New committee will oversee Egyptian sites on World Heritage List

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 12 Jun 2013

The Egyptian antiquities ministry is leading a new government committee that will seek to protect heritage sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List

Marble pillar, Abu Mena/ the World Heritagee Collection

On Wednesday, the newly-established National Committee of Egyptian Archaeological Sites (NCEAS), held its first meeting at the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

Members discussed several issues concerning the protection of Egyptian archaeological sites registered on the World Heritage List, run by UNESCO.

Several archaeological sites, including some not on the World Heritage List, have suffered from negligence and the lack of security since the 2011 revolution, particularly those sites that come under the supervision of more than one ministry. These include a number of Fatimid, Mameluk and Ottoman-era mosques in Historic Cairo which are affiliated with the ministry of religious endowments but under the supervision of the antiquities ministry.

The committee, headed by antiquities minister Ahmed Eissa, consists of representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, international cooperation, religious endowments, environment, irrigation as well as representatives from the governor's offices of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Aswan and South Sinai.

The committee aims to provide experts in different fields in order to properly and efficiently manage the Egyptian sites registered on the World Heritage List, as well as developing more sites so they might be included on the list. It will also draw up plans to better protect these sites and make them more tourist-friendly.

Osama El-Nahas, chairman of the committee, told Ahram Online that they had asked UNESCO to provide training programmes for antiquities ministry curators and archaeologists on the procedures necessary to include sites on the list.

He explained that a special unit would be established to provide all the required information on the sites that were subjected to encroachment, and to respond to any ongoing issues.  

El-Nahas said that this unit will also raise archaeological and cultural awareness among the general population and make them aware of the value and importance of monuments and heritage.

Egypt has seven sites on the World Heritage List - Abu Mena Monastery in Alexandria, Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis in Luxor, Historic Cairo, Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae, Memphis and its necropolis (the pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshour), and the Saint Catherine monastery in Sinai. The only natural site on the list is Wadi Al-Hittan in Fayoum.

There are 32 sites on the 'tentative' list, including Siwa archaeological area, the temple of Serabit El-Khadem, the North Sinai archaeological sites zone, the Temple of Hathor, Kom Aushim in Fayoum, Wadi Feiran, and Pharaon Island. 

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