UNESCO'S campaign #Unite4Heritage launched from Egypt

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 14 May 2015

At the Museum of Islamic Art, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova underlines the importance of preserving cultural heritage in sustaining the values of tolerance and coexistence

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria and Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty, attend the opening of a conference on "cultural property under threat.", in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 (Photo: AP)

On Wednesday, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova launched the second phase of the campaign “#Unite4Heritage” from the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Babul Khalq, which was damaged in a car bomb explosion in January 2014 during the anniversary of January 2011 revolution. The campaign aims to renew the alliance between society, youth and heritage.

At the MIA, Bokova embarked on an inspection tour of rehabilitation and restoration work that has been carried out. When the MIA was partly destroyed, Bokova said, UNESCO immediately extended a helping hand, giving an initial aid package of $100,000 and addressing the international community to gain larger support to restore its vital collection of Islamic heritage.

“The MIA is symbolic and the richest [collection of Islamic heritage] in the world because it houses exquisite Islamic objects from different Islamic periods,” Bokova said.

“Protecting and preserving cultural heritage is very important as it plays a role in maintaining tolerance and living together,” Bokova asserted adding: “This is the message that we want to spread today, and the message that Egypt is taking to the whole world.”

Bokova and Eldamaty at the MIA

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty described the event as “distinguished and a defining moment for a unique museum.”

Many countries, NGO’s and private sector provided support when the MIA was damaged, including Italian government that offered 800,000 Euros, the United Arab Emirates that took responsbility for rehabiliting the inside of the museum, the American Research Centre in Cairo, which will restore the museum’s façade, as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum. Germany and Austria helped with training MIA curators and restorers.

Alesandro Modiano, deputy of Italian ambassador to Egypt, said that when the MIA was damaged Italy was one of the first countries to offer help. “Italy is very proud to be involved in the salvage operation because it is not only helping to preserve cultural heritage, but because the MIA's architectural design was made by Italian architect Alfonso Maniscalo."

Bokova also inaugurated the Cultural Property Under Threat conference and visited the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

Bokova and Eldamaty touring the MIA

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