UNESCO visits Cairo to discuss threats to archaeological sites

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 12 Mar 2013

Encroachment on Dahshur and the establishment of a regional centre for World Heritage were the main themes discussed today by Minister for Antiquities and UNESCO'S Director General

Bokova and Ibrahim during their tour at the military museum

After a meeting lasting over two hours with UNESCO's Director General Irina Bokova, Minister of State for Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters he had reported the ministry's exerted efforts to stop construction encroaching on Egypt's archaeological sites. Over the last six months many Egyptian sites listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, espeically Dahshur in Giza and Tel Al-Amarna in Minya, have been victim of urban sprawl.

Bokova has held many similar meetings during her visit to Egypt, discussing the various projects funded and supported by UNESCO and drawing up action plans  concerning the construction of the National Museum for Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in the Fustat area in Old Cairo and the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project (HCRP).

Ibrahim told Ahram Online that they discussed the possibility of establishing a regional centre for World Heritage in Cairo. This centre, he explained, would help African countries protect their archaeological sites listed on the World Heritage List as well as provide training for African archaeologists and curators on the latest technology used in discovering, studying and restoring monuments and artefacts.

According to Ibrahim, Bokova also promised to review essential data required to launch an international campaign to help complete delayed work on the NMEC project. International cooperation will be required for the centre to open on time, he added.

She also discussed Egypt's proposed amendments to the Intellectual Property Rights agreement signed in 1970. The amendments would introduce the monitoring of international auctions, prohibiting them from trading in illegally smuggled antiquities.

Ibrahim said that UNESCO did not threaten to remove Egypt's archaeological sites from the World Heritage List, but it has a number of concerns about the archaeological area in Dahshur. The minister pointed out that the problem has now been solved after the ministry issued 54 urgent declarations. The ministry has stopped construction work occuring in Dahshur and assigned an inspection committee to start excavation at a neighbouring area of the Dahshur archaeological site where it is hoped people may construct their cemetries without affecting the archeological sites.

At the end of the meeting Ibrahim guided Bokova on a tour around the Carriage and Military Museums on Saladin's Citadel to see the recent restoration and renovation of both museums before their official opening at the end of March.

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