Cultural non-profit complains of lack of access to Egyptian heritage site thanks to high fee

Ahram Online, Wednesday 12 Jun 2013

Ministry of State for Antiquities asked for LE22,000 for use of a heritage site for a cultural event for underprivileged Cairo residents - organisers say the site is currently used as a rubbish dump

El-Gabkhana (Photo: Courtesy of Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi)

Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy, a non-profit organisation that supports culture in the Arab world, has expressed its dismay at a decision by Egypt’s antiquities ministry to prevent the organisation’s usage of a historical site in Antar Stable, an under-privileged area in Cairo, for a culture event. The culture ministry, according to the organisation, requested a fee of LE22,000 for the one-night event.

According to Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy, the deserted site is currently being used as a rubbish dump and is home to stray dogs.

The organisation wanted to use the space to host the closing event of a series of workshops under the project 'Hope for Work' in Antar Stable and another underprivileged area, Khairallah Farm.

This particular site was chosen for its location between both areas, to allow the residents and children of the neighbourhood to showcase their artwork after working with the project, and to raise awareness of the value of arts and culture and their rights to access culture.

"Those responsible for this at the antiquities ministry should be prosecuted for the poor state this heritage site is in," Basma El-Husseiny, general manager of Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy said in a press release. "I am not surprised at the situation with the ministry, as this is completely natural in light of the state seeing itself as an enemy of the people."

According to Egyptian law, the Ministry of State for Antiquities has the right to rent out heritage sites for events in return for a fee. In the past, the ministry would sometimes give the sites to projects for free, or become an official partner, instead of asking for payment.

The event was eventually hosted on Tuesday 11 June at a nearby youth centre. The event included exhibitions of the works produced during the workshops in the neighbourhood, as well as circus and percussion performances by Al-Darb Al-Ahmar School and a concert by Mohamed Mohsen. The event also featured a market for local handicrafts.

The 'Work for Hope' project was launched by Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy to offer cultural assistance to communities suffering in Egypt and Syria, by providing these communities with tools of expression, learning, creativity, forgiveness and communication. 

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