Egypt authorities thwart attempts to smuggle 19th century rarities
Antiquities police says it has arrested two Egyptians at Cairo Airport this week, both carrying precious items dating from the reign of Mohamed Ali
Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 9 Oct 2012
Egyptian authorities have thwarted two recent attempts to smuggle precious 19th century artifacts out of the country.
The country's Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP) says it has arrested two Egyptians at Cairo Airport since Sunday, concealing a combined total of six items dating from the reign of Mohamed Ali in their luggage.
The first passenger was apprehended on Sunday after trying to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates with a bronze chandelier, a gold-plated desk clock decorated with angels, and a set of three porcelain reliefs in a brown wooden frame. Each relief was embellished with blue geometrical designs and Kuffic script.
The other case this week involved an Egyptian attempting to travel to Kuwait with three Islamic manuscripts dating from the era of Mohamed Ali, who ruled Egypt in the early 19th century.
Egypt's antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim speculated that the scripts were being taken to the oil-rich Emirate as the first step towards smuggling them to London for auction at Bonhams.
Hassan Rasmi, head of the Archaelogical Units -- a Ministry of State of Antiquities initiative that places experts at every Egyptian airport and harbour in order to thwart smuggling -- said that investigations are underway to discover from where the scripts came.
All seem to date from the time of Mohamed Ali, Rasmi added, describing one three-page manuscript on which poems, advice and dietary tips were written in black ink.
The second 24-page manuscript has a hardback cover decorated with foliage and geometrical designs and contains religious writings and prayers. The final one is 11 pages long and bears Quranic verses written in both Arabic and Persian.
The two Egyptians were arrested on charges of attempting to smuggle parts of Egypt’s archaeological heritage.
The antiquities were confiscated by police and will be transferred to Egypt's Islamic Art Museum once investigations are complete, Ibrahim said.
The Archaelogical Units initiative began five years ago in a bid to put the brakes on burgeoning illicit trade in Egyptian artifacts.