UNESCO delegation reassured after first day in Egypt

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 23 Mar 2011

The UNESCO delegation visiting Egypt after some looting of archaeological sites reports positively from the Egyptian Museum

UNESCO delegate during a tour at the Egptian musuem


Yesterday, a UNESCO delegation led by Christian Manhart, chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects Section within UNESCO, embarked on a three-day tour of archaeological sites subject to looting during and since Egypt’s 25 January Revolution. The tour includes the Egyptian Museum as well as the Memphis necropolis, and covers the Giza plateau, Saqqara, Abusir and Dahshur archaeological sites.

The first place on the delegation's visit list was the Egyptian Museum. Following three hours of touring the museum’s exhibition halls and labs, the delegation's members expressed their satisfaction with what they saw.

“The status of the Egyptian Museum in totally different from what has been said in the media,“ director Tarek El-Awadi told Ahram Online Manhart had said while admiring the museum. He said that Manhart told him that he is very pleased that 12 out of 54 missing objects have been retrieved and he promised to help Egypt to retrieve all its missing artefacts — not only those of the museum but those of other archaeological sites as well.

Manhart went on to say that the UNESCO visit was wrongly reflected in the media. “We did not come to Egypt in an inspecting tour, as was written, but to extend a helping hand to Egyptians to restitute their missing heritage,” declared Manhart. 

“We are here mostly to assure the Egyptian authorities of our support in terms of protecting the country’s historical and cultural heritage, and also to meet new people in charge and establish contact with them.”

El-Awadi told Ahram Online that Manhart offered to provide Egypt with technical experts, including on security measures. If funding is required due to the retreat of tourism, continued Manhart, in order to provide more security facilities, UNESCO could help find financial resources. 

France Desmarais, director of programs for the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and responsible for the fight against illegal trafficking of cultural goods, and who was among UNESCO delegates, said that ICOM established a Red List to classify stolen Egyptian artefacts and which would be sent to Interpol to distribute to police stations worldwide.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) is on the UNESCO visit list. Hussein Abdel Bassir, director of the NMEC, told Ahram Online that he will suggest to the delegation that a section of the museum be devoted to the Egyptian revolution. This section would relate the history of the revolution from 25 January 2011 until the departure of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

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