The Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass and Italian Ambassador to Egypt Claudio Pacifico will be celebrating the end of the second phase of the Madinet Madi Development Project in the Fayoum governorate, with the opening of its visitor centre, Sunday.
This project is part of a broader development plan called the Institutional Support to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for Environmental Monitoring and Management of cultural heritage sites (ISSEMM), which began in 2005. It was made possible by a generous grant of €3,500,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy.
Madinet Madi is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Fayoum region. It was founded during the reigns of Amenemhat III (c 1981-1952 BC) and Amenemhat IV (c 1814-1805 BC) of the 12th Dynasty (c 1981-1802 BC). It contains the ruins of the only Middle Kingdom (c 2030-1802 BC) temple in Egypt. This temple was dedicated to the cobra-headed goddess, Renenutet, and the crocodile-headed god, Sobek of Scedet, patron god of the region and its capitol, Scedet. During the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), the temple was enlarged and the city enhanced.
Since 1978, the University of Pisa has carried out exploration work at Medinet Madi. Ten Coptic churches dating to the 5th-7th centuries AD have been discovered, as have a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to two crocodiles, which incorporated a unique barrel-vaulted structure used for the incubation of crocodile eggs, and a Roman period fortified camp dating to the reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD). In 2004, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy, the university restored blocks bearing four hymns to the goddess Isis, written in ancient Greek.
This new development project aims to preserve the monuments of the city of Madi and make it a more tourist friendly destination. So far, the project has successfully cleared the archaeological site of intrusive sand and restored its monuments. Comprehensive archaeological survey and mapping of the site has also been undertaken, as has the building of a visitor centre and eco-lodge.
Hawass has heralded the project as a successful example of cooperation between Egypt and Italy. The site of Medinet Madi and its development programme are a model for the successful integration of an archaeological site within its protectorate, in this case, the nearby Wadi El-Rayan protectorate.