pharaohs have for us is simply to "bring down the imperative past to the future".

"I am very much infatuated with the historical character of Ramses II who ruled ancient Egypt for a long time," he says. "What is more amazing is that after all these years his monuments have survived... His message to us is to take the wisdom from the past and continue to be competent to future challenges."

Yet it is not only the ancient statutes that are prevalent in Kinoshita's paintings. The sun and moon are always there, shining over the scenes. "I was keen to depict the sun and the moon just to give the feeling of continuity or eternity of the ancient Egyptian civilisation," he says. "It is the same sun that rose on the Pharaohs, after all." Although he has an obvious passion for ancient Egyptian history, Kinoshita does not consider himself representative of the Egyptomania movement now sweeping Japan and parts of Europe. "Actually, I am a bit away from such a movement, because I am not only fascinated by ancient Egypt, but also by natural beauty and contemporary Egyptian life. I just want to deliver a message to the viewer that our past, present and future cannot be separated."

Touring the exhibition, which covers two floors, the viewer might think that was all a foreign painter could present. This is not quite accurate. "This exhibition offers me an excellent opportunity to encounter Egyptian artists and art lovers, and to discuss what is behind the paintings. However, my journey to Egypt has not ended yet. There is still a lot here to see and to interact with," Kinoshita says with a smile.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 09:59:48 am

8 - 14 January 2009
Issue No. 929

                                            King Tut was the son of Akhenaten

By Zahi Hawwas


I had an exceptional adventure recently. It was at a site in Middle Egypt known as Al-Ashmunein, known in Greek as Hermopolis after the Greek god Hermes, and known to the ancient Egyptians as Thoth, the god of wisdom. The site contained a temple dedicated to Thoth, and a large statue of the god in the form of a baboon can still be seen today. I hold Al-Ashmunein close to my heart because 40 years ago I started my career as an inspector of antiquities only a few kilometres away, at Tuna Al-Gabal.

I spent two incredible years in Tuna Al-Gabal. I stayed in a beautiful rest house in the desert, and in the evenings I was completely alone with my thoughts and dreams in this large, mysterious house surrounded by desert. Every day I would sit in the garden and look up at the sky. I was not a patient man, but living in this spectacular isolation taught me the virtue of patience, and I started to write. I kept a diary and recorded my memories, and I wrote letters every day to the girlfriend I had left behind in Alexandria.

Near my rest house was another built for our great man Taha Hussein when he was minister of education. Hussein used to come in the winter and every day he would visit the tomb of Isadora, a lady who lived during the Roman Period. Isadora drowned in the Nile and her lover built a beautiful tomb for her. Her lover used to travel about 50 kilometres from Sheikh Abada on the east bank of the Nile to Tuna Al-Gabal on the west bank to light a pottery lamp in her memory. When Taha Hussein was in residence, he would light this lamp every day.

In the last century a limestone block broken in two pieces was found at Al-Ashmunein. One piece of the block has an inscription that reads: "The king's son of his body Tutankhaten". The inscription on the other piece reads: "The daughter of the king, of his body, his great desire of the king of Two Lands, Ankhesenpaaten". Scholars suggest that this inscription is not only one of the few pieces of evidence showing that Tut was from Tel Al-Amarna, but also showing Akhenaten was the father of Tut because Tut was mentioned as the son alongside the well-known daughter of Akhenaten, Ankhesenpaaten. Ankhesenpaaten was the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and the wife of Tut.

When I began to study the family of King Tut and investigate the identity of his biological father and mother, I knew that it was important to find this block. The block is not registered in the registry book for the magazine in Al-Ashmunein. Therefore, I started to ask scholars who had discussed this block in their work about its location -- but no one knew where it was! I called Adel Hassan, the director of Minya, and asked him to search for the block. After a few days he informed me that they had found it. I went to Al-Ashmunein and entered the storeroom, and learnt that they only had the side of the block that mentioned Tut's name but not the piece with the name of his wife, Ankhesenpaaten. We immediately started to search among the numerous stones from the Aten Temple that were reused by Ramses II in a temple at Al-Ashmunein in the hope of finding the other half of the block. And we were happily surprised when we located it. Brando Quilici, who is shooting a documentary about the family of Tut and who accompanied me to the storeroom, was surprised and thrilled that we had rediscovered this important piece of evidence.

Some people believe that Tut was the son of Amenhotep III because he is mentioned on monuments found at Thebes. Also, the hieroglyph for "king's son" can be translated as "son-in-law" or "grandfather". But it is important to understand that when Tut became king and moved to Thebes, he could not mention the name of Akhenaten. The priests of Amun hated Akhenaten for changing the religion to the worship of only one god, Aten, and for moving the capital from Thebes to Tel Al-Amarna. After the death of Akhenaten the religion returned to the old ways and the priests of Amun regained power. Therefore it is most probable that Tut, on his monuments, wanted to identify himself with his powerful grandfather Amenhotep III. Hence, the hieroglyphs on the monuments found in Thebes that read: " son of the king " can be translated as " grandson of the king ".

The block from Tel Al-Amarna is an accurate piece of evidence that proves Tut lived in Amarna with Akhenaten, and that he married Ankhesenpaaten while living there. On the block, and while he lived in Amarna, his name was Tutankhaten, honouring Aton, but when he became king and moved to Thebes he changed his name to Tutankhamen, honouring Amun. This block can also be seen as evidence that Tut was in fact the son of Akhenaten. I am sure this archaeological evidence will instigate much discussion and debate among Egyptologists.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:04:40 am

                                                Blessed be the people of Egypt

                                      Copt or Muslim? Dina Ezzat declines an answer



The Coptic moulid of Virgin Mary in Assiut and the Muslim moulid of Al-Sayed Al-Badawi in Tanta: the boundaries are crossed most often when Muslims and Christians attend the same moulids
It was under exceptionally tight security measures that the Coptic Church Tuesday night celebrated Christmas mass. Security officials admitted that the alert they applied this year was above average. "These are tough times and we want no headaches," said one.

It was for more than one reason that security measures were intensified this year. The most obvious, though not the most pressing, is related to developments in Gaza. Security officials are well aware of fears within some sections of the Coptic community that churches might be subjected to some "unfriendly" demonstrations.

"This is very sad. Some people keep suggesting that we, as Copts, are happy to see the disaster in Gaza just because it targets Hamas, a movement we are supposed to dislike as we are supposed to hate all forms of political Islam," commented Raafat, an Egyptian Copt, as he left the Coptic Cathedral in Abbasiya a few days ago. "Well, yes, we do not like Hamas and we do not like the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamic groups that tend to perceive Copts as lesser citizens but we do not like to see the Israelis doing this to the Palestinians either," said Raafat.

Developments in Gaza, however serious, remain a very small part of much larger security concerns. It is civilian clashes about which the state is most worried, prompted at times by the mere presence of economically frustrated and religiously agitated Copts and Muslims in the same place.

This worry is perfectly legitimate, argues Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights. According to Bahgat and other concerned observers, 2008 was an alarming year in terms of sectarian strife. It was marked by dramatic cases of confrontation, most famously at Abu Fana Monastery in May when Coptic monks were directly involved in violent clashes for the first time in 35 years of on-and-off sectarianism. It was also a year in which clashes over the construction of churches, romances across religious divides and the exercise of religious freedom proved a daily headache for state and society alike.

"Throughout the year we had to deal with an alarming increase of tension [between Copts and Muslims]," Bahgat notes, citing three reports issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights monitoring relations between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. The increase of tension, the reports warned, "was coupled with an increased frequency of anti- Coptic sentiments". Such sentiments "and behaviour", the reports went on, "assumed a wider geographic scope". "Cases of sectarianism used to be more or less confined to certain neighbourhoods and villages in Upper Egypt, Alexandria and parts of Cairo. Today we are talking about a nationwide phenomenon. From Upper Egypt to the Delta and beyond sectarianism is clearly monitored and is not sufficiently or efficiently confronted," says Bahgat.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:07:50 am

Sectarianism is not just about the kinds of violent clashes that in 2008 left one Copt and a Muslim dead. It is also about explicit and implicit tendencies to religious isolationism, a retrenchment both religions are experiencing and which has steadily redefined the role of both the Church and Al-Azhar. Copts and Muslims both acknowledge the growing role of the church and the mosque in their daily lives. This role, they say, is not just about religious practice but also about the daily conduct of their lives, physical protection included.

In the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, in the Delta governorate of Mansoura and in the once cosmopolitan coastal city of Alexandria individuals say that when it comes to clashes with citizens of the "other" faith, it is to clergymen and to the Coptic or Muslim community, not the state, they resort.

Certainly this was the sentiment that seemed to predominate last summer when a group of Muslims living in a near-by village and Coptic monks clashed over the expansion of the Abu Fana monastery.

"When we first came under fire from nearby villagers we called up the police forces. It was hours before they arrived. We were under fire. Our church was being burnt. We had to react," said one of the Abu Fana monks. "It is sad for me to say it but there was only one reason for the delay. The attack on the monastery did not matter much to security officials who are exclusively Muslim. We don't want to further exacerbate sensitivities and we don't want any more problems."

Tellingly, similar complaints were voiced by the residents of Aarab Houre, the small village in the vicinity of the monastery. "They allow them [the monks] to expand and take up ever more land but they come and attack our mosques and round up Muslim young men under all sorts of pretexts," said one villager who declined to identify himself. "They call us terrorists and they let the Copts do whatever they want. Of course, it is because the Copts have the support of the West and because the government does not fear God but fears the US," he added.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:09:53 am

Security officers and officials in Minya declined to comment on the exchange of accusations. Elsewhere, security officers say that they are not bothered much by such accusations of bias.

"Every police officer is now perceived in a negative light. The ones accused of being biased are lucky. At least they are not denounced as violators of human rights as many of us are," commented one state-security officer. The state, he insists, is not taking sides though there might be a few instances of bias here and there "among both Copts and Muslims".

"There are school teachers and university professors who exercise religious bias. Some police officers do too and it is on both sides [Copts and Muslims] but obviously because there are more Muslims than Copts it seems more of an Islamic than a Coptic practice."

The census is a very sensitive issue for both Copts and Muslims, for the Church and Al-Azhar and above all for the state. State figures suggest that of the around 80 million Egyptians there are some six to seven per cent Copts. The Church suggests double this figure while radical Islamic organisations claim Copts account for as little as four per cent of the total.

According to some independent sources, in 1995 Copts formed an estimated 15 per cent of Egypt's population. Their declining proportion of the total is not an exclusively Egyptian phenomenon but that applies to Christian communities across the Arab world. And when all is said and done, Egypt shows the least disturbing signs of mass Christian migration.

Foreign diplomats in Egypt and Egyptian diplomats overseas acknowledge an increasing trend among Copts to leave the country, mostly for Australia and the US.

"I don't believe we have much room left here. It is very sad but this is the way things are," says Nevine, a mother of three and wife of a businessman. In her early 40s, she has many complaints about how she has been treated by society. "I have ceased to be an Egyptian woman. Now I am a Copt. When I go to the doctor I am a Copt; if I have paper- work to get done at some government office I am a Copt and when I get in the women's carriage on the Metro I am a Copt. And as a Copt, more often than not, I am the unwanted other. It was not always that way."

When Nevine takes her children to play on Friday at a Heliopolis club she always feels tense. "My two boys tend to play together. It is my daughter who breaks my heart when she comes with a sad face and says that nobody wants to play with her because her name is Mary."

Nevine is considering emigrating to Australia. Among the reasons, she says, are worries not just over social signs of discrimination but for the future. "I pray that President Hosni Mubarak will have a long life. My fear is that the next president, especially if he has an Islamist -- not Muslim -- background will have less sympathy for Copts." When Nevine was growing up she faced no such problems. She had Muslim and Coptic friends and religion "was never an issue".

"We did not talk about it. It belonged elsewhere," she says.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:11:48 am

Shahine, an Egyptian civil servant in his early 50s, agrees that religion was not something that people talked about when he was young.

"But that was wrong," he says. "Religion is who we really are and there is no way we can deny it."

He does not encourage his children to play with Coptic classmates or neighbours.

"I am not telling them that they have to argue with them or not talk with them but I prefer that they do not get too close to them. They can say hello when they see them in the morning but they cannot go play with them in their houses or eat from their food."

Shahine denies that his insistence on such segregation smacks of sectarianism. "No, no. I have nothing against Copts but I just do not want my children to be subjected to matters related to the Coptic creed, things like God had a son and the Virgin Mary is the mother of God. There are influences that we have to avoid right from the beginning."

In his book Copts and Liberalism, dedicated to his daughter Mary "and other migrant birds", and his son Mina "who is dying to fly away", Kamal Ghobrial sheds light on the growing concerns that drive some Copts to consider emigration. The Islamicisation of society, he argues, could lead to demands that Copts may not wish to put up with even if they do not directly counter religious freedoms.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood were to rule would they or wouldn't they force my wife and my daughter to wear the veil," asks Ghobrial.

Milad Hannah, intellectual and university professor, is not perturbed by the stories of Nevine and Shahine.

"They are not representative -- not really," he argues. "As a Copt I have lived all my life well-liked by my Muslim and Coptic co-workers and neighbours. As a Copt I have my status in a society where 30 per cent of the businessmen, the most influential and economically powerful, are Copts, and where 20 per cent of university professors and medical doctors and engineers are Copts."

Hannah is not arguing against Coptic emigration. Nor is he denying that the increasing entrenchment of Islamism, in social discourse and in the state, is to blame. But he also points out that it is easier for Egyptian Copts to emigrate than it is for their Muslim countrymen, "and of course the limits Copts find are placed on professional promotion, especially within certain careers" means leaving for foreign shores more tempting.

"But it is wrong and unfair to suggest that Copts are being forced out of Egypt. Yes, maybe some do not feel comfortable over their current status or fear for their future and that of their children but this is not to say that Copts are fleeing the country."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:13:02 am

For Hannah, the "unfairness" Copts face -- he wishes to avoid the word discrimination -- is neither systematic nor inevitable.

"Christianity has been in Egypt for 19 centuries and Islam has been here for 14 centuries and for the best part of these 15 centuries Egyptian Muslims and Copts co-existed peacefully, much more peacefully than in many other states," Hannah says. And religious-based discrimination, he adds, is something that Muslims face in some countries and Christians face in other countries. "In Egypt it remains in a relatively mild form."

Hannah acknowledges that despite his academic record "as a Copt" he was never promoted to the position of dean.

"But so what. I know that this is related to my religion but I also know that this does not make me a second class citizen." He adds that as a Copt he is "a well-acknowledged university professor who is granted a regular opinion article in no other than the state's most prominent daily, Al-Ahram ".

For Hannah, as for others like him, the overall picture is satisfactory despite some signs of frustration.

One focus of that frustration are the restrictions placed on the building or restoration of churches.

"Why can a Muslim turn any piece of land that he owns into a mosque when I cannot do the same for a church? I am also a citizen, supposedly an equal citizen, but as a priest if I have to fix a bathroom in my church I need to notify the governorate. It used to be even worse. Before we had to get a presidential approval," complains one village priest from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:14:23 am

Regulations imposed on the construction of churches are part of Egypt's Ottoman legacy. They were left unchallenged until 2004 -- practically on the eve of the 2005 presidential elections -- when permit requirements for the reconstruction of churches were removed and governors, rather than the president, were given the authority to authorise reconstruction notifications.

"It is still unfair. As a citizen I have every right to be treated according to the same rules as my fellow citizens. I am not asking for a preferential treatment. I am asking for justice to be done," says Michael Mounir, a leading figure in the group commonly labelled "Expatriate Copts". Mounir, who has been criticised by the state, Islamists, most Muslims and some Copts, says that he is determined to end this injustice.

Mounir makes no apologies for lobbying US Congress to pressure Egypt to introduce legal amendments stipulating that Muslims and Christians be treated identically when it comes to the building of mosques and churches. He takes responsibility for drafting the controversial bill 1303 that "calls on the Egyptian government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt". He sees nothing wrong with the text of the draft resolution still pending in Congress that argues that Copts "suffer from many forms of discrimination" including "difficulty in building and repairing churches".

The resolution, he insists, was not devised so as to apply economic pressure on the Egyptian government to adopt legal amendments. "This is not the point. The point is that the government needs to realise that Copts in and out of Egypt are not going to tolerate prolonged injustice and that it needs to end this injustice."

Mounir says that he has spoken with the Egyptian government and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) "at the highest level" over his work to induce "overdue" legislative amendments in relation to the construction and repair of churches yet the promises he has been receiving for over four years now have yet to be honoured. "We are still waiting on a draft law for the unified construction code for mosques and churches to be presented to parliament."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:15:45 am

A member of the NDP, speaking on condition of anonymity, argues that the time is not ripe for such legislation. "There are too many Islamist currents in parliament and in society. If we present it now it will backfire and could aggravate anti-Coptic sentiment."

Of the 452 members of the Egyptian parliament 80 directly subscribe to Muslim Brotherhood. But according to one Leftist Muslim MP, "radical Islamist sentiment goes way beyond the members of the Muslim Brotherhood into the heart of the NDP."

"Every time we discuss women's rights there is outrage from the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood alike over the adoption of any laws that might be remotely interpreted, by the most radical of Muslim scholars, as somehow incompatible with Islamic Sharia," he says.

He cites the debate in parliament over criminalising female genital mutilation as a prime example of the "radical spirit within parliament".

"And when [Minister of Culture] Farouk Hosni made some passing remarks on the wide-scale taking of the veil by Egyptian women he was denounced by many Muslim members, including some senior ministers. We are not just talking about the Muslim Brotherhood."

Hamdi Hassan, a Muslim Brotherhood MP, has no qualms about applying different rules to the construction of churches and mosques. "There are more Muslims than Copts," he argues, "and clearly there are enough churches and not enough mosques. We see Muslims praying on the pavements next to the mosques but we see empty chairs in churches."

Any problems related to Coptic-Muslim relations cannot, Hassan argues, be solved by measures that will worsen the situation. "The issue is not one of building churches. It is one of a sense of victimisation that we all share, Muslims and Copts alike, due to the state's monopoly of power and resources."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:19:08 am

According to Hassan, Copts must continue to accept what they have long accommodated: they are a numerical minority who are not eligible to stand for the presidency. "We are not interfering with freedom of worship or civil rights but there cannot be equal numbers of churches and mosques or a Coptic president in a country where over 94 per cent of the population is Muslim."

But for many Copts their grievances are not just about the number of churches or access to the presidency. They also include the right of Copts who converted to Islam to revert to their original religious status if they so wish.

"I admit that I converted to get a divorce but I now want to go back to my family and be accepted again in my own society," said one Coptic man speaking on condition of anonymity. He adds that he does not want his children to have to convert to Islam in order to follow their father's religion, as Egyptian law requires. The only way out for him is to reclaim his Christian religion officially.

According to Sharia Muslims are not allowed to convert. State officials and Muslim scholars complain that Islamic laws cannot be bent to fit the wishes of some "to use Islam" as an exit from Coptic restrictions on personal status matters. "Let the Coptic Church solve this problem," said one justice official who asked for his name to be withheld.

The Coptic Church, however, cannot do much to help those Muslims, however few, who wish to convert to Christianity. "I decided to be Christian. I know it is shocking but I did want to be Christian. Not to marry a Christian but just to be a Christian," said one middle-aged woman who asked for her identity to be withheld. Abandoned by her family, she has taken refuge at the house of a Christian family but has a serious legal problem -- on paper she remains, and will always be, a Muslim.

"Now why can Copts, Christians in general, convert to Islam when Muslims cannot convert to Christianity? What does that say about the way the state perceives Christianity? I will tell you. It says that for the state Christianity is simply not a religion," comments one priest.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:21:29 am

The right of Muslims to promote Islam within the Coptic community is legally accepted even if it has not, especially in recent years, been encouraged by the state. But the right of Christians to promote their religion among Muslims is strictly prohibited.

Other grievances include political representation, access to senior jobs, especially in areas of state security and intelligence, the representation of Christians and Christianity in school curricula and state-run media and even religious holidays.

In 2004 Coptic Christmas was upgraded from a Coptic to a national holiday. Around the same time Christmas mass began to be broadcast on state-run TV, though not on the main channel that televises Friday prayers every week. Coptic Christmas remains the only feast on the Coptic calendar to be a national holiday.

Arabic textbooks present a Muslim, not a Muslim-Coptic society. "Take, for example, the Quranic texts used in Arabic language teaching books. Some of the verses included in the curricula are quite anti-Christian," comments Gamal Asaad, an advocate of Christian-Muslim unity in the face of government coercion.

Unlike some other Christian figures, including Father Thomas who recently gave a controversial lecture in the US calling for the elimination of all Quranic texts from Arabic language curricula, Asaad is not opposed to the use of Quran to teach Arabic linguistics. "It just has to be done in a way that is sensitive to the Christian student so that he [or she] does not feel the subject of discrimination."

Such adjustments, argues Mounir, are unlikely to occur without better representation of Copts in parliament. "If legislative elections are conducted on the basis of the slate system then enough Copts would find their way to parliament and be in a position to bring about this and other required changes," argues Mounir.

Some have suggested a "quota" be allocated to Coptic parliamentarians, though others argue this could serve to underline sectarian divisions within society.

"We should not be acting in a way that will ultimately lead to widening divisions," warns Asaad.

Haitham Abu Zeid, executive director of the still to be authorised Al-Wasat Party, believes it is "unimportant to talk about state or other forms of legislative elections when we all, Muslims and Copts alike, know that elections are rigged by the government."

"Whoever thinks that the government will have a hard time finding a few Copts to follow its agenda is mistaken. There are a host of citizens from all backgrounds and beliefs that have sold out."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:31:01 am

Abu Zeid, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, does not buy into the theory that fear of the "possible rule of the Brotherhood" is driving Copts to emigrate or being used as "a pretext" by the Coptic Church to announce its support for the succession of Gamal Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood, he says, "will not ascend to power for the simple reason they do not have the kind of support they claim to have."

And, "if they do, their discrimination will not be restricted to Copts."

For Abu Zeid, as for Asaad, the issue is one of eliminating injustice in general and of securing democracy.

Zeinab Radwan, deputy speaker of Egyptian parliament, argues that legislation and representation alone, even if state-imposed, are no panacea for religious tolerance. "Relations within society are about people and laws. You need to get citizens to fully subscribe to the concept of tolerance, in practice as in theory, for any laws to be effective."

The trouble, says Bahieddin Hassan, director of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights, is that the "exercise of discrimination from Muslims to Copts or the other way round -- although it is more from Muslims towards Copts -- has become so deeply rooted that it takes courage even to admit to its extent, let alone begin working to change it".

Ramez, an Alexandrian taxi driver, complains that the cross he hangs on his rear view mirror "has put him in many difficulties". Traffic police, he says, stop him "for no reason".

"The officer will give me a ticket for breaking the speed limit -- when I wasn't -- and look at the cross in my car in a way that is obviously hostile."

Ramez is convinced that nobody in the Alexandria Traffic department issues directives to "harass Copts" and that not every Muslim traffic officer does it. "But if somebody feels like doing it he can," says Ramez.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:32:11 am

Josephine -- not her real name -- complains about continuous and unjustified security harassment and threats. She attributes this gender harassment to no other reason than her Coptic faith.

Hassan, a bearded Muslim taxi driver in Alexandria, voices similar complaints about alleged harassment, this time over "Islamism". Samira -- not her real name -- an unveiled Muslim teacher, working in a high school in Tanta, Lower Egypt, complains that she has been subjected to pressure from the school administration to take the veil or be investigated over "inappropriate behaviour" with her male students.

Hassan agrees that tolerance has been steadily eroded until it is now a rare commodity. But the process, he argues, is not just related to the Islamicisation of society kick-started after "Gulf Islamic values" began to be imported to Egypt when Egyptians who had worked in Gulf countries starting in the mid-1970s began to return home. Like Assad, Abu Zeid and others, Hassan believes the state itself is promoting intolerance in an attempt to stymie social solidarity in the face of injustice.

"The state knows very well what it has to do to combat sectarianism," says Hassan. In 1972 a state-appointed committee was entrusted with examining a case of sectarian strife prompted essentially by a mixed marriage and produced "a set of recommendations that could have contained the problem right at the beginning".

"But nothing was done then and not enough is being done now."

Moukhles Qotb, secretary-general of the state- affiliated Egyptian Council for Human Rights, argues that the regime is less culpable and is trying, albeit in limited ways, to tackle the problem.

"We have seen some adjustments in school curricula and in the discourse of the [state-run] media. But this is not an easy task. It is a problem that developed over the years and will take time to resolve."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:33:25 am

Nothing could have supported Qotb's argument better than a decree issued late last summer by the Doctors' Syndicate banning organ transplants between Muslims and Copts. Appeals by civil society organisations failed to reverse the decree as head of the Doctors' Syndicate, Hamdi Hassan, insisted society would not tolerate organ donations across religious boundaries.

It is common to blame the growth of sectarianism on president Anwar El-Sadat's promotion of political Islam as a counterweight to left-wing and Marxist influence in post-Nasser Egypt. The mid- 1970s are often referred to as the starting point of the decline in national unity between Muslims and Copts, the so-called "Unity of the Cross and the Crescent".

It is an analysis that Tarek El-Beshri criticises as overly simplistic in his book Copts and Muslims within Civil Society. He references incidents that date back to the early years of Ottoman rule in Egypt and which betray deliberate or indeliberate discrimination: Copts were not immediately included by Mohamed Ali in the early phases of the formation of the army or in the earliest groups of students sent on academic missions overseas. However, as El-Beshri notes, they were always part of the administration of the state, especially in the financial sphere. And as many pro-unity advocates like to preach, they stood side by side with Muslims in the fight against the British occupation of Egypt, the 1919 Revolution being cited as the ultimate example of this unity.

El-Beshri argues that throughout the modern history of Egypt there were moments when national unity was challenged but it ultimately survived because Copts and Muslims realised they shared a common fate as Egyptians. It is the stand taken last summer, against a backdrop of sectarian strife, by the movie Hassan and Morcos, starring Omar Sharif and Adel Imam.

But the argument is daily contested, not just by sectarian incidents but by the discourse of the religious establishments. According to Magdi Girgis, a historian at the American University in Cairo, the Church, and to a lesser degree Al-Azhar, are pulling in the direction of religious polarisation.

"The Church, rather than the state, is perceived by many Copts as their ultimate representative in civil as much as religious matters. Muslims have recourse to Islamic establishments, though it is used to a lesser degree given the perception that the Egyptian state is itself Islamic. Throughout Egyptian history, the religious representation of citizens has been a precursor of sectarianism."

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:34:54 am

Copts and Muslims are not short on criticism, always on an off the record basis, of the role of Pope Shenouda in this state of affairs. They are also critical of the Gulf influences exercised over leading Islamic scholars and their constituencies. Yet the state has failed to live up to the expectations of either Copts or Muslims, creating a vacuum that it was inevitable that religious institutions would seek to fill.

The implications for society are serious. For every mosque there has to be an opposing church and if a church is built there has to be a bigger mosque. For every TV channel that promotes Islamic teachings there must be a Christian TV channel, no matter how big the cost or minimal the returns.

Any Muslim enterprise in Upper Egypt is now perceived by the Coptic community there as an attempt to flank the predominantly Christian villages in Upper Egypt to deny the Copts a stronghold. And every Coptic enterprise, especially if it involves Naguib Sawiris, caricatured by many as the "Coptic" business tycoon par excellence, is automatically viewed with suspicion as part of some conspiracy to establish Egypt as a Coptic zone.

The broadcast of OnTV channel, which advertises itself as a "strictly Egyptian TV channel" but which carries more Coptic features than any other satellite channel except for the clearly Coptic ones like Hayat, has raised many eyebrows.

OnTV is owned and run by Copts. But, says one employee, being an Egyptian channel owned by Copts does not mean that it is trying to target Muslims. "Rather the opposite. We have no intention of targeting anyone. We just want to say that Egypt is about both Muslims and Copts and not just Muslims."

"This is what we are, Muslims and Copts, though we are also individuals," says Ramzi, a Copt in his early 40s. Ramzi got married this year. But it took him a long time to get over his earlier romance with Riham, a Muslim girl.

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:36:27 am

The Ramzi and Riham story started in high school. "Eventually we had to face reality. We were from different faiths. We could fall in love but we couldn't get married. But when I fell in love with her and when she fell in love with me we did not think about religion -- not at all."

The common ground shared by Muslims and Christians -- be they Copts, Catholics or Protestants -- is not small. In Upper Egypt, where villages are at times strictly segregated between Copts and Muslims, the boundaries are crossed most often when Muslims and Christians attend the same moulids.

"The Virgin Mary is for all of us. I came to ask her to help me get a baby. I lit a candle and I will light a dozen candles when I get pregnant," said Amal, a veiled Muslim woman, who attended the moulid of the Virgin Mary in Assiut last August.

Regular moulid -goers say that every Muslim and Coptic moulid attracts a mixed audience. And as Muslim and Coptic MPs argue when draft bills related to taxes or healthcare are debated, Muslims and Copts stand together in the face of the government.

It is true that the Muslims and Christians that Naeim Sabri portrays in his novels Shubra and The Diaries of an Old Child, who celebrated Ramadan Iftar and Christmas Eve together, would seem anachronistic today. Far more compatible with today's atmosphere is the image conjured by Sayed Mekkawi in Swansong of a group of street kids running after a Coptic child to erase the cross tattooed on his wrist.

Yet it is equally true that when demonstrators took to the streets in several Egyptian governorates over the past few days Muslims and Copts stood side by side.

Youssef Ghali, the minister of finance, imposes taxes that "harm" both Muslims and Copts. Habib El-Adli, the minister of interior, applies security measures that impinge on Muslims and Copts alike.

"I am Egyptian: Christian or Muslim, I am Egyptian," is the title of a regular musical performance given by Ehab Abdu at Al-Sawy Cultural Wheel. By mixing Sufi Muslim singing and Christian hymns Abdu says he is promoting the thing all Egyptians need to promote -- national unity of all Egyptians.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on January 14, 2009, 10:40:40 am

                                                      In the name of religion

By Lubna Abdel-Aziz


One balmy autumn afternoon, in a thriving Asian metropolis, something wicked their way came. Evil struck this modern sophisticated, prosperous city of Mumbai, and killed over 200 innocent people. Shrill cries of "Islamic terrorists" were heard around the world. This time they were right, or perhaps, half-right. The perpetrators were Pakistani members of a self-styled Islamist terrorist outfit "Lashkar-e-Tayyeba." Although now outlawed in Pakistan, the organization continues to function, in groups, inspired by El-Qaeda. They are not however, those Muslim Arab terrorists the world dreads since 9/11.

Do not blame religion
Such terror-driven Islamist groups thrive in Pakistan because of the deep-seated hatred between Hindus and Muslims. Once they shared one nation, but the ideologues of Hindutva claimed that the Hindus and Muslims were two entirely different nations, and Muslims could remain in India only if they turned Hindu, or be stripped of all civil rights. The two irreconcilable religions were partitioned and a separate state for Indian Muslims was founded, and named Pakistan. The partition did little to end the hatred between them. Anti-Hindu sentiment is considered the defining feature of Pakistan nationalism, resulting in the rise of radical Islamist groups such as Lashkar, as well as many others who were often used by their government to battle Indian forces in Kashmir. The Lashkar set up several training camps in Afghanistan giving the Taliban both military and moral support. Now they are a noose around the neck of the Pakistani government which finds it hard to control the extreme lawlessness of such groups. This hate-driven side of Islam, saddens Muslims around the world, who must seek to reclaim their religion and calm the fear of non-Muslims. It is imperative that they begin to erase the growing myth that Islam is a religion of terror and terrorists. Terrorists exist in the four corners of the globe - Hindu terrorists in India, Irish terrorists in Ireland, African terrorists in Rwanda, Sudanese terrorists in Darfur, Jewish terrorists in Israel, Arab terrorists in Palestine, etc. No religion should be blamed for the crimes that people commit. People are evil, not religions.

All religions are peace loving. They teach compassion, friendship, and goodwill towards one's fellowman. Yet, some of the worst atrocities imaginable were perpetrated in its name. Throughout history religion has been used as a driving force to kill, pillage and persecute. Even in our modern history wars continue to be waged by individuals, groups, or countries in the name of God. How many religious wars have been waged over the city of Jerusalem, sacred to all the three great religions?

Christianity, like Islam is a religion of love, peace, and forgiveness, yet for two centuries (11th -- 13th century), Christians fought Muslims over the Holy Land. For more than 400 years, during Christianity's infancy, Christians made special pilgrimages to Jerusalem to visit the Holy Sepulchre, the hill of Crucifixion, and the tomb of Christ's burial. They were granted safe passage by the Saracens who held the city. In 1065 the Seljik Turks gained control of the city, massacred 3,000 Christians, abused and persecuted the rest, destroying their churches, and using them as stables. A storm of indignation rose throughout Europe, stirring all Christians to rescue their Holy Land from the grasp of the infidels. Pope Urban II described the humiliation and profanation of the Holy places where Jesus had lived. With one voice, the faithful cried Dieu le volt, Dieu le volt (It is the will of God). Thousands affixed the cross on their garments and set off for the Holy Land to kill and be killed. The Crusade wars lasted over 200 years.

It is always baffling that when people suffer persecution and destruction at the hands of others, they themselves turn around and inflict it on others. In its first three centuries, Christians endured persecution at the hands of Emperor Nero, and other Roman authorities, who rounded up and killed them. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive. A few centuries later, it was the Christian church that initiated the "Medieval Inquisition," all over Europe, a black page in the history of the religion of Jesus Christ. The teachings of the Christian church were regarded as the foundation of law and order. Heresy was an offence against the state as well as the Church. By attempting to stamp out heresy, the church tortured and burnt to death those who did not share its beliefs. In the 1500s Roman Catholic leaders turned the Inquisition against Protestants, and Christians were engaged in killing fellow Christians.

During the Middle Ages, such methods were standard and accepted. Al Jihad, a Muslim movement, which like the Crusades was accepted then. Muslim armies tried to spread the faith rapidly. Splintering sects branded other Muslims as infidels, and declared Jihad against them. Today, we never hear of the Spanish Inquisition, but the mention of Al Jihad is rampant. Irish Catholics fought Irish Protestants for decades, resulting in the partition of Ireland.

From prehistoric times till the present day, Religion has been used as an excuse to kill. Going after the kill is one base instinct man finds hard to control. It is softened by a gilded coating of religious convictions, but it can never be blessed by God.

Pitiful are the crimes Man continually inflicts upon his brother. Genocide is not caused by natural disasters, it is a deliberate plan by one man to eliminate members of his own race. During the last 100 years, Jews were persecuted and killed at the hands of Christians, Muslims were eliminated in Bosnia and Kosovo, Buddhist monks were killed at the hands of the Chinese, Muslims kill Hindus and Hindus kill Muslims, the war between Israel and Palestine became a war between Jew and Muslim. Will man never learn?

Kill, kill, kill, must be a primeval need still buried deep down in the darkest depths of man's heart, one that he needs to overcome to be truly human. How dare he blame Religion!

Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it -- anything but live it!

-- Charles Caleb Colton
(1780 -- 1832)


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 09:23:46 am

                                                       THE COMING STORM


January 2009

Over the last quarter century or so, tourism in Egypt has expanded from a small industry focused mainly on antiquities to a significant contributor to the national economy offering a variety of attractions for travelers, from the sun and beaches by the Red Sea to awe-inspiring monuments and desert safaris. The sector has faced setbacks before, such as militant attacks on tourist targets, but it has recovered and kept on growing. Now, as tourism infrastructure continues to expand, the industry is being confronted by another significant challenge: the global economic downturn.

While the worldwide economic slowdown will affect numerous segments of the domestic economy, arguably one of the most impacted sectors will be the tourism industry. In essence, Egypt is exporting services when travelers visit, and demand for these services is tied up in the economic fortunes of those abroad.

The top markets for tourists visiting Egypt are facing tougher economic times at best, and recession at worst. The largest source of tourists, Russia, is beginning to experience economic troubles, while Germany, the UK and Italy, the next three largest markets, respectively, have all gone into recession.

This is a potentially serious problem for Egypt, since tourism constitutes a significant part of the local economy. In recent years, the sector has been one of the leading earners of foreign exchange for Egypt. The industry generated $9.5 billion in revenue in 2007, Minister of Tourism Mohamed Zoheir Garana told Business Monthly in a December interview, noting that it directly and indirectly employs 12.6 percent of the workforce. A slowdown in tourism would be just one more bad piece of news for an economy that will invariably suffer other blows as a result of the global downturn.

While local tourism will certainly face a rockier road ahead, the variety of services that Egypt has to offer travelers bodes well for the industry, at least relatively. "Anybody with money to spend on a holiday has got a lot of options, so I suppose everywhere is competition," says Kevin Brett, general manager of the luxury 617-room Conrad Cairo Hotel. "But nobody actually has the blend of the history, the sheer number of sites, the sheer size of the country and good beaches [that Egypt does]."

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 09:26:53 am

From Sphinx to sun

But not all of these attractions were always available to travelers. Tourism in Egypt has moved from an industry centered on antiquities to a much more diverse sector today, featuring beach destinations alongside its unique cultural heritage, as well as more accommodation and a largely expanded infrastructure.

The range of antiquities available to tourists is massive, even if a few big-ticket attractions the Pyramids of Giza and the Valley of the Kings, for example - garner much of the attention. Egypt's extensive history spans ancient to modern times, and with it comes a multitude of antiquities, from Pharaonic temples and tombs to beautiful churches and mosques, and everything in between.

"From the cultural point of view, it's irreplaceable," says Simon Cooper, president and CEO of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC, which operates one hotel in Sharm Al Sheikh and recently signed a contract to take over the management of the Nile Hilton. "There's no alternative."

Then, of course, there's the ever-present sun, a natural advantage for Egypt. "When you go down to Sharm Al Sheikh or Hurghada, you have absolutely guaranteed great weather," says Cooper, who points out that in the winter months of December, January and February, this is quite an asset. "If it's January, I'm not going to go to Nice. I'm not going to risk the southern coast of Turkey."

The focus on beach vacations in Egypt has grown exponentially in recent years. "The total number of rooms in Egypt was only 18,000 [in 1982], and we were only depending on one product, which was the culture part," explains Garana. In the same year, development of the leisure tourism sector in the Red Sea coastal area and the Sinai peninsula took off, explains the minister, leading to one of the largest shifts in the industry's recent history. "These two areas had only 200 rooms in each area. Now actually they are dominating over 66 percent of the total capacity."

This variety of attractions ensures that visitors have an ample number of options to choose from while designing their trips, and of course, needs and desires vary. "I think more tourists are interested in comprehensive round trips in Egypt; these include beach, cultural, religious, as well as desert tourism," says Daniyah Darwish, a vice president of equity research at EFG-Hermes. "But of course it depends upon the interests of tourists and their nationalities," she adds, arguing that tourists from eastern Europe are more likely to seek a beach vacation, whereas those from Asia often seek more comprehensive packages.

The government has made efforts to promote the beach aspect of Egyptian tourism, Darwish says, although she notes that this process could have been more effectively executed. "The government has launched a promotional campaign and is trying to promote Egypt as a sun and beach type of destination, but I'm not quite sure that this campaign was very effective," she argues. "Of course, tourism has boomed... but I think if the Ministry of Tourism puts the right advertising image, the right finances and resources into these campaigns, we can attract more tourists and the right target markets as well."

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Ministry of Culture's Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA), believes that concentrating on Egypt's sun is not such a bright idea, and isn't shy about expressing it. In his view, Egypt's culture is the draw, and what he perceives as the Ministry of Tourism's focus on the beach aspect of Egyptian tourism is flawed. "[The ministry] should just try to have a strategy [focusing on] how Egypt is safe, and not talk [about how] Egypt has the sun," he argues. "This is stupid, because the sun is everywhere... Egypt has other things to offer that tourists should know [about]."

The emphasis on beach tourism, however, seems to be working. The Ministry of Tourism stopped releasing monthly arrival figures at the end of 2007, but the numbers before then show a large influx from eastern Europe in recent years from 733,000 in FY 2002-03 to 2.187 million in FY 2006-07 in a development paralleling the continued rise of tourism in Egypt's coastal areas. "I think beach tourism is gaining on cultural [tourism], as evident by the room supply available in beach destinations such as Hurghada and Sharm Al Sheikh versus cultural destinations such as Luxor and Cairo," Darwish states.

Whatever the reasons, the tourists just keep on coming. In 2007, 11.1 million tourists visited Egypt, according to Garana, who said in his December interview that he expected arrivals to reach 13 million tourists in 2008. And revenues have been growing alongside arrivals, climbing from the tourism ministry's figure of $9.5 billion for 2007 to an expected $11.2 billion for 2008.

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 09:28:41 am

Revamping and expansion

Although the sector has already undergone significant growth, it is continuing to enlarge and refine itself. In terms of its cultural heritage, Egypt is exerting great effort to increase what it has to offer visitors, with the accompanying work comprising a lengthy list of attractions being either constructed or upgraded across Egypt, from Roman ruins in Alexandria to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. "When you strengthen [culture], you strengthen the income from tourism," Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny told BUSINESS MONTHLY.

Through the SCA, the Ministry of Culture is striving to construct new museums and renovate existing ones; 19 new museums are being built at the moment. Currently under construction, among other things, are the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located in Giza and is expected to be completed in 2012, and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which is slated to be finished in two years and is located in Cairo.

At the same time, the SCA is working to upgrade archaeological sites that are frequented by visitors. "Almost more than 60 percent of the archaeological sites that are visited by tourists have been improved," Hawass says, pointing to work to fence in and protect the site of the Pyramids, as well as improvements to the Citadel and Al-Moez Al-Din Allah Street in Islamic Cairo, in addition to a multitude of other locations.

Hosny explains that there is a spectrum of museums available in Egypt. "These museums give a variety and are all over Egypt, which of course excites tourists," the culture minister says.

As the government is striving to increase the infrastructure surrounding cultural sites, it is also increasing its capacity to handle more arrivals. While there were 182,000 rooms available at the end of 2007, a total of 211,000 were expected to be ready at the end of 2008. Furthermore, Garana points out, there are another 158,000 rooms under construction expected to be operational over the coming three to four years.

"[Infrastructure expansion is] happening all over Egypt, although the government is focusing on increasing the investment and FDI in the Red Sea [area], as well as the North Coast," says Darwish, who notes that expansion is also happening in Cairo. According to the tourism minister, 70 percent of the rooms currently under construction are in coastal areas.

[The revamping of antiquities infrastructure] will attract more people to come to the cultural sites, because it's a unique product," says Garana. "But when you're [talking] about the leisure [aspect of tourism], definitely you're competing with the rest of the world, and this is where you have to really work very hard." He notes that this entails improving the value of services and products in the leisure-related parts of the tourism industry, as well as increasing the efficacy of the marketing of the sector.

The tourism minister says that only a little over 20 percent of the tourist arrivals in Egypt come for the antiquities, and hints that an increase in this percentage would not be overwhelmingly significant in light of antiquities' overall importance in attracting visitors. "When we're talking about the cultural part, [about] how much it represents from the global number that we have, it's 20 percent. That means we're talking about 2.6 million [visitors]," Garana states. "Even if I have a growth of 10 percent, it's 260,000. When I say a total growth of 10 percent of 13 million, that's 1.3 million."

Hawass strongly disagrees with the contention that only slightly over 20 percent of tourists come to Egypt for the antiquities, and emphasizes the point that culture is, in his mind, the most prominent feature of Egypt. "I come to swim in Sharm Al Sheikh, maybe, but in my mind Egypt is the Pyramids, the mummies, the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings," he says. "Cultural tourism, in my opinion, is the most important thing for any tourist who comes to Egypt."

In what is arguably a reflection of the growing prominence of beach tourism, the government is working to build museums in the coastal resort areas of Hurghada, Sharm Al Sheikh and Marsa Alam.

Counter-intuitively, all of this expansion of tourism infrastructure may hurt the sector. The skills of those working in the industry are in need of constant improvement, a job that becomes more difficult the quicker it expands. "Definitely our biggest concern always lies with the human resources. [We're working] to upgrade the existing workforce," Garana explains.

There has been improvement over time in the quality of services that the Egyptian tourism sector offers to visitors, says Ahmed El-Askalani, country manager for Egypt at American Express Travel Services, an Egyptian-Bahraini joint venture operating as a franchise of American Express. "I've been in this industry for the last 25 years and I believe that it is getting better day by day and year after year," he argues.

But the speed at which the sector is growing is outpacing the ability of the tourism industry to upgrade the skills of those it employs, the tourism minister says. "Definitely the momentum is going much faster than [the speed at which] we can have a workforce that's measured by international standards to be very good," Garana says. "If I am going to rate it, we are... around 80 percent capable of handling the growth."

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 09:30:04 am

Turbulent times

Maintaining the quality of service is not the only difficulty facing tourism in Egypt. With the global economic downturn, the reality is that the sector is in for a rough ride. However, it isn't alone. "I believe there is going to be a slowdown globally," Garana says.

Although the economic downturn is sure to impact the growth of tourism worldwide, different aspects of the industry will likely be touched in different ways, says Cooper. "I think that hotels that have relied on corporate business and corporate groups will be the most impacted," he argues. "Hotels that rely upon leisure will be the least impacted because when you research consumers, the last thing they'll give up is their vacation." Although consumers may pass on three-day weekends, he says, it is much more difficult for families, especially those from Europe, to forsake an annual vacation.

"Definitely people will not stop traveling," Darwish states. However, she says that patterns of travel will be affected, arguing that people will take shorter trips to closer locations, as well as "look for trips offering more value for money and try to reduce the non-room revenue, basically anything not included in the package they paid [for]."

"Traveling is a way of living, and I don't think people will stop," concurs the tourism minister. "They will cut down definitely on the number of trips, and they'll be very choosy in their destinations. Quality is going to be a major factor, [as well as] price and proximity." While Garana says that Egypt has an advantage in these three respects, he acknowledges that the industry will still suffer.

The anticipated local impact of these global changes seems stark when compared to the expansion the industry has experienced in recent years. "I don't expect growth [in 2009]," Garana says, and when asked if the sector will shrink, he replies affirmatively. What exactly will happen, though, is another story. As to any speculation about this year, the tourism minister says, "It's going to be an uneducated guess... Nobody knows."

But it appears that the slowdown has already begun. Some observers note that the Christmas season should not have been heavily affected because many tourists book in advance and thus would face penalties for cancellation. However, it appears that there were hotel operators that felt the pinch, explains Dr. Ahmed Abdel Alim, a dentist and owner of the 72-bed Dahab Hostel, which is located in downtown Cairo. Pointing to his conversations with people at other hostels in both Dahab and downtown Cairo, he says: "Everyone is talking about [the fact] that this season is not a good season at all, and [this is] probably because of the financial crisis."

The global situation has affected business, says Ramadan Hassan, manager of the Hotel Vienna, a 20-bed hostel in downtown Cairo. "Of course there is a difference between business before and now."

Garana argues that while tourism will be hit globally, Egypt is well positioned to deal with the fallout. "I believe that Egypt is going to be the least affected by it," he says, noting that domestic tourism has a number of advantages in this more challenging global environment. "Egypt is a year-round destination," the tourism minister notes, also pointing to "the diversity and the variety of products [available to tourists]." He adds that for the cost, Egypt has "good value."

Egypt does have a number of characteristics that make it strong as a potential destination for travelers, Cooper argues. In addition to its unique cultural status, Egypt is "very competitive" as a leisure tourism destination, he says, citing its location, weather and the ease of air travel to reach it. "If you don't have airlift, you're not going to have guests in hotels," Cooper adds. The government has been concentrating on increasing the infrastructure for this type of travel, says Garana, who points out that 80 percent of those visiting Egypt come by air. Just last month, a new LE 3.1 billion terminal at Cairo International Airport opened.

The value that Egypt presents tourists, another oft-cited advantage for what the domestic tourism sector has to offer, is now also under some pressure. While Egypt is still a reasonably-priced destination, the appreciation of the Egyptian pound against the euro and British pound is a potential problem for the sector, as this makes Egypt relatively more expensive. Two of the top four markets sending tourists to Egypt, Germany and Italy, use the euro, while the UK is the third largest exporter of tourists to the country.

"We found a lot of other countries devaluating their currencies 20 to 30 percent," says the tourism minister. "On the other hand, the Egyptian pound is so strong that we're losing a competitive edge vis-a-vis the other countries," he adds, citing Turkey as an example.

Given the gravity of the situation facing the industry as a result of the current global economic situation, a response of some form is certainly in order. The Ministry of Tourism has made moves to deal with the worldwide crisis, says Garana. "We were one of the very first nations in the world to react to the global meltdown," the tourism minister says, pointing out that the ministry has been consulting with stakeholders in the tourism sector in response to the situation.

As for getting the word out about Egypt, "we're introducing a very intensive and aggressive marketing campaign with tour operators," Garana adds. "You have to know that 62 percent of our business comes out of 10 countries," he explains. "We are focusing very much on this, plus of course we're focusing more on the eastern European countries, because I believe that they were the least affected by the economic meltdown."

Garana says that the government is cooperating with tour operators. "They are the best people to relay the message of what they can offer to their clients," he says.

While efforts are being made to keep attracting tourists, confronted with the specter of declining numbers, players in the tourism industry face the temptation of slashing prices in order to lure more customers.

Even before the crisis in the world's financial system that erupted in October, weakness in the global economy combined with increases in room supply was expected to lead to a "softening" in both occupancies and room rates by mid-2009, Darwish explains, with a fall in room rates anticipated by 2010 or 2011. October's conflagration pushed expectations for the timing of this softening forward, she argues. "I think we will really see a decline in room rates and occupancies in 2009," she notes, pointing out that room rates already began to fall in the last two months of 2008.

The danger of cutting prices is that it takes a while to bring them back up, explains Garana. "It has [been] proven that [lowering] prices really affects the industry tremendously, and the country at large, because from what we have seen in the past, [for] the cycle to go back to its normal figures takes between five and seven years," he argues. "That's why we were very much aware of that, and this is one of the main things we reacted to quickly."

But as things slow down, a warning from the ministry is unlikely to be enough to dissuade more players from cutting their prices. The tourism minister points out that a significant portion of the sector, particularly leisure tourism, relies on charter travel, which has three actors: tour operators, suppliers and airlines. In charter travel, the impetus to slash prices is high, Garana explains. "You have to take very quick decisions, because an empty seat will never be replaced when it flies empty; same thing with a bed; same thing with the cost of a tour operator."

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 09:31:32 am

Origins of a crisis

The roots of the current financial crisis lie in the US mortgage market, explains Beltone Financial's head of research, Angus Blair, who says mortgages were given to people who weren't qualified to receive them - a situation that depended on rising housing prices to sustain itself." You then had all of this mortgage debt, in effect, which was sold on and repackaged by global investment banks to a variety of parties," he explains.

Low interest rates set by the US Federal Reserve earlier this decade were key in setting the stage for the current turmoil, argues Wael Ziada, head of Egypt research at EFG-Hermes, who says that these rates contributed to the development of a bubble in the real estate market. "[This] situation, where you have cheap money and an asset-pricing bubble forming, coupled with investment banks getting really creative and getting really ahead of themselves in creating very exotic products some of [which were] kept off the balance sheets was, briefly, a recipe for disaster."

For this situation to sustain itself, Ziada argues that three factors had to remain constant low interest rates, a "buoyant" economy and control over inflation. "If any of these three things goes wrong, then basically the whole thing comes down," Ziada argues. And amid rising interest and inflation rates, it did just that.

As the US economy began to slow down, this put pressure on the ability of the American people to pay off their debts, says Blair. "You had larger and larger numbers of people who were becoming delinquent in their mortgage payments, so that then had a repercussion [on] a whole variety of other instruments across a whole number of institutions."

With many financial institutions reporting losses from investments in the mortgage market and fear of bank failure reducing willingness for interbank lending, liquidity in the global financial system started to dry up. In a defining moment highlighting the frightening potential of the credit crunch, in August 2007 BNP Paribas suspended the ability of investors to withdraw from three of its funds involved in the US housing loan market.

The credit crunch continued to shake both US and European financial institutions. Arguably the largest shocks from the credit crisis came in September 2008, when Lehman Brothers, one of the biggest names in investment banking, went bankrupt within a short period that also included the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as American Insurance Group (AIG) all while European institutions continued to suffer.

Capital markets worldwide have plunged since September, and governments and central banks around the world have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.

By Louis Wasser

© Business Monthly 2009

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 08:09:07 pm

                                                               Keep an eye on the Sphinx

Al-Ahram Weekly
Sept. 9, 2008

While the SCA secretary-general was being interviewed for "Guardian's Spotlight" in July 2008, pigeons were seen pecking away at the eyes and ear cavities of the Sphinx and their droppings were splattered on the stone. Jill Kamil discusses this new danger

The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities had much to tell his interviewer on "Spotlight". Zahi Hawass waxed lyrical about "exciting things" that have been happening in the field of archaeology -- the discovery of a new tomb of a queen at Saqqara that has yet to be formally announced; the entrance to two tombs in the Valley of the Kings on which excavation will begin in October; and "big happenings" in Aswan, Edfu and Kom Ombo. He was enthusiastic about the "improvements" at Dendera and the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and gave details of the new museums at Rashid, Arish, Minya and Amarna, as well as site management at Beni Hassan and Tuna Al-Gabel.

Zahi Hawass raved about the progress on the Civilisation Museum at Fustat and the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. Indeed, he also had much to say about the plan to upgrade the Pyramid Plateau and turn it into "a tourist-friendly and hawker-free zone". He mentioned that the project's security component included installing cameras, alarms and motion detectors, as well as building up a 20-kilometre fence.

I wonder if the new electronic security devices, however, while monitoring the movements of tourists and hawkers, cameleers and horse riders, will be able to pick up the unwelcome winged creatures that are finding a comfortable and shady roost in the eye and ear cavities of the Sphinx, and causing damage to the stone with their droppings. Apparently the pigeons are pecking away at this most grand and famous of monuments, finding in it an appetising calcium meal. Back in 1991, after a Save the Sphinx programme of restoration, Hawass declared that the monument was not in any danger. "Its head and neck can live for another thousand years," he declared at the time. He could not possibly have foreseen this newest threat -- the high level of acidity in the droppings of birds and its destructive effect on the stone. Just how serious is the problem?

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 08:10:42 pm

I am reminded of the press coverage in the United Kingdom back in November 2002, about the health hazard and the "mess" created by some 4,000 pigeons in Trafalgar Square, when campaigners called for the right to continue to feed the birds. The British press made a great hue and cry about that. "Court threat over Trafalgar pigeons", "In defence of pigeons" and "Pigeon protest ruffles feathers", the headlines screamed.

Well, we in Egypt are not that concerned about birds, and we certainly don't cast birdseed around to feed them. Yet pigeons here in Egypt have become thoroughly urbanised. They habitually build nests and raise families in garages, on balconies, and in and around satellite dishes. So once they pass the word around that the Giza Sphinx offers singularly superior accommodation for Rest and Recreation than Greater Cairo's concrete jungle, perhaps they will fly to Giza in ever larger numbers.

The Sphinx was carved from a single block of limestone left over in the quarry used to build the Pyramids, and scholars believe it was sculpted about 4,600 years ago by King Khafre, whose Pyramid rises directly behind it. Half human, half lion, it has the head of the king with his nemes head covering, and its body is 57 metres long and 20 metres high. It certainly exudes an aura of mystery: the Arabs called the Sphinx Abul Hol, Father of Terror; and 18th- and 19th-century visitors claimed that it was the work of an extremely ancient civilisation that had completely disappeared.

If more pigeons are attracted to the area, their droppings will cause more and more damage. The monument has undergone numerous restorations over the millennia, beginning with one conducted in about 1400 BC by the prince who later became Pharaoh Tuthmose IV, who dreamt that the Sphinx asked him to clear the sand around it in return for the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was cleared, and he was crowned Pharaoh, but wind- blown sand soon buried the monument to its neck -- its nose, incidentally, had been missing for at least 400 years by the time Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798 with the band of French savants who took measurements of the head.

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 08:11:57 pm

The first attempt to clear away the sand in modern times was made in 1816/17 by a Genoese merchant, Caviglia, who did not get very far. The next attempt was made in 1853 by Auguste Mariette, founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. He managed to clear the sand right down to the rock floor of the surrounding ditch, and the task was taken up by his successor, Gaston Maspero. The French engineer Emile Baraize, working for the Antiquities Service, did a more thorough job. He not only dug along the Sphinx's body, but found ancient restoration blocks scattered about which he replaced, adding some small brick-sized blocks of his own.

More recently restoration was carried out in the 1950s and 1970s, when some of the damaged masonry was patched up around the lower parts of the Sphinx's body. In 1979 the Sphinx Project of the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE), in collaboration with the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, produced the first scale elevations and detailed plans of the monument. It was discovered that the stone used in the modern restoration of the monument flaked and powdered more rapidly than the earlier restoration so various steps were taken to consolidate the stone.

In the 1980s, the famous Sphinx was subjected to intensive care. Chemicals were injected into the stone for strengthening, but the project had to be abandoned because the chemicals unexpectedly caused the treated parts to flake off, taking with them some of the original rock surface.

A Sphinx Committee was formed, comprising scholars of the EAO, Egyptian universities, and foreign experts, and they all agreed that the "new" and "harmful" cement and gypsum mortar of previous restorations should be removed immediately and replaced with stones that matched the 1979 restoration, using the plan and elevations of the ARCE Sphinx Project.

Post by: Bianca on January 17, 2009, 08:12:57 pm

Oh dear! Poor Sphinx.

Work went ahead. Its paws and rear haunches were covered with nearly 2,000 limestone blocks held in place with cement (the suitability of which was later questioned). Meanwhile, its neck caused considerable concern because it seemed to be eroding more rapidly than the rest of the statue.

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni called on UNESCO to form a committee comprising 13 specialists in the fields of archaeology, reconstruction, restoration and geophysics, to discuss procedures needed to protect the Giza Plateau generally and the Sphinx's neck in particular. It was even thought a good idea to ask the British Museum to send the Sphinx's beard of the back to Egypt so that it might ensure more stability to the head. The British Museum was said to be willing, as long as Egypt covered the cost. So the matter ended there.

The committee members, meanwhile, agreed that the Sphinx was suffering from weathering and chemical saturation by carbonic, nitric and sulphuric acids "produced by chemical pollutants associated with neighbouring cement and other industrial facilities," as well as vibration caused by dynamiting in quarries in the vicinity, not to mention the rumbling of heavy tourist buses across the plateau. Additionally, there was seepage from the inadequate sewage system of the neighbouring Nezlet Al-Simman village.

When, in 1988, a sizable piece of bedrock toppled from the right shoulder of the Sphinx it caused much concern. A "Save the Sphinx" campaign was immediately launched with a large initial donation by American Express in Cairo, as well as the Getty Conservation Institute of California in collaboration with the EAO. A six-and- a-half-metre-high mini-observatory was set up on the statue's haunches to monitor the direction and changes in the speed of the wind, the humidity and pollutants in the atmosphere, the temperature and effects of water and salt on limestone.

Could it have monitored winged creatures?

Probably not.

Post by: Bianca on January 20, 2009, 09:30:08 pm

A painting from the Mughal period 

                                              Mughal manuscripts thief arrested

Jan. 20, 2009

Egyptian authorities have seized stolen pages torn from an illustrated Mughal-era manuscript from an Australian woman trying to smuggle them out of the country, Egypt's antiquities authority said.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist and the general secretary of the Supreme Antiquities Council, said in a statement the pages may be from a book dating from the Indian Mughal period, which began around the early 16th century.

The manuscripts will be returned to the Islamic Arts Museum in Cairo, the statement said.

Egypt is home to some of the world's richest antiquities including pharaonic treasures, Roman ruins and Judeo-Christian and Islamic artefacts.

Egypt has launched several campaigns in recent years to secure the return of antiquities illegally removed from the most populous Arab country.

Since 2002, it has succeeded in bringing home around 5,000 stolen or smuggled artefacts, the ministry of culture said.

Post by: Bianca on January 22, 2009, 10:26:41 am

                                                      RESTORING BEAUTY

AlAhram Weekly
Jan. 15-21, 2009

The heart of Cairo is being promised a much-needed restoration campaign, Amira El-Noshokaty talks
to the man who is in charge of making the city look its best

'Penalties will be passed on whoever disturbs the restorations of any old building and whoever builds
a new one that does not follow the urban harmony district code'

You know you are in Downtown Cairo when your eyes fall upon grand boulevards and even grander buildings with late 19th century and 20th century European-style doorways and sculptures, designed in a combination of art deco, art nouveau, baroque and neo-Islamic styles. Of course, over the decades much beauty has been tampered with, by both the hands of time and careless people.

Since the 1980s there has been an ongoing struggle to rescue Downtown's architectural heritage. The struggle has gone round in circles due to the lack of an official body and the necessary laws in place for the restoration and preservation of the area.

That is, until along came the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) with its restoration plan for Khedivine Cairo. First established in 2004, NOUH is affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, and aims at enabling beauty to prevail all over Egyptian urban space. The project for the Downtown area kicks off with Ramses Street, and extends from Abbasiya to Abdel-Moneim Riad Square in Tahrir. "This is only the beginning of our project," NOUH chief Samir Gharib told Al-Ahram Weekly. Phase two is set to cover the area from Talaat Harb Square to Mustafa Kamel Square in Downtown. The third target area stretches from Mustafa Kamel Square to Opera Square. On the long term, it is set to cover all of Downtown, and eventually the rest of Egypt. The projects are planned "one step at a time, because of two factors: time and money," Gharib noted.

Restoration work is limited to the façades of historical buildings or those with a special architectural style. "Our first goal is to allow beauty to flourish in our urban space, and apply this value to the elements occupying space such as the façades of buildings, streets, sidewalks, lampposts, greenery, and advertisements -- indeed anything that you see on the street. However, if there is an internal problem that is affecting or threatening the well-being of a given façade, then NOUH restores the building from the inside as well," Gharib told the Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on January 22, 2009, 10:28:35 am

One thing is certain, and that is that the project to restore Khedivine Cairo started off on the right foot. Downtown was the starting point of Khedive Ismail when he aimed to modernise Egypt by building quarters adopting European styles of architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it was Mohamed Ali Pasha who really pushed this shift further.

According to Nelly Hanna's book Misr Om Al-Donia ( Egypt: The Mother of the World ), the real drive to modernise Egypt was made by Mohamed Ali Pasha, who charted the first straight wide street between Al-Qalaa (Citadel) district and that of Al-Azbakia and named it after himself. Moreover, he was the first to adopt the foreign architectural designs in Egypt, when building his Shubra Palace back in 1808. This yearning to modernise Egypt in general and its architecture in particular was passed on to Khedive Ismail whose modern districts were the new government quarters and hence attracted the Egyptian elite.

Hanna's book also reveals the difference between the regular and modern urban designs back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Unlike the regular designs of Egyptian residential districts back then, with one main central road with various ally extensions, the foreign style adopted straight, wide, open-ended streets rid of narrow allies and dead-end streets. In addition to vast squares, the spacious new quarter with its wide streets gave room for modern means of transportation to find their way. Gradually Downtown and several neighbouring quarters -- which together form what is known as Khedivine Cairo -- came to represent the beating heart of an entire era's commercial, economic as well as cultural activities. As such the area stole the show from the older Islamic Cairo quarters, which were left to handicraft and lower middle-class workers.

Post by: Bianca on January 22, 2009, 10:29:59 am

Much has changed since then, of course. Having deviated from its original status, Khedivine Cairo -- or all Cairo for that matter -- has long been in desperate need for greater urban harmony. Though numerous governmental and non-governmental efforts were exerted from the 1980s onwards to preserve what is left of the glamour, there was no sustainable element or legal entity to preserve or coordinate such restoration efforts. So it was that NOUH's role started to take shape several years ago, as new laws began to be passed regarding the preservation of urban space and architectural heritage nationwide.

"At first, we researched Egyptian urban plans and divided it into 13 different categories, from heritage to shantytowns, "said Gharib, adding that each category is dealt with according to its nature. Taking Khedivine Cairo as an example, he explained that buildings shall be restored in their original shape and colour, because they are part of our heritage as they are. On the other hand, coastal buildings, subjected to constant sunlight, ought to be painted in light colours or white, since the water reflects the sunbeams doubling their reflection on the buildings.

But what about new buildings that defy all forms of urban harmony? According to the law of urban harmony 119/2008, NOUH is the authority that governs and monitors the general rules and regulations applicable to all forms of urban planning. "This means that when necessary, we change the colours of any new building that clashes with existing ones. We apply a general rule, which states that buildings in any given residential area should be in harmony with one another. Harmony is our name; this principle ought to be applied through colour coordination. New buildings should fall into such harmony," he noted. "Penalties will be passed on whoever disturbs the restorations of any old building and whoever builds a new one that does not follow the urban harmony district code," Gharib warned.

Post by: Bianca on January 22, 2009, 10:31:43 am

As for the demolition of buildings of special significance, this is governed by Law 144/2006, which protects Egypt's architectural heritage, in addition to Law 119/2008 by which preservation falls under NOUH's authority. NOUH in turn has committees in all governorates to take note of rare buildings, and preserve them.

For his part Gharib is head of the appeal committee, which allows owners of ancient buildings to appeal in order to get a demolition order. Being in such a position gives NOUH the upper hand in preserving our architectural heritage.

From Beheira governorate to Assiut, dozens of NOUH's projects have been implemented from charting streets to preserving historical buildings. But what about shantytowns, will they ever be included? Considering that some 40 per cent of Egypt's districts are unplanned shantytowns, Gharib stated that NOUH has developed a guide to plan these areas. "Unfortunately, the government overlooks our role in shantytowns, because we as an organisation are relatively new," he lamented.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on January 26, 2009, 08:51:57 pm


              Clockwise from top left:

              a view of the museum's nightclub;
              one of the showcases;
              a limestone head of goddess Hathor;
              El-Achmawi with a granite statue;
              a naos with god Osiris and a stele

              photos courtesy of the SCA

                                                       Artefacts on show in nightclub

Jan 26, 2008
Al Ahram Weekly

An Egyptian antiquities collection at the …stergötlands Country Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, will soon be back in its homeland, Nevine El-Aref reports
After being on display for almost five decades at the …stergötlands Country Museum in Stockholm, a collection of 212 artefacts ranging from the early pre-dynastic era right through to the Coptic era will be coming home soon.

The story of the collection goes back to the late 1920s when Otto Smith, an antiquities lover, excavated several archaeological areas in Saqqara and Luxor during his several visits to Egypt. The 212 objects he is known to have unearthed included wood and ivory arrows, painted and plain clay vessels, pots, fabrics, chandeliers, mirrors with a design of the goddess Hathor, wooden combs and limestone reliefs with ancient Egyptian engravings as well as marble, limestone and granite statues depicting Pharaonic deities and nobles. There are also a number of marble vases, rings made of animal bone, beads and coloured scarabs.

Smith kept his priceless collection at his house in Stockholm all through his life until he died in 1934. In 1956 his grandson, who was not able to take care of it, sent the collection to the neighbouring …stergötlands Museum for restoration. In 1959, Smith's family offered the 212 pieces to the museum according to a contract preserving the family's ownership of the objects as well as the right to recover it at anytime if it was subjected to deterioration or negligence, placed in storage or removed from its current display at one of the museum's galleries to any other place in the museum.

Regrettably, over the last 10 years successive visits to the museum revealed that the administration had violated the articles of the 1959 contract as 163 items of the collection had been removed from their original display at one of the galleries to its restaurant, which is located at the basement, while the others had been stored.

The Smith family therefore saw that the most perfect way to rescue the collection was to retrieve it from the museum and offer it to Egypt. Thomas Adlercreutz, the family's representative and lawyer, contacted the Egyptian Embassy in Sweden, which in turn contacted the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to set about resolving the case legally and diplomatically.

The SCA sent their legal consultant Achraf El-Achmawi and Egyptologist Amr El-Tibi to investigate the case. El-Achmawi told Al-Ahram Weekly that inspecting the restaurant where the objects were exhibited revealed several negative aspects that were helping to exacerbate their deterioration. The objects, he said, were very badly displayed and in a very poor condition of preservation. Some are stuffed into two vertical showcases located in a corner among the tables and chairs of the restaurant, while the others were exhibited freely on wooden bases where they were exposed to humidity, water vapour and smoke emanating from the restaurant's open kitchen. Cigarette smoke, heat exhaled from guests' breath and direct lighting also played a destructive role on the objects.

One of the worst aspects, El-Achmawi pointed out, was that every night the restaurant was used as a nightclub where people danced and sang, whereby the objects were in immediate danger of accidental damage.

El-Tibi told the Weekly that the 212 pieces were considered among the finest known, displaying as they did significant phases of Egyptian history and culture and the different styles of art used by ancient artisans from prehistory to the Coptic era.

"Among the rare objects in the collection are contemporary animal figures, a granite naos with a statuette of the god Osiris, a stele from the Amarna era, a distinguished decorative vase and a Greek statue of a priest named Nesmin," El-Tibi said.

Following several negotiations between Adlercreutz and El-Achmawi, an initial agreement towards recovering the collection was achieved. Adlercreutz made a written avowal to the effect that the Smith family did not possess any documentation confirming their ownership of the collection, nor did they have written approval from the Egyptian government allowing Smith the 1920s archaeological digs. The avowal also affirmed that the objects were not offered to the Smiths, nor exchanged for other artefacts, nor were a result of the division of antiquities between two excavation missions as it was applied during the 1920s according to the old antiquities law.

"Such an avowal was registered at the Swedish real-estate administration, as well as a list showing the number and archaeological significance of the collection," El-Achmawi said. Now, following all these procedures, Egypt has asked the Swedish government for the return of the collection which is expected to return to its homeland soon.

"It was really a challenge," El-Achmawi told the Weekly with some enthusiasm. He explained that the collection was regarded as the museum's only collection of Egyptian antiquities. When Egypt recovered them, he said, the …stergötlands Museum would not have any Egyptian pieces among its exhibits. "Such an endeavour is a concrete step towards returning Egypt's smuggled heritage and a tag that the SCA will use as leverage in similar cases in the future, specially in recovering smuggled objects exhibited in international museums," El-Achmawi said.

This week in Bulgaria Interpol apprehended Lebanese antiquities trader Ali Aboutaam, who was accused of smuggling antiquities out of Egypt. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said Aboutaam was convicted in the famous antiquities smuggling case of Tarek El-Seweisi, who was caught by the Egyptian police in 2003 and convicted of stealing and smuggling Egyptian antiquities.

El-Seweisi collaborated with Aboutaam to smuggle 280 artefacts out of the country by packing some of them as glass bottles and hiding others in large boxes of children's toys and electronics, all labelled with the name of a well-known international exporting company.

Hawass added that investigations carried out by General Prosecution in Egypt revealed that Aboutaam helped El-Seweisi to smuggle the artefacts out of the country. He was the eighth criminal to be convicted in the case, but was still at large until last week when Interpol caught him in Bulgaria. In April 2004, the Criminal Court in Egypt sentenced him in absentia to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of LE50,000.

In collaboration with the General Prosecution, the SCA was able to retrieve 1,000 objects from Switzerland and Britain that had been smuggled out of the country.

Three years ago the FBI told Hawass, who was then receiving one of three reliefs from Akhmim which were stolen by another convicted smuggler, about Aboutaam's illegal activities. "Catching Aboutaam is a concrete step towards stopping the trade in illegal antiquities around the world," Hawass told the Weekly. He added that since 2002 Egypt had succeeded in recovering 5,000 stolen and smuggled antiquities.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 07:51:28 am


                                                    Bathing 13 centuries ago

 Al-Ahram Weekly
Feb. 1, 2009

A 250-METRE-long embankment, a quay and some Ptolemaic baths are the most recent discoveries at Karnak Temples, Nevine El-Aref reports.

Coincidence always makes for important discoveries. It led to Tutankhamun's tomb, the distinguished funerary collection of King Khufu's mother Hetep Heres, and those of Pharaoh Akhenaten's grandparents Yuya and Thuya, to mention just a few. This time, it makes a better understanding of the construction plans of the temples of Karnak as they were drawn by the ancient Egyptians.

During routine excavation work carried out by an Egyptian archaeological mission in the front courtyard at Karnak, part of the Karnak Temples site management project for the area enclosed between the temples and the Nile, a 250-metre-long embankment used to protect Karnak from the Nile flood was discovered, along with a quay, baths and a settlement.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that early studies on the newly-discovered structures revealed that the quay, the first part of which was discovered last year, was constructed as part of the embankment. The quay consists of two opposite steps leading to a five-metre-long ramp made of sandstone blocks brought from the quarries of the Silsila mountains in Aswan.

"This kind of stone can stand against the erosion of Nile water," Hawass explained, adding that because the ramp was very steep towards the Nile, the 25th Dynasty Pharaoh Taharka (690--664 BC) built a small royal quay in the middle of the ramp which on its turn divided the ramp into three sections.

"The embankment and the quay were found at the northern gate of the Karnak complex, which was formerly used as the temples' main entrance in winter when the Nile level was low.

While examining the embankment structure, archaeologists found a number of holes used to attach the ropes of the boats while docking. Mansour Boreik, director of the mission, told Al-Ahram Weekly that further excavation at the site had uncovered remains of two villages on the quay, one Ptolemaic and one Roman, which suggested that the movement of the Nile varied over the span of history and its path had veered slightly towards the western side. Such changes, Boreik said, enabled the ancient Egyptians to build a residential settlement during the Ptolemaic and Roman ages.

"It also helped to better understand the Nile flood evolution in front of the quay," Boreik pointed out.

At the last course of the embankment a Ptolemaic bath was found. The building is characterised by its circular domed chambers, each with an oval hip bathtub with an individual seat for washing, 90cm in length and 20cm in width. "This is the second bath to be found in this area," Boreik said, adding that it was built between the beginning of the third century BC and the first decades of the second century BC.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:03:46 am

                                                                  Esna revisited

                                          In Esna, Giovanna Montalbetti takes stock of history

Feb. 1, 2009
Al-Ahram Weekly

History is fickle: a city bursting with life today may well slip into oblivion tomorrow. The cycle that seems unavoidable for all cities and empires, albeit to greater or lesser degrees, is sometimes quick and definite, leaving no physical trace of a given site's former glory. This is the case of Troy, for instance. In other cases, the process is slower and the cities remain, and instead decay very gradually. Ironically this is the more lethal blog to a city's fame. A city whose brightness slowly fades is not the stuff of legends, as it does not trigger the imagination, nor does it awaken our curiosity.

Speaking with General Manager of Coptic and Islamic Monuments of Upper Egypt Nasr Mohamed Ewedah, I realised that although it remains one of the region's most important cities, Esna has definitely lost some of its past lustre.

Located some 33 miles south of Luxor, Esna has been known under many different names. During Pharaonic times it was Iunyt -- after the goddess featured in the Amduat -- and later Ta Senet, meaning the Holy City. The Greeks knew it as Latopolis for it was believed here the perch-like fish, lates, embodied the goddess Neith, considered sacred in the area. It was said that a cemetery for these holy fish was located west of the city.

According to Ewedah, Esna's most important monuments from the Pharaonic period are the Al-Muaalla tombs on the east bank of the River Nile, featuring that of Ankhtifi, from the First Intermediate Period. Few visitors come to see them though, as Esna is best known nowadays for the Ptolemaic temple of Khnum, and for being the location of the locks crossed while on the Nile cruises.

Esna's importance grew during the 18th Dynasty as Egypt's relationship with Sudan developed. But the Esna-Derr route was not to hold its capital importance for long. It would have to wait until the 26th Dynasty to regain its interest, becoming under the Greeks and Romans the capital of the Third Nome of Upper Egypt.

"It was later called Steti or Sne by the Copts," Ewedah told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Until we got to its Arabic name, Esna."

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:05:30 am


Clockwise from top:

the second oldest minaret in Egypt was built in the Fatimid era;

the only remaining mill to extract lettuce oil;

once thriving with business, the condition of the textiles market has now deteriorated;

the rich architectural style of Esna

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:11:09 am

During the Roman era the city became tragically famous as the City of Martyrs. Esna, many of whose villagers were Coptic, witnessed persecution under the reigns of Decius and Diocletian. In 250 AD Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity in simple terms. By a certain date, that varied from place to place, all the inhabitants of the empire were required to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. The accomplishment of the sacrifices would be officially registered by the magistrates of the community, who would give each individual a libellus or certificate. Those who refused were to be sought after and sentenced to death.

Decius became known as "the fierce tyrant", but it would be a few years later, under Diocletian, that Christians in Esna would suffer the fiercest persecution yet. As Ewedah explains, "the emperor sent in his troops, who murdered 80,000 martyrs. There is a tomb named 'The Three Brothers'. In it rest the bodies of three brothers, their mother and their sister. It is said the Romans killed them and dined on their bodies."

"There are many monasteries in this area," Ewedah added. "Deir Manaos wa Al-Shuhada, or the Monastery of the Three Thousand Six Hundred Martyrs, is considered a commemoration to these emperors' persecutions. The 10th century church is said to be one of the most beautiful in Upper Egypt. But there is also Deir Al-Fakhouri, or the Monastery of the Potter, who like the ancient god Khnum in Esna Temple, sits and creates the world out of mud," he smiles. So it seems, cultures have mingled in Esna right from the start.

Esna was also famous during the times of Fatimid ruler Al-Mustansir Biallah. According to the historian Al-Maqrizi, it was during this time that a great famine scorched Egypt, and even then Esna was described as having many buildings and green gardens, with waters that didn't ebb and with rich agriculture which helped the country in facing the crisis. The historian also mentions how Esna was a meeting point for many of the major poets of the time.

Ewedah tells of a silent witness to Esna's splendour during this period: the Emari Minaret -- one of the oldest minarets in Egypt -- which can be traced back to Badreddin El-Gamali, who built the walls of Cairo, and which escaped the mosque's demolition in 1960.

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:12:43 am

It was during the Ottoman era that the city's commercial centre was built. Wekalet Al-Gedawi stands north of Esna Temple, and owes its name to its chief merchant and owner Shahbandar Al-Toggar Al-Sayed Hassan Al-Gedawi. Merchants from Sudan, central Africa, Somalia and Kenya were just some of those travelling through the Aswan road to stay in the second floor of the Wekala. They stored their goods in the first floor until they could display them at the market that was regularly held in the Wekala's courtyard. The Berber sold baskets and other items made of dyed palm leaves. Other star products arriving to Esna by caravan were Arab glue, ostrich feathers and elephant tusks.

If the Wekala was the place to find imported goods, the Kaysariya, consisting of shops arranged in a long alley covered with wooden ceiling, was the local city market. It was towards the end of the Ottoman period, in 1798-99, that Napoleon's troops and scholars arrived to Esna. In Description de l'Égypte, the city is portrayed as surrounded by low lands with good agriculture to the south, and with gardens kept by expensive irrigation to the north. They described how the city was "on top of an eight to 10 metre-high hill of ruins."

Despite the large number of boats in its port, the French noticed many of Esna's outer brick houses were destroyed as the city was built in the part of the river where the tide flowed strongest to the shore, eating into and collapsing both the shore and the houses on it. Apart from describing the Esna Temple, they pictured in their illustration plaques the ruins of four other nearby temples that have now disappeared, an inventory for which can be found in the walls of the temple of Khnum.

Napoleon's expedition also took note of the political intricacies of Esna -- a safe exile for the beys in opposition to Cairo rulers -- and of the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Copts.

Partly as a result of this cohabitation, Esna's industry flourished. Caravans promoted the horse trade business in the area, and some local products were on high demand. The city had become the manufacturing centre of huge amounts of soft raw cotton fabrics, and of the big scarf known as halayah, used widely in Egypt. The area also produced the aads esnawi, the famous Esna lentil. There were five or six small clay factories where pottery was made, and around 20 presses to produce vegetable oil for gastronomic and medical purposes, such as onion, sesame or lettuce oil amongst others.

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:14:03 am

Only one of these presses survives today, and that is the Bakour press. Its current owner is Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Radi Ahmed Bakour, who proudly explained to the Weekly that the oil press has been in his family for countless generations. "It is Pharaonic art," he said. "We know from our grandparents that all the oils were made like this." When asked about any famous saying related to the oil press, he looks at the pressing stone that came so long ago from Aswan and reflects: " Yetlaa men al-maasara yekhosh al-tahoun," which literally means: Out of the press and into the mill. "That is how some people suffer in this life," he sighs.

Bakour yearns for the days when the press was swarming with activity, but most oil is bought bottled nowadays. But he is not the only one overtaken by nostalgia: even the city's intricate streets appear to dream of a more frenzied past. Walking through the city, it seems time is moving slowly over Esna and its gentle people.

During the era of Mohamed Ali, Esna was one of the governorates of Egypt. It ran from Gerga on the north to the Shalalat waterfalls south, including Aswan and other cities. Ali Pasha Mubarak also discussed the beauty of its houses, its antiquity treasures and the growth of its population. There used to be a well famed tarboush factory back then. It is now long gone.

Gustave Flaubert marvelled at lively Esna in 1849, and 30 years later Emilia Edwards wrote about the city, impressed by its activity and by the existence of its buried temple. Then in 1909 the first barrage in Esna was constructed, and just like the waters of the river, the rhythm of the city became a little less frantic. Today, visitors walk straight from the boats to the narrow alley full of tourist shops in which sellers seem to shake off time's spell in order to call out in all languages. Except for the temple, they are unaware of the fact the streets they walk through are testimony to a much richer history.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:18:01 am

                                                        Protecting knowledge

Feb. 1, 2009

On the fringes of the Cairo International Book Fair publishers and writers call on authorities in the
Arab world to fight intellectual property theft, Nevine El-Aref reports


Upon discussion with his deputy Ibrahim El-Muallim, who is also president of the Egypt Publishers Association (EPA), the newly elected president of the International Publishers Association (IPA) for
the next two years, Dutch writer Herman P Spruijt, paid a visit last Monday to the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF). Enthusiastic over what he saw there, Spruijt described the fair as a festival for intellectuals and the learned and a hub for different cultures.

During a press conference held in the 6 October Hall, Spruijt began by asking four questions that consumed his thoughts: Why is Egypt introduced in the international market with a tiny quota of writers and books despite its long history in publishing and its great cultural wealth in the field? How can the number of CIBF visitors reach two million and the number of international publishers and professionals attending remain modest? Why has Scotland some 14,000 books available on the Internet while the Arab world goes unnoticed? Why is the number of layout professionals of international publishing standard in the Arab world, Africa and Latin America less than five per cent of the norm elsewhere? "But the most important question is: How can we change that?" Spruijt said angrily.

"If we are serious about promoting publishing in the Arab world it is very important to be more serious in promoting intellectual property rights and highlighting their significance and value for the different communities of the Arab world," Spruijt said. This issue was in the mind of the IPA, he said, when it decided to organise the seventh IPA International Copyrights Symposium in the Arab world, slated for Abu Dhabi in 2010. Other initiatives have been undertaken to make this region attractive for publishing, including efforts to fight piracy and create awareness of publishing rights in the Arab world.

"I will grasp the opportunity to invite you all, publishers, presidents of all publishers associations, policymakers, librarians, writers and intellectuals to attend the symposium," Spruijt said. The symposium's projected slogan is "Established rights, developed markets". "Copyright must go in parallel with the market atmosphere as information must be introduced to both rich and poor people," Spruijt added.

Programme Manager Beatrice Stauffer said that every four years the IPA invites publishers and their commercial partners to discuss cutting edge issues in the field of copyright law and cultural policy. The seventh IPA symposium will take place two days before the Abu Dhabi Book Fair in March 2010. Sessions on collective copyright licensing, digital and online distribution of copyrighted works, and competing with free content are the main discussion aspects of the symposium. Other panels dealing with copyright in Islamic law and buying and selling rights in emerging markets -- highlighting regional aspects of publishing -- are also scheduled.

Post by: Bianca on February 03, 2009, 08:19:15 am

On his part El-Muallim urges concerned authorities to take the required steps to implement the Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials and to support Egypt exporting books and culture and standing against piracy. He underlined the importance of respecting copyright, particularly in the face of the present international financial crisis. "Egypt must be a good example for all Arab countries," he said asserting that the IPA must protect authors and other creative artists.

Since its establishment in 1996, El-Muallim relates, the Arab Publishers Association succeeded to convince some concerned authorities to respect copyright and fight piracy. But regretfully, he continued, media elements were not all of the same conscience. And while some countries do not violate copyright, many force publishers and writers to surrender copyright in order to participate in cultural and publishing events.

Does a model for copyright exist among Arab countries? Spruijt responded that there is no model, but there are endeavours to protect copyright. "If there are correct efforts to protect printing and publishing rights there will, absolutely, be a base for all other copyright procedures, which will increase competition and the many art works to choose from," said Spruijt. For creators to compete, "a special infrastructure" of the government and police is needed to catch hijackers and pirates, Spruijt said.

During his two-day visit to Cairo, Spruijt met Mrs Suzanne Mubarak to discuss means of cooperation to spruce up children's schoolbooks, including inserting modern art to make books more attractive and enjoyable for children. The meeting also discussed Egypt's role in supporting the publishing industry in the Arab world and beyond, as well as translating Egyptian writers into foreign languages.

Spruijt described the "Reading for all" campaign spearheaded by Mrs Mubarak as a model not only for underdeveloped countries but also developed ones, as it extended the base of reading and spread a reading culture among Egyptian families and schoolchildren.

In his time in the Egyptian capital Spruijt also met Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tareq Kamel.


© Copyright Al-Ahram

Post by: Bianca on February 07, 2009, 08:11:10 am

                                              Snapping pictures of the Pyramids

The Northern Advocate
by Peter de Graaf

It's not just what you know, it's who you know.

And knowing the right people certainly helped when a tiny Whangarei firm was hired to take aerial photos of the Egyptian pyramids.

Lawrence and Elaine Ross, of Kokopu, are the Northland franchise holders for aerial photography company Skyworks.

Mostly they use a blimp - a 6m-long helium-filled balloon, like the Hindenburg in miniature - to photograph homes for real estate adverts.

The biggest thing they've photographed so far is the Kerikeri Bypass, the fancy new road that diverts traffic away from New Zealand's oldest buildings.

But, come April 2, they'll be snapping history on an altogether different scale when they float their blimp and remote-controlled camera over the 4500-year-old pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

Their unusual business opportunity came about when former Whangarei man Martin Van Rijswijk - now principal of the New Cairo British International School in the Egyptian capital - was looking for someone to photograph the school's 30th anniversary celebrations at the pyramids.

Because helicopters are a no-no at the pyramids, he first tried to find someone in Egypt who could take photos from a balloon. Then he tried the neighbouring countries, also without success. Then he tried the United States, where finding a company to do it was easy - the trouble was the astronomical price tag. Then he remembered his friends in Whangarei - and the fabulous aerial photos they had taken of his Kokopu home.

Crucially, the idea has the enthusiastic backing of Zahi Hawass, the man in charge of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Dr Hawass' say-so is vital before anything can happen at the pyramids, the only survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Rosses' travel and accommodation will be covered, as will their single biggest cost - the $1200 worth of helium needed to fill the blimp. It normally stays inflated in a hefty trailer but will be deflated for the trip and packed into a suitcase.

The Rosses have travelled around Europe and the Pacific but this will be their first time in the Middle East.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a totally different, ancient culture," Mrs Ross said.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:15:11 am

                                                Expanding on the cult of Osiris

Al Ahram Weekly
Feb. 9, 2009

Studying and restoring a part of Egypt's ancient history at Karnak Temples was the task of the Franco-Egyptian Research Centre of Karnak in 2008, Nevine El-Aref reports



Clockwise from top: pillars hall of Tuthmosis IV; Ptolemaic bath; excavation work at Chabaka treasure; architectural survey at Ptah Temple; restoration at the Tuthmosis III's chapel

photos courtesy of the CFEETK
The work undertaken by the Franco- Egyptian Research Centre of Karnak Temples (CFEETK) in 2008 was slightly different from in previous years. Last year's study focussed on restoration more than excavation. The site that took up much of the centre's attention was the Osirian cults and featured the chapel of Osiris Wennefer Neb-Djefau, the path of Ptah and the neighbouring chapels of Osiris Neb-Neheh and Nebankh-Pa-Usheb-Iad, as well as the temples of Osiris from Coptos, Opet and Khonsu.

To achieve an efficient progress in restoration at the chapel of Osiris Wennefer Neb-Djefau, the CFEETK had to continue excavation in the area in an attempt to complete the plan of the mud- brick walls that surround the chapel.

Egyptologist Laurent Coulon said that comparing archaeological investigations carried out at the chapel's south eastern façade and its east- western side opened to the Ptah path had given a better understanding of the stratigraphy and more clearly define the methods used for the foundation of the wall around the first gate of the sanctuary.

"Excavation and observation of the debris found between the chapel and the Ptah path, which were in a thicker level around the chapel's outer wall, provided more information about the construction of the chapel," Coulon pointed out. He explained that the information showed the chapel seemed to have been reconstructed at some point between the 30th Dynasty and the Ptolemaic era, while the thicker part of the debris proved that the wall continued until it reached the Ptah path. The steep slope between the chapel and the path indicated that no earlier construction was established there.

Three fire areas associated with an activity of bronze working, one of which was fitted out with bricks, were also found at the south-east of the chapel. A number of coins and some bronze slag were also uncovered in these structures, probably linked with the making of statuettes of Osiris found in the sector in 2003.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:19:42 am

Cleaning work continued at the chapel of Osiris Neb-Neheh in a very confined way, especially in the perspective of removing the blocks lying in the dust. New reused blocks were discovered. The most significant was a fragment of a lintel showing Ankhnesneferibra, god Amun's wife playing a sistrum in front of Amun and followed by the great overseer Padineith. Emphasis was placed on the restoration of the blocks, which were found in a very bad state of conservation. Among them was a much damaged one showing Amun and Khonsu. A fragment of the façade of the naos, which bears the beginning of a hymn to Osiris engraved on the north doorjamb, was placed back in its original position.

Restoration of the chapel of Osiris Neb-Ankh- Pa-Usheb-Iad continued after it was reconstructed last year. Restorer Agnes Oboussier said that this year the walls were cleaned to preserve the paintings, which on its turn allowed for the completion of the epigraphic documentation.

The ceramics uncovered inside the large mud- brick building behind the chapel contained several coherent elements dating back to the 26th, 27th and 30th dynasties. The levels posterior to the last activities of the building delivered abundant sherds dating back to the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Among these sherds appeared some Mediterranean imports or productions coming from bordering countries, such as amphorae from Cyprus, Phoenicia and the Aegean area.

Archaeologist Mohamed Hussein said that analysis of the pottery uncovered inside deep pits revealed that during the Ptolemaic period the southern part of the building had been dismantled. The most significant elements, often in a very fragmentary shape, were Egyptian amphorae in brown Nile clay, characterised by a high neck decorated with a network of streaks as well as cups, small convex dishes and bowls of Hellenic tradition. Pots and vessels with floral decoration painted in black were also identified.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:20:59 am

The second campaign of study of the temple of Osiris from Coptos, located at the north-eastern area of the temenos or sacred enclosure of Amun at Karnak, continued this year as part of a larger research programme on the sandstone chapels established around this Osireion.

François Leclère, who carried out the research, said that the aim of the study was to provide a better understanding as to which context the temple was built, which required a larger scale of fieldwork. In 2008, Leclère continued, the survey of sandstone and mud-brick walls of the building was completed, an architectural map of the building was drawn and the epigraphic and photographic survey of decoration and inscriptions of Ptolemy XII and Emperor Tiberius, which are still in situ inside the main axial room and on the doorjambs of the chapel, were carried out. Excavation work at the courtyard, especially at the evacuation of the fill of a large pit in the northern part and the exploration of the foundation trench of the entrance portal, had been completed, as well as the excavations of the surrounding areas of the temple found at the eastern and western sides located between the two enclosure walls of Amun.

"The complete cleaning of the north pit of the courtyard showed that it was dug in a massive, mud-brick structure earlier than the temple construction, the complex organisation of which was not still able to be recognised in detail without a fine re-examination," Leclère pointed out.

At the western end of the north wall of the courtyard foundations, a single reused block was brought to light, a column bearing the name of Amenirdis I, while the foundation pit of the main door of the sanctuary delivered most notably the lower part of a doorjamb bearing the name of the 25th Dynasty King Chabaka.

"Brushing the sand and debris of previous excavations off the mud-brick wall of the temple's façade revealed that a possible restoration was perhaps carried out on a part of the façade at the beginning of the Roman time," Leclère said. He continued that cleaning work at the eastern part of the temple had uncovered the existence of a former thick outer wall with a sort of a bastion. Studies on this wall revealed that it could be dated to before the 21st Dynasty and so probably went back to the New Kingdom, but its link with the former great enclosure wall of the Amun Temple was still not clear as a recent study seemed to be able to go back to the end of the 18th Dynasty, especially the reign of Amenhotep III or Horemhab rather than to the reign of Tuthmosis III.

Leclère said that more than 20 scattered blocks were consolidated, and the granite block coming from the bark chapel of Tuthmosis III and reused as the threshold of the main door of the temple was also restored, as well as the stelae of Amenhotep II and Taharqa. Several objects such as bronze coins and faience cobra heads found during cleaning work were also restored.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:23:52 am

Archaeologist Emmanuel Laroze said that architectural studies were made of the Opet Temple, in particular those parts that contained pieces of wood in their construction. "It seems henceforth certain that stone blocks were forwarded with a ramp built against the north side of the monument," Larose said. At the courtyard a massif stone foundation was identified as the vestige of an earlier Ethiopian temple.

The restoration at this temple concentrated on the micro-sandblasting of the two main chambers of the temple. The ceiling, the architraves, the lintel and the capitals of the hypostyle hall were cleaned, while the consolidation of the ceiling of the offering room required a temporary scaffolding built in red brick. Metal pieces raised upon the intermediate floor served to maintain broken parts with the ceiling during the implementation of steel reinforcement. The stones of the ceiling were strengthened with a metal structure installed on the roof. The scaffolding was dismantled after this work of consolidation. The ceiling, which is darkened with soot, and five damaged small windows were also restored.

During the restoration of the foundation, a sandstone block belonging to a monument of Tuthmosis III and bearing a dedication text to goddess Opet was found within the structure. "It is a remarkable discovery for the history of the area," said excavator Guillaume Charloux, who added that it was the first time that the existence of the Opet Temple was mentioned under the reign of that Pharaoh. Numerous limestone blocks dating to the same period were also unearthed. Most of these were in a fragmentary state and some were decorated on both sides.

The Temple of Khonsu was also subjected to restoration, especially the area between the Opet and Khonsu temples where a stairway was found last year suggesting that both temples were associated. This part of the mission was devoted to the analysis of Khonsu Temple rituals and reliefs of divinities in order to understand the performance of rite in the temple. "Particular subjects in ramesside rooms were perfectly integrated into this ritual, but the question of their origin is still problematic," Egyptologist J C L Degardin said. He pointed out that comparison with other monuments built at the same period, for example the Medinet Habu Temple on Luxor's west bank, allowed a better understanding of particular architectural organisation.

The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is currently developing a restoration project for Khonsu Temple, while Chicago House is participating in the project by carrying out a survey on the reused blocks. "The nearness of both Opet and Khonsu temples associates naturally the two teams in a common project of training and developing the south eastern area of the Amun- Re Temple," Degardin said.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:26:37 am


                                                                  Dig Days:

                                                               Bastet, the cat

By Zahi Hawass
Feb. 9, 2009

Tel Basta is an archaeological site in the city of Zagazig, in Sharqiya governorate. It was very important in ancient times because it was sacred to a goddess called Bastet, who took the form of a cat. Beginning in the Old Kingdom, several kings built temples there dedicated to Bastet. A large cemetery for cats was also found at the site.

When the ancient Egyptians worshipped an animal, they did not worship each individual one in itself. They worshipped what the animals represented -- they saw cleverness and wisdom, for instance, in the ibis and the baboon, and so they honoured these animals as representatives of Thoth, the god of wisdom.

We say in Egypt that cats have seven souls, and it seems that we have learnt this from the Pharaohs. Bastet was found at many sites other than Tel Basta. The most important was the site of Saqqara, where tombs that are now known as the "doors of the cats" were discovered. Thousands of mummified felines dating to the Late Period were buried there. Alain Zivie, a French archaeologist, cleared the remains of the cats and found that the tombs were actually unique burial places for high officials of the New Kingdom. One of these tombs belonged to Aperia, who was prime minister under Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty, the father of Akhenaten. Another belonged to the ambassador who prepared the peace treaty between Ramses II and the Hittites, while yet another belonged to Maya, the wet nurse of the golden boy, King Tut. In Maya's tomb we can see a unique scene showing her with the young Tutankhamun seated on her lap.

Many people have excavated at Tel Basta, including Shafik Farid and my friend Ahmed El-Sawi, who found an Old Kingdom cemetery for cats. Ahmed El-Sawi and I worked together for seven years excavating the site of Kom Abu Bellou. The site of Tel Basta is filled with the ruins of temples and statues, and is surrounded by houses, roads and buses that create serious sight pollution. We have decided to put a site management programme in place to preserve Tel Basta and to make it a place where people can go to understand its history and culture as well as to enjoy themselves. We have created a safe zone around the site, and we are reconstructing the temple. We have also re-erected a huge statue of Merit-Amun, the daughter of Ramses II. These interventions, along with the new visitors' centre that we have built to explain the site, will make Tel Basta accessible to tourists. In addition, we have built a storage facility for objects excavated in the area. We expect that in the coming three months we will be able to open the site to the public.

I always say that until now we have only discovered about 30 per cent of the ancient monuments of Egypt, and that the remaining 70 per cent are still buried under the ground. We never know what secrets the sands may reveal. Recently, we began excavating an area to the south of the main temple. This piece of land belongs to a citizen of the town of Zagazig, and we had to dig there to see whether anything might be hidden underneath it. To our surprise, in one of our trenches at a depth of about 180cm, we found a huge head lying on its back. It is incomplete, but beautiful. On top of the head we recorded chunks of limestone and sherds of pottery.

The head is made of red granite. Part of the short wig and diadem are visible, although the uraeus has been damaged. The details of the face are very well executed, and I can say that it is the most beautiful statue ever found at the site. When I first saw a photograph of it I could tell that it belonged to a statue that could have reached a height of about seven metres, and that the statue was royal. From the style of the features we know that it represents Ramses II, "the Great". Ramses II had his capital at another site in the Delta known as Piramesse, near Tell Al-Dabaa in Sharqiya, and was active in building at Tel Basta.

I believe that this open-air archaeological site will help visitors to learn about the history of this city of cats. It shows the importance of cats in the lives of the Pharaohs over thousands of years, and how the ancient Egyptians worshipped the cat called Bastet.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:30:02 am

                                                          A line-up of greats

Al Ahram Weekly
Feb. 9, 2009

The third annual day for archaeologists took place last week at the Cairo Opera House, with Nevine El-Aref attending

This year, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) celebrated Archaeologists' Day differently from the two previous years. This event focussed on paying homage to those who had led the SCA over the last three decades and the role they played in exploring, enriching, documenting and preserving Egypt's heritage.

A number of specialists who had helped in restoring and exploring important archaeological sites were also honoured.

This year, as usual, the Main Hall of the Opera House became a temple for the day, embellished with an imposing façade, columns and statues of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and deities. The stage had a special backdrop featuring the logo of the SCA, a cartouche bearing the ray of the sun god. Each side of the stage was lined with a large gypsum mound on which were engraved portraits of the nine previous SCA heads, along with the portrait of the late Ahmed Youssef, known as the sheikh of restorers.

In a similar way to the sound and light performance, each portrait told the story of the chosen person's professional life, achievements and the problems he had faced during his career.

During the ceremony the nine archaeologists and the restorer were honoured with a certificate and a golden collar. In the case of those who are no longer with us, the collar and certificate were received by a family representative. The nine were the late Victor Guirguis who held it in 1977, the late Shehata Adam, head of the SCA from 1978 to 1981, the late Fouad El-Orabi (1981 to 1983), the late Ahmed Qadri who occupied the position from 1983 to 1988, the late Sayed Tawfiq (1989 to 1990), Ibrahim Bakr (1991 to 1993), Abdel-Halim Noureddin (1993 to 1996), Ali Hassan (1996 to 1997), and Gaballa Ali Gaballa (1997 to 2002). The restorer Ahmed Youssef who was also honoured was responsible for the work on Khufu's solar boat on the Giza Plateau.

Hisham El-Leithi, the organiser of the ceremony, said that a book of photographs in colour reviewing the trail of their work in archaeology, along with the others honoured in the ceremony, was being printed and launched by the SCA.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:34:04 am

                                                                Steeped in memory

AlAhram Weekly
Feb. 9, 2009

Serving up the Pharaohs' food by the plateful is meat and drink for one of Egypt's foremost cookbook writers, Magda Mehdawy. Gamal Nkrumah samples the delights of her Grandmother's Kitchen



Dishes with an authentic Egyptian flavour.

Clockwise from left:

kofta (meat balls);
kushari (lentils with rice and pasta);
chopping molokhiya with a traditional makhrata and Mehdawy

Fragrance or fetor, some staples of ancient Egyptian cuisine such as fenugreek and garlic seem designed to be evocative. And, so are certain Egyptian cities. If you approach Alexandria by sea, you might get a hint of why this Mediterranean metropolis was once known as "The Bride of the Sea". Alexandria has a long tradition of exploiting the opportunities its location, as the gateway of Egypt, offers and not least in the versatile domain of victuals. This maritime city has, from time immemorial, been the heartland of the cosmopolitan influence on Egyptian cuisine (Byzantine, Ottoman, Levantine and modern European), but the picture is changing rapidly with the influx of American-inspired fast food outlets that first appeared in Cairo and now across the country.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:39:58 am

Magda Mehdawy's recipes can seem beguilingly like a time warp, dishes from the days of the Pharaohs. Fast food, as far as she is concerned, is public enemy number one. She is an Alexandrian, nevertheless, and she readily acknowledges that the dishes of her hometown are as diverse as its colonial heritage and resulting ethnic mix. Alexandrians have absorbed a melange of Greek, Italian, Levantine and Ottoman cooking traditions to create a distinctive cuisine. But, then so are many modern Egyptian repasts.

To her credit, Mehdawy concocted a powerful cocktail of data for the preservation of her grandmother's recipes and she hints throughout her works at the highly personal nature of the art of cooking.

For millennia, the jewel in the crown of Egyptian cuisine was the samna baladi, ghee or clarified butter. The precious cream that oozed out of the ballooned udders of the barseem -fed cows and water buffaloes were, as it were, the big wheels that made Egyptian country cooking turn. Or, rather the fuel that oiled soups, stews, casseroles, desserts and pastries both sweet and savory.

Mehdawy, however, has an instinctive appreciation of the value of the old-fashioned Egyptian foodstuffs. "Even traditional sweets such as assaliya [molasses candy] and simsimiya [a sesame candy] have a good nutritional value. And so do doum [the fruit of the doum palm], kharoub [carob] and lib [the seeds of melons and pumpkins]. These are all nutritious traditional snacks," Mehdawy asserts. She also has an insatiable appetite for exploring and documenting the cuisine of Egypt and refuses to confine herself to her native Alexandria. In her quest for the authentic Egyptian cuisine she reserves a special side serving of Saidi (Upper Egyptian) and Nubian cuisine in her cookbooks.

For a Muslim, she is irrepressibly inquisitive about certain Coptic comestibles.

"The most ancient and authentic Egyptian edibles have been retained in traditional Coptic, Saidi and Nubian dishes," stating I suppose the obvious.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:41:23 am

Vestiges of ancient aromas and flavours persist alluringly. There is something peculiarly pleasing about amateurish research about ancient Egypt that confirms widely held opinions based on shakier foundations. Many of the vegetables, fruits and grains common in contemporary Egyptian cuisine are radically different from the ones the ancient Egyptians used. Imagine modern Egyptian cuisine without tomato, rice or sugar. Tomato is an essential ingredient for the most popular modern Egyptian stews. Rice is perhaps second to none but wheat as a staple Egyptian grain. And, bread, made of wheat flour, is literally called eish, a corruption of the Arab word for life, in colloquial Egyptian. And yet, in ancient Egypt, bread made from wheat was the prerogative of the privileged. The poor had to make do with bread baked with the flour of lesser grains such as barley for instance. And, the ancient Egyptians had no refined sugar to sweeten their desserts with, either. Even so, some contemporary Egyptian desserts such as fenugreek paste, hilba maquda, most certainly have their roots in ancient Egypt.

It is perhaps for that particular reason that the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press invited Mehdawy to a book signing assemblage at the 41st Cairo International Book Fair. Not only did they publish an English translation of her bestseller My Egyptian Grandmother's Kitchen, but they will also publish another of her works later in the year on ancient Egyptian cuisine.

"I grew up watching my grandmother cooking most of these dishes. I enjoy preparing them for my family -- her three daughters Noha, Nermeen and Nancy," Mehdawy smiles demurely. She recalls how she declined many seemingly lucrative offers to start up catering businesses. "It was far more fun cooking traditional Egyptian dishes for her brother, Essam, living abroad whenever he visited. "He lives and works in Vienna and has a foreign wife, so he naturally misses home-cooking," she explains almost apologetically. So how did this archeologist by training turn to cooking and writing about food for a living? "The ancient Egyptians gave special importance to the kitchen. The room furthest away from the entrance of the house was always used as the kitchen. Among the kitchen equipment and cooking utensils were the all-important clay-covered oven for baking, lots of earthenware pots, mortars and pestles for grinding grain. They never slaughtered cows, only oxen," she elucidates. There are benefits, I suppose, to being outside the herd.

Mehdawy, nevertheless, is a trendspotter who aspires to become a trendsetter, to boot. "I pray to God that I have been successful in what I set out to do and that the final outcome is of value to anyone seeking traditional Egyptian food," she remarks wryly. "With the progression of scientific discovery in the field of nutrition, the value of our old- fashioned foods has become evident." In her scholarly manner she unearthed several recipes that date back to the days of the Pharaohs.

Mehdawy's masterpiece, My Egyptian Grandmother's Kitchen, was an instant bestseller for which she was awarded the Al-Ahram Appreciation Prize in 2004. It was arguably the most complete collection of Egyptian recipes ever assembled.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:43:40 am

So far, so straightforward. Mehdawy's Gourmand winner Modern Egyptian Cooking sheds further light on contemporary Egyptian cuisine. The recipes the author selects are not confined to authentic time-honoured Egyptian dishes, but include those infused with foreign influence. Béchamel toppings, for example, are now widely used in Egyptian cuisine. The rich and unabashedly calorific béchamel is incorporated in pasta ( macarona forne ), fried eggplant ( musaqqaa bil bashamil ), stewed cauliflower, stuffed artichokes and sweet potatoes.

Rice, too, which was unknown to the ancient Egyptians, is prerequisite to many modern Egyptian dishes. Ruz muammar (rice baked with cream and milk and occasionally peppered with chunks of meat, giblets and other tasty morsels) is often reserved for festive occasions such as the Coptic Christmas. Shank and chicken fatta are also rice-based dishes topped with a garlicky tomato sauce.

Stuffed chitterlings, mumbar mahshi bil ruz wel khodra, with rice and greens are a popular and inexpensive dish. Mahshi, the Egyptian version of the Turkish dolma, is another rice-based dish that was introduced into the country with the Ottoman occupation in the 16th century. There are many varieties ranging from tomato, vine leaves, cabbage and lettuce, to bell peppers, aubergines, courgettes and onions.

Egypt stands astride three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe -- via the Mediterranean. Yet, its cuisine has evolved from its distinctive traditional roots. Even though the ancient Egyptians grew the olive, they preferred to cook using sesame oil. To this day most Egyptians, in sharp contrast to their Mediterranean neighbours, abjure the use of olive oil and stick to their time-tested ghee.

Egypt is a timeless land in more ways than one. The people's forebears since time immemorial cooked certain contemporary Egyptian dishes. Take kishk, for instance. This is a thick, creamy yoghurt and flour-based sauce much favoured by Upper Egyptians and identified as ancient Egyptian in origin. Peasant women from Upper Egypt can be seen selling dried kishk balls to passersby on the pavements of Cairo. The balls are then blended with milk, strained and set aside to thicken. Grated onion and crushed garlic, salt and pepper are added and served usually with chicken, but also occasionally with bean sprout ( kishk fuul nabit ) or prawns ( kishk gambari ).

Catfish casserole with cracked wheat ( tagin qaramit bil firik ) -- the deep-fried fatty freshwater fish is sandwiched between two thick layers of cracked wheat and baked in the oven after being drenched in tomato sauce sprinkled with crushed garlic.

This, like kishk, is presumed to be of ancient Egyptian origin.

Post by: Bianca on February 09, 2009, 08:45:16 am

Bisara khadra, crushed beans stewed with greens, is a delectable and ancient Egyptian soufflé-like peasant dish accented with deep-fried onion rings. Bisara safra bil basterma is a more exotic Alexandrine version of the dish with the addition of pastrami.

Stewed broad beans, popularly called fuul medames, cooked in a variety of methods being augmented with different spices and secret ingredients -- the latest being the addition of soya beans -- are the indisputable national dish of Egypt, or at least for the country's poor. It is affordable and highly nutritious and is a favourite breakfast dish. "This legume is a very important staple food since the days of the Pharaohs because of its high protein and mineral content," Mehdawy explains. "Recent scientific studies indicate that broad beans cooked, stewed or otherwise contain natural chemicals which impart feelings of satisfaction, happiness and contentment. They lessen anxiety and promote relaxation and induce sleep. They do so by causing the brain to release a large number of neuropeptides."

"Calcium-rich chickpeas are yet another legume consumed since the times of the ancient Egyptians." Ads abu gibba (brown lentils) are a nutritious alternative to the chickpeas and broad, or fava beans. Lentil soup, made from the bright orange-coloured split lentils, is a tasty winter dish in Egypt. High in fibre and protein and low in fat, lentils have the added advantage of cooking quickly, Mehdawy discloses.

Kushari -- brown lentils with chickpeas, rice and pasta -- is another popular and inexpensive dish. It is hard to get a table at the numerous kushari eateries and it is impossible to book ahead. Many Egyptian families prefer to prepare their own version of kushari at home and the same goes for the crushed bean patties, taamiya, also known in the Levant as felafel. "The re-use of boiled cooking oil amounts to a health hazard," the archaeologist turned cook and nutritionist adds.

" Firik bil akawi, cracked wheat with oxtail is a decidedly winter dish. If you are very adventurous try breaded fried brain, boiled brain and baked head of lamb or ox. Alexandria-style liver is considered a delicacy by Cairenes as well as Alexandrines."

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 08:00:30 am

                                               Egypt's crown jewels on show 

The Straits Times
Feb. 19, 2009

- EGYPT said on Wednesday it plans to put on public display crown jewels belonging the dynasty that ruled the country for 150 years until the fall of the monarchy in 1952.

The jewels have been kept under lock and key in 45 crates in the vaults of the Central Bank and will go on show in a museum in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, officials said.

Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said the jewels will be displayed to the public for the first time a museum where restoration work was launched three years ago but did not say when the exhibition would open.

Mr Hosni did not give details about the treasures that will be seen by the public for the first time, nor did he give any estimated value.

'These jewels, which were put in the central bank at the time of the 1952 revolution, will be shown at the Royal Family Museum of Jewellery,' a former royal palace that was transformed into a museum in 1986, Mr Hosni said.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said bank officials will hand over the crates containing the jewels and other artefacts to a committee of experts, who will sort out and evaluate them.

Mohammed Ali headed a powerful dynasty that ruled Egypt from the 19th century until the fall of the monarchy in 1952, when his descendent, the flamboyant King Faruq, was deposed by army officers and forced into exile.

Mohammed Ali - an Albanian-born commander of an Ottoman army sent to drive Napoleon out of Egypt - was considered the founder of modern Egypt.

-- AFP

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:24:45 pm

                                            Grenade attack in Cairo bazaar kills 1, injures 17

Omar Sinan,
Associated Press Writer
FEB. 22, 2009

– Video: Cairo blast kills 1, injures 17

– An attacker threw a grenade into a famed bazaar in medieval Cairo, killing a Frenchwoman and wounding at least 17 people — most of them foreign tourists, officials said.

The blast hit the bustling main plaza at the Khan el-Khalili, a 650-year-old bazaar packed with tourists buying souvenirs, jewelry and handicrafts. It was last attacked in April 2005, when a suicide bomber killed two French citizens and an American.

Sunday's blast outside a cafe sent a panicked rush of worshippers from the nearby Hussein mosque. Security officials said the attacker escaped, and within an hour, police found a second grenade and detonated it safely.

"I was praying and there was a big boom and people started panicking and rushing out of the mosque, then police came and sealed the main door, evacuating us out of the back," said Mohammed Abdel Azim, 56, who was inside the historic mosque. Outside, blood stained the marble paving stones.

A frantic woman screamed at police sealing off the area to let her look for her daughter.

A medic at the scene said the Frenchwoman died in the intensive care unit of the nearby Hussein hospital.

The wounded included three Saudis, 10 French, a German and three Egyptians, said Health Minister Hatem al-Gibali. He told the state news agency that the wounds were largely superficial, though one French victim needed surgery.

He said most would be released from the hospital by Monday.

The outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the square were packed with crowds, including a large group
of Irish tourists at Mohammed Said's Al-Sinousi Cafe.

"There was a big loud boom. Everybody ducked," the cafe owner said. "I ran out to figure out what's happening."

The blast sent crowds scrambling in all directions, he said.

A police colonel said the small explosion outside the cafe kicked up stone and marble fragments, which wounded the passersby. All the officials describing the blasts spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Egypt fought a long war with Islamist militants in the 1990s, which culminated in a massacre of more than 50 tourists in Luxor in 1997. The rebels were largely defeated and there have been few attacks since in the Nile valley.

There were, however, a number of attacks in recent years against resorts in the Sinai Peninsula, including one in Sharm el-Sheik in 2005 that killed more than 60 people.

Tourism is one Egypt's major sources of foreign income.

One of the highest religious officials in the country, Sheik of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi condemned the attack calling it "cowardly and criminal."

"Those who carried out this criminal act are traitors to their religion and country and are distorting the image of Islam which rejects terrorism by prohibts the killing of innocents," he said.

Montasser el-Zayat, a lawyer who has represented Islamic extremists in the past, told the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera that the attack maybe linked to popular anger of the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip last month.

"The nature of the explosion looks like an act carried out by young, inexperienced and amateurs whose emotions were inflamed by the events of Gaza," said el-Zayat, who once had links with extremists groups himself. 

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:26:11 pm

                                    Homemade Bomb in Cairo bazaar kills 1, injures 21

Omar Sinan,
Associated Press Writer
– Sun Feb 22, 2009

– Egyptian police and other rescue workers gather outside the historic Hussein mosque, pictured in background, … CAIRO – A homemade bomb exploded in a 650-year-old bazaar packed with tourists Sunday, killing a French woman and wounding at least 21 people, most of them foreigners.

Within an hour, police found a second bomb and detonated it safely. Security officials said three people were in custody.

"We were serving our customers as usual, and all of a sudden there was a large sound," said Magdy Ragab, 42, a waiter at a nearby cafe. "We saw heavy gray smoke and there were people running everywhere ... Some people were injured by the stampede, not the shrapnel."

An expert on Islamic extremism said the attack might have been a response to Israel's deadly offensive in Gaza last month.

Tourism is one of Egypt's major sources of foreign income and has been a target in past attempts to harm the government, which is now trying to negotiate a long-term Gaza cease-fire. Sunday's attack was the first on tourists in three years.

The blast hit the bustling main plaza at the Khan el-Khalili, a bazaar popular with tourists next to one of Cairo's most revered shrines, the Hussein mosque. Blood stained the stones in front of the mosque, where worshippers had been conducting evening prayers.

"I was praying and there was a big boom and people started panicking and rushing out of the mosque, then police came and sealed the main door, evacuating us out of the back," said Mohammed Abdel Azim, 56.

Montasser el-Zayat, a lawyer who has represented Islamic extremists, told the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera the attack may be linked to anger over the Israeli offensive.

"The nature of the explosion looks like an act carried out by young, inexperienced amateurs whose emotions were inflamed by the events of Gaza," said el-Zayat, who once had links with extremist groups himself.

Egypt has been trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas militants who run Gaza. A fragile cease-fire has been in place since Israel's offensive left about 1,300 Palestinians dead.

Initial reports on Sunday's attack said a pair of grenades were thrown, but a government statement said the attack involved a homemade bomb placed under a bench in the main plaza.

A medic at the scene said the French woman died in the intensive care unit of the nearby Hussein hospital.

The wounded included three Saudis, 13 French, a German and four Egyptians, including a child, the government statement said. The health minister announced that the injuries were comparatively minor and most of the wounded would be released from the hospital by Monday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement expressing his condolences to the victim's family and stating his confidence that Egyptian authorities would "shed light on the circumstances of this tragedy."

Egypt fought a long war with Islamist militants in the 1990s, culminating in a massacre of more than 50 tourists in Luxor in 1997. The rebels were largely defeated, and there have been few attacks since then in the Nile valley.

But from 2004 to 2006, a string of bombings against resorts in the Sinai Peninsula killed 120 people, including in the Sinai's main resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

Cairo's Khan el-Khalili has been targeted before as well. In April 2005, a suicide bomber killed two French citizens and an American.

One of Egypt's highest religious officials, Sheik of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, called Sunday's attack "cowardly and criminal."

"Those who carried out this criminal act are traitors to their religion and country and are distorting the image of Islam, which rejects terrorism and prohibits the killing of innocents," he said. 

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:28:35 pm

                                  French teen killed by Cairo bomb was on class trip

Associated Press Writer
Maggie Michael,
Feb. 23, 2009

– A French teenager killed in a bombing at a landmark Cairo bazaar was on a school trip with several dozen classmates, many of whom were wounded, the mayor of her hometown said Monday.

Sunday night's explosion from a homemade bomb hit the busy main square of the sprawling Khan el-Khalili market, which was packed with tourists, including the French high school tour group. The 17-year-old girl from a Paris suburb was killed, and at least 24 people were wounded, most of them French students.

The girl, whose name has not been released, was on a trip with 41 other teenage students, said Patrick Balkany, mayor of her hometown, Levallois-Perret, a suburb on Paris' northwest edge.

The students were nearing the end of their trip when the attack occurred, Balkany told RTL radio on Monday. He said some of the students has serious wounds, and other students suffered psychological shock from the "horror" of the experience.

"We are faced with a dreadful drama," Balkany said.

France's prime minister, Francois Fillon, denounced what he called an "odious attack."

"There are people who want to destabilize Egypt, which is one of the moderate countries in the region," Fillon told journalists in Paris. "It is an illustration of the violence that we must eradicate."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing. Islamic extremists have in the past attacked tourists in an attempt to hurt Egypt's biggest source of income. Sunday's attack — the first on tourists in three years — comes as the tourist industry is already suffering under the global financial crisis, which has meant fewer visitors to the country.

The Khan el-Khalili, a 650-year-old bazaar of narrow, winding alleys. Dotted with old mosques and Islamic monuments and shops, is one of the top tourist spots in Cairo, often crowded with foreigners coming to shop and hang out in its numerous cafes. In April 2005, a suicide bomber in the market killed himself, two French citizens and an American.

Sunday's bomb was packed with TNT and explosive black powder, said Egypt's state-run news agency, MENA. A government statement said it was placed under a bench in a busy square in front of one of Cairo's most revered shrines, the Hussein mosque. Some security officials, however, said the explosive had been thrown into the square, and it was unclear which version was correct.

Security officials said three people were in custody. Authorities safely detonated a second bomb that was found. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Among the wounded were 19 French youths, a German, three Saudis and an Egyptian, according to a hospital report. Three French teenagers remained in the intensive care unit Monday. One had a lung injury, another broken legs and the third suffered a ruptured ear drum.

One of the injured Saudis said he and his two friends were heading toward the Hussein mosque when the blast went off behind them.

"The minute we stepped out of the taxi and walked a few steps, an explosion rocked the area," said Mohammed Behees, a 31-year-old teacher from Riyadh who was injured by shattered glass.

Egypt fought a long war with Islamist militants in the 1990s, culminating in a massacre of more than 50 tourists in Luxor in 1997. The rebels were largely defeated, and there have been few attacks since then in the Nile valley.

But from 2004 to 2006, a string of bombings against resorts in the Sinai Peninsula killed 120 people, including in the Sinai's main resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

Still, tourism has proven resilient after those attacks, with foreigners still pouring in for Egypt's resorts and antiquity. Tourism brought in $10.8 billion in fiscal 2007-2008, making it Egypt's top money earner.

Sunday's attack as well is likely to have little long-term impact, said officials at tour operator Travco Group and analysts at Cairo-based investment banks EFG-Hermes and Beltone Financial.

More damaging is the world economic meltdown, which is making many in Egypt's prime European markets decide to stay home rather than travel for vacation. Tourist arrivals are expected to decline by 18 percent in 2009 to roughly 10.5 million visitors, EFG-Hermes said.


Associated Press writers Tarek el-Tablawy in Cairo and Angela Charlton and Christine Ollivier in Paris contributed to this report.

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:29:55 pm

                                   Egypt arrests three over deadly bazaar bombing

Feb. 23, 2009

– Egyptian police said on Monday they have arrested three suspects over a bomb attack at a famed Cairo bazaar that killed a French teenager and wounded 25 people, most of them tourists.

Sunday's attack was the first deadly violence since 2006 against Westerners in Egypt, where tourism is a key foreign currency earner, but there has been no claim of responsibility.

The bomb blast ripped through a street lined with cafes and restaurants in Khan al-Khalili, a market dating back to the 14th century that is one of the Egyptian capital's main tourist attractions.

"Three people there were arrested on the site as suspects after the attack," a police official said on Monday. "Others are being questioned as witnesses."

The dead 17-year-old French girl was part of a tour group of 54 teenagers from the Paris region who were on a trip to buy souvenirs in the market before heading home on Monday.

"There was a very powerful explosion. Then screams and blood. We all started running," said Romy Janiw, 28, one of the seven adults accompanying the teenagers.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed "deep sorrow" over the attack, while Prime Minister Francois Fillon said his government "strongly condemns this criminal act whose blind violence shows its absurdity."

It was the first deadly attack on tourists in Cairo since a bombing in the same neighbourhood killed two tourists and wounded 18 in 2005.

A series of bombings killed scores of people in Red Sea resorts on the Sinai peninsula from 2004 to 2006 that were blamed on militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

Sunday's attack took place outside a hotel across the square from the Hussein mosque, one of Egypt's oldest places of worship.

It wounded 17 French tourists, including one seriously, as well as a 37-year-old German, three Saudis and four Egyptians, officials said.

Mohammed Ismail, who worked in a nearby cafe and was lightly wounded in the attack, said he was watching a football game in a cafe and had stepped out onto the street before the bomb exploded.

"I didn't see the bomb," he told AFP after leaving hospital. "The force of the blast threw me. All I could see was grey smoke. Then I fell unconscious."

Witnesses said the force of the explosion shook the surrounding buildings. "The building shook and the books fell of the shelf," said a woman who worked in a store that sold Korans.

But early Monday, shops and restaurants around the Hussein mosque square had reopened for business and customers began trickling in.

There were conflicting accounts about how the attack was carried out.

Witnesses and a police official told AFP two rudimentary bombs were thrown from a rooftop overlooking the street. The second device failed to detonate and was blown up in a controlled explosion, a police source said.

A Western diplomat who accompanied the wounded to hospital said they told police investigators that the bombs had been hurled at them from a rooftop.

But Amin Rady, a member of the Egyptian parliament national security committee, told AFP that police suspected that a "primitive" bomb had been placed under a concrete bench, which was shattered by the explosion.

The head of Cairo's Al-Azhar University -- Sunni Islam's highest religious authority -- condemned the bombing.

"Those who carried out this criminal act are traitors to their own religion and their nation, and they are distorting the image of Islam which rejects terrorism and bans the killing of innocents," Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi said.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, whose nationals were among the injured, "strongly condemned" the attack, the official SPA news agency reported.

Egypt was struck by a spate of deadly attack on Western tourists by Islamic militant groups in the 1990s that dealt a savage blow to the vital tourism sector.

Last year, 13 million tourists visited Egypt, earning 11 billion dollars in revenue. The industry also employs 12.6 percent of the workforce.

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:33:54 pm

                                 Egypt arrests suspects over deadly bazaar bombing

Alain Navarro
– Mon Feb 23, 2009

– Egyptian police said on Monday they have arrested three suspects over a bomb attack at a famed Cairo bazaar that killed a French teenager and wounded 25 people, most of them tourists.

Sunday's attack was the first deadly violence since 2006 against Westerners in Egypt, where the tourism industry is a vital foreign currency earner.

The bomb blast ripped through a square lined with cafes and restaurants in Khan al-Khalili, a market dating from the 14th century that is one of the Egyptian capital's main tourist attractions.

"Three people there were arrested on the scene as suspects after the attack," a police official said. "Around 15 others are being questioned as witnesses."

There has been no claim of responsibility but analysts said the attack could have been the work of an isolated Islamist cell.

"This act highlights social and political unease but appears to be the work of an individual or a group acting in isolation," said Amr Shubaki, a researcher at the Al-Ahram centre of strategic studies.

However, General Fuad Allam, former head of the state security service, warned the attack could herald "a new wave of terrorism in Egypt," spurred by the global financial crisis and the region's problems.

The dead 17-year-old French girl was part of a tour group of 54 teenagers from the Paris region who were on a trip to buy souvenirs in the market before heading home on Monday.

Most have been flown home but three remain in hospital, officials said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hopes the three can return to France on a hospital aircraft on Tuesday.

"There was a very powerful explosion. Then screams and blood. We all started running," said Romy Janiw, 28, one of the adults accompanying the teenagers.

It was the first deadly attack on tourists in Cairo since a bombing in the same neighbourhood killed two tourists and wounded 18 in 2005.

A series of bombings from 2004 to 2006 killed a total of 130 people in Red Sea resorts on the Sinai peninsula that were blamed on militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

Sunday's attack took place outside a hotel across the square from the Hussein mosque, one of Egypt's oldest places of worship, and witnesses said the force of the blast shook the surrounding buildings.

It wounded 17 French tourists, one of them seriously, as well as a 37-year-old German, three Saudis and four Egyptians, officials said.

There were conflicting accounts about how the attack was carried out.

Witnesses and a police official told AFP two rudimentary bombs were thrown from a rooftop overlooking the street. The second device failed to detonate and was blown up in a controlled explosion, a police source said.

Kouchner, speaking on on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels, said: "It is very disturbing to think that some people on the rooftops threw very deadly bombs at random into the crowd."

However, the prosecutor's office said a homemade bomb went off under a concrete bench, creating a 30 cm (one foot) crater and shattering the bench.

The attack drew condemnation from Muslim leaders and Middle East governments including regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, whose nationals were among the wounded. Its rival Iran said the attack served only the interests of archfoe Israel.

The United States strongly condemned the attack. "We will continue to work closely with the government of Egypt to do what we can to support them in their efforts to fight terrorism," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi, head of Cairo's Al-Azhar University -- Sunni Islam's highest religious authority -- branded those who carried out the bombing as "traitors to their own religion and their nation."

Last year, 13 million tourists visited Egypt, earning 11 billion dollars in revenue. The industry also employs 12.6 percent of the workforce.

Egypt has been afflicted by violence throughout its modern history. President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by an Islamist group in 1981 and his successor Hosni Mubarak has been the target of a dozen attacks in 28 years in power.

The country lives under a state of emergency, allowing arbitrary detention, which has been repeatedly renewed pending finalisation of an anti-terror law.

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:35:15 pm

Remains of Serabit Al-Khidem temple

Post by: Bianca on February 27, 2009, 06:36:32 pm

                                                 SINAI'S TURQUOISE GODDESS

AlAhram Weekly
Feb. 23, 2009

A comprehensive restoration and documentation scheme is underway at a major temple and mine complex in Sinai, as Nevine El-Aref reports
From pre-dynastic times, early Egyptians made their way to the Sinai Peninsula over land or across the Red Sea in search of minerals. Their chief targets were turquoise and copper, which they mined and extracted in the Sinai mountains.

Archaeologists examining evidence left 8,000 years ago have concluded that some of the very earliest known settlers in Sinai were miners. In about 3,500 BC these mineral hunters discovered the great turquoise veins of Serabit Al-Khadim. Some 500 years later the Egyptians had mastered Sinai and set up a large and systematic mining operation at Serabit Al-Khadim, where they carved out great quantities of turquoise. They carried their loads down the Wadi Matalla to the garrison port at Al-Markha, south of the present village of Abu Zenima, where they set about loading them on board boats bound for the mainland.

The turquoise was so valued that it became an important part of ritual symbolism in ancient Egyptian religious ceremonies. They used it to carve sacred scarabs and fabricate jewellery, or ground it into pigments for painting statuettes, bricks, reliefs and walls.

To mine the turquoise, the Egyptians would hollow out large galleries in the mountains, carving at the entrance to each a representation of the reigning Pharaoh who was the symbol of the authority of the Egyptian state over the mines.

A temple dedicated to Goddess Hathor was built during the 12th Dynasty, when Serabit Al-Khadim was the centre of copper and turquoise mining and a flourishing trade was established. One of few Pharaonic monuments known in Sinai, the temple is unlike other temples of the period in that it is composed of a large number of bas-reliefs and carved stelae showing the dates of various turquoise-mining missions in antiquity, the number of team members, and the goal and duration of each mission. From dynasty to dynasty, the temple was expanded and beautified, with the last known enlargement taking place in the 20th Dynasty.

To reach the temple the visitor must pass through a sequence of 14 perfectly-cut blocks that form ante-rooms, and even a small pylon, before reaching the central courtyard. At the far end of this courtyard are the sanctum and two grottos, where the gods Hathor and Sopdu were adored and where their images still remain. This part of the temple was accessible only to the priests and the Pharaoh. Regretfully, a colonial British attempt to reopen the mines in the mid-19th century led to some of the reliefs being destroyed.

The site of Serabit Al-Khadim, which lies on top of a mountain 2,600 feet above sea level, was discovered by British archaeologist Flinders Petrie in 1905. Petrie unearthed several royal and private sculptures, stelae and sacrificial tools dating back to the time of the Fourth-Dynasty King Senefru.

Petrie also found vestiges of the Proto- Sinaitic script, believed to be an early precursor of our modern alphabet. These scripts began with hieroglyphic signs used to write the names of the people who worked in the mines and to keep account of their labours. The signs developed into an "Aleph-Beta" script that recorded a Proto-Canaanite language. The script that developed, Proto-Sinaitic, was used to write a Pan-Canaanite language.

The Serabit Al-Khadim temple resembles a double series of stelae leading to an underground chapel dedicated to the goddess Hathor. Many of the temple's large number of sanctuaries and shrines were dedicated to Hathor who, among her many other attributes, was the patron goddess of copper and turquoise miners. As we have seen, the earliest part of the main rock-cut Hathor Temple, which has a front court and portico, dates from the 12th Dynasty and was probably founded by Pharaoh Amenemhet III, during a period of time when the mines were particularly active.

A number of scenes depict the role of Hathor in the transformation of the new Pharaoh, into the deified ruler of Egypt, which took place on his ascension to the throne. One scene depicts Hathor suckling the Pharaoh. Another scene from a stone tablet depicts Hathor offering the Pharaoh the ankh symbol, or key of life.

This older part of the temple was enlarged upon and extended during the New Kingdom by none other than Queen Hatshepsut, along with Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep III. This was a regeneration period for mining operations after an apparent decline in the area during the Second Intermediate Period. These extensions are unusual for a temple in the manner in which they are angled, that is to the west of the earlier structure.

On the north side of the temple is a shrine dedicated to the Pharaohs who were deified in this region. On one wall of the shrine are numerous stelae. A little to the south of the main temple is a shrine dedicated to Sopdu, god of the Eastern Desert, which is smaller than the northern shrine.

Today, the whole site is being subjected to restoration and documentation in order to make it more accessible to visitors and more tourist-friendly. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the central administration for Lower Egypt antiquities, said that the restoration, which will take about a year on a budget of LE500,000, would remove all the signs of time that marred the temple's walls and reliefs. It would also consolidate them and strengthen the fabric and colours of the wall paintings. The restoration will be carried out by a mission from the SCA, while the documentation will be implemented in collaboration with CULTNAT which will provide the necessary technical assistance and equipment.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said that every relief would be photographed, drawn and videotaped on its four sides and then returned to its original position. A site management project would also be implemented.

Abdel-Maqsoud promises that by 2010 a proposal will be presented to the World Heritage Organisation for the Serabit Al-Khadim archaeological site to be included on the World Heritage List.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on March 02, 2009, 07:28:44 pm

                                                             Binz of Tahoe

By Zahi Hawass
Mar. 2, 2009


Over 12 years ago, I had the honour of receiving a phone call from Mrs Jihan El-Sadat. Mrs Sadat wanted to tell me about a lady named Nancy Binz, who had heard about my discovery of the Valley
of the Golden Mummies and dreamt of seeing it for herself. I began receiving faxes every day from
Binz, but I could not answer them because at that time there was no e-mail, and my office at the
Giza Pyramids did not have an international line. Binz could not believe that her faxes were going unanswered. She called Ambassador Hager El-Stanbouli in San Francisco, and asked her to contact
me. Then, she called Mrs Sadat, who told her, "Nancy, come to Egypt, and you will see this great discovery."

Binz arrived at my office in Giza with a lady friend of hers. I noticed how lively Binz was, and that she had a very kind, innocent face. You cannot help but like and trust her from the moment you meet her.
I was very busy that day, and could not go with them to the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Instead,
I called the director of Bahariya Oasis and asked him to accompany them. I also arranged for the ladies to stay at the Wadi El-Nakhil Hotel, which witnessed my discovery and even has a suite named in my honour. Binz and her friend were inspired by the Valley of the Golden Mummies, which is considered by scholars to be the Tutankhamun of the Graeco-Roman period. Binz said that she had heard about the discovery everywhere, including in The New York Times, CNN, and even live on Fox TV. When she saw
it for herself, she was thrilled by the gilded mummies that had captured the hearts of the world.

I have become good friends with Binz, because I can see how much she loves Egypt. Once, she came to a lecture that I was giving in San Francisco at the de Young Museum. The curator of the Egyptian section talked to her, and told her that they needed to renovate their exhibit. Binz wrote her a check. She also found out that the American University in Cairo was creating a fellowship for Egyptology students, called the "Zahi Hawass Prize in Egyptology". She sent a check for $10,000 to AUC to support this fellowship. During the winter, Binz has an apartment on a cruise ship that sails around the world, but she always has to come to Egypt. She always says that Egypt lives in her heart. She has never said anything to me about reincarnation, but I do believe that she lived here thousands of years ago. I do not know whether she was an ordinary lady or a queen.

Binz has a foundation called the Binz Foundation, which supports Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. This is the town where she spends most of her summers with her children and grandchildren. Because of what she has done for the college, Binz has become a kind of legend in Lake Tahoe. People love her, and everywhere she goes they thank her for her support of construction projects and fellowships. The most important thing that Binz does, however, is support culture at the university. The foundation invites famous politicians, writers, and intellectuals from all over the world to come to Lake Tahoe, meet with students, and answer the questions they have.

Post by: Bianca on March 02, 2009, 07:31:42 pm

These programmes have made Sierra Nevada College into one of the most important colleges in America. I personally know some of the famous people who have been invited there. Mrs Sadat went for a meeting with the students, and gave a public dinner lecture. Mrs Sadat's smile and modest manner created a place for her in the hearts of the Americans. Binz loves her, and talks about her all the time with great affection. Benazir Bhutto also gave a lecture at the college. When she was assassinated, Binz cried like a baby because she loved Benazir so much. I myself have been to Sierra Nevada college twice. The first time, they could not accommodate everyone who wanted to attend my lecture because there was so much public demand. They had to build a tent outside the campus. This year, I visited again. I could see how the people are in love with the magic of the Pharaohs, and I could also see a smile on Binz's face because she was able to give such happiness to the people of her town. When I met the students at the college, they asked me intelligent questions about King Tut and the curse of the Pharaohs. I was very surprised when one of them asked me where I would like to be buried! The magic of Egypt was clear from the way the hall was packed with people who came from all over the area around Lake Tahoe. The college even invited me to give a second lecture.

The Pharaohs are truly alive in the hearts of people everywhere.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on March 02, 2009, 07:45:10 pm

Post by: Bianca on March 23, 2009, 12:09:17 pm


The Michael Cohen Gallery; Nebamun hunting in the marshes, fragment of a scene from the tomb-chapel of Nebamun; detail of a feast for Nebamun

Post by: Bianca on March 23, 2009, 12:13:17 pm

                                                         A happy ending with a pinch of Salt

Al Aharam Weekly
March 23, 2009
Thousands of miles and thousands of years apart, a son pays homage to his dead father. In a bright new limestone tomb-chapel on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, the son of the Scribe and Grain Accountant Nebamun offers his father a bouquet of flowers. In the British Museum in the heart of London, a wealthy Egyptian-born financier builds a memorial to his late father, Michel Cohen.

The two events are linked by a series of wall paintings that have been likened to the genius of the Sistine Chapel, but the story of how the paintings came to be in the museum is worthy of an adventure of Indiana Jones.

We begin with Nebamun -- whose name means "My Lord is Amun" -- described as "a Scribe and Grain Accountant of Amun in the Gallery of Divine Offerings". We do not know exactly who he was, but he probably died at some point in the later 18th Dynasty during the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV (1400 to 1390 BC) or Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1390 to 1353 BC). Nebamun and his wife, Hatshepsut, had two sons and a daughter; the elder son, Netjermes, a priest, seems to have taken over his father's office on the latter's death.

Nebamun prepared for himself a tomb-chapel of shining white local limestone on the opposite side of the river from Karnak Temple. He had the walls painted with vivid images of life, death and the afterlife as seen and understood in the world he knew. The scenes of domesticated animals and wildlife, of dancing girls, of Nebamun counting tributes, and even of his pet cat catching birds in the reeds, are among the finest and most realistic ever found in Egypt.

After Nebamun's burial the tomb below the chapel was sealed, although it may have been opened to permit other family burials. The chapel was left open so that Nebamun's friends and relatives could pay visits and admire the splendid art, just as worshippers in Rome enjoyed the wonderful visions created by Michaelangelo.

Amenhotep III's reign was followed by a period of instability caused when his heir, who called himself Akhenaten, overthrew the priests of Amun and created a new religion and a new seat of rule -- albeit temporary -- at Amarna. This chaos continued until the end of the 18th Dynasty, and Nebamun's tomb was among those attacked by iconoclasts.

Inevitably, as time went by anything of value was removed, and Nebamun and his tomb-chapel were forgotten. As the centuries passed the tomb and its fabulous paintings appear to have escaped further disturbance. In the early 19th century, however, in places a long way from Egypt, interest in the ancient world and its antiquities was growing. This interest was fed by early European treasure seekers and adventurers. Some, like the French agent Bernadino Drovetti (1776-1852), were bent on claiming prizes for personal profit; others, like the British consul-general Henry Salt (1780-1827), retrieved their spoils under the guise of preserving "world" heritage for public collections -- in Salt's case, the British Museum -- although he expected to be paid for his toil on top of expenses. Sadly such treasure hunters paid scant attention to provenance or even location, dragging away anything moveable (as Salt's agent, Giovanni Belzoni dragged the head of Ramses, now in the British Museum) or hacking the prettier sections of paintings and reliefs off tomb and temple walls.

By 1820 Salt was working with a Greek agent, Giovanni "Yanni" d'Athanasi (1798-1854). These two were vying with Drovetti to procure antiquities, and both sides employed subterfuge and trickery against one another. Exactly where d'Athanasi found the tomb of Nebamun is not known, and he himself died (in poverty, in London) without revealing the facts -- probably not through malice, but because such a detail was thought of at the time as insignificant. It was not then understood that an artefact had no real value for scholars unless its context could be established. The tomb in question, however, was most probably at Dra Abul-Naga.

The paintings had been applied on mud-brick plaster mixed with chopped straw smoothed over the hewn rock of the tomb chambers. The plaster was fragile, and the sections d'Athanasi's men removed varied in thickness so that some easily crumbled and cracked. D'Athanasi took the sections he wanted, probably concentrating on those that he thought would appeal to European taste. After removing his chosen fragments he left the tomb and the rest of the paintings, which were probably intact until he found them, to be looted, destroyed, and mostly lost.

Salt shipped 10 fragments to London in 1821. Despite the lack of precise information as to their original location, their transportation and shipment from Alexandria were carefully recorded. "Some care must be taken in carrying them, as jolting would probably destroy them," Salt wrote. That same year two young clergymen on a visit to Egypt, George Waddington and Barnard Hanbury, obtained an 11th fragment which was presented to the British Museum in 1833.

Salt's methods of excavating and acquiring antiquities did not escape censure even in his day. Several contemporary commentators were critical, including the explorer James Burton (1788-1862) who was probably witnessing the destruction of Nebamun's tomb itself when he decried the way the paintings had been destroyed just so that a few pieces could be taken. Other fragments were picked over once d'Athanasi had removed the choicest bits, and some of these ended up in the Musée Calvet in Avignon, the Musée des Beau-Arts in Lyons, and in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. The Berlin pieces were purchased at the sale of a private collection in 1906. Another three fragments were acquired by the businessman Moise Levy de Benzion (1873-1943), founder of Cairo's Benzion department store. While in Europe during World War II Benzion, a Sephardic Jew, was captured and put to death by the Nazis, and after the war his collection was dispersed. It is believed that these fragments are now stored in the basement of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Post by: Bianca on March 23, 2009, 12:14:40 pm

When Salt's 10 fragments arrived at the British Museum in 1821, the museum was still at Montagu House. It was more than a decade before the pieces were consolidated with plaster of Paris and backed with wood so as to form part of the collection of the "Egyptian Saloon" in the grand new British Museum building, where they were hung in 1835. Not only were the panels displayed as individual paintings, but there was no indication that they came from the same tomb-chapel. The catalogue listed them as "...fresco paintings chiefly illustrative of the domestic habits of the Egyptians". They were certainly not rated as fine art.

Unfortunately the wooden backs forced the evaporating moisture from the plaster of Paris to the face of the paintings, and some of the colours and details faded and even disappeared. This is clear from comparisons with tracings made of the paintings at some point after their arrival.

During World War I the paintings were placed in secure rooms, but in 1918 they were moved with other antiquities to the safety of the London Underground. They spent most of World War II in a quarry in Wiltshire in the southwest of England, but sadly the vibration of the train journey they endured caused some crumbling... and more plastering, and even glue and nylon repairs, and further discolouration.

The paintings were displayed separately in the museum, some in the Third Upper Egyptian Room and some in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery. In 1997 they and other antiquities in the Egyptian galleries were removed from display to make way for major alterations that included the construction of the Great Court. This hiatus was timely, and museum curators used the opportunity to carry out a complete and painstaking restoration of the paintings.

While the paintings are being meticulously restored in the British Museum laboratories, let us turn our attention to the other father in our epic. Michel Mourad Cohen was a member of a Sephardic Jewish family from Aleppo in Syria who lived with his British wife, Sonia Douek, in Egypt, where their son Ronald was born. The family fled to England amidst the anti-Jewish sentiment in the aftermath of the Suez War, and there Ronald excelled at school and eventually became president of the Oxford Union and co-founder of the adventure capital firm Apax Partners. Among other interests Apax has supported the Middle East Peace initiative by funding Palestinian entrepreneurial activities.

Sir Ronald Cohen became a trustee of the British Museum in 2005. The Michael Cohen Gallery, which he and his third wife Sharon Harel-Cohen financed through the R and S Cohen Foundation, is dedicated to the memory of his father Michel.

"This whole gallery is about a son paying homage to his late father," the gallery's curator Richard Parkinson told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Nebamun's son can be seen making offerings to his dead father."

This sense of respect, even reverence, pervades the Michael Cohen Gallery in Room 61. A lowered false ceiling suggests the proportions of the original tomb, with a faint blue light from above indicating the brilliant desert sky. The walls are of French limestone, chosen because it was the closest match in colour and texture to the limestone of the Luxor hills. The paintings are arranged to evoke a visit to the tomb- chapel as would have been made 3,500 years ago. However, while past visitors would have come to admire the paintings, the objects depicted would have held little mystery for them. To help modern visitors visualise the scenes, similar items have been placed nearby. These concrete images help one understand objects people in the past would have known in reality. All the exhibits are contemporaneous with the paintings, and most come from Thebes, while others are from Amarna. They include wine jars, furniture, utensils, cosmetic spoons, jewellery, and even baskets and shoes. One prized piece is an opaque glass fish, probably tilapia, from the Amarna excavations . "We are very happy with the balance of information," Parkinson says. "The objects draw on the same information as the paintings and give a visual reality."

Like most artefacts preserved from ancient burials, the objects were owned by wealthier members of society. "We shall never know exactly what [life] was like," Parkinson says. "We especially don't know about the everyday lives of ordinary people. The lives of the wealthy are remembered."

Indeed, the scenes of Nebamun overseeing the temple's property, as dictated by his position, show how he spent his working day and how he wished to be remembered. The most alluring aspects of the paintings, however, are the scenes showing how Nebamun spent his leisure time hunting in the marshes and of birds, animals, plants and butterflies. One can only wonder at what went through d'Athanasi's mind when he first saw them, but he seems to have decided for himself which sections to take and what to leave behind. "We think they went for things that would appeal to the English taste -- feasts of food, fluffy animals, and gardens," says Parkinson in his illustrated book, The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun, which is available in Cairo.

The paintings would surely have drawn an audience in their day, even if the scenes might have been interpreted slightly differently by ancient admirers. "It was about the joy of life," Parkinson says. "But is the texture of the animals that sets them apart from similar paintings. These are the best- preserved butterflies from ancient Egypt." The prancing horse is one of the best known images of its kind, but the scene- stealer is Nebamun's ginger cat, seen busily catching his own birds.

Visitors to Room 61 can see the art as if hung in a gallery, much as Nebamun's contemporaries did. The idea, Parkinson says, is "to put them back into context and display them as works of art... comparable to Renaissance masters. We encourage people to look at them as paintings." They are accordingly displayed as though built into the tomb walls. The gallery contains 10 to 20 per cent of the original tomb paintings. One small fragment is on permanent loan from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, while the pieces in France were considered too fragile to travel. "We have tried to reconstruct the original tomb visit of ancient times," Parkinson says. "We have had constant dialogue with Egyptian and other archaeologists but we have no idea of the tomb's original place." So the setting is a result of intelligent approximation.

Despite their painful history the colours are incredibly vivid, although some blue and green pieces had fallen off because the pigments were more coarsely ground than others. The paintings are mounted in epoxy foam set in wooden boxes in steel frames on springs to protect them from vibration, and all the mounts are concealed inside the climate-controlled cases. "It was an engineering nightmare," Parkinson says.

And worth every effort. "We wanted to get something of what it was like to be an Egyptian looking at these paintings, and to give back to the paintings what was taken from them when they were taken away." Perhaps at last, and in a way they could never have imagined, Nebamun and his gifted artist have reached immortality.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on April 18, 2009, 12:49:23 pm

“In Egypt you need a project that everyone can believe in, a national project.
We have to learn from ancient Egypt.”


                                  EGYPT'S TOMB RAIDER, OFF and (MOSTLY) ON CAMERA

The New York Times
Published: April 17, 2009

MORE than 2,500 years ago the mummified corpse of a wealthy man was carefully lowered into a hand-carved tomb 60 feet beneath the surface of the desert. His remains were placed inside a heavy limestone coffin and sealed for eternity.

Well, that was the idea.

Then one day in March 2009 workers inside the death chamber cracked the coffin lid in the middle, pushed aside one half and for the first time in two and a half millennia exposed the man’s remains. And who was there to greet this mummy?

Why even ask? This is Egypt, so it had to be Zahi Hawass.

“I think this guy was important,” Dr. Hawass said with a theatrical flourish, as he brushed some dust from the mummy for the cameras.

In the seven years since he was named general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Hawass has been in perpetual motion. He personally announces every new discovery, was the force behind plans to construct 19 new museums, approved the restoration of nine synagogues in Cairo and has contributed to countless books, documentaries, magazine and newspaper articles all promoting Egyptian antiquities — and, of course, himself.

Naturally, this does not always win him friends, and he has been taken to task for his critical statements about Jews. He insists, though, that he is not anti-Semitic and that his remarks were aimed only at Israeli Jews and their treatment of the Palestinians.

There are scientists who say he is too concerned with self-promotion and is often loose with facts. There are Egyptian antiquities workers who complain that he takes credit for their accomplishments. But his penchant for drama and his virtual monopoly over Egypt’s unrivaled ancient riches have earned him an international following and helped Egypt sell itself to tourists at a time when tourism dollars are increasingly scarce.

“Whether we like it or not, he is a star, and he lives the life of a star,” said Mahmoud Ibrahim Hussein, chairman of the antiquities department at Cairo University. “When he goes to a place, people gather around him to talk to him. Many professors give lectures; but people pay more to hear Zahi speak.”

Dr. Hawass was born in the village of Al Ubaydiyah, near the city of Damietta northeast of Cairo in the Nile Delta region. He joined the nation’s antiquities service as an inspector in 1969, about two years after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Greek and Roman archaeology from Alexandria University. In 1987, he received his Ph.D. after studying as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. On Jan. 1, 2002, he was named general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and he has never looked back.

It was 10:15 a.m., and Dr. Hawass was waiting at the base of a recent excavation. He was annoyed because he had to wait 15 minutes. He was tapping his foot. “You have become Egyptian,” he said to his tardy guests, then broke into a big white smile. Over the next hour, the 62-year-old Egyptologist would climb over ancient graves and down rickety ladders and lower himself deep into an ancient tomb — while at the same time recording video for his personal Web site.

HE is the very definition of multitasking. “Quick, take off your hat,” Dr. Hawass said. He was waving what looked like a replica of the Indiana Jones-style hat that he always wears. Actually, it was a replica, with his autograph embossed on the inside and a small tag with his picture hanging from the band.

“I gave one just like this to President Bush,” he said with the casual tone of a name dropper. “His wife said it was too small for his head. He was very disappointed.”

Dr. Hawass was standing inside a recently unearthed death chamber that had been carved out of the ground about 4,300 years ago for a pharaoh’s mother. At least, that was what he theorized. When the ruins do not reveal a detail, Dr. Hawass often tries to fill in the blanks, spinning stories based on his vast knowledge of Egyptian history — and his showman’s desire to attract the biggest crowd.

When a tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings three years ago, he surmised that it was built for King Tut’s mother, a sure way to drive up ratings, even as scientists involved in the dig rolled their eyes. The chamber was most likely a storage room, they said at the time.

He looks beyond filling in the blanks of the past. Dr. Hawass says he sees in the discoveries a way to salvage Egypt’s troubled present and its uncertain future. He thinks modern Egypt could benefit from uniting behind a “national project,” the way ancient Egyptians did when they built the pyramids and tombs.

“In Egypt you need a project that everyone can believe in, a national project,” Dr. Hawass said, standing beside a marvel of ancient craftsmanship, two massive slabs of red granite, carved with simple hand tools and hauled hundreds of miles north from the rocky terrain of Luxor to a small limestone pyramid here just outside of modern Cairo “We have to learn from ancient Egypt.”

His idea is not so outlandish, said Gamal Ghitany, editor of an Egyptian literary magazine. “Of course we need one today, but a national project means a larger goal that all of society can be united behind,” he said.

Dr. Hawass does not talk politics, and he gets impatient if he is asked to linger on a subject too long. Enough of the national project and the death chamber. He took off in his S.U.V. with a small entourage to show off the new cemetery, which was just recently discovered. Like the death chamber, the cemetery was discovered when the police caught thieves digging into the sand. Dr. Hawass said they excavated and revealed the largest continuously used cemetery in Egypt, with graves that spanned thousands of years.

Most of the tombs had been robbed in antiquity. But the one for the wealthy man remained intact. The entrance looked like a water well, with a timber positioned over the top, a rope twirled around the timber and a rubber basket tied at the end. Dr. Hawass jammed his left foot into the basket, grabbed hold of the rope and stood there as a team of workers lowered him down the shaft. “Hurry,” he shouted, as he spun and banged against the walls. “That was not too safe,” he acknowledged, when finally at the bottom.

The tomb was cool and dark, illuminated by a single light bulb. There were three shelves carved into the walls. One had four small mummies and a mummified dog. The other two were loaded with human bones and skulls.

THEN Dr. Hawass turned his attention to the coffin with the cracked lid and the intact mummy. “I think he was the mayor,” Dr. Hawass said. “He had to have money to be buried like this in limestone.”

By now, the workers had lowered a very large wooden ladder down the shaft so that Dr. Hawass could climb back up. Once outside, he shot some video for his Web site and then drove off. Less than two weeks later there was another discovery, dozens of brightly painted mummies found in a necropolis in Fayoum, the oasis town about two hours south of Cairo. There were 53 tombs uncovered, some dating back 4,000 years. And who made the announcement?

Well, this is Egypt. Who else?

Mona el-Naggar
contributed reporting.

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:09:05 pm

                                              The Mummy of the 'Pharaoh of Moses'

By Zahi Hawass
April 24, 2009
Al Ahram Weekly


I recently read on the Internet the story of Ramses II's mummy.

We know that during the late 1970s the French president, Giscard d'Estaing, asked President Anwar El-Sadat if the mummy of Ramses II could be sent to Paris for conservation and preservation. Being that this mummy did not require any treatment, the real reason behind their request lay in their search for the Pharaoh of the biblical Exodus whom they believed to be Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, third ruler of the New Kingdom's 19th Dynasty. This ulterior motive, however, was never voiced to the authorities.

According to the holy books, the Pharaoh ruling in Moses's time drowned in the Red Sea during an epic chase after the parting of the waters. The French scientists were seeking evidence to prove the occurrence of this miraculous event.

The mummy of Ramses the Great was given a royal welcome at Le Bourget airport. Even the French president attended the glamorous ceremony. The mummy was then transferred to the French archaeological centre for examination.

One of the scientists responsible for the mummy's examination was a very dishonest man. He stole strands of Ramses II's hair and kept them for himself. Later on, his son attempted to sell the strands of hair on the Internet. With the help of our ambassador to France, Nasser Kamel, we were able to put an end to this and return the strands of hair to Cairo.

On the mummy's return to Cairo, reporters interviewed the French scientist about his findings. He stated that, inside the mummy, he had discovered a strange insect. The reporters laughed and called it a French insect. I seriously believe that sending the mummy of Ramses II to France was a big mistake.

Numerous false ideas about the mummy have recently been published. First, it has been said that the hands of the mummy are positioned differently than all other royal mummies, especially the left hand. This is inaccurate. Both Ramses II's arms are laid on his chest, just like all the other royal New Kingdom mummies. It has also been said that when the linen surrounding the mummy was untied the left arm jumped up, leading to the conclusion that the embalmers forced the mummy's arms position. Finally, some have stated that the laboratory results demonstrated the remains of salt inside the body of Ramses II, and that X-rays showed that many of his bones were broken. According to theorists, these results indicate that the Pharaoh drowned in the sea. They claimed that the strange position of his left hand indicated that he was holding the reins of a horse, while swinging a sword in his right. Furthermore, they added that while the Pharaoh was drowning he was attempting to push the water with his left hand, hence the reason for the embalmers having to force the left arm back into the traditional position.

I do not think that any of these ideas is correct. Egyptologists know that salt was used in the mummification process and that a great amount of salt is always found while examining mummies. For example, about 28 large jars full of natron, the type of salt used in mummification, were recently discovered in tomb KV 63 in the Valley of the Kings. Therefore, the fact that salt was found inside the royal mummy of Ramses II does not, by any means, prove that he drowned in the Red Sea. This said, I do not believe that there is any real evidence demonstrating that Pharaoh Ramses II drowned at all.

All these theories posted on the Internet are inaccurate, as the research conducted was not scientific.

It is my opinion that we should conduct further research into the lineage of Ramses II. Now that I have successfully had the mummy believed to be that of Ramses I flown back to Cairo from Atlanta, our scientists can investigate further into the true identity of this mummy. Lastly, with the help of the DNA labs and CT-Scanning machines in Cairo, the Egyptian Mummy Project can begin to determine the true identity of Ramses II's family members. These tests could, perhaps, also help us answer the everlasting question of whether or not Ramses II was truly the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Most importantly, the CT- Scanning machine can take up to 1,700 images which will reveal to be important evidence for our research.

It will be the first time that an Egyptian team has attempted this study.


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:53:44 pm

The ancient Exodus from Egypt has been a rich symbol for liberation movements and literature, but those who try to dig up the evidence of the mass migration say the proof is nowhere to find.

For the past several years archaeologists searching for desert routes or evidence of Joshua's conquest of Canaan have encountered a dead end.

Yet Bible scholars and historians continue the quest, amassing what circumstantial evidence they can find, but no real proof....

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:55:29 pm

                                        Did Moses really exist and did the Exodus ever take place?

Let's start with the prequel to the Exodus, the story of Joseph and his family. Excavations in the eastern delta
of the Nile have revealed a gradual increase in Canaanite pottery, architecture, and tombs, beginning about
1800 B.C.

As explained by Donald Redford, professor of Near Eastern studies at the University of Toronto, in his book Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, these findings are broadly consistent with the tale of Joseph, the visits of his family to Egypt, and their eventual settlement there.[1] Archaeologists have identified the site of Avaris, the Egyptian city of that period that was the capital of a people known as the Hyskos, a name which translates from the Egyptian as "rulers of foreign land." Inscriptions and seals bearing the names of Hyskos kings indicate that they were Canaanites.

Although the Egyptian historian Manetho, writing in about 300 B.C. from an Egyptian perspective, asserts that Egypt was brutally invaded by the Hyskos, archaeologists believe the takeover was peaceful. However, the forceful expulsion of the Hyskos as described by Manetho is supported by other archaeological and historical sources. The most reliable evidence, according to Redford, suggests that Pharaoh Ahmose and his forces attacked and defeated the Hyskos in Avaris, and chased them out of Egypt into southern Canaan in 1570 B.C.[2]

The Roman-Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, citing Manetho, equates the expulsion of the Hyskos from Egypt with the Exodus. As Abba Eban points out, "this is plainly impossible,"[3] in the context of the Biblical chronology. The Book of Exodus states that Hebrew slaves built the city of Pi Ramses ("House of Ramses"). According to Egyptian sources, the city was built during the reign of Ramses II, who ruled 1279-1213 B.C. In other words, the Biblical Exodus would have had to have taken place 300 years after the expulsion of the Hyskos.

Of course there is also no evidence that the Hyskos were ever enslaved--or even Hebrews. Again quoting Abba Eban, "few modern scholars would go so far as to assert that the Hebrews and the Hyskos were the same people."[4] If the Hyskos were not the Hebrews, what then, is the earliest non-Biblical reference to this people?

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:57:08 pm

About a century ago, archaeologists found 350 tablets covered with cuneiform writing in the Akkadian language in the Egyptian village of El Amarna. These
tablets, dating to the 14th century B.C., contain numerous references to a people whose name is Habiru (or alternatively Hapiru or Apiru) in the Akkadian
language. The obvious phonetic similarity to "Hebrew" suggested to early scholars that the Habiru of the Amarna tablets and the Hebrews were the same people.

However, subsequent archaeological findings as described by Niels Lemche, professor of Old Testament studies at the University of Copenhagen, in his book Prelude to Israel's Past, indicated widespread use of this term throughout the near east over many centuries during the mid-second millennium B.C. The context of this usage makes clear that 'Habiru' "should not be understood as an ethnic group, but as some kind of social segment." There is no reference to the religious beliefs of the Habiru. The totality of ancient documents discovered, reviewed in detail by Lemche, suggests 'Habiru' is best translated, depending on the context, as 'bandit,' 'outlaw,' 'highwayman,' 'refugee,' 'fugitive,' or 'immigrant,' without any suggestion of ethnicity.[5] Thus, despite the phonetic similarity, the Habiru of the Amarna tablets are not the Hebrews of ancient Israel.

The earliest known non-Biblical reference to Israel is on the 27th line of inscription on a 7.5 foot high granite slab found in Thebes, Egypt, and dating to 1207 B.C.[6] This commemorative stone monument was commissioned by the son of Ramses II, Pharaoh Merneptah, to commemorate his military victories in Canaan, and is known as the Merneptah Stella. Israel is listed as one of eight "border enemies" vanquished by Egypt. The literal translation of the relevant line of Egyptian hieroglyphics is "Israel is stripped bare, wholly lacking seed."

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:58:37 pm

Although this claim is obviously an exaggeration, it is evidence that a group of people named Israel was living in Canaan during the reigns of Merneptah and presumably his father, Ramses II. What is most important, though, is the point emphasized by Israel Finkelstein, director of the Institute of Archaeology
at Tel Aviv University, and his colleague Neal Silberman, in their book The Bible Unearthed: "We have no clue, not even a single word, about early Israelites in Egypt: Neither in monumental inscriptions on walls of temples, nor in tomb inscriptions, nor in papyri."[7]

Similarly, William Dever, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona, states in Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?: "no Egyptian text ever found contains a single reference to 'Hebrews' or 'Israelites' in Egypt, much less to an 'Exodus.'"[8] The ancient Egyptians were such compulsive chroniclers, albeit biased, that it is inconceivable that they would not record any version of an event as momentous as the Biblical Exodus. We should at least expect some self-serving or biased accounts of this extraordinary event, but there is absolutely no reference to any exodus of Hebrew slaves in the voluminous Egyptian writings.

In addition, archaeological excavations do not support the Biblical Exodus story. Modern archaeological techniques are able to detect evidence of not only permanent settlements, but also of habitations of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world as far back as the third millennium B.C.

However, there are no finds of a unique religious community living in a distinct area of the eastern delta of the Nile River ("Land of Goshen") as described in Genesis. In addition, repeated excavations of areas corresponding to Kadesh-Barnea, where the Biblical Israelites lived for thirty-eight of their forty-eight years of wanderings, have revealed no evidence of any encampments. Finkelstein and Silberman point out that, although the sites mentioned in the Exodus storyare real, archaeological excavations indicate that they were unoccupied when the Biblical Exodus would have taken place. For example, the Bible refers to messengers sent by Moses from Kadesh-Barnea to the king of Edom asking him to allow the Hebrews to pass through his land.

However, the nation of Edom did not come into existence until the 7th century B.C.[9] Melvin Konner, anthropologist and teacher of Jewish studies at Emory University, sums it up this way in his recent book Unsettled, An Anthropology of the Jews: "Except for the Torah text, there is no decisive proof that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, that they rebelled and walked away from the place, or that a leader such as Moses arose and took that people into the desert."[10] Futhermore, what evidence we do have, as discussed above, contradicts the Biblical account.

How, then, did this fable come to be written?

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 07:59:55 pm

Finkelstein and Silberman present the plausible thesis that the Deuteronomistic version of the Exodus, which brings together and embellishesthe chronicles in the first four books of the Torah, was written during the 7th century B.C. The intent of the story was to rally the inhabitants of Judah against Egypt, which had become its most powerful enemy as Assyrian hegemony waned.

Finkelstein and Silberman believe that the evil pharaoh in the Exodus story was actually modeled after the domineering Psamethicus I, who reigned from 664 to 610 B.C., approximately during the time that the Deuteronomistic version was written. This account was "powerful propaganda" that created "an epic saga to express the power and passion of a resurgent Judah's dreams" in order "to gird the nation for the great national struggle that lay ahead." In fact, the Egypt described in the Deuteronomistic account is "uncannily similar in its geographical details to that of Psamethicus."[11]

According to Redford, the memories of the Canaanite Hyskos ruling Egypt and subsequently being driven out (though not enslaved and not Hebrew) most likely formed the basis for the Exodus story.[12] The sequence of plagues in the Exodus may be related to the ancient Egyptian belief that the inability to worship multiple gods causes illness.

The Amarna tablets indicate that Akhnaten imposed monotheism on polytheistic Egypt during his reign between 1372 and 1354 B.C., allegedly causing the populace to suffer a variety of maladies, which abated with the restoration of polytheism by Akhnaten's successor.[13, 14]

Jonathan Kirsh notes that the basket-in-the-bullrushes infant-Moses story is clearly a "cut-and-paste" plagiarism copied almost verbatim from a Mesopotamian text.[15] In the words of Daniel Lazare, the stories of infant Moses, the plagues, and final exodus are "unconnected folktales," linked together "like pearls on a string."[16] What we have, according to David Denby, is a "self-confirming, self-glorifying myth of origins," with Moses as "the hero of the greatest campfire story ever told."[17]

Post by: Bianca on April 24, 2009, 08:03:55 pm


[1] Redford, D.B. 1992. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 412.

[2] Ibid, 129.

[3] Eban, A. 1984. Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. New York: Summit Books, 20.

[4] Ibid, 20.

[5] Lemche, N.P. 1998. Prelude to Israel's Past. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 139-141.

[6] Shanks, H. 2001. "A Centrist the Center of Controversy," Biblical Archaeology Review, December, 41.

[7] Finkelstein, I. and Silberman, N.A. 2001. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts. New York: Simon and Schuster, 60.

[8] Dever, W.G. 2003. Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 12-13.

[9] Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001, 68.

[10] Konner, M. 2003. Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews. New York: Viking Penguin, 3.

[11] Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001, 283.

[12] Redford, 1992, 412-413.

[13] Kirsch, J. 1998. Moses, A Life. New York: Ballantine, 179.

[14] Denby, D. 1998. "No Exodus." The New Yorker, December 7 & 14, 185.

[15] Kirsch, 1998, 47.

[16] Lazare, D. 2002. "False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible's Claim to History," Harper's, March, 41.

[17] Denby, 1998, 186.

[18] Quoted by Konner, 2003, 197. ---

Post by: Bianca on April 27, 2009, 12:37:20 pm

                                  Egyptian woman dies of bird flu, 3rd fatality in a week

Fri Apr 24, 2009

– A 33-year-old Egyptian woman has died of the H5N1 bird flu virus, Egypt's third human death from bird flu in a week, the state news agency MENA said on Friday.

The woman, Saadiya Mohamed Abdel Latief Hamed, died in Kafr El-Sheikh province and is Egypt's 26th bird flu victim, MENA said, citing a health ministry statement.

She was admitted to hospital on April 15 suffering from fever and difficulty breathing, and tests confirmed she was infected with H5N1 avian flu. MENA said she had been exposed to infected household poultry.

A 6-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman died from the H5N1 virus on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and an Egyptian woman contracted the virus on Thursday.

Egypt, harder hit by bird flu than any other country outside Asia, has seen a surge of cases in recent weeks, with eight new human infections in April alone -- as many as in all of 2008.

Most of the Egyptians infected this year have been young children. While the avian influenza virus rarely infects people, experts say they fear it could mutate into a form that people could easily pass to one another, which might spark a pandemic that could kill millions.

Since 2003, H5N1 has infected more than 400 people in 15 countries and killed more than 250. It has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds in 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Most Egyptians infected with bird flu had come into contact with infected domestic birds in a country where some 5 million households depend on their poultry as a significant source of food and income.

The World Health Organization said this month it was concerned some Egyptians may carry the bird flu virus without showing symptoms, and this could give the virus more scope to mutate to a strain that spreads easily among humans. Whether such cases exist will be the focus of a planned Egyptian government study, backed by the global health body.

(Writing by
Aziz El-Kaissouni,

editing by
Tim Pearce)

Post by: Bianca on April 29, 2009, 08:29:08 am

                                      Egypt orders slaughter of all pigs over swine flu 

Apr 29, 2009
Associated Press Writer 

- Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu even though no cases have been reported here yet, the Health Ministry said.
The move immediately provoked resistance from pig farmers. At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, farmers refused to cooperate with Health Ministry workers who came to slaughter the animals and the workers left without carrying out the government order.

"It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country's slaughterhouses," Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's overwhelmingly Muslim population does not eat pork due to religious restrictions. But the animals are raised and consumed by the Christian minority, which some estimates put at 10 percent of the population.

Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman estimated there were between 300,000-350,000 pigs in Egypt.

Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza told reporters that farmers would be allowed to sell the pork meat so there would be no need for compensation.

In 2008, following fears over diseases spread by animals, Mubarak ordered all pig and chicken farms moved out of population areas. But the order was never implemented.

Pigs can be found in many places around Muslim world, often raised by religious minorities who can eat pork. But they are banned entirely in some Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya.

In Jordan, the government decided Wednesday to shut down the country's five pig farms, involving 800 animals, for violating public health safety regulations.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 07:56:36 am

                         Egypt Retrieves 454 Ancient Artifacts From Eton’s Myers Museum

By Mahmoud Kassem and
Emad Mekay
April 30, 2009

-- Egyptian authorities have recovered 454 ancient Egyptian artifacts, including pharaonic pottery
and bronze coins, from the U.K.’s Myers Museum. They had been removed from the country more
than 30 years ago.

The pieces have been returned to Egypt, the Cairo-based Culture Ministry said in a statement today, citing the country’s chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass. The Myers Museum is part of Eton College, in Windsor, west of London. No one at the museum was immediately available for comment.

The recovered artifacts were taken out of the country between 1972 and 1988 after Unesco banned antiquities trafficking in 1970, Hussein Al-Afuni, a head of Egypt’s Red Sea antiquities department,
was quoted in the statement as saying.

The items included 12 bronze coins, four scarabs, 94 beaded necklaces, 99 fragments of pottery with colored drawings and 109 funerary figures, the statement said.

Since 2002, Egypt has recovered some 5,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts that were taken out of the country.

The Myers Museum is a collection of ancient Egyptian decorative arts, and is housed inside Eton College. Most of the collection was acquired by William Joseph Myers (1858-1899), who attended

To contact the reporter on this story:

Mahmoud Kassem
in Cairo at;

Emad Mekay
in Cairo

Last Updated: April 30, 2009 12:08 EDT

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:31:05 pm

                                                       Each to their own

Nubia's curious geographical location as a corridor between Africa south of the Sahara, Egypt and the Arab world coupled with a somewhat schizophrenic outlook -- simultaneously espousing historical isolation and integration with its neighbours -- created a unique culture that Nubians appear eager for outsiders to comprehend, writes Gamal Nkrumah



History provides hope in dark days, and especially so for the proud people of Nubia.

They lost their land in the early 1970s, now submerged beneath one of Africa's largest man- made fresh water reservoirs -- Lake Nasser. The lake, some 360km long in Egyptian territory and a further 140km in adjacent territory
in Sudan, virtually plunged what was once known as Lower Nubia.


                 LAKE NASSER

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:32:25 pm


Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:33:23 pm

Archaeologists like to kick tough decisions into the long papyri and tall rushes that sprout along the banks of the Nile. An unprecedented salvage operation was launched to rescue the monuments and temples of Nubia from the muddy, silt-laden waters that accumulated behind the Aswan High Dam constructed between 1960-64, and completed in 1970. Many dreaded questions are now re-emerging from the inundated undergrowth. Interestingly enough, for the first time in the recorded history of the period, unpublished documents written by scholars and archaeologists and relating to the days of the salvage operation were presented and debated at this week's Aswan conference.

Delving into the depths of Nubian history and heritage requires a great deal more openness with prospective scholars, the new generation of archeologists concerned with Nubia. Institutions, the local Egyptian and Sudanese ones included, are needlessly vague -- and let us be blunt, occasionally dishonest about who will be teaching what. Too little is known about what has gone under, what has been lost forever. But at least now we know a little more about what remains -- what was salvaged and what was submerged. The consensus at the Aswan conference was that the Nubians deserve more in return.

Traditional bonds with their ancestral land remain as binding today as they were in the days before the Pharaohs. Ceramics were, after all, produced by the forefathers of the Nubians by 8,000 BC -- at least two millennia before far less sophisticated imitations were crafted in Egypt. So what was the precise nature of the relationship between the land now known as Nubia and Egypt proper over the ages? The history and culture of Lower Nubia, the geographical focus of the Aswan conference, was always inextricably intertwined with Egypt's. Yet, the relationship was never clearly defined. Lower Nubia was culturally contiguous with Egypt proper, but it was never fully incorporated into the "Two Lands".

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:34:25 pm


                ASWAN HIGH DAM
                Aereal View

Why Lower Nubia continued to be designated as something of a Wild West by the Pharaohs continues to be a curious mystery: was it an accident of geography or an indication of a racial and ethnic separation?

The 50th anniversary of the official appeal by Egypt and Sudan to UNESCO on 6 April 1959 to save the monuments of Lower Nubia proved to be the perfect opportunity to tackle this contentious subject afresh.

In the corridors of the Nubia Museum, Aswan, the dominant metaphor in deliberations at the conference entitled "Lower Nubia: Revisiting Memories of the Past, Envisaging Perspectives for the Future" was continuity. In the Nubian context, the word is synonymous with eternity. The conference took place in Aswan (21-24 March) -- in actual fact the closing session was extended to 25 March.

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:36:03 pm

              LORD OF 'TWO LANDS'

So who are the Nubians and what do they desire? In ancient times the inhabitants, or at least the ruling cliques of the highly stratified and hierarchical societies, of Lower Nubia adopted Egyptian attire. Their priests, like their Egyptian counterparts, donned sacred leopard skins. Their rulers, however, were invariably depicted by the Egyptians as wearing a headdress distinguished by a sole upright feather -- which in Egypt's New Kingdom's iconography denoted a southern adversary.

A love- hate relationship developed, which is curiously commonplace even today.

The contemporary Nubians are the indigenous peoples of the central Nile Valley who live along the narrow patches of fertile land that snakes through the desert and forms a gigantic letter "S" in northern Sudan and the southern tip of Egypt. They are a people whose precise origins are unknown, but whose elders today converse in four closely related Nilo-Saharan languages known collectively as "Nubian". The Nubians' aspirations like their compatriots in Egypt and Sudan are for social and economic uplift. Ancient Kushite inscriptions abound, but the Meroetic language is not yet deciphered.

"Nubia was the meeting place of the Mediterranean and African civilisations," director of the Nubia Museum, Aswan, Osama Abdel-Maguid told Al-Ahram Weekly. "We are neither Saaida [Upper Egyptians] nor Arabs. We are Nubians," he states categorically.

"Egyptian state gods such as Amun were worshipped in ancient Nubia, but so were purely Nubian gods such as the Lion deity Apedemek," he explains. "Exquisite pottery, intricately-designed jewellery and fine woven cloth were all produced to a high standard of craftsmanship."

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:37:11 pm

In some ways, of course, it is only natural that Nubia should appear as an appendage of Egyptian civilisation. It is in a different category partly because Nubians are distinctive racially from the rest of Egyptians -- then and now the darker complexion of the Nubians was a defining characteristic of their unique identity and a distinguishing factor from Upper Egyptians. Language was yet another differentiating factor. However, it is clear that in ancient times -- from the pre-dynastic era to the dying days of the Pharaohs -- the distinction between Upper and Lower Nubia was as marked as that between Nubia (Upper and Lower) and Egypt (Upper and Lower). It was then that I was confronted with the notion that Lower Nubia was different in more respects than one, that it had its own separate cultural identity.

An attempt at obfuscation is not conducive to a serious study of Nubia at this historical juncture. It is vitally important to stress that the area under discussion at the Aswan conference is Lower, as opposed to Upper, Nubia.

Broad-ranging and meticulously researched working papers were presented at the Aswan conference. Personally, I got to thinking about the curious question of Nubia's uniqueness. Nubia is not a country, and Nubians do not necessarily aspire to create a country distinct from either Egypt or Sudan.

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:38:06 pm

However, since time immemorial Nubia was a distinct land, but an integral part of the Egyptian sphere of influence. It was also an extension of sub-Saharan Africa albeit with distinct Egyptian influences. Lower Nubia traditionally was far more Egyptian oriented than Upper Nubia which retained to a greater degree its "African" character.

The salvage campaign commenced in the 1960s and 1970s, with temples lifted piecemeal to countries that generously donated in terms of funding and personnel to the salvage operation. A prime example was the Ellesya Temple, which was reconstructed, stone by stone, in Turin's Museum of Egypt, Italy. However, there were monumental structures that remained almost intact at home, or were partially or completely reconstructed such as the Temple of Abu Simbel and that of Philae, Aswan.

The Aswan conference was organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture (the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Office for the Salvage of the Monuments of Nubia) in conjunction with the Sudanese Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport (the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums). The four- day conference focussed primarily, although not exclusively, on the areas of Lower Nubia inundated by Lake Nasser.

Nonetheless, there was clear polemic on the areas of Lower Nubia not subjected to flooding, at least not yet. Indeed, the laying of the foundation stones last month of the Meroe Dam in northern Sudan is bound to subject more Nubian land to permanent inundation. "There are fundamental differences in the nature of the salvage operations of the Aswan High Dam and the Meroe Dam. The latter led to the inundation of an area that was characterised by monumental temples, forts and palaces. The area further south in Upper Nubia contained relatively fewer gargantuan structures," General Director of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums of Sudan (NCAM) Hassan Hussein Idriss told the Weekly.

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:38:52 pm

Idriss explained that the planned Nubia Museum of Wadi Halfa, Sudan, is designed to cater for the tourists (both local and foreign) who are more interested in the smaller and less glamorous but equally revealing artefacts, historical remains and ancient objects. The proposed Wadi Halfa Museum is meant to play a complimentary role to that of the Nubian Museum in Aswan. Both focus on Lower Nubia -- a region of once meandering farmland along the banks of the Nile between the First Cataract immediately south of Aswan and the Third Cataract north of Dongola in Sudan.

"Egypt and Sudan are working in tandem to facilitate the exhibition of the cultural heritage of the people of Lower Nubia throughout history and including contemporary Nubian culture."

There is something heartwarming when it comes to enthusing about Nubian culture. The zeal and anticipation of Idriss is infectious. He notes that the Wadi Halfa Museum is designed to be a "showcase for ancient and modern Nubian culture".

And, the director of the Nubia Museum, Aswan, concurs. "I strongly believe that the present is an extension of the past," Abdel-Maguid tells the Weekly. "Nubians like to keep the ancient traditions alive. They are acutely aware that theirs is a special heritage," he explains.

Beneath the rather relaxed exterior, the director of the Nubian Museum, Aswan, exudes an unmistakable exuberance. He is particularly ecstatic with the proceedings, results and recommendations of the conference.

"The present echoes the past," he reiterates. "Essendogo, the Water Angel, was placated with sacraments of grain porridge and boiled dates," he extrapolates. He cites living examples. "The Nubians have a very distinct tradition of celebrating the Muslim festival of Ashoura and that bears little resemblance to Islam and that is reminiscent of ancient legends from the remotest past. There is an intrinsic and symbiotic relationship between Osiris and Al-Hussein, this is an integral part of our culture. It also denotes our cultural specificity."

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:39:42 pm

He sheds further light on a fascinating analogy. "In the Nubian mind, Al-Hussein is very much associated with Osiris. Indeed, the martyrdom of Hussein is reminder of the assassination of Osiris." He revels in facets of Nubian culture and calls his listeners' attention to the minutiae and particularistic nuances of Nubia's cultural heritage. I ponder the implications.

For someone so self-avowedly wedded to tradition, the Aswan conference is of special significance. Questioned about the potential conflict of interest involved in the construction of yet another Nubian museum in the region, he adopts the maxim the more the merrier.

"The cross is to this day a powerful symbol of Nubian cultural specificity and is frequently used as a motif to embellish buildings," he points out. Nubia, he stresses, was a Christian land for more than a millennium before its inhabitants adopted Islam as its own religion.

"The concept of libation is particularly prevalent in Nubia. It is a tradition that is practised in many African cultures. It is related to the Nile, the sanctity of the river, and the closely related notion of ritualistic purification, ablutions and even baptism," he explains.

The conversation veers sharply and with astonishing suddenness to the social content of contemporary Nubia. "The curious phenomenon is that Nubian women are far more determined than the men to act as depositors of the past. Nubian women are especially proud of their cultural heritage." Isis takes over from Osiris.

Isis salvages and reassembles the remains of Osiris. This is how he views the salvage operation. For 50 years, it was the Nubian women who kept the cultural heritage of their people alive even as their land was inundated.

Post by: Bianca on May 01, 2009, 09:40:42 pm

The Nubian Studies Research Centre, now relocated to Khartoum, carries out some of the services that the Nubian Museum in Aswan, and its new counterpart in Wadi Halfa, provide or are supposed to provide. Foremost among these are those pertaining to the preservation and propagation of the Nubian tongues. Two courses entitled "How to Speak Nubian" are currently taught.

"We've no lexicons, no Rosetta Stone," the director of the Aswan Nubian Museum notes. He adds that in 2012, the Nubian Museum, in conjunction with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, will host yet another conference on the Nubian cultural heritage. "The question of language will be tackled more systematically. Some 35 per cent of the vocabulary of the Nubian language of Faditcha and 20 per cent of Kenuz have Meroetic origins," he says. Accordingly, there are also Meroetic connections with a number of African languages including the Fur of Darfur, and certain languages spoken in Kordofan in western Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia. "There is a strong connection," he insists between the contemporary spoken languages of Nubia and those of Africa south of the Sahara.

With racism to the fore and religiosity lurking in the background the subject of Nubia's heritage is always going to be contentious.

However, polemics aside, Meroetic declined with Christianity and Old Nubian developed influenced by Coptic, Greek and Latin and written in Coptic and Latin script. However, it was the same language spoken in the pre-Christian Meroetic kingdoms of Nubia. "The Nubian Christian Church and kingdoms had strong affiliations with the Ethiopian Church. Nubia, however, had the upper hand at first. It was in the 14th century that the Ethiopian Church became more prominent and the Nubian Church declined. Nubia was Christian before Ethiopia." Yet, he notes that the conversion of Nubians to Islam was a peaceful process and was pre-empted by trade. "There are Nubians, certain tribes, with Arabic origins. They are a mixed race people not of pure Nubian stock."

Post by: Bianca on May 03, 2009, 07:18:55 am

                                              Clashes erupt over Egypt pig cull 

May 3, 2009

Clashes began outside Cairo on Saturday.

Pig farmers have clashed with police in Cairo as they try to stop their animals being taken for slaughter, reports say.

Hundreds of people threw stones and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The authorities are carrying out a mass pig cull in what they at first said was a precaution against swine flu but now describe as a general health measure.

UN experts have criticised the move as unnecessary and a mistake, as Mexico said the outbreak could be stabilising.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the country was seeing fewer cases every day.

Globally more than 700 people are known to be infected.

Person-to-person transmission has been confirmed in six countries.

But in cases outside Mexico, the effects of the virus do not appear to be severe.

Post by: Bianca on May 03, 2009, 07:20:09 am

Overreaction charge

There have been no cases of swine flu in Egypt.

Pig-farming and consumption is limited to Egypt's Christian minority, estimated at 10% of the population.

On Saturday, health officials began the slaughter in earnest, moving in on a city slum where rubbish collectors are said to keep around 60,000 pigs.

The slaughter is expected to take around a month.

Officials say the cull is aimed at bringing order to the country's pig-rearing industry, so that in future animals are not reared on rubbish tips but on proper farms.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Cairo says the government has been criticised for overreacting to the threat, but it was also criticised for responding too slowly to the bird flu crisis two years ago.

When bird flu appeared in the country in 2006 mass culls were carried out but at least 22 humans died from the disease.

Post by: Bianca on May 03, 2009, 10:11:40 am

                                    Egypt pig farmers clash with police over slaughter


by Samer el-Atrush
May 3, 2009

– Egyptian riot police clashed on Sunday with stone-throwing pig farmers who were trying to prevent their animals being taken away for slaughter as part of a mass nationwide cull.

Between 300 and 400 residents of the hilly Moqattam slum district of Cairo, where mostly Coptic Christian scrap merchants raise pigs, hurled stones and bottles at police.

Anti-riot police replied by firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, most of them youths.

An AFP correspondent said the protesters ransacked a police post and an officer fired warning shots in the air.

Seven policemen were slightly injured, a security official said, while at least eight demonstrators were hurt, according to the correspondent and a medic.

An ambulance was on stand-by in Moqattam neighbourhood of Manshiyet Nasr, home to about 35,000 scrap and recycling merchants known as the "zabaleen" who raise some 60,000 pigs.

"They want to steal our livelihood," protested one of the farmers, Adel Izhak, before police started to take control of the district.

Similar troubles broke out in Khanka, north of the capital, security officials said. Police were already repelled from Khanka by stone-throwers on Wednesday after the controversial cull was announced.

Egypt began the cull of the nation's 250,000 pigs on Saturday, despite the World Health Organisation saying there was no evidence the animals were transmitting swine flu to humans.

The authorities are calling the slaughter a general health measure. No cases of swine flu, or influenza A(H1N1), have been reported in the Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world.

Egypt's pigs mostly belong to and are eaten by members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority and are reared by rubbish collectors in Cairo's shantytowns. Islam bans the consumption of pork for the majority Muslims.

Egyptian animal rights activist Amina Abaza deplored the slaughter of pigs and said the decision to cull them was probably taken only because they belong to the Copts.

"They are doing all this although there is not one single case of swine flu in Egypt," Abaza told AFP, noting that Egypt has suffered from bird flu but no decision was taken to stem out poultry in the country.

"I wonder if this measure has not been taken because pigs belongs to Copts," she said.

Abaza, who is the founder of the first animal rights association in Egypt known as SPARE, said she believed that slaughtering the pigs was more "linked to religion than fear of the disease" itself.

The rubbish collectors, who used the pigs to dispose of organic waste and sell off some animals from their herds once a year, say the cull will affect their business and wipe out a crucial source of income.

Although no cases of swine flu have been reported in Egypt, the country has been battling an outbreak of bird flu for three years.

Twenty-six people have died in Egypt from the H5N1 strain of bird flu since it was first identified in early 2006 and the country has seen an increase in cases over the past two months.

The authorities have said it will take six months to carry out the pig slaughter and announced plans to import three machines to raise the culling capacity to 3,000 animals a day.

According to the government newspaper Al-Ahram, the authorities plan to pay out 100 pounds (14 dollars) for each male animal slaughtered and 250 pounds (35 dollars) for each female pig.

Post by: Bianca on May 05, 2009, 03:40:19 pm

                                                   Working on Coptic archives

                      Nevine El-Aref reports on the completion of the first inventory to assess

       the current condition of manuscripts stored for almost a century in the Coptic Museum archives


Al Ahram Weekly
Issue April 30 - May 6, 2009

The Coptic Museum archives, considered to be the world's most important Coptic library and containing more than 5,000 manuscripts and books, are being given a facelift.

Serenity, peace and complete quiet are the overwhelming sensations in the museum library, despite the presence of two dozen experts and restorers who have spread themselves to each corner of the reading room. Since January, the library has been converted into a scientific laboratory so that a comprehensive survey to assess the current conditions of its treasured manuscripts and books can be carried out. Armed with white gowns, masks, small brushes, glass plaques, small pieces of cottonwool and special liquids, junior and professional restorers sit in front of their improvised desks examining the piece of manuscript win their hands. They are looking for parts of each manuscript that show signs of being infected, and then they will identify its causes, take notes and rescue the pieces that are in need of attention.

"I am very happy to be taking part in such a great project," Hamdi Abdel-Moneim, an expert in manuscript restoration, told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that during his 22-year career in restoring Islamic manuscripts, it was the first time he had come face to face with Coptic pieces. "They are totally different than each other," Abdel-Moneim said, pointing out that Copts used goatskin or manuscripts while Muslims, writing at a later date, used paper, which required different maintenance and restorative treatment. "I have examined almost 30 per cent of the stored collection," Abdel-Moneim said, "and I have realised that the condition of the Coptic manuscripts is worse than Islamic ones since they have been handled more often by monks and other churchgoers. But Islamic ones are much better preserved since they have been kept in hard covers, like the Quran for example."

Abdel-Moneim noted that spots of wax and oil are easily seen on the manuscripts, while others had been attacked by insects. Ten per cent of the stored collection was badly damaged and required an immediate attention, since the goatskin interacted with itself, thus transformed into gelatin, which made it beyond repair. He said the books were in better condition but many had wax and water spots as well as holes and tears.

"The project also is trying to adjust the incorrect restoration implemented during the 'era of the Martyrs' in about 1600, when monks glued the manuscripts to sheets of paper in an attempt to support them. Regretfully, however, this treatment led to the deterioration of some parts of the manuscripts, while some others were lost in the process.

Post by: Bianca on May 05, 2009, 03:42:50 pm

"Dealing with more than 5,000 priceless manuscripts at once really is a challenge," Nadja Tomoum, head of the project told the Weekly. She added that the project was a result of the initiative launched by the friends of the Coptic Museum, who submitted the proposal.

The project is being carried out with the collaboration of the Getty Foundation, which is well-known in the field and not only aims at assessing the condition of the treasured archive collection but also identifying the problems and finding solutions for future treatments. It will also examine the environmental condition of the archive in order to provide the optimum and most suitable environment for the preservation of its collection.

Tomoum pointed out that a good many improvements were required to combat the high rate of humidity and install an air conditioning system, temperature control and suitable storage cabinets. In collaboration with experts from the Mènster University in Germany, a data base for a professional cataloguing system will also be among the elements of the project.

Tomoum said three studies were carried out last year to catalogue the manuscripts by classifying the contents and identifying texts. A new numbering system known as Getty Numbers will be employed for cataloguing the collection, as each item can have more than one number which is confusing. These old numbers would be left as they were, Tomoum said, because for some Coptologists these were their documentation numbers. The Getty Numbers would be a new numbering system to access the stored items, some of which were not yet published. Tomoum promised that at the end of this year another campaign would be implemented to restore and correctly preserve the collection.

"It is really a very important step, and the first one towards refurbishing the Coptic Museum archive," Tomoum commented.

Marwa Mahmoud, a junior restorer who began her career five years ago, described the project as a free training course for her generation of restorers. "I have learnt how to hold a manuscript, how to deal with it and how to protect it during the maintenance process," Mahmoud said. "It has also raised made my eyes more sensitive when it comes to identifying the damage, even if it is hidden or not clear."

Post by: Bianca on May 05, 2009, 03:44:19 pm

Restorer Kamal Mohamed had a similar view of the project. "It's a great opportunity to examine a large amount of manuscripts of various materials: papyrus, paper, fabrics and goatskin, as well as knowing different types of infections," he said. "It has taught me how to carry out a complete and comprehensive survey of manuscripts through applying a digital 'birth certificate' that assesses its size, material and current condition as well as suggesting future treatments. It is not only a scientific experience but an encouraging project as well." Mohamed said it helped boost their confidence by providing a chance for decision-making and assessing the methods for direct intervention to rescue very damaged items.

Nagah Ragab said the project had shown them the latest technology used in restoring manuscripts and books, but for restorer Sherine Lyon it was a means to reschedule their thoughts about ways of dealing with very sensitive items like the manuscripts.

Julie Miller from Michigan University told the Weekly that the aim of the project was to provide a better home for the priceless collection, with an improved environment and better conditions. It was also a way of developing the skills and knowledge of Egyptian curators as well as training junior colleagues.

"I am delighted with the project," said Pamela Spitamuelles from Harvard University. She said it was invaluable to see different kinds of ancient covers with special decorations that she had not seen it before.

"It is a dream to come true," said Coptologist Zefreg Ritcha at Munster University. "In 1925 when I was a student I dreamt of working at the Coptic Museum archive, and now it has happened."

He said his input to the project was to delve into the context of each item, and not only its content. This meant he deciphered the text, explained it, located the site where it was found, and identified the leaves. "Most of the manuscripts I examined were private letters with missing parts so that a person couldn't follow up the story," he said. "It is really disappointing as some of these letters highlight the lifestyle of the era or the kind of commerce then," Ritcha said.

He explains that he is also implementing the new cataloguing system, since some manuscripts have two different numbers which is confusing for students and Coptologists. "We will keep these numbers and insert another number proceeded with letter G in order to identify it as the Getty Number," Ritcha said. He explained that through exploration of the archives, a collection of 20 unpublished manuscripts had been assessed. "No one knew about it," he pointed out, adding that some of the manuscripts had long texts from the Old Testament or Nubian texts.

"It is not just a restoration project but is my rebirth certification," Kamilia Makram, the library director, told the Weekly. "Since it was established in the 1990s no one has touched upon the library collection. Even during the comprehensive restoration project to renovate the museum and its collection after almost 10 years of closure, no one had touched the library, and when I asked why they said there will be a special project for it. Following three years of its re-opening my dream is fulfilled."

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly

Post by: Bianca on May 14, 2009, 09:08:21 am


                                                     Famed Nefertiti bust 'a fake': expert

May 5, 2009           

– The bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in a Berlin museum and believed to be 3,400 years old in fact is a copy dating from 1912 that was made to test pigments used by the ancient Egyptians, according to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin.

Stierlin, author of a dozen works on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, says in a just-released book that the bust currently in Berlin's Altes Museum was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks.

"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.

The historian said the archaeologist had hoped to produce a new portrait of the queen wearing a necklace he knew she had owned, and was also looking to carry out a colour test with ancient pigments found at the digs.

But on December 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and the archaeologist "couldn't sum up the courage to ridicule" his guest, Stierlin said.

The historian, who has been working on the subject for 25 years, said he based his findings on several facts. "The bust has no left eye and was never crafted to have one. This is an insult for an ancient Egyptian who believed the statue was the person themself."

He also said the shoulders were cut vertically in the style practised since the 19th century while "Egyptians cut shoulders horizontally" and that the features were accentuated in a manner recalling that of Art Nouveau.

It was impossible to scientifically establish the date of the bust because it was made of stone covered in plaster, he said.

"The pigments, which can be dated, are really ancient," he added.

Stierlin also listed problems he noted during the discovery and shipment to Germany as well as in scientific reports of the time.

French archaeologists present at the site never mentioned the finding and neither did written accounts of the digs. The earliest detailed scientific report appeared in 1923, 11 years after the discovery.

The archaeologist "didn't even bother to supply a description, which is amazing for an exceptional work found intact".

Borchardt "knew it was a fake," Stierlin said. "He left the piece for 10 years in his sponsor's sitting-room. It's as if he'd left Tutankhamen's mask in his own sitting-room."

Egypt has demanded the return of the bust discovered on the banks of the Nile since it went on display in 1923, depicting a stunning woman wearing a unique cone-shaped headdress.

One of Berlin's prime attractions it will move into its own hall at the newly renovated Neues Museum when it reopens to the public in October.

Post by: Bianca on May 14, 2009, 09:09:56 am

                                                Is famed Nefertiti bust a fake?

May 5th, 2009
San Jose Mercury News

The plot thickens.

Agence France-Press is reporting that the famed bust of Nefertiti, which is housed in the Altes
Museum of the National Museums of Berlin, is a 20th-century copy.

This is interesting news given recent radiological testing of the statue which revealed a hidden
face carved in the statue’s limestone core and which was supposed to support the theory that
the bust is indeed 3,300 years old.

I’ve never seen the original sculpture…only a copy which visited the Bay Area recently in the Fine
Arts Museums of San Francisco’s exhibit “The State Museums of Berlin and the Legacy of James

Is the controversial statue indeed a fake?

It’ll be interesting to see how this story plays out… 

Post by: Bianca on May 14, 2009, 09:12:14 am

                                                          No, No, Nefertiti

By Mitchell Martin
Published: May 5, 2009   

—It’s hard to imagine Queen Nefertiti speaking with a German accent, but a Swiss art historian is claiming that a delicate bust of the Egyptian monarch in Berlin that was thought to date back to 1347 BC is in fact a 20th-century imposter.

Henri Stierlin says the bust was made by an artist named Gerardt Marks at the request of Ludwig Borchardt, an archaeologist, for research purposes. On December 6, 1912, a German prince admired the statue as an original, the story goes, and Borchardt didn’t have the heart to correct him.

The historian gave several bits of evidence to support his claim. Among them: The bust has only one eye and was not crafted to include the other one, which would have been offensive in ancient Egypt; its shoulders were cut vertically, reminiscent of Art Nouveau styling rather than the typical horizontal orientation of Egyptian works; and archaeologists at the site where the bust was said to have been found did not mention it at the time.

German scientists recently discovered a second face under the surface of the bust, suggesting that the features of the statue were adjusted for some reason.

It would be ironic if the work were fake: Egypt has been trying to get it back for years. Nefertiti was the wife of the 18th-dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaton, and together they were known for efforts to bring monotheism to Egypt with the worship of one sun god, Aton.

The bust is currently on view at Berlin’s Altes Museum and is scheduled to move to the Neues Museum when the institution reopens in October. Stierlin told ARTINFO that he had suspected the statue was not an antiquity as far back as 1983 but has recently refined his analysis and wanted to come public with it before the opening of the new museum., No, Nefertiti

Post by: Bianca on May 14, 2009, 09:13:40 am

                                      Swiss art historian claims Nefertiti bust a fake

                                  Egypt's antiquities head says statements nonsensical

(, Agencies)
May 9, 2009

One of history's most famous archaeological finds may just be a fake, claims one art historian.
The world renowned bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, believed to be 3,400 years old, is at the
center of contentious debate on whether the famed artifact is genuine or just a forgery.

Housed in a Berlin museum, the iconic bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt but its legitimacy has been put into question by Swiss art historian, Henri Stierlin, who claims that the bust
is just a copy dating from 1912.

Stierlin says an archaeologist at the time had hoped to produce a new portrait of the queen wearing
a necklace he knew she had owned, and was also looking to carry out a color test with ancient pigments found at the digs.

"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.

Bust in Germany: "fake"

The startling claim stroked already tense relations between Egypt and Germany, the former having already made requests for the immediate return of the artifact since it went on display in 1923.

The colorful bust depicts a stunning woman – believed to be Nefertiti - wearing a unique cone-shaped headdress. Stierlin, author of a dozen works on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, says the bust currently in Berlin's Altes Museum was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks.

On Dec. 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and Borchardt "couldn't sum up the courage to ridicule" his guest, Stierlin said.

He claimed it was impossible to scientifically establish the date of the bust because it was made of stone covered in plaster. The historian, who has been working on the subject for 25 years, said he based his findings on several facts.   

Post by: Bianca on May 14, 2009, 09:14:57 am

Egypt refutes "findings"

Zahi Hawass refuted claims that Nefertiti was a fake, promising to reveal story behind her smuggling

But Egyptian authorities are crying foul, claiming that the allegations regarding the legitimacy of one
of Egypt's most prized artifacts are unfounded.

"Stierlin is not a historian. He is delirious," Zahi Hawas, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council
of Antiquities told AlArabiya.

Hawas, the leading expert on ancient Egypt, refuted a number of claims Stierlin cited in his argument over the age of the bust, including its design and original condition.

Stierlin said the shoulders were cut vertically in the style practiced since the 19th century while "Egyptians cut shoulders horizontally" and that the features were accentuated in a manner recalling that of Art Nouveau.

But Hawas argued that the era of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti was distinguished by a
new type of art form that broke free from all traditional styles.

" It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original "
Henri Stierlin, Swiss archaeologist"Thus, the paintings and statues belonging to this period came out different," he said.

Stierlin noted that the bust has no left eye and this would have been an insult to the queen at the time, so it couldn't have been carved during Nefertiti's reign.

Hawas again refuted the claim saying that the bust had a left eye that was damaged.

"The royal sculptor Tohotmos made it with two eyes, but one was later destroyed."

Stierlin also listed problems he noted during the discovery and shipment to Germany as well as in scientific reports of the time.

French archaeologists present at the site never mentioned the finding and neither did written accounts of the digs. The earliest detailed scientific report appeared in 1923, 11 years after the discovery.

The archaeologist "didn't even bother to supply a description, which is amazing for an exceptional work found intact," Stierlin said.

Hawas agreed with him regarding the report, but attributed it to the fact that the French archaeologists in charge of Egypt's antiquities at the time were not present in Tel al-Amarna where the bust was discovered.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:37:07 pm

Nefertari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:40:58 pm

                                                   What's going on in Luxor?

Al Aharam Weekly
May 11, 2009

Geotechnical studies and mapping, restoration, conservation and site management, that's what's going on -- and a great deal more, says Jill Kamil
We all know that the "mansions of millions of years", the tombs and temples built by the ancient Egyptians that were meant to last forever, are seriously threatened -- and have been for a long
time now. Among the many causes are subsoil water seepage, infrastructure development, un-
restricted housing, and that greatest menace of all -- tourism.

Fifty years ago fewer than a hundred visitors a day visited Luxor's magnificent monuments.

Now there are as many as 9,000, and they are largely responsible for rapid changes in temperature
and humidity levels in the tombs.

It's a never-ending struggle.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:44:40 pm

Take Nefertari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens as an instance.

The tomb was discovered in 1856 by Ernesto Schiaparelli, and was closed to visitors in the 1950s because of the marked deterioration of the marvellous wall paintings of Ramses II's most beloved
of wives.

It remained closed until 1986 when the Getty Conservation Institute, in collaboration with the then Egyptian Antiquities Organisation (EAO), undertook a major conservation programme. The tomb was reopened in 1995, theoretically to a limited number of visitors per day.

Unfortunately, however, this was difficult to control -- or perhaps there was not enough incentive
to do so. Anyway, the newly restored paintings deteriorated at such a rate that the condition of
the tomb caused renewed concern to the authorities and was closed in 2003; this time to all but
small groups willing to pay a substantial entrance fee.

This somewhat reduced humidity in the tomb but it did not solve the problem because the paintings
are on plaster which tends, because of its weight, to separate from the bedrock. Further efforts were made by the Getty Institute to slow the rate of buckling, and the number of tourists is now "strictly controlled" -- according to Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA)
-- but the process of destruction continues.

Even re-closing the tomb will not save it.

All that can be done is to monitor its inevitable deterioration.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:47:27 pm

Tourism is expected to increase in the next decade, and is essential for the Egyptian economy.
Not everyone is pessimistic, however.

"Large numbers of tourists do not necessarily spell the death of an ancient site provided their numbers are carefully regulated and environmental controls are put in place to counter their negative effects, and long-term management plans are implemented",

Kent Weeks, director of the Theban Mapping Project (TMP) since 1979, says.

Weeks points out that he recognised early on the urgent need for archaeological conservation on the necropolis, the west bank of the Nile, and in collaboration with the SCA he launched the first step to establish a survey grid across the necropolis to make it possible for the accurate location of monuments. His next step was a detailed survey of the Valley of the Kings that included topographical maps and meticulous plans of all accessible tombs. Using this information, Weeks has devoted the last four years to preparing a management plan for the royal valley as the first part of what he hopes will ultimately be a plan for the entire west bank.

"Six years ago the concept of site management was in its infancy," says Hawass, who took over the post of secretary-general of the SCA in 2002. "Tombs and temples were excavated, conservation programmes carried out, and decisions made, but seldom, if ever, with an overall vision for the understanding of the increasing dangers facing Luxor or for its protection as a whole," he said. "Over decades important restoration projects were carried out, but with no comprehensive strategy to protect the sites for the future. This is no longer the case. The future is upon us, and site management is one of the SCA's most important goals. We don't want work to be directed towards just one tomb or wall, but to the sites as a whole, both on the east bank of the Nile at Luxor and the west."

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:49:20 pm

Providing training to archaeologists, architects, conservators and administrators is an integral part
of the SCA's current programmes because, again in the words of Hawass, "unless we improve the professional capacities of our employees, it will be impossible to develop and implement long-term
plans to maintain sites." To this end, and in response to the SCA, the site management training
project of the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE), funded by USAID, was initiated in 2006.
Its objective is to help promote "effective" and "integrated" site management in Egypt, and more specifically, "to increase the expertise of the SCA to formulate, implement, and administer the plan... and provide the means to handle risks at sites."

Howard Carter's house on the west bank, built in 1902, has been renovated to serve as the site management headquarters, and there inspectors selected by the SCA participate in site management and training programmes, some of which are already being implemented. Drains, for example, are being laid out along the semi-circle of mortuary temples from Medinet Habu to that of Seti I so that excess irrigation water that threatens antiquities at the edge of the desert can be pumped into a drainage canal that carries it to the Nile. This project is funded by the World Monuments Fund.

Dewatering programmes around Luxor and Karnak temples, funded by SWECO of Sweden, have been launched on the east bank of the Nile. They include large-scale engineering works to install a city-wide sewage system around these most frequently visited and important monuments. Interestingly, the operations have revealed the presence of unknown or previously lost monuments around the temple complexes -- for example the eastern limits of the destroyed temple built by Akhenaten was uncovered; outside the Karnak Temple complex the colonnade of an unknown temple dating from the 25th Dynasty was found; and work around Luxor Temple has revealed the enclosure wall of a Roman camp as well as decorated blocks re-used as house foundations for the mediaeval city that grew up to the east. Needless to say, whenever antiquities are chanced up, engineering work is held up for an indefinite period.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:54:16 pm

"The extraordinary monuments of Luxor survived for 5,000 years in large part because of the dry
conditions and low population," says Ray Johnson, director of Chicago House, the Oriental Institute
of Chicago's headquarters in Luxor which has been involved in restoration, conservation, recording
and documentation projects throughout Thebes since 1924. "Today we have to adjust to changes
in environmental and demographic conditions."

He was referring particularly to increased damage to monuments, such as the great mud-brick palace
of Amenhotep III at Malkata, the enclosure walls of the temple of Medinet Habu, and Deir Al-Medina,
in addition to the tomb chapels and settlement remains scattered throughout the west bank as a re-
sult of "wetter weather conditions, unregulated groundwater and wastewater, increased population
pressure, expanding agriculture, urban development, and tourism." Johnson's words in a recent article
written in collaboration with Mansour Boraik, the SCA's director in Luxor, are woeful indeed. All these
monuments, they claim, "have suffered the decay of centuries during just the last 15 years."

Working on the Ramasseum, the mortuary temple of Ramses II, one of the most important sites from
antiquity, admired since ancient times and celebrated in Percy Shelley's famous poem

                                                    "Ozymandias, King of Kings",

is Christian Leblanc, director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

Working in collaboration with the SCA, Leblanc made reference to encroaching agricultural fields,
uncontrolled rural development in proximity to archaeological sites, and the fact that "the widened
asphalt road cuts the temple off from its panoramic cultural and natural setting."

Within the precincts of the temple itself, and in tandem with archaeological investigations, work
on presentation, restoration, and protection is progressing systematically. Indeed, protection of
the monument's first pylon is now being studied by the California-based Institute for Study and
Implementation of Graphical Heritage Techniques (INSIGHT), and, in order to encourage the re-
spect of young people for their heritage, an illustrated, French/Arabic educational pamphlet
(funded by a Franco-Egyptian Bank, NSGB), is being distributed free of charge at the site entrance.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 02:56:58 pm

So, is there some hope for some optimism?

Can we look on the bright side of things despite the fact that Egypt's weather is getting wetter, its population is increasing, and that expanding agriculture is threatening the ancient sites?

Lake Nasser creates tremendous amounts of airborne moisture through evaporation and condensation; humidity fluctuations in the air cause damage to monuments; groundwater salts trapped in temple walls migrate to the surface, crystallise, and shatter the stone; and runoff water from over-irrigated fields results in abnormally long periods of high groundwater.

Can we be optimistic in the face of all this?

The answer must surely been a somewhat guarded, "Yes", because although concerted efforts are being made to protect the monuments on both sides of the Nile, and remarkable progress is being made, the overall plan -- the Master Plan one could call it -- is to bring in tourists.

That is government policy.

And, despite site management and facilities for visitors with the dual aim of enhancing their experience, and reducing their impact on the monuments, is being implemented, it is clearly a losing battle.

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 03:01:25 pm

Today some 40 foreign archaeological missions are working in Luxor. Apart from those mentioned above they include Australia, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. As they excavate, restore, conserve, document, and abide by the rules of the SCA, the Ministry of Tourism proudly announces its anticipated further increase of tourism in the coming year. In fact, it has already expanded so rapidly that conditions on the ground -- and I refer to the daily influx of tour buses from the Red Sea -- is already so great that a decision had to be taken to convert the Nile Corniche road on the east bank of the Nile in Luxor into to a dual highway of four lanes each way. The original plan to open up the ancient sphinx-lined avenue between Karnak and Luxor temples to accommodate the traffic is still years from completion. On the west bank, the declared intention -- when the bridge across the Nile was constructed seven kilometres south of Luxor -- that there would be no infringement on archaeological sites, is not being adhered to. And while visitor centres are planned to facilitate services to tourists including information and transport, and are consequently attracting ever- increasing numbers to the monuments, the problem of crowd control has not been solved.

Why? Because it is no easy matter. Weeks said that different methods of ticketing at other World Heritage Sites were less effective when applied in the Valley of the Kings (KV), and he explained why. Currently one ticket allows admission to any three of KV's 12 open tombs (except those of Tutankhamun, Ay and Ramses VI, for which an extra charge is levied). They are good for the date of purchase only, and can be bought only at the KV entrance. "Switching to a system of timed tickets would help reduce crowding in KV by ensuring that optimum carrying capacities were observed," Weeks said, adding that timed ticketing would also help maintain appropriate levels of temperature and humidity. "But the time when most visitors arrive at KV is largely determined by factors beyond the control of the SCA or local tour guides," he said.

This is in part due to the fact that charter flights usually arrive from Europe on Fridays or Mondays, so large numbers of tourists come to the royal valley on Saturdays or Tuesdays. Nile cruise boats arrive on Mondays, and also contribute to the Tuesday rush. "Recently, travel agencies have begun offering day trips from Red Sea resorts to Thebes, and every day several thousand tourists come to spend eight hours visiting Thebes," Weeks said. "They invariably arrive in KV at eight in the morning, creating huge crowds and long lines, then move on to Deir Al-Bahari and Karnak (where crowding is repeated) before returning to the Red Sea in time for dinner."

Post by: Bianca on May 15, 2009, 03:03:01 pm

There is no simple solution.

Extend visiting hours?

Good idea, but late evening or night-time operation would involve major investment in lighting systems
(which anyway are not reliable), overtime cost for security police, and an inevitable a clash with today's
inflexible hotel meal schedules, shopping trips and museum visits.

In fact unless, and until, the SCA is established as a separate government ministry -- in other words,
until an institute of Egyptian archaeology is founded that is separate from the ministries of culture and
tourism -- there is no way that Egypt's cultural heritage in this once most powerful metropolis of the
ancient world, or its necropolis, can be saved.

Post by: Bianca on May 19, 2009, 06:56:27 pm

                                         Egyptian President Mubarak's grandson dies 

May 18, 2009

The 12-year-old grandson of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has died at a hospital in Paris, the state news agency Mena has reported.

Muhammad Mubarak died on Monday from complications of a health crisis which lasted two days, Mena said, without giving the exact cause of death.

The child's body has been flown back to Egypt for burial later on Tuesday.

Muhammad was the president's eldest grandchild, son of Alaa Mubarak, a businessman not involved in politics.

Egyptian state TV has been broadcasting religious songs sung by children as a mark of respect to the long-serving president's family.

Mr Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, cut short an official visit to London to be at her grandson's bedside.

The president will attend the funeral tonight at a military base in Cairo's Nasr City area.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Cairo says the 12-year-old is thought to have had an existing health condition. He was known to be very close to his grandfather.

Post by: Bianca on May 19, 2009, 07:36:20 pm

                                                Egypt MP addresses national dress 

By Waleed Badran
BBC Arabic 
May 19, 2001

The galabeyya is a very democratic form of dress, MP Mustapha Gindy believes

The galabeyya, a traditional ankle-length gown worn by Egyptian men, may be about to get official status if an Egyptian MP gets his way.

Mustapha al-Gindy wants the simple galabeyya, until now more associated with men in rural areas or manual labourers, to be promoted as the national costume of Egypt .

"Everywhere, except Egypt that is, people have their national dress," Mr Gindy protests.

"In Egypt, if you wear a galabeyya, you might find yourself barred from 70% of public places. This is both unconstitutional and inhuman."

  People can wear what they like. The galabeyya should just not be off limits

Doaa Saleh, civil engineer:

"'This is particularly ironic in a country where close to three quarters of our male population wear galabeyyas."

"In a galabeyya, you can't tell a George from a Muhammad," Mr Gindy adds, referring to the country's religious make-up in which Muslims outnumber Christians by 9-to-1.

What he calls "the war against the galabeyya" has resulted in other costumes coming to prominence and he believes threatening the national identity.

"You get Saudi, Afghan, Pakistani, Omani galabeyyas instead. The list goes on," he says.

And he wants Egyptians to wear their own national galabeyya with pride when they travel abroad, instead of adopting the local variations.

While some MPs wear the galabeyya in the Majlis or parliament, Mr Gindy says you will only see Saudi tourists in their national dress at places such as the opera house or up-market hotels.

Post by: Bianca on May 22, 2009, 09:13:43 am

Clockwise from above:

the marble statue;

the shaft leading to tombs;

workers remove the dust;

a collection of smoking pipes, medicine tools, coins and arrows

photos courtesy of SCA

Post by: Bianca on May 22, 2009, 09:17:05 am

21 - 27 May 2009
Issue No. 948

                                                       New finds span time

          An incomplete Graeco-Roman statue of an athlete in Alexandria and an enormous collection

                    of prehistoric artefacts in Fayoum are the most recent discoveries in Egypt

Nevine El-Aref
At the Shallalat Gardens next to the fortress of Mohamed Ali in Alexandria, a Greek archaeological mission has discovered what is thought may be a statue of Alexander the Great. The statue, of white marble, features an athletic man standing in an upright position. The right leg bent and the part of the left leg below the knee is missing. A 0.16m length of the right arm exists and it has a connection notch, while the left arm is completely missing. Inside the shoulder is a metallic connection. The phallus is broken but the testes are preserved.

Kalliopi Limneou-Popakosta, director of the mission, said that the face was in very good condition except for some slight damage to the nose. The head is of the "heroic" type, with the characteristic turn of the neck and an upward glance of the eyes. The face is handled in the soft Praxitelian manner. The statue has curly hair with a ribbon, and there are sideburns on the cheeks. The body is slightly turned to the right in a "contraposto" style, and once possibly leant on a base, traces of which can be seen under the right buttock.

"This is one of the most important discoveries in the Shallalat Gardens in 100 years," Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that the discovery would probably lead to a very significant result concerning this area in the core of Alexandria, which was the site of the throne, the garden area of the royal palace, and the old Alexandria library during the Graeco-Roman era. "Remains of Alexandria's old royal quarter have been also found," Hawass said.

Post by: Bianca on May 22, 2009, 09:22:02 am

Last year a team working with the Graeco Roman Museum in Alexandria unearthed the base of a statue of Ptolemy V carved by the royal guards to glorify him, as well as a number of statues featuring Bacchus, the wine god.

Ahmed Abdel-Fatah, an expert in the antiquities of the Graeco-Roman period, said that the features of the statue were similar to those of Alexander the Great, especially the hair and the nose.

In the area in front of Al-Karn Al-Zahabi (Golden Horn) Island, north of Qarun Lake, an Egyptian mission from the SCA has unearthed an enormous collection of prehistoric objects revealing the skills of the prehistoric people who lived in the area.

The collection is composed of hunting and medicine tools. Needles, necklaces, earrings and bracelets made of animal bones have been unearthed, along with a number of primitive stone dwellings and shelters.

Hawass said that early investigations on the objects discovered revealed that the site was not only used in prehistoric time but continued to be inhabited through the different spans of history up to and including the Islamic era. From ancient Egyptian times, he said, the mission had unearthed a limestone relief bearing the cartouche of the Scorpion king of dynasty zero and a coloured bracelet made of glass. From the Graeco- Roman period the mission found a collection of coins, while fragments of coloured and decorated plates stamped with the name of the Fatimid king Al-Zafer are from the Islamic period.

Post by: Bianca on May 22, 2009, 09:23:05 am

Khaled Saad, head of the mission and director of the prehistory administration department, said the mission had also found several kinds of needles, showing that there were several methods of weaving leather in prehistoric time. The mission also found a skeleton of a primitive whale similar to those found in Wadi Al-Hitan in Fayoum, as well as skeletons of sawfish, crocodiles, turtles and harks' teeth.

Jewellery made of semi-precious stones and bones have been also unearthed as well as arrows, knives and grindstones from the prehistoric era, dated about 7100 BC.

Twenty-five rock-hewn tombs have been located on the sides of a nearby hill, Saad says, as well as a great number of human bones. A seven-metre deep shaft has also been found on the hill. Inside it were two chambers filled with sand and contained a complete human skeleton.

Post by: Bianca on May 23, 2009, 07:39:32 pm

                                             Whale Fossil Found in Kitchen Counter

                                                 Leads To Important Discoveries

National Geographic News
May 4, 2009

Early Whales Gave Birth on Land, Fossils Reveal Egypt Facts, Pictures, Map, More May 5, 2009—After a factory had found a 40-million-year-old whale fossil in a limestone kitchen counter, researchers investigated the stone's fossil-packed Egyptian quarry, which could shed light on the origins of African wildlife.

Video by Public Television's Wild Chronicles,
from National Geographic Mission Programs

Unedited Transcription






















Post by: Bianca on May 23, 2009, 07:41:07 pm

























Post by: Bianca on May 28, 2009, 07:22:12 am

Four sons of Horus, New Kingdom,
19th Dynasty or later -  ca 1295 B.C.

                                          Eton College returns suspect antiquities to Egypt

By Martin Bailey
The Art Newspaper
Posted online:
27.5.09 |

LONDON. Eton College, in the south of England, has returned more than 450 antiquities to Egypt, after it was realised that many had probably been illegally exported. Last month we reported that the main part of the school’s collection, bequeathed to the school by Major William Myers in 1899, is going on long-term loan to Birmingham University in the UK and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University in the US (The Art Newspaper, May 2009, p7).

The returned antiquities had been donated to Eton over a century later, in 2006, by the family of the late Ron Davey, a London-based Egyptologist. He in turn had received most of them as a bequest from his friend, Peter Webb, who had died in 1992.

When the antiquities arrived at Eton three years ago, they were examined by curator Dr Nicholas Reeves. The donation comprised 454 items, including ushabti figurines, beads and amulets, textile fragments, potsherds, coins and other small objects.

Dr Reeves was worried to find that much of the Webb-Davey donation had been acquired in Egypt during the period 1972-88, and there was no surviving documentary evidence that proper export procedures had been followed. This was after the 1970 Unesco Convention on illicit trade in cultural property. The remaining Webb-Davey antiquities seem to have been purchased in good faith on the London market during the same period, but no information was available on how they had left Egypt.

Eton College considered the matter, and decided against keeping the donation. After discussions with Mr Davey’s family, it was decided to relinquish the objects to Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, for the Cairo Museum. The hand-over took place on 27 April. Dr Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council, thanked Eton, saying that the return would help “combat the illegal trade in Egyptian antiquities”.

Post by: Bianca on May 31, 2009, 11:30:32 am

                                                            President Obama = King Tut?

Jake Tapper
May 31, 2009 10:18 AM

In anticipation of President Obama's June 4 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, Jim Zogby writes at the Huffington Post that expectations are high though in Egypt "he will face a nation hardened in its negative view of the US and its role in the region, and unconvinced that this or any American president can or will change policy."

He adds that it is "precisely because of the persistence of these strong negative attitudes that Obama's decision to go to Egypt was the right choice. It is there that the US President must convince skeptical Arabs that the change he promised is real. Given Egypt's sheer size and the importance of its role in the region, if President Obama can't sell his message there it may not have its desired impact anywhere."

Zogby says the speech "must be more than banal clichés ('we are not at war with Muslims') or a repetition of hollow visions. It must be bigger, more consequential and more substantial."

ABC News correspondent Lara Setrakian finds this t-shirt being sold in Egypt that compares President Obama to King Tutankhamen, who ruled Egypt from 1333-1324 BC.


One possible aspect at play here is the insistence by some African-American activists that Tutankhamen was black, though in 2007 Egyptian antiquities expert Zahi Hawass said that "Tutankhamen was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilization as black has no element of truth to it."

Hawass was responding to protestors in Philadelphia who objected to images of King Tut with lighter skin than they thought accurate in the exhibit "Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," soon to open in Indianapolis.

On the other hand, maybe the T-shirt vendor was just using the name of the most famous Pharaoh to sell some shirts.

- jpt

Post by: Bianca on May 31, 2009, 11:36:49 am

Posted by:
| May 31, 2009 11:46:12 AM

The possibilities of what the t-shirt would mean are endless. As MayBee notes, it is in English, so surely for tourists, or for the press they know will trail the president.

My first thought was that the maker knows his Egyptian history and was making an interesting and subtle statement. King Tut is known in America for his fabulous treasure, but most know little else about the "boy king." He had a brief reign, but it was most notable for the contrast to the previous pharoah's reign. Tut's father was Akhenaten, the pharoah who tried to change Egyptian society completely by outlawing the worship of the traditional Egptian gods and goddesses and instituting monotheism. Akhenaton (and his wife the sublimely lovely Nefertiti) worshipped the sun god Aten, and closed the temples of all other gods. There is much debate over whether this was a purely religious move based on his sincere monotheistic beliefs, a political move that crushed the competing power of the elite priests of the various temples and consolidated religious power in the hands of the pharoah, or a combination of both. (I fall in the combination camp, but then, I'm a moderate. *G*) Regardless, the man attempted drastic changes in Egyptian life-- not only did he change the religion, he moved the capital to a new city in the desert, which he also called Akhenaten (his name was one he adopted to reflect his religious beliefs-- it means 'beloved of Aten'-- not his birth name, Amenhotep). This was another example of his determination to make a fresh start and put his own unique mark on Egypt.

When AKhenaten, who probably suffered from Marfan syndrome, died, his son Tutankamen came to power (there was a period of two or three years where things were in flux) and reversed his father's changes. He reopened the temples, reinstated the priests, and moved the capital back to Thebes. It was as Akhenaten and his radical ideas had never existed. The young pharoah ruled for only 9 years.

So maybe the t-shirt references the "clean slate" approach Obama touts, or is designed to celebrate him as one who appreciates Egyptian identity. Who knows? But given the major changes instituted by Obama, an argument could be made that he is the Akhenaten figure in this tale.

Post by: Bianca on June 02, 2009, 07:29:14 am

                                                   President back to schedule

Al Ahram Weekly
June 1, 2009
ENDING a brief mourning period after the death of his grandson, President Hosni Mubarak this week resumed his duties. On Sunday he headed a high-level meeting at the presidential headquarters in Heliopolis.

All the president's top aides were present at the one-hour meeting that provided the head of state a tour d'horizon over a wide range of political and economic issues. Also present were the speakers of the upper and lower houses of parliament.

An official statement qualified the meeting as an opportunity to go through issues related to Egyptian- American relations ahead of an expected visit by US President Barack Obama to Egypt. The visit, the statement added, also offered an opportunity for the president to issue directives to Chief of General Intelligence Omar Suleiman, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid who will be flying to the US for an exchange of views with top American officials on issues of mutual concern to Cairo and Washington. The delegation left on Monday and is expected back Thursday.

In press statements made independently hours after the meeting, Abul-Gheit and Rachid detailed the presidential directives. The top Egyptian diplomat said he would deliver a written message from Mubarak to Obama and that the Egyptian delegation would press upon senior US officials the need for direct and intense engagement in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Rachid said that Egypt was pursuing closer and wider economic cooperation with the US.

It was not clear whether the delegation will be received by Obama who is visiting Egypt on 4 June to deliver a speech to the Muslim and Arab worlds. If he has time, we will meet him, Abul-Gheit said.

Mubarak was scheduled to visit Washington this week for talks with Obama but the trip was cancelled following the death of his grandson. Previously scheduled visits by European officials were also cancelled, however, the president is expected to resume his normal schedule within a week, sources suggest.

On Tuesday Mubarak expressed his deep appreciation for public sympathy for his grief.

Post by: Bianca on June 02, 2009, 07:50:48 am

                                                                Coptic trove

                     Luxor's west bank was the site of a significant find, reports Nevine El-Aref

AlAhram Weekly
25 Feb. 2005

In Al-Gurna where several excavation missions are probing for more Ancient Egyptian treasures under the sand, a team from the Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology has stumbled on a major Coptic trove buried under the remains of a sixth-century monastery located in front of a Middle Kingdom tomb.

Excavators unearthed two papyri books with Coptic text along with a set of parchments placed between two wooden labels as well as Coptic ostraca, pottery fragments and textiles.

The head of the team, Tomaz Gorecki, said the books were well preserved except for the papyri papers which were exceptionally dry.

The first book has a hard plain cover embellished with Roman text from the inside while the second includes no less than 50 papers coated with a partly deteriorated leather cover bearing geometrical drawings. In the middle, a squared cross 32cm long and 26cm wide is found.

As for the set of parchments, Gorecki said it included 60 papers with a damaged leather cover and an embellished wooden locker.

Immediately after the discovery, restoration was carried out in order to preserve the books which will be the subject of extensive restoration by two Polish experts.

"It is a very important discovery, equal to the Naga Hammadi scrolls" found in 1945 in an Ancient Egyptian cave inhabited by Copts during the Roman era, said Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Hawass said the scrolls were originally found in a large sealed stone jar by a murderer while hiding from the police. But when the renowned writer Taha Hussein was the minister of education, he bought the scrolls in a marketplace and offered them to the Coptic Museum.

Hawass added that the scrolls include 13 religious and philosophic codices translated into Coptic by fourth-century Gnostic Christians and translated into English by dozens of highly reputable experts.

The Naga Hammadi scrolls is a diverse collection of texts that the Gnostics considered to be related to their heretical philosophy. There are 45 separate titles, including a Coptic translation from the Greek of two well-known works: the Gospel of Thomas, attributed to Jesus's brother Judas, and Plato's Republic. The word "gnosis" is defined as "the immediate knowledge of spiritual truth".

Archaeologist Mustafa Waziri said the codices are believed to be a library hidden by monks from a monastery in the area where these writings were banned by the Orthodox Church. The contents of the codices were written in Coptic though the works were mostly translations from Greek. The most famous of these is probably the Gospel of Thomas, of which the Naga Hammadi codices contain the only complete copy. After the discovery it was recognised that fragments of these sayings of Jesus appeared in manuscripts that had been discovered in Oxyrhynchus in 1898, and quotations were recognised in other early Christian sources. The manuscripts themselves are from the third and fourth centuries.

Early examinations and studies carried out in situ revealed that the newly discovered books could include more information about how early Christians performed their rituals.

Post by: Bianca on June 13, 2009, 07:45:10 pm

                                Egyptian tells Berlin paper he'll 'prove' Nefertiti was stolen 

Sat, 13 Jun 2009   
Earth Times 

- Zahi Hawass, the flamboyant head of Egypt's antiquities authority, says he will offer documentary proof that the fabled bust of Queen Nefertiti does not belong to Germany, a Berlin newspaper was set to report on Sunday. Hawass, whose media savvy has put Egypt's archaeological treasures on front pages round the world, has vocally called in the past for the return of the bust, found in a tomb nearly a century ago and then claimed by a Berlin millionaire who financed the excavation.

The newspaper, Tagesspiegel am Sonntag, quoted him as saying, "I believe we have good arguments for her return."

He said he would produce documents showing the bust's export after its re-discovery in 1912 was illegal.

Hawass, whose personal website shows him in his trademark broad-brimmed hat, told the German paper he knew of 5,000 "important" Egyptian artefacts in foreign collections, but added that only five were of "unique importance to our culture."

One was Nefertiti, a limestone carving with a plaster and paint finish.

Though now one-eyed, she is sometimes dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world.

German officials insist Egypt has never formally applied for the return of the bust, which is exhibited in the Pergamon Museum in the heart of Berlin. The museum says the financial terms of the 1912 dig provided for the finds to be shared between Egypt and the Germans. 

Post by: Bianca on July 04, 2009, 08:35:41 am

                                    Restoration pending for hanging church about to fall

By Hazel Heyer,
eTN Staff Writer
| Jul 03, 2009

Since the 1990s, Cairo residents had been hoping and praying for a facelift of an important church and popular spot in the Egyptian capital.

The Hanging Church in Cairo is about to cave in; but restoration talks have been just that - talks, until recently. Good thing, general secretary of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, visited Pope Shenouda III at the papal residence on the occasion of inaugurating the Hanging Church. According to Father Marqus Aziz Khalil, the former pastor of the Hanging Church, he expressed pleasure at hearing the news and praised Hawass’ efforts.

Aziz however said that the restoration work, which should have been done in the church, has not yet been completed, contrary to what the antiquities council claims.

Father Marqus said the number of tasks that have not been done yet include landscape work, repairs on the hall that’s supposed to be rebuilt and that was emptied out two months ago without taking any practical steps to initiate work, the air-conditioning repair of which plans have been changed several times, and the fire alarm system that does not work at all. “This is in addition to the damage to the holy icons’ holder that resulted from errors by the engineers of the Supreme Council for Antiquities. Only partial repairs have been implemented,” said Father Marqus, who also referred to the fresco that was destroyed twice by humidity because proper materials were not used.

Aziz prodded Hawass to call on those responsible and who know the church restoration situation, stating that accomplishments are better than announcements and media attention the SCA gains from this saga.

Looking back, the initial restoration stage of the Hanging Church ended in 1986; the second stage was supposed to have begun immediately--the more important stage since it deals with the problem of underground water. Water has flooded the Babylon fortress, which supports the church. The columns that hold the church also needed reinforcement. The project stopped for a very long time and criticism started being heard from both the management of the church and others. The studies ended and the financing stopped because of the diminishing income of the higher council for antiquities due to slowed down tourism at the time.

But the surprise came when President Mubarak donated 100 Egyptian million pounds from the state’s budget to the national restoration projects, said Al Sayed Al Najjar of Al Akhbar. Foremost among these projects was the restoration of the Hanging Church estimated to cost 24 million Egyptian pounds. “The restoration process is indeed very complex because it is a comprehensive project that deals with underground water; the most pressing problem facing Islamic and Coptic antiquities since 120 years. The first stage of the project includes reducing the level of the water in the fortress. Following that will be the re-enhancement of the foundations and dealing with the antiquities themselves,” Al Najjar said.

Deep wells will have to be dug in the area around the fortress to trap any excess water. Two additional wells will be dug in front of the fortress and in front of the newly revealed door to the Mosque of Amr. The water that is gathered in the wells will then be siphoned out via pipes to the main sewage system, said Al Najjar.

The fortress remains open to visitors and can be entered from the door to the mosque. The walls and the ceiling of the fortress will be restored as well as the artwork throughout the fortress. The Coptic museum’s old wing, which has been gradually damaged throughout the past years, because of the changes in the ground, should have been restored. The new security system in the museum should have been fixed as well. But so far, since the 90s and 24 million pounds later, little has been done. Go figure.

The Al Moallaka (or Hanging Church in Old Cairo) is truly on the brink of destruction. Egyptians summoned organizations for support to help save the ancient structure. The Al-Wafd ran a request by Hanging Church archpriest Marcos Aziz Khalil asking government to come to their aid. Priests are concerned this is not the first time the ground in front of the Hanging Church has caved in. Government officials and architectural engineers have visited the Hanging Church after the initial collapse and they wrote their report on what happened. Nevertheless, no action has been taken to permanently solve the problem and save the Hanging Church.

Post by: Bianca on July 04, 2009, 08:44:59 am

Some officials in charge of antiquities claimed the renovation of the Hanging Church has no relationship to the depreciation of the ground in front of it. According to Azza Abdel Aziz, the building of the Hanging Church is sort of an architectural miracle because it is built over the Roman fortress Babylon with an ‘empty space’ beneath the church or basically standing on hollow foundations. Ground water has leaked through to the church. “The church was weakened by the 1992 earthquake, which forced the ministry of culture to design a renovation project. A committee has been look into the matter. Despite the team being informed about this alarming situation, little or no effort has been done to eliminate the threat of collapse.

Years back, the Tourism Development Fund granted Egyptian Pounds 4.994 M (US $ 1 = EGP 5.716) to the Supreme Council of Antiquities to help finance the restoration project. However Coptic officials did not take any steps to kick-start the project to rescue the dying landmark. Even after resident archpriest Father Marqus Aziz Khalil published the SCA resolution 2129 of July 2006, calling for immediate restoration be done on the Hanging Church, practically nothing has been done to conserve the crumbling site. The Al-Wafd ran a request by Fr. Khalil asking government to come to their aid.

Dr. Sumaya Mohamed, deputy of the faculty of tourism and hotels of Helwan University, and Dr. Hassan Abdullah, chief inspector at the center of antiquities, studied both proposed that the area be walled in with a gate built around it; and the alleys and streets suitably restored. However alluding to the danger, which threatens Old Cairo because of heavy traffic in the crowded city, Abdullah said the laws protecting antiquities cannot preserve the area. The by-laws only refer to antiquities and monuments on a one-on-one basis, not on the basis of entire towns or districts. Abdullah said, “The land in front of the Hanging Church had already caved in. This was mainly due to the conglomeration of all the main infrastructure activities. The area has always been much lower than the present road level and has thus been subject to several paving measures.”

Al Moallaka
Hanging Church in Old Cairo

Post by: Bianca on July 10, 2009, 08:01:45 pm

                          Egypt - where there are Archaeological Discoveries Every week!

Archaeological discovery in Saqqara

Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced that Egyptian archaeologists, performing routine conservation work at the southern side of Saqqara’s step pyramid (2687-2668 BC), have stumbled
upon what is believed to be a deep hole full of the remains of animals and birds.

The mission has also found that the hole’s floor is covered with a layer of plaster.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), has stated that the mission unearthed a large quantity of golden fragments during their restoration work at the southern tomb of Djoser’s pyramid. These may have been used by the ancient Egyptians of the Late Period to decorate wooden sarcophagi or to cover cartonnage.

Thirty granite blocks were also discovered, each weighing five tons. These blocks, Dr. Hawass explained, belonged to the granite sarcophagus that once housed Djoser’s wooden sarcophagus - the final resting place of the king’s mummy.

While cleaning the internal corridors of the pyramid, the mission has also found limestone blocks bearing the names of King Djoser’s daughters, as well as wooden instruments, remains of wooden statues, bone fragments, the remains of a mummy, and different sizes of clay vessels.

Post by: Bianca on July 10, 2009, 08:03:46 pm

                                         Islamic Cairo restoration work complete

The Ministry of Culture is set to hold soon a special ceremony to celebrate the end of the restoration work in el-Moez Ledinullah el-Fatimi Street, which has been turned into an open museum for Islamic antiquities at a cost of about LE35 million.

This major project has helped restore the magnificent architecture in this famous street in Islamic Cairo.
Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni explained that the purpose of this project, paid for by the State, is part of a bigger plan to develop Islamic Cairo and save 517 unique Islamic monuments battered by the earthquake that hit Cairo in October 1992.

The project in el-Moez Ledinullah el-Fatimi Street involved overhauling 34 ancient buildings and transforming it into an open museum for I According to Minister Hosni, the Government had earmarked LE850 million for the entire project to restore Islamic Cairo, a task assigned to the Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with other ministries and authorities. “Because of el-Moez Ledinullah el-Fatimi Street’s historical value, it has been given much attention.

It is now an open museum for the pedestrians only, and all the workshops in the street, which clashed with its historic nature, have gone,” Hosni added. He said that lorries were banned from the street between 9am and 12am, while electronic gates had been installed in all the entrances to and exits from the street to control the traffic flow.

Post by: Bianca on July 10, 2009, 08:05:32 pm

                    Ancient military town dating back to 26th Dynasty discovered in Ismailiya

Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni said an archeological mission discovered the remnants of an ancient military town in the governorate of Ismailiya.

The discovered military town dates back to the 26th Dynasty (664-625 BC).

It was found in Tel Defna between Al-Manzala Lake and the Suez Canal.

The area had been chosen by king Rameses II to avoid attacks from the eastern borders.

In addition, the area was used as crossing point by trade convoys coming from east .

The discovered military city belongs to king Ibsemalik.

Post by: Bianca on July 10, 2009, 08:08:59 pm


                                      A Beautiful Mosaic in the New Library of Alexandria

July 10, 2009

This fragment of a mosaic floor, showing a dog alongside an overturned bronze jug, was found during
the construction of the New Library of Alexandria.

It is now part of the library’s museum.

The mosaic is extremely detailed; the dog’s red collar can clearly be seen and the artist has carefully modelled the reflection of light on the bronze jug. It likely dates to the Second Century BC. - where there are Archaeological Discoveries Every week!

Post by: Bianca on July 16, 2009, 07:12:45 pm

Egypt is trying to persuade people to live in the desert

                                                  Are the deserts getting greener? 

By Ayisha Yahya
BBC, World Service 
JULY 16, 2009

It has been assumed that global warming would cause an expansion of the world's deserts, but now some scientists are predicting a contrary scenario in which water and life slowly reclaim these arid places.

They think vast, dry regions like the Sahara might soon begin shrinking.

The evidence is limited and definitive conclusions are impossible to reach but recent satellite pictures of North Africa seem to show areas of the Sahara in retreat.

It could be that an increase in rainfall has caused this effect.

Farouk el-Baz, director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University, believes the Sahara is experiencing a shift from dryer to wetter conditions.

"It's not greening yet. But the desert expands and shrinks in relation to the amount of energy that is received by the Earth from the Sun, and this over many thousands of years," Mr el-Baz told the BBC World Service.

"The heating of the Earth would result in more evaporation of the oceans, in turn resulting in more rainfall."

But it might be hard to reconcile the view from satellites with the view from the ground.

While experts debate how global warming will affect the poorest continent, people are reacting in their own ways.

Droughts over the preceding decades have had the effect of driving nomadic people and rural farmers into the towns and cities. Such movement of people suggests weather patterns are becoming dryer and harsher.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned recently that rising global temperatures could cut West African agricultural production by up to 50% by the year 2020.

But satellite images from the last 15 years do seem to show a recovery of vegetation in the Southern Sahara, although the Sahel Belt, the semi-arid tropical savannah to the south of the desert, remains fragile.

The fragility of the Sahel may have been exacerbated by the cutting of trees, poor land management and subsequent erosion of soil.

Post by: Bianca on July 16, 2009, 07:21:10 pm


The broader picture is reinforced by studies carried out in the Namib Desert in Namibia.

"For the last few years there has been higher than average rainfall"

Mary Seely
Gobabeb research centre

This is a region with an average rainfall of just 12 millimetres per year - what scientists call "hyper-arid". Scientists have been measuring rainfall here for the last 60 years.

Last year the local research centre, called Gobabeb, measured 80mm of rain.

In the last decade they have seen the local river, a dry bed for most of the year, experience record-high floods. All this has coincided with record-high temperatures.

"Whether this is due to global change or is a trend anyway, it's hard to distil actually out of the [data] but certainly we've had record highs of temperature," said Joh Henschel, director of Gobabeb.

"Three years ago we had the hottest day on record, 47 degrees Celsius."

The mean annual evaporation is several hundred times higher than the actual rainfall. This is an intense environment."

Post by: Bianca on July 16, 2009, 07:23:32 pm


His colleague Mary Seely agrees.

"Deserts and arid areas always have extremely varied rainfall," she said.

"You would have to look at a record of several hundred years to maybe say that things are getting greener or dryer. For the last few years there has been higher than average rainfall."

Life can be extremely harsh in the Namib desert.
"That said, there is even greater variability in the rainfall and the weather patterns than there has been in the past."

Though positioned on the Atlantic coast, the rain that falls on the Namib desert actually comes from the Indian Ocean, having travelled across Africa.

It is therefore hard to explain an increase in rainfall without accepting that higher temperatures globally are causing shifts in established patterns.

The thing these scientists are most keen to work out is what is man-made change and what is natural fluctuation.

Since 1998 the centre has observed a steady but unmistakable trend of rising levels of C02.

They are sure this increase has not been caused locally, since Gobabeb is in a pristine, isolated part of the world with no local sources of pollution.

This is a change that comes about on a global level. 

Post by: Bianca on July 16, 2009, 07:29:18 pm

Manufacturing green

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the continent, things are moving at a faster pace.

Global warming may be greening the desert in small, barely measurable ways but, in parts of Egypt, the greening is being advanced in an artificial way, and on an industrial scale.

Egypt has an expanding population and water is becoming an ever more a precious resource.

Waiting to find out if the deserts are greening is not a realistic option.

Remote sensing, radar imagining from space, began in 1981 and showed scientists what was going on under the Saharan sand.

The aquifer, a collection of reservoirs trapped underground between layers of permeable rock, was studied and mapped for the first time.

Tapping into this supply has meant deserts areas can, with skill and judgement, be transformed into farmable land.

Thank to the work of people like Mr el-Baz, the greening of the desert is happening in Egypt in a controlled way.

Out of the newly irrigated desert we now see the commercial growing of oranges, limes and mangoes.

Further, the Egyptian government is actually sponsoring people to settle in the desert to farm, using the water supply they can now tap into and pump out from under the sand.

The programme is part of an ambitious and controversial plan to reclaim 3.4 million acres of desert.

The trend in other parts of the continent may be a migration of people into the cities and away from arid and semi-arid places, but in Egypt, where the desert is undeniably getting greener, the reverse is true.

Post by: Qoais on December 17, 2009, 09:08:48 pm

Cairo - It looks like a mirage but the lush fields of cauliflower, apricot trees and melon growing among a vast stretch of sand north of Cairo's pyramids is all too real - proof of Egypt's determination to turn its deserts green.

While climate change and land over-use help many deserts across the world advance, Egypt is slowly greening the sand that covers almost all of its territory as it seeks to create more space for its growing population.

Tarek el-Kowmey, 45, points proudly to the banana trees he grows on what was once Sahara sands near the Desert Development Centre, north of Cairo, where scientists experiment with high-tech techniques to make Egypt's desert bloom.

"All of this used to be just sand," he said. "Now we can grow anything."

With only five percent of the country habitable, almost all of Egypt's 74 million people live along the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea. Already crowded living conditions - Cairo is one of the most densely populated cities on earth - will likely get worse as Egypt's population is expected to double by 2050.

So the government is keen to encourage people to move to the desert by pressing ahead with an estimated $70-billion plan to reclaim 3,4 million acres of desert over the next 10 years. Among the incentives are cheap desert land to college graduates.

But to make these areas habitable and capable of cultivation, the government will need to tap into scarce water resources of the Nile River as rainfall is almost non-existent in Egypt.

The plan has raised controversy among some conservationists who say turning the desert green is neither practical nor sustainable and might ultimately backfire.


Post by: Qoais on December 17, 2009, 09:19:16 pm

Anders Jagerskog, director of the Stockholm International Water Institute in Sweden, questions the wisdom of using precious water resources to grow in desert areas unsuited to cultivation and where water will evaporate quickly under the scorching sun.

"A desert is not the best place to grow food," he said. "From a political perspective, it makes sense in terms of giving more people jobs even though it is not very rational from a water perspective," he added.

The scope of the reclamations could also add to regional tension over Nile water sharing arrangements as in order to green its desert Egypt might need to take more than its share of Nile water determined by international treaties.

Egypt's project to reclaim deserts in the south, called Toshka, would expand Egypt's farmland by about 40 percent by 2017, using about five billion cubic metres of water a year.

That worries neighbours to the south who are already unhappy about Nile water sharing arrangements. Under a 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan, Egypt won rights to 55,5 billion cubic metres per year, more than half of the Nile's total flow.

Ethiopia, where the Blue Nile begins, receives no formal allocation of Nile water, but it is heavily dependent on the water for its own agricultural development in this often famine ravaged country.


Post by: Qoais on December 17, 2009, 09:21:31 pm

"The Toshka project will complicate the challenge of achieving a more equitable allocation of the Nile River with Ethiopia and the other Nile basin countries ," said Sandra Postel, director of the US-based Global Water Policy Project.

"Egypt may be setting the stage for a scenario that's ultimately detrimental to itself."

But other experts suggest that in the delicate arena of water politics, it may be more of an imperative for Egypt's government to mollify its own population rather than heed its neighbours concerns.

Overcrowding is straining infrastructure in the cities and the government is worried that opposition groups such as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has a fifth of the seats in Parliament, might capitalise on discontent.

"The government feels it needs to reduce the number of people in high density areas, which puts a lot of pressure on resources like fertile land," said Mostafa Saleh, professor of ecology at Al Azhar University in Cairo.

"They are trying to spread the population to other parts of the country."


Post by: Qoais on December 17, 2009, 09:25:52 pm

Desert tourism

Some critics say that Egypt should look at desert tourism rather than agriculture, which might not be sustainable or particularly profitable and could destroy fragile wildlife habitats that might otherwise be a drawcard for tourists.

A desert reclamation project last decade, south of Cairo, destroyed much of the Wadi Raiyan oasis and its population of slender horned gazelles.

"The price tag on these assets is huge, both as natural heritage and as a resource for tourism," said ecologist Saleh.

Saleh is vice president of an Egyptian firm that built an electricity-free ecolodge, consisting of rock salt and mud houses, amid olive and palm groves in the desert oasis of Siwa.

The lodge, which costs $400 per night and has attracted guests such as Britain's Prince Charles and Belgium's Queen Paola, shows that the desert would be better used for ecotourism than farming, he says.

"In Egypt, water is the most critical resource and we should be careful to use it to maximise revenue," Saleh explained. "Agriculture is not the best option for Egypt. Nature-based tourism could bring in much more money."

At the Desert Development Centre, irrigation water comes through a canal connected to the Nile, about 15km away, where it is used to keep crops flourishing and grass green for hardy hybrid cows to graze.

Experts at the centre believe greening the Sahara might be Egypt's best hope of bringing prosperity to its people.

Workers graft fruit-bearing plants onto the stems of plants that survive well in the desert. Favourite fruits are citrus as they flourish in hot climates and can land on supermarket shelves in Europe hours after harvesting.

Proximity to markets in Europe and a lack of pests, which usually thrive in humid environments, make desert farming economically viable, said Richard Tutwiler, director of the Desert Development Center at the American University in Cairo.

Water supply, Tutwiler said, shouldn't be an issue at least for the next ten years. It makes sense, he says, to expand agriculture onto land that was once useless.

"There is no frost and there is sun all the time here," he said. "Plants just go nuts."


Post by: Qoais on December 17, 2009, 09:27:15 pm

Desertification facts and figures

About 1.2 billion people are at risk from desertification as deserts expand and degraded dry lands cover close to a third of the world's land surface area, the United Nations estimates. Here are five facts about the phenomenon of encroaching desert lands.

- Desertification is not new. The Sumerian and Babylonian empires are among several ancient civilisations thought to have declined more rapidly after their agricultural output fell because of prolonged desiccation and water scarcity.

- Deserts expand naturally, but "desertification" is a different process where land in arid, semi-dry areas becomes degraded, soil loses its productivity and vegetation thins because of human activities and/or prolonged droughts/floods.

- The destruction wrought by spreading deserts grabbed global attention in 1968, nine years before the United Nations held its first conference on the issue. Some 250,000 people and millions of domestic animals died over a six-year period of severe drought in west Africa's sub-Saharan Sahel region, that hit Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad.

- Globally, the rate of desertification is speeding up, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says. Africa is the worst affected continent; with two-thirds of its land either desert or drylands. Almost a third of land in the US is affected by desertification; and one quarter of Latin America and the Caribbean, and one fifth of Spain.

- Desertification is mainly a problem of sustainable development. Its causes include over-cropping, over-grazing, improper irrigation practices, and deforestation. Poor land management practices such as these often stem from the socioeconomic conditions in which the farmers live, and can be prevented.

Sources: Reuters, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (