EU ambassador to Cairo Christain Berger and Germany ambassador to Cairo Frank Hartmann during their visit to Aswan. Photo : Germany Embassy in Egypt
During a visit to Qubbet El-Hawa accompanied by the German ambassador to Cairo Frank Hartmann, Ambassador Berger stated that the EU will fund a project to connect all the archaeological sites in the area of the “Dome of the Wind” and that the project will serve as an ideal and wonderful display window for Egyptian history in all its stages.
He added in media statements that the project also has both scientific and economic goals with one of the latter goals being to support the local community and help it to grow.
The EU, he said, was already implementing several projects to develop local communities in different areas in Egypt.
According to Berger, the development project will include a visitor centre and models of the tombs in the region as well as areas that include cafes and shops.
The development and renovation project will be completed within three years, he stated, adding that he already discussed the project with the Egyptian government and Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Located on the Western bank of the Nile in the city of Aswan, Qubbet El-Hawa or “The Dome of the Wind '' is a unique archaeological place with monuments from different eras.
Qubbet El-Hawa includes a small shrine for an Islamic Sufi sheikh, a Coptic monastery of Saint Anthony and around 100 tombs of nobles from different ancient Egyptian eras including the old kingdom, middle kingdom and new kingdom.
For his part, German ambassador to Cairo Frank Hartmann stated that Germany was working with the EU to develop Qubbet El-Hawa to transform it into a tourist area and to work on protecting the sites in it.
Hartmann revealed that before visiting Qubbet El-Hawa area, along with the EU ambassador, he visited the island of Elephantine where a German archaeological mission is working with the full support of the German government and in cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute and a Swiss archaeological mission to rebuild and maintain the monuments of the island which date back to multiple ancient, middle and modern eras.
He also stated that the Qubbet El-Hawa area was operated by a German and Spanish mission and enjoys the support of the European Union, adding that a unified archaeological complex will be established to include all these monuments as part of the development project.
Asked about whether the German government was planning to return Queen Nefertiti's bust from the Egyptian Museum of Berlin to Egypt, Ambassador Hartmann said that there was no problem between the Egyptian and German governments concerning the Nefertiti bust because Germany acquired it legally.
He stated that when it was unearthed in 1912 by a German archaeological expedition that was cooperating with the Egyptian government there was an agreement to divide the findings between both parties equally and the Nefertiti bust was taken by the German expedition as part of its share.
The German ambassador who started a visit to Aswan on 26 February also added that the Egyptian government has not officially demanded that Germany hand over the bust.
Furthermore, Hartmann cited the Egyptian ambassador to Berlin as saying that the bust was the best ambassador for Egypt as it attracts many visitors.
Recently, there have been calls to restore the Nefertiti bust from Germany in concurrence with other campaigns calling for retrieving the Rosetta stone from the UK.
Famous Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass have been spearheading the efforts to restore the bust to Cairo, insisting that in 1912 the bust of Nefertiti was illegally smuggled from Egypt after being disguised, particularly since the agreement between the Egyptian government and the German mission stipulated that royal limestone statues were exclusively Egypt’s.
Hawass stated that the German archaeologists claimed that the bust was made of gypsum stone, before one of the archaeologists in the expedition admitted that it was made of limestone, adding that the Egyptian government demanded its return in 1933.