Egypt steps up bid for Nefertiti bust

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 3 May 2011

The renewed campaign for the return from Germany of the iconic bust is among plans for the return of other artifacts to enhance the exhibits at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza

Nefertiti bust

Egypt’s minister for antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has announced that he will send an official letter to the German government requesting the return of the painted Nefertiti bust now on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin. Hawass revealed his intention during an inspection tour around the different sections of the planned Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking Giza plateau. He added that with the letter he will include all documents confirming Egypt’s ownership of the bust, confirming that it was taken illegally to Germany.

“These documents are a statement to the whole world that the Nefertiti bust belongs to Egypt and not Germany,” Hawass said, pointing out that if he was not able to return the bust now, whoever succeeds him will.

The bust is ranked first on a "Wish List" of five important objects exhibited abroad that Egypt hopes to see returned. The other four objects on the list are the Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum in London; the statue of Hemiunnu, architect of the Great Pyramid, in the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum in Hilesheim; the Dendara Temple Zodiac in the Louvre in Paris and the bust of Kephren's pyramid builder Ankhaf in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Hawass told reporters that in the next week, an ancient Egyptian statue which was illegally smuggled out of the country will return from Switzerland as well as the Ka Nefer mummy mask from the United States.

In August, the Metropolitan Museum in New York will offer Egypt 19 objects from its Tutankhamun collection. The objects had originally been taken by Howard Carter following his discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb for research and have never been back to Egypt since. They will be put on display in a special exhibition in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, recently used by the army to detain and torture protesters, before moving with the rest of the Tutankhamun collection to the GEM.

A bid to study the transfusion the Khufu’s solar boat, now on display at Giza plateau will also be launched next week.

The GEM is nestled between the Giza pyramids and the modern city of Cairo. Its design is by Shih-Fu Peng, of the Dublin firm Heneghan, winners of an international architectural competition held in 2003.

The museum will display 50,000 objects organised thematically, starting with the physical environment of the Nile valley and the surrounding desert and oases. Other displays will focus on kingship and the state, religious practices during the Amarna period and the daily lives of the Ancient Egyptians; their sports, games, music, arts and crafts as well as their cultural and social practices. The unique funerary objects of Tutankhamun, Hetepheres (mother of the Pharaoh Khufu), Yuya and Thuya, the grandfathers of Pharaoh Akhenaten, Senedjem, the principal artist of Pharaoh Ramses II, the royal mummies and the treasures of Tanis will all be on permanent display. Khufu's solar boats, now on display at the Giza Plateau, and the red granite statue of Ramses II, removed four years ago from Ramses Square in downtown Cairo, will also be among the permanent exhibits.

A separate building will house the conservatory, library, mediatheque and other resources. A 7,000 square metre commercial area with retail shops, cafeterias, restaurants, leisure and recreational activities is planned for the ground floor level, as well as a 250 seat cinema.

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