Egypt's new antiquities minister optimistic in face of obstacles

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 17 Jun 2014

No easy task for Mamdouh El-Damaty, entrusted on Tuesday with important post of antiquities minister - and all the challenges that it brings


At the premises of Egypt's antiquities ministry in Zamalek, the newly-appointed Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damaty started his first day on the job with a meeting with the ministry's top officials in order to draw up a working plan for his coming tenure.

El-Damaty asked the heads of the ministry's different sections to provide him with a new plan in order to complete all unfinished projects in a determined period as well as solve all obstacles that stand against their execution.

On Tuesday, El-Damaty was one of 13 new ministers to join the cabinet of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, who was reappointed by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and tasked with forming a new government.

He promised to develop the ministry's working system in order to protect and preserve Egypt's cultural and archaeological heritage as well as upgrade the living standard and skills of the ministry's employees, curators and restorers.  

In a step towards promoting tourism in Egypt, El-Damaty said he will work with all related ministries, like tourism, culture and aviation, to develop archaeological sites and museums.

He also told his employees that the ministry's working hours will start at 7am in order to implement the required tasks in the shortest time.

But his job won't be easy as antiquities minister – the ministry is suffering from budget shortcomings that prevent jobs from being finished, whether completing the construction of new museums or developing recent ones. Also pressing is the lack of security in the aftermath of Egypt's 2011 revolution, which has impacted the country's heritage through destruction, looting and illegal smuggling at several archaeological sites and museums.

El-Damaty was Egypt's cultural attaché in Germany. Since 2006, he has served as the head of the antiquities section at the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in ancient Egyptian antiquities from Cairo University, as well as a PhD in ancient Egyptian antiquities from Trier University in Germany.

He was deputy-secretary of the Egyptian Museum from 1981 to 1987, and secretary of the Museum of the Faculty of Antiquities, Cairo University, from 1988 to 1996. He was the head of the Egyptian Museum from 2001-2004. He has also served on the board of directors of several cultural, scientific and archaeological institutions in Egypt.


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