New Release: Legitimate Robberies, on the illicit trade of Egypt’s antiquities

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 19 Mar 2012

A new book entitled Legitimate Robberies by legal consultant Ashraf El-Ashmawi is to be released within days

Legitimate Robberies

After more than seven years as the legal consultant for Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities, Ashraf El-Ashmawi releases the first edition of his new book entitled Legitimate Robberies, which relates the crucial history of illicit trade of Egypt’s antiquities during the last 200 years.

Due to his legal position at the SCA El-Ashmawi witnessed and collaborated in the restitution of almost 5,000 artefacts that have been illegally looted and smuggled out of the country.

Legitimate Robberies reveals the mysteries behind several recent antiquities thefts and ones from all the way back to the end of Napoleon's French Expedition to Egypt in 1802.

In his book, El-Ashmawi uncovers that laws and regulations that controlled Egypt’s antiquities in earlier centuries actually legitimated the antiquities trade - a major crime, robbing Egypt of its history and civilisation.

El-Ashmawi's smooth writing style gives the lay person reader an introduction to complicated antiquities law jargon. He also relates the stories behind several antiquities thefts and the efforts exerted by the SCA and himself to return those objects back to their homeland, Egypt. Among these stories is the controversy over the exhibition in Germany of the exquisite, painted bust of Nefertiti as well as the fire at Egypt’s Scientific Institute.

The book, published by the Lebanese Egyptian Printing House, offers 100 documents and dozens of photos depicting the artefacts that have been illegally smuggled out of Egypt and returned.

The Arabic edition will be on the market next week, while the German version will be released in October. An English version is in the making.

The Era of Hyenas, El-Ashmawi's first book, was released last year on the eve of Egypt's revolution, and proved a great success. It reflects the politics in a fictional jungle, where animals are the protagonists. The 240+ page book is wrought with symbolism. Readers see through all plots that the animals connive to expel their Lion King and offer the opportunity to hyenas to sit on the throne and rule the jungle.

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