Egypt’s archaeologists gather in Cairo

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 17 Jan 2023

The 16th Annual Egyptian Archaeologists Day took place at the Cairo Opera House this week, reports Nevine El-Aref

Egypt s archaeologists gather in Cairo
Egypt s archaeologists gather in Cairo


On Monday night, archaeologists from across Egypt met at the Cairo Opera House to celebrate the 16th Annual Egyptian Archaeologists Day.

The event brought together hundreds of archaeologists, ambassadors of foreign countries in Cairo, representatives of Egyptian and foreign universities, directors of archaeological institutes, ministry leaders, and prominent figures, all of whom attended the main auditorium at the Opera House in Cairo.

The stage became an ancient Egyptian temple for the day, embellished with an imposing entrance and two statues of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. A modern stained-glass backdrop was part of the decoration.

This year, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the day’s sponsor, focused on paying homage to pioneering archaeologists and restorers who spent their lives exploring, documenting, and preserving Egypt’s heritage. A number of specialists were honoured along with workers who helped in the excavation work.

In his speech at the event, Ahmed Issa, the minister of tourism and antiquities, congratulated Egypt’s archaeologists and restorers, expressing his appreciation of their efforts to preserve the history and monuments of Egypt, part of the heritage of humanity as a whole. He added that vigorous efforts had been made in recent years to continue with many archaeological projects and new museums had been opened and discoveries uncovered.

“I want to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation and gratitude to the former minister of tourism and antiquities for the great efforts he exerted in the cause of Egypt’s antiquities and archaeology during his tenure as the minister of antiquities and then as the minister of tourism and antiquities after the merging of the two portfolios,” Issa said.

“We will continue to build on what has been achieved in the field.”

Issa said that the country’s archaeologists have played a major role in promoting Egypt abroad and drawing the world’s attention to the country through various discoveries and the inauguration of the important archaeological projects they have undertaken and are carrying out.

He highlighted the importance of Egypt’s rich and diverse antiquities, describing them as the best ambassador for Egypt abroad and a unique asset that differentiates Egypt from other destinations around the world.

He added that this asset has attracted more tourists to Egypt than ever, and according to a recent marketing study carried out by an international company, those tourists who have a passion for ancient Egyptian civilisation and want to explore its culture and antiquities have high demands to make of Egyptian tourist destinations.

Issa described 2022 as an exceptional year for the country’s antiquities as it marked the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of the golden boy-king Tutankhamun as well as the 200th anniversary of the deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and the emergence of Egyptology.

He reviewed the ministry’s achievements over the past year, including new discoveries, the inauguration of archaeological projects and museums, and efforts made towards digital transformation, the repatriation of antiquities, and the development of services at archaeological sites and museums.

More than 26 discoveries were made last year at different archaeological sites in Egypt and developments included the inauguration of the Virgin Mary Tree in Matariya within the framework of developing the Holy Family Trail in Egypt, the soft opening of the first phase of the Giza Plateau Development Project, and the completion of the groundwater lowering project at the Abu Mena Monastery in Alexandria after 21 years of its listing on the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger List.

The ministry has succeeded in recovering 106 artefacts from foreign countries including the US, Italy, France, the UK, Belgium, Spain, and the UAE over the past year, Issa said.


PROJECTS UNDERWAY: Issa said that the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Pyramids Plateau would be inaugurated soon, and that this would offer visitors an exceptional experience.

Work is also underway to reopen the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and to open the Aten Museum in Minya. There are also completed projects that are ready to be opened to the public, such as the Museum of Egypt’s Capitals in the New Administrative Capital and the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra.

Measures have been taken over the past year to improve conditions for employees of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), with 11,500 employees being promoted to higher levels, the contracts of 3,800 contractors modified, and a wage for work clause being introduced to put them on permanent financial grades.

Training programmes were completed by 2,760 SCA employees in archaeological excavation, restoration, and museology, Issa said.

The training of 2,400 employees from the SCA in specialised programmes in the field of antiquities and museums through the Central Training Unit has been completed.

As part of the day, 15 distinguished SCA employees were also honoured for their work, and two archaeologists and restorers won the Zahi Hawass Award for the best archaeologist and restorers of the year.

Egypt began celebrating Egyptian Archaeologists Day in 2007, selecting 14 January for it because it falls on the date on which Egyptian archaeologists took over the management of the country’s antiquities from the French in the 1950s.

Since 2018, the Zahi Hawass Centre for Egyptology has been awarding a prize in the name of archaeologist and former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass to the two best archaeologists and a restorer working at the SCA.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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