Egypt Antiquities Ministry says no Islamic artefacts are missing

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 9 Sep 2013

Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim says artefacts on display in Doha are not from Cairo Museum of Islamic Arts as has been claimed

archive photo of MIA collections (Reuters)

A number of artefacts exhibited at Doha's Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA) are not from Cairo's Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA), Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said at a press conference on Monday.

Over the weekend, artists and activists wrote on social media sites that 35 objects from Cairo's MIA had suddenly appeared in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.

Hani El-Masri wrote on his Facebook page that when he was a student he used to go to Cairo's MIA to draw its objects. When he visited the museum after its renovation he found that only one third of the original collection was on display while the rest were in storage, according to the museum's curator.

When a friend went to Doha last month, El-Masri said he asked her to take pictures at the Museum of Islamic Art. Upon looking at the photos, El-Masri realised 35 objects he used to draw at the Cairo museum were on show in Doha.

Such a rumour became widespread among the archaeological community and the media. In response the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) organised a press conference on Monday afternoon to put forward its version of events.

"All that has been said on Facebook and in the media are unfounded rumours," asserted Ibrahim.

He added that he had received a complete report from the MIA curator that all the collection was accounted for. "The photos published are not of MIA objects, and were not at any time," Ibrahim confirmed.

Ibrahim pointed out that according to UNESCO's 1972 convention on Cultural Property Ownership, which Egypt signed in 1973, a country is able to recover its objects if displayed in any museum around the world as long as it has the relevant possession documents.

He said that during the Islamic era decorative items or elements used by Egyptian artisans or created in Egypt were spread all over the Islamic empire.

The iron war helmet on display at the Doha MIA cannot be an Egyptian artefact due to its production and style, Ibrahim asserted. Such a helmet, he continued, was well known in Turkey. The ones produced in Egypt had a different style and shape. In addition, he said, the helmet that belongs to the MIA is on display in its exhibition hall.

Ibrahim announced the MSA was carrying out a comprehensive inventory of all its museums and storages centres.

He also called on social media users to be sure of their facts before publishing. "I also call Egyptians to report to the ministry and me personally any theft attempt, on condition that he or she has proof."

Doha's MIA has also denied artefacts from Cairo's MIA are on display in Qatar.

Regarding seven bronze artefacts declared missing from Cairo's MIA during renovation work – two statues, an incense burner, a key inlaid with silver decoration, a pot, a jewellery box and an astrolabe – Ibrahim told Ahram Online the objects were reported missing four years ago, before he came to office, during an inventory made in 2010 before the official re-opening of the museum after its restoration.

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