Collège de France et Institut français d'archéologie orientale

Chaire « Civilisation de l'Égypte pharaonique : archéologie, philologie, histoire »

Bulletin d'Information Archéologique

www.egyptologues.net BIA XXXVII BIA 37 janvier-juin 2008

Le Caire - Paris 2008


Le premier semestre 2008 reste dominé par la candidature du ministre de la Culture à l'Unesco et les scandales touchant son entourage, le remodelage sans nuances de la ville de Louqsor et des abords des temples de Karnak. S'y ajoutent divers effets médiatiques, dont certains ne manqueront pas de surprendre, comme la création d'un copyright sur les reproductions de monuments, voire l'utilisation de noms égyptiens ! Qu'un tel débat ait pu être soulevé eût paru une farce, il y a encore quelques années Il semblerait que la soif d'argent remplace aujourd'hui de plus en plus la culture. Aussi étrange l'idée de restreindre l'accès de la population aux grands sites du Caire lors la fête de Shamm el-Nesîm. Sans parler de l'appropriation nécessaire par la population égyptienne de son propre patrimoine, comme n'ont pas manqué de le souligner les journaux, cette mesure témoigne d'une méconnaissance profonde de la civilisation égyptienne, tant antique que contemporaine.
Une fois de plus, l'archéologie de terrain occupe à peine le cinquième de cette chronique, dont le dosage représente pourtant le plus fidèlement possible la place relative des divers thèmes qu'elle rapporte dans la presse égyptienne. Plus encore, les recherches et les découvertes relatées ne sont pas forcément les plus importantes ni les plus récentes. Ce n'est certes pas nouveau, la presse se faisant souvent l'écho de nouvelles qui ne le sont pas vraiment. Ce qui l'est plus, c'est le décalage de plus en plus net entre la réalité d'une archéologie vigoureuse et active et l'image qu'en donnent les médias et qui s'installe dans le pays.

Nicolas Grimal


Système de translittération
des mots arabes
SOMMAIRE
SYSTÈME DE TRANSLITTÉRATION 3 ÉDITORIAL 5 SOMMAIRE 7
IN MEMORIAM 11
Ra'ûf 'Abbâs 11
NOMINATIONS, RÉVOCATION.12 Candidature de Fârûq Husnî au poste de directeur de l'Unesco 14 Affaire Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im 16
DISTINCTIONS 18
Zâhî Hawwâs 18
Fârûq al-Bâz 18
IIe Fête des archéologues 18
COOPÉRATIONS.19
France 19
Grèce 20
Hongrie.20
Italie 20
Pays arabes 22
Union Européenne 22
FORMATIONS 23
VERBATIM 24
POLÉMIQUES 25
Réaménagement de la ville de Louqsor 25
É vacuation du village d'al-Qurna 33
Restrictions imposées aux Égyptiens sur les sites historiques 38
TOURISME & ANTIQUITÉS 39
RÉPLIQUES ARCHÉOLOGIQUES 42
Copyright sur les antiquités 42
Abu Dhabi 45
Louvre du désert 45
PATRIMOINE ENDOMMAGÉ.46
Delta.47
É glise de la Sainte Vierge à Sakhâ. 47
Le Caire 48
Al-Hamzâwî. 48 Mont Muqattam : Cairo Financial and Tourist Centre 49
Gîza 51
Sphinx 51
Fayyûm.54
Réserve naturelle du lac Qârûn 54
Minyâ 56
Dayr Abû Hennès 56
Suhâg 57
Osireion 57
Dayr al-Malâk 58
Désert Occidental 58
DayrAbû Lîfa 58
PATRIMOINE CLASSÉ 60
Alexandrie 61
Numérisation de la presse francophone d'Égypte 61
Désert Occidental 62
Oasis de Dâkhla 62
Oasis de Khârga 62
Zone Sainte-Catherine.62
PUBLICATIONS 63 The Eternal Light of Egypt 64 Creating Medieval Cairo.65 200 Years after the French Expédition in Egypt 66 A History of Egypt : From Earliest Times to the Present 67 Akhenaton, the Father of All Prophets 70 In an Antique Land : History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale.71
INTERNET, TÉLÉVISION & CD-ROM 72
MOMIES 73
Momie de Thoutmosis Ier.77EN BREF 79
ALEXANDRIE 83
Musée des Bijoux royaux.83
LE CAIRE.83
Musée Égyptien 83
Grand Musée Égyptien 88
Musée national de la Civilisation égyptienne 89
Musée juif.91
Musée des Textiles égyptiens 95
Musée Gamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir 96
SAQQÂRA 97
Musée Imhotep.97
ASYÛT 97
Musée national d'Asyût 97
SINAÏ 98
Musée archéologique d'al-'Arîsh 98EN BREF 99
ALEXANDRIE 105
Manuscript Center.105
LE CAIRE 106
É glise de la Sainte Vierge à Hârit Zuwayla.106
É glise Suspendue 107
Palais 'Âbidîn 108
.108
Wakalat al-Maghrabî 111
Complexe Mawlawiyya 113
Palais de l'émir Bashtâk 115
'Izbat Khayr Allah.116
Qubbat Afandînâ 117
Patrimoine architectural des XIXe et XXe
siècles.118
SAQQÂRA 120
Pyramide de Djoser 120
.120
FAYYÛM 121
Wâdî al-Hîtân.121
QINÂ 123
Temple de Dandara 123
DÉSERT OCCIDENTAL.123
Oasis de Dâkhla.123
Nécropole al-Muzawwaqa 123
Mexique 141
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia :
Isis y la Serpiente Emplumada Egipto faraónico/México prehispánico 141
Suisse 142 Fondation Pierre Gianadda : Offrandes aux dieux d'Égypte 142 Toni-Areal : Tutanchamun Sein Grab Und Die Schätze 143
VOLS & TRAFIC D'ANTIQUITÉS 144
Affaire Edward George Johnson 146
Affaire Târiq al-Suwaysî 147
Antiquités égyptiennes 147
Antiquités islamiques et coptes.151
DONATIONS 155
Collection Henri Amîn 'Awad 155
VENTES AUX ENCHÈRES 156 Bonhams : relief sculpté en calcaire de la XXVIe dynastie 156 Christie's Inc 157
RESTITUTIONS 158
Allemagne 159
É tats-Unis 159
The University Museum at Southern Illinois
University in Carbondale 159
Suisse 160 EXPOSITIONS EN ÉGYPTE 125
Le Caire 125 Musée Égyptien : Dressing like Gods 125 Musée Égyptien : Corroboree 126 Musée Égyptien : Discovering Ancient Egypt.128
EXPOSITIONS HORS D'ÉGYPTE.131 Autriche 132 Museum für Völkerkunde : Tutanchamun und die Welt der Pharaonen 132 Espagne 135 Matadero de Legazpi Madrid : Tesoros Sumergidos de Egipto 135 Expo Zaragoza2008 137 États-Unis 138 Atlanta Civic Center : Tutankhamun : The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs 138 France.139 Institut du Monde Arabe : Bonaparte et l'Égypte. Ombres et lumières 139 Grimaldi Forum Monaco : Reines d'Égypte 140 Japon 140 Kumamoto PrefecturalMuseum ofArt 140
EN BREF.162
ALEXANDRIE & NORD-OUEST 170
Taposiris Magna 170
.171
Archaeological Management Policies 171
Reconstruction du Phare antique.172
GÎZA 173
Pyramides 173
SAQQÂRA 175
Pyramide de Djoser 175
.176
Pyramide n°29 de Lepsius.177
Tombe de Wadj-Mes 178 FAYYÛM 178
Kom K.179
Dayr al-Banât 181
BANÎ SWAYF.182
Ihnâsyâ al-Madîna.182
MINYÂ 183
Tell al-Amarna 183
LOUQSOR 185
Temple de Karnak 185
Mosquée Abû al-Haggâg al-Uqsurî.187
Temple d'Amenhotep III 188
Vallée des Rois 190
KV63 .190
TombedeSéthi 1er (KV17) .194
Dirâ' Abû al-Nagâ.194
Tombe de Djéhouty (TT 11).194
IDFÛ 195
Tell Idfû 195
ASWÂN 196
Fouilles fluviales 197
SINAÏ 198
Nord-Sinaï 198
Qantara Est.198
Sud-Sinaï 199
Hammâm Pharaon 199
Sayl al-Tuffâha 199
MER ROUGE 200
Wâdî al-Gawâsîs 200First Annual Coptic Studies Symposium 203
ALEXANDRIE 205 Alexandrie et le commerce de la Méditerranée médiévale 205 Lost and Embedded Manuscript Texts.206
LE CAIRE 208 Gîza throughout history.208 Pillage, destruction et falsification du patrimoine arabe 208 Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt.210
I - THÈMES GÉNÉRAUXRa'ûf 'Abbâs
L'historien Ra'ûf 'Abbâs s'est éteint jeudi 26 juin 2008 à l'âge de 67 ans. Professeur d'Histoire à la faculté de Lettres du Caire et président de la Société égyptienne d'études historiques, 'Abbâs était également l'un des militants acharnés du Mouvement 9 Mars en faveur de l'indépendance des universités :
[ ] Rarely does a single life encapsulate so much about a nation, while at the same time retaining its individuality and uniqueness, as did that of the late Ra'ûf 'Abbâs Hâmid, who died last week at the age of 69. Ra'ûf 'Abbâs was the product and the image of an Egypt that existed throughout much of the 20th century. Born in 1939 to a family of modest means from Upper Egypt and Port Said (his father was a railway worker), 'Abbâs was the eldest of eight siblings. He struggled to finish school at a time when education was neither free nor compulsory, and went on to obtain a doctoral degree in history from 'Ayn Shams University in Cairo in 1971. His subsequent career led him to become one of Egypt's foremost historians of the modern period, as well as Chair of the Department of History at Cairo University and of the Egyptian Society for Historical Studies. One thing that many people will remember most about 'Abbâs is his apparent serenity. He was a quiet presence, respected by those in the same room and always discreet. He would often sit at the side of a lecture hall, or in the back row of a seminar at the Supreme Council for Culture. He was very far from being the kind of self-advertising intellectual who is given to grand gestures. On the contrary, 'Abbâs would intervene only quietly, but firmly, at lectures, seminars or meetings. His influence as a professor of history was just as subtle and profound. There are no stories of 'Abbâs having "ruined the dissertation" of any of his graduate students by imposing his own views. If anything, he always encouraged his students to think for themselves, still a rare trait among supervisors worldwide. In his role as professor, 'Abbâs also stood up for students sometimes overwhelmed by academic bureaucracy or corruption.
[ ] Abbas marked modern Egyptian historiography in a number of ways. Firstly, he marked it simply by becoming an historian, in other words, by choosing, the son of an ordinary Egyptian family, not only to continue postgraduate studies but also to specialise in a field that neither makes fortunes nor produces fame, thereby bringing unique social insight to Egyptian historical studies. Secondly, 'Abbâs marked Egyptian history writing by the type of history he wrote, which continued in the tradition of the pioneering generation of modern Egyptian historians, including Ahmad 'Izzat 'Abd al-Karîm, Ahmad 'Abd al-Rahîm Mustafa and Muhammad Anîs. 'Abbâs insisted on the use of archival material as the proper source for Egyptian history writing, and his relationship with the Egyptian National Archives continued throughout his career, so much so that he later served on its board of directors and was head of its Centre for Egyptian History. 'Abbâs's best-known publications include a pioneering study of the rise of the large landowning class in Egypt and its effects on the social order between 1837 and 1914 (1973) and a study of the labour movement in Egypt between 1924 and 1937 (1975) based on British documents. These books remain pioneering works in that they studied the history of Egypt by focusing on long-term structural and socio-economic change. His study of the large landowners in particular remains one of the cornerstones of modern Egyptian historiography, along with 'Âsim al•Dusûkî's study of the 1914-1952 period and 'Alî Barakât's study of the development of landownership and its effects on political movements between 1846 and 1914. In his book on the landowning class, 'Abbâs emphasised this group's class solidarity, which, regardless of ethnic or even national differences among its members, worked to safeguard and promote its interests. Between the lines of 'Abbâs's study a deeply patriotic sensibility can be felt, one that tries to makes sense of the economic and political realities of the second half of the 20th century by studying their roots in the 19th. The work criticised then dominant historiographical theories, both Marxist and Modernisation, arguing for models that take historical specificity into account.
'Abbâs's interest in the Egyptian labour movement also led him to edit the papers of Henri CURIEL, founder of the Communist organisation al-Haraka al•dimuqrâtiyya li-l-taharrur al-watanî (Haditu or DMNL) that flourished in the 1940s. After receiving several academic fellowships in Japan, 'Abbâs also went on to write a book on Japanese society under the Meiji Dynasty, 1868-1912 (1980), as well as a book on The Japanese and Egyptian Enlightenment (1990). As a result, he became one of the few Egyptian historians to practice what they preach about moving beyond Euro-centrism and introducing non-Eurocentric comparative history into their studies.
Thirdly, 'Abbâs's influence will remain alive through the students he taught, whether in his formal classes, through his graduate supervisions, or through the Ottoman Seminar he organised. It was at the latter seminar that many younger historians came to know and respect 'Abbâs. He established the monthly seminar in the 1990s, when it was held at the Department of History at Cairo University, before moving to the Egyptian Society for Historical Studies, of which 'Abbâs was made chairman in 1999. Open to all, the seminar welcomed students from national universities outside the capital, and it continues to be an opportunity for younger scholars to present their work, as well as for all present to interact with fellow scholars from a variety of academic disciplines. So tied to 'Abbâs's presence did the seminar become that it was often referred to as "Dr Ra'ûf's Seminar." Papers and talks presented in it have given rise to a new generation of Egyptian historians distinguished by an interest in social and economic history in the broadest sense, as well as in "history from below" and in the use of non-traditional sources. This is also a generation that has had the courage to question and revise entrenched assumptions.
A few years ago 'Abbâs published his most popular book, his memoirs, entitled Mashaynâha khuta (2004). In this book, 'Abbâs recalls his childhood and the struggles he underwent in order to survive and complete his education. The first part of the book chronicles his early life living with his paternal grandmother in the Cairo district of Shubrâ. Dickensian in character, this section of the book is itself a significant historical document that brings the history of the Egyptian lower and lower-middle classes at mid century to life. The bureaucratic struggles that occupy the second half of 'Abbâs's memoirs make sense in the light of his lifelong battle against all forms of corruption. Not having enjoyed a privileged upbringing, 'Abbâs knew what it was like to be denied opportunities at first hand, and he used his professorial clout to help the disadvantaged and insist on the implementation of regulations. This pushed him into disputes within the University, but it also led him to become a dynamic member of the 9 March Movement for Academic Independence, the most vocal contemporary opposition movement among university faculty. 'Abbâs's commitment to academic independence and integrity also led him to write a history of Cairo University. (Amina Elbendary, "Ra'ûf 'Abbâs Hâmid : 1939-2008", Al-Ahram Weekly, 3 July, 2008. Voir également « Disparition d'un éminent historien », al-'Arabî du 29 juin ; Muhammad Kâmil, « L'historien Ra'ûf 'Abbâs décède après une lutte contre la maladie », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 27 juin ; « Après la disparition de Ra'ûf 'Abbâs, l'Égypte perd un peu de sa mémoire », al-Karâma du 30 juin).
Le ministre de la Culture a décidé la nomination du Dr Husayn al-Gindî au poste de directeur du Fonds du développement culturel, en remplacement du Dr Ahmad Migâhid qui, lui, est nommé Président de l'Organisme général des Palais de la Culture. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Nomination de 4 nouveaux cadres au ministère de la Culture », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 27 juin 2008. Voir également Mushîra Mûsa, « Nouveaux cadres dans les services du ministère de la Culture », al-Ahrâm du 27 juin ; Sayyid Yûnis, « Nouvelles nominations dans les services du ministère de la Culture », al-Usbû' du 28 juin).
Le journaliste Magdî Bindârî dénonce la précarité qui frappe plus de trois mille personnes (journaliers, saisonniers, CDD), employées par le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités depuis dix voire quinze ans pour certaines d'entre-elles. Le 6 décembre 2007, cinq cents mécontents avaient déjà décidé d'organiser un sit-in devant le Département de financement des projets du CSA, situé Place Lâzughlî au Caire. Alors que le CSA enregistre des recettes considérables, le personnel non-titulaire proteste contre l'indécence des salaires (une dizaine de livres égyptiennes par jour), la pénibilité et la dangerosité des travaux qu'il assume sans assurances, ni primes, ni indemnités. (Magdî Bindârî, « 3 000 employés menacent à nouveau d'organiser un sit-in », al-Karâma du 7 janvier 2008).
Un rapport juridique de haut niveau, élaboré par le Conseil de l'État, a affirmé que le compte du CSA auprès de la Banque Centrale (BCE) accuse un découvert de 487,2 millions de livres égyptiennes. Les frais d'agios pour ce découvert bancaire s'élèvent à 212,8 millions de L.E. ! Le CSA, qui a décidé de ne pas s'acquitter de ces agios, va pourtant devoir les rembourser à la BCE. ('Âtif Fârûq, al-Ahrâr du 2 février 2008).
La Direction des impôts a décidé la saisie administrative des biens du CSA et du Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund en vue de leur vente aux enchères. En effet, le CSA refuse de s'acquitter de la somme de 100 mille livres égyptiennes correspondant à la taxe foncière sur les 68 bazars touristiques et cafétéria situés dans les temples de Ramsès II et de Néfertari à Abû Simbil. Cette saisie immobilière pourrait s'étendre également aux recettes de vente des tickets d'entrée de ces deux temples. (Ahmad al-Zayyât, « La Direction des impôts saisit les biens du CSA à Abû Simbil », al-Wafd du 22 juin 2008).
Le tribunal disciplinaire d'Alexandrie a condamné 8 responsables du CSA à des mises à pied et différentes retenues sur salaires pour leur responsabilité dans la perte de 11 pièces archéologiques exceptionnelles et leur négligence dans la préservation de 195 autres pièces provenant de la zone archéologique de Mârînâ al-'Alamayn. L'enquête judiciaire avait dévoilé nombreuses infractions commises par les condamnés dans le traitement de 206 pièces d'époque gréco•romaine exhumées sur ce site par une mission archéologique polonaise. L'enquête a établi la disparition de 11 pièces dont des boucles d'oreilles en or, l'arrachage de plusieurs pages du registre d'enregistrement des pièces découvertes sur le site, plusieurs ratures et des couper-coller dans d'autres pages des registres censées contenir des photographies des pièces disparues. Une commission d'enquête du Parquet a révélé des carences dans l'entreposage des pièces exhumées à l'intérieur de locaux inappropriés, qui ne renferment même pas d'étagères ni de coffres, malgré l'engagement pris par la mission polonaise de construire un magasin spécifique pour entreposer les antiquités sur le site. (Nasrî 'Ismat, « 8 responsables scantionnés à cause de la perte de 11 pièces antiques », al-Ahrâm du 10 février 2008).
Après dix longues années de procédure judiciaire, la cour de cassation a condamné hier 7 inspecteurs du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) à des peines allant de 3 à 5 ans de prison, à la révocation de 4 autres fonctionnaires et à la confiscation des pièces archéologiques saisies au profit du CSA. Entre 1986 et 1992, les condamnés avaient subtilisé des pièces consignées pourtant dans les registres du CSA dans les zones archéologiques de Saqqâra, al-Badrashayn et Qinâ.
(Hanâ'Bakrî, « Verdict de la cour de cassation dans le grand procès de pillage archéologique », al-Akhbâr du 24 janvier 2008. Voir également « 5 ans d'emprisonnement pour le gang de pilleurs d'al-Badrashayn », al-Ahrâr du 24 janvier ; Asmâ'al-Shatlâwî, « La cour de cassation confirme le verdict de la cour d'assises de Gîza », al-Dustûr du 25 janvier).
Le mandat du secrétaire général du CSA arrive à son terme en mai 2008. Faute de relève, le ministre de la Culture se trouve dans l'obligation de demander au Premier ministre la reconduction du Dr Zâhî Hawwâs dans ses fonctions pour une année supplémentaire. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Remaniements au sein du ministère de la Culture », al-Ahrâr du 17 avril 2008).
Candidature de Fârûq Husnî au poste de directeur de l'Unesco
Depuis l'annonce de sa candidature au poste de directeur général de l'Unesco, le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, intensifie ses activités sur les scènes nationale et internationale. Husnî exploite toutes les occasions pour solliciter le soutien de toutes les personnalités influentes en visite en Égypte. D'ailleurs, c'est ce qu'il a fait avant-hier lors de son entretien avec le président de la Confédération suisse, Pascal COUCHEPIN. Celui-ci a déclaré : « Je partage tout à fait les ambitions du ministre, d'autant plus que la Suisse n'a présenté aucun candidat à ce poste. Ce qui accentue les chances de réussite de M. Husnî. Toutefois, la situation
n'est pas encore suffisamment claire pour appuyer d'une manière définitive tel ou tel candidat. À cela s'ajoute le fait que cette élection se jouera au sein du Conseil d'administration de l'Unesco. La Suisse n'étant pas membre de cette organisation ».
De son côté, Husnî a déclaré que les préparatifs de cette campagne de soutien se déroulent d'une façon scientifique et qu'il établit des contacts solides et sereins avec d'éminentes personnalités dans ce milieu. Néanmoins, Husnî a reconnu qu'il est encore trop tôt pour décrocher des appuis définitifs dans ce dossier. Il a ajouté que le poste de directeur général de l'Unesco est une lourde tâche, qui nécessite de grands efforts, afin d'instaurer des relations harmonieuses entre Orient et Occident. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Husnî : Ma campagne avance paisiblement », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 janvier 2008. Voir également "Fârûq Husnî : My program aims at development of UNESCO", Egypt State Information Service, March 21).
Le quotidien indépendant al-Dustûr reprend les déclarations citées ci-dessus du président de la Confédération suisse, Pascal COUCHEPIN, tout en soulignant que « Cette réponse polie signifie, sans aucun doute, que la Suisse ne soutient pas la candidature de Fârûq Husnî ». ('Umar Qinâwî, « Fârûq Husnî désappointé par le président suisse qui ne lui annonce pas son soutien ! », al-Dustûr du 11 janvier 2008. Voir également Intisâr Dardîr, « Fârûq Husnî : Je travaille avec une vision précise », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 5 avril).
La candidature du ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, au poste de directeur général de l'Unesco et ses chances de réussite préoccupent sérieusement la presse gouvernementale. L'écrivain Hamdî Rizq résume en quelques points les principales faiblesses du candidat égyptien :
1) Trop vieux (+ de 60 ans).
2) Ne parle pas l'anglais.
3) S'oppose à la normalisation des relations avec Israël.
4) Affronte une candidature redoutable : celle d'Aziza BENNANI, une diplomate d'exception, appartenant à la famille royale marocaine.
Ensuite, le journaliste prodigue quelques conseils à Fârûq Husnî qui, selon lui, est le meilleur représentant des pays arabes, musulmans et africains :
1) Le charme du peintre pourrait estomper les disgrâces de la vieillesse.
2) D'ici jusqu'au vote, Fârûq Husnî a deux longues années devant lui pour apprendre l'anglais. Il ferait mieux de se méfier davantage du lobby de la francophonie, qui ne lui sera pas d'un grand soutien.
3) Fârûq Husnî devrait faire la distinction entre la normalisation des relations avec Israël (un mal inévitable) et l'antisémitisme réprouvé par le monde occidental.
4) Le candidat égyptien ferait mieux de démissionner de son poste, afin de mieux se consacrer à la préparation de ces élections. Il devrait abandonner cette casquette étriquée de ministre pour se présenter comme un intellectuel d'une carrure universelle.
5) Enfin, Fârûq Husnî ne devrait pas critiquer publiquement (à travers son hebdomadaire al-Qâhira) sa rivale, Aziza BENNANI. Le sort de celle-ci doit être scellé entre la présidence de la République et le palais royal du Maroc. Quant à « nos ennemis de Tel-Aviv, le président Mubârak pourrait bien s'en charger ». (Hamdî Rizq, « L'Unesco ne joue
pas au football », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 19
janvier).
- -
Fârûq Husnî, Abstraction #29, 2007. Collection de l'artiste. (c) Fârûq Husnî
26 toiles du ministre de la Culture seront exposées cette semaine (30 janvier) au Museum of Art -Fort Lauderdale en Floride, puis au Museum of Fine Arts of Houston ou (MFAH), avant de parcourir plusieurs villes américaines durant huit semaines. Bien entendu, Fârûq Husnî compte exploiter cette tournée pour rechercher de nouveaux soutiens pour sa candidature au poste de directeur général de l'Unesco. (Âkhir Sâ'a du 30 janvier 2008. Voir également Ashraf Mufîd, « Le MFAH accueille une exposition de Fârûq Husnî intitulée The Energy of Abstraction », al-Ahrâm du 3 mai ; May Sélim, « Le mouvement dans tous ses états », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 14 mai).
Dans une longue interview accordée à l'hebdomadaire al-Naba'al-Watanî, le ministre de la Culture a annoncé que son projet de candidature au poste de directeur général de l'Unesco porte sur « la réconciliation avec toutes les choses ». Fârûq Husnî a précisé qu'il brigue ce poste non seulement en tant qu'Égyptien, mais aussi en sa qualité d'Arabe, de musulman et d'Africain. Il a souligné qu'il ne saurait pas demander à sa concurrente [Aziza BENNANI] de se désister en sa faveur et réciproquement. Quant à Israël, en s'opposant à sa candidature, il a plutôt agi inconsciemment en sa faveur. Il a appelé Israël à accélérer le processus de paix, si le dossier de la normalisation des relations lui tenait à coeur. Dans l'interview, Fârûq Husnî n'a pas nié l'existence de coordination et de pourparlers entre les deux États dans ce dossier. Enfin, le ministre s'est défendu contre les accusations souvent formulées à son encontre : déclarations hostiles au port du voile islamique, mauvaise politique de restauration du patrimoine archéologique, incendie du palais de culture de Banî Swayf, etc. Il a affirmé que l'honnêteté, la confiance en soi et la raison ont été l'arsenal sur lequel il s'est toujours appuyé lors de nombreuses crises auxquelles il a été confronté. (al-Naba'al-Watanî du 2 février 2008).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a profité de sa présence au Mexique la semaine dernière pour inaugurer une exposition archéologique égyptienne pour organiser des entretiens avec des responsables et des hommes d'affaires, afin d'obtenir leur soutien à sa candidature au poste de directeur général de l'Unesco. Husnî a annoncé avoir rencontré les ministres mexicains des Affaires étrangères, de l'Éducation et de la Culture. Il a également remis une lettre adressée du président Mubârak à son homologue mexicain. Les médias mexicains ont accordé une importance à la visite de Fârûq Husnî et ont entrepris plusieurs entretiens avec lui autour de sa candidature. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « La campagne de Husnî en faveur de sa candidature à l'Unesco arrive en Amérique latine appuyée par des hommes d'affaires mexicains », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 8 mars 2008).
Affaire Ayman 'Abd al •Mun'im
Le député indépendant Tal'at al-Sâdât a accusé le gouvernement de gaspillage des deniers publics, de détournement de fonds, de gains illicites et de pillage du Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund et du Fonds du développement culturel dépendant du ministère de la Culture. Le député a interpellé devant le Parlement le Premier ministre, Dr Ahmad Nazîf, et le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, au sujet du procès de prévarication dans lequel est impliqué Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im, président du Fonds du développement culturel et bras droit du ministre. [] Dans ce climat de corruption, le député a souligné la nécessité de réexaminer minutieusement tous les travaux entrepris par ces deux Fonds à travers des commissions techniques et scientifiques indépendantes. (al-Dustûr du 10 janvier 2008).
Sous le titre « Il est plus important de réparer ce qu'a détérioré l'assistant du ministre », le journaliste 'Alî al-Qammâsh démonte les mécanismes de corruption mis en place par Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'îm avant son arrestation. Al-Qammâsh évoque, notamment, les réaménagements du Caire fatimide, les restaurations de l'Église Suspendue et la clôture de sécurité érigée autour du plateau de Gîza. Après avoir dénoncé les irrégularités ayant entaché ses projets (délits d'initié, appels d'offre surévalués, travaux non-conformes, pots-de•vin), le journaliste insiste sur la nécessité à présent d'assainir et de relancer tous ces projets suspendus à cause du procès en cours et quelle qu'en soit l'issue de celui-ci. (al-Ahrâr du 1er janvier 2008).
La cour d'assises du Nord du Caire tient aujourd'hui la première audience dans le procès des pots-de-vin du ministère de la Culture. Dans le box des accusés figurent : Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im, directeur du Fonds du développement culturel et bras droit du ministre ; Husayn Ahmad Husayn, directeur du Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund ; 'Abd al-Hamîd Qutb, directeur des affaires techniques et architecturales du cabinet du secrétaire général du CSA ; ainsi que six entrepreneurs et propriétaires de compagnies de technologie et de développement des musées. [] Les accusations portent, notamment, sur le versement de pots-de-vin d'une valeur de 725 mille livres égyptiennes pour l'obtention illégale de marchés publics concernant des projets du ministère de la Culture : modernisation des théâtres al-Hanâgir et Muhammad 'Alî, réaménagement du Caire fatimide et du Musée gréco-romain d'Alexandrie, etc. (Ahmad Rif'at, « Première audience dans le procès de Ayman 'Abd al•Mun'im », al-Dustûr du 2 février 2008. Ibrâhîm Qurrâ'a, « Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im et les autres interrogés aujourd'hui par la Justice dans le procès du grand pot-de-vin du ministère de la Culture », al-Wafd du 2 février ; 'Alî al-Badrâwî, « Première audience dans le procès du ministère de la Culture », al-Badîl du 2 février ; Sharîf 'Abdallah, « Le procès d'Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im est reporté au 6 avril prochain », al-Dustûr du 3 février).
[ ] Les neuf accusés sont arrivés au tribunal sous bonne escorte policière. Une multitude de journalistes et de chaînes satellitaires ont assisté à l'audience. Les trois accusés principaux ont nié tous les faits qui leur sont reprochés. Mais les six entrepreneurs ont confirmé leur avoir versé des pots-de-vin entre 2006 et le 7 août 2007. La prochaine audience a été fixée au 6 avril 2008. (« Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im nie les accusations du Parquet, mais les entrepreneurs confirment son implication », al-Ahrâm du 3 février. Voir également Khâlid Mîrî, « 6 hommes d'affaires avouent avoir versé des pots-de-vin aux 3 responsables du ministère de la Culture », al-Akhbâr du 3 février ; Muhammad al-Dimirdâsh, « Les accusés avouent accorder des pots-de-vin aux responsables du ministère de la Culture », al-Ahrâr du 3 février ; Ibrâhîm Qurrâ'a, « Les accusés avouent verser des pots-de-vin à Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im et ses collègues », al-Wafd du 3 février ; Muhammad 'Azzâm, « Début du jugement des accusés dans le procès du grand pot-de-vin du ministère de la Culture », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 3 février).
À la demande des avocats de la défense, la cour d'assises du Nord du Caire a remis au 6 mai 2008 la prochaine audience dans le procès de pots-de-vin impliquant le directeur du Fonds du développement culturel, Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im, le directeur du Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund, Husayn Ahmad Husayn, le président de l'administration architecturale au sein du CSA, 'Abd al-Hamîd Qutb, ainsi que 4 entrepreneurs. L'audience de dimanche dernier n'a duré que 10 minutes. Le juge a interdit aux journalistes présents de photographier les accusés. Il a également refusé la libération sous caution de ces derniers. Le Parquet a présenté au tribunal 4 scellés contenant 15 enregistrements vidéos et 5 enregistrements audios des accusés mis sur écoute. (« Le tribunal refuse la libération sous caution du bras droit du ministre », Akhbâr al-Adab du 13 avril. Voir également Ibrâhîm Qurrâ'a, « Prolongation de la détention des accusés », al-Wafd du 7 avril).
Voici la liste des neuf accusés jugés par la cour d'assise dans l'affaire des pots-de-vin du ministère de la Culture :
1) Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im Mahmûd, directeur du Fonds du développement culturel, directeur du cabinet du ministre, superviseur du projet du Caire historique.
2) Husayn Ahmad Husayn, directeur du Nubian Antiquities Salvage Fund.
3) 'Abd al-Hamîd Qutb 'Abd al-Khâliq, directeur des affaires techniques et architecturales du bureau du secrétaire général du CSA.
4) Khâlid Hasan Muhammad, entrepreneur, propriétaire de la Compagnie de BTP al-Mutahida li-l-inshâ'ât.
5) 'Abd al-Rahmân Ahmad, entrepreneur.
6) Khâlid 'Abdallah 'Abd al-Fadîl, entrepreneur, propriétaire de la Compagnie Mega Nit.
7) 'Abd al-Raûf Anwar 'Alî, entrepreneur, propriétaire de la Compagnie de BTP al-Nasr.
8) Ahmad Hânî Mansûr, entrepreneur, propriétaire de la Compagnie de BTP Aswân li-l-tanmiyya.
9) 'Abd al-Salâm 'Alî Yûsuf, entrepreneur.
La Cour d'assise du Caire a confirmé le gel des avoirs de Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im, malgré le dossier déposé par les avocats de la défense. Selon ces derniers, la fortune amassée par l'accusé n'a rien d'illégale : un salaire mensuel de 23 mille livres égyptiennes, les bénéfices de l'une de ses sociétés atteignent 25 millions L.E., en plus de grosses sommes d'argent qu'il a héritées de sa famille. La cour d'assise n'a pas tenu compte de ces arguments. (« La cour d'assise confirme le gel des avoirs de Ayman 'Abd al•Mun'im », al-Badîl du 10 janvier).
Après cinq jours successifs d'audience au cours desquels la cour d'assises du Nord du Caire a écouté le plaidoyer des avocats de la défense, le verdict sera prononcé lors de la séance du 8 octobre 2008. [] Les avocats des entrepreneurs ayant versé les pots-de•vin ont appelé à l'application de l'article 107 du Code pénal, qui stipule l'acquittement de tout suborneur dont les aveux sincères conduisent à la révélation d'un pot-de-vin et à l'arrestation des coupables. Mais, le Parquet a objecté que pour bénéficier de cet article, les corrupteurs auraient dû passer aux aveux avant de commettre leur forfait et non pas après. [] À l'issue de l'audience, la cour a demandé à Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im, présent dans le box des accusés, s'il souhaite ajouter quelque chose. Celui-ci a déclaré que le réquisitoire le dépeint tel un « Tarzan » tout-puissant dans une forêt. Comme s'il faisait la pluie et le beau temps sur un simple mot. 'Abd al-Mun'im a nié avoir commis aucune infraction dans l'exercice de ses fonctions. Il a déploré de paraître désormais aux yeux de l'opinion publique comme « un criminel redoutable ». Alors que lui-même et Husayn Ahmad Husayn s'efforçaient de sauver le
patrimoine égyptien. Cette mission
patriotique a été entravée par certaines
personnes. Quant au deuxième accusé,
Husayn Ahmad Husayn, il a qualifié la situation en Égypte de grande « pagaille ». N'importe qui peut accuser les honnêtes gens et les traîner en justice, sans la moindre preuve. Enfin, le troisième accusé, 'Abd al-Hamîd Qutb, a clamé son innocence en affirmant être injustement persécuté. (Ibrâhîm Qâsim, « Ayman 'Abd al-Mun'im se qualifie de Tarzan », al-Dustûr du 5 juin. Voir également Muhammad 'Azzâm, « Le verdict dans le procès de pot-de-vin du ministère de la Culture est fixé pour le 8 octobre », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 5 juin).
Zâhî Hawwâs
Dans une ambiance complètement espagnole (décor, uniforme, musique et personnages), la médaille d'or de la Royale Bande de Cornemuses d'Ourense (Galice-Espagne) a été décernée la semaine dernière par S.E.M. Antonio Lopez MARTINEZ, ambassadeur d'Espagne au Caire, à Zâhî Hawwâs, secrétaire général du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités. Ce n'était pas le seul hommage, mais durant la même réception Hawwâs a reçu une traditionnelle cornemuse offerte par la Royale Bande espagnole. (« Hawwâs collectionne les hommages espagnols », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 27 février 2008. Voir également Ashraf Mufîd, « La Royale Bande espagnole honore Zâhî Hawwâs », al-Ahrâm du 18 février ; « L'Espagne décerne une médaille en or à Zâhî Hawwâs », al-Wafd du 18 février).
L'Italie a accordé au secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, l'insigne de commandeur de l'ordre national du Mérite, en reconnaissance de ses mérites distingués, de ses découvertes archéologiques et du développement des relations égypto•italiennes dans les domaines des Antiquités, des musées et de la restauration. L'ambassadeur d'Italie au Caire, Claudio PACIFICO, a remis les insignes au Dr Hawwâs au cours d'une cérémonie organisée dimanche soir dans la résidence de l'ambassade. De nombreuses personnalités célèbres dans le monde de l'archéologie, de la culture et de la diplomatie ont assisté à cette réception. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'Italie décore Hawwâs de l'insigne du commandeur », al-Ahrâr du 24 juin 2008. Voir également « L'insigne du commandeur pour Zâhî Hawwâs », al-Wafd du 20 juin ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Une décoration pour Zâhî », Sabâh al-Khayr du 24 juin ; « Distinction italienne pour Zâhî Hawwâs », al-Ahrâm du 24 juin ; Ayman Barâyiz, « Le commandeur Zâhî Hawwâs ! », al-Ahrâm al•'Arabî du 28 juin ; Intisâr Dardîr, « Zâhî Hawwâs : commandeur italien », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 28 juin).
Fârûq al -Bâz
L'Égypte célèbre aujourd'hui la Journée mondiale du patrimoine placée sous les auspices de l'Unesco. Lors de cette occasion, le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, accordera une distinction à l'éminent savant égyptien, Dr Fârûq al-Bâz, directeur du Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. Dr al-Bâz a contribué activement à l'enrichissement du travail archéologique en Égypte à travers ses études sur la barque de Chéops et la possibilité de son transfert du plateau de Gîza vers le site du Grand Musée Égyptien. Au cours de cette Journée mondiale du patrimoine, une exposition archéologique et un documentaire sur le monastère de Sainte-Catherine auront lieu au musée Copte qui a été choisi pour ces célébrations. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Célébration égyptienne de la Journée mondiale du patrimoine », al-Ahrâr du 18 avril 2008. Voir également Nahla 'Âbidîn, « Hommage rendu à Fârûq al-Bâz lors des célébrations de la Journée mondiale du patrimoine », al-Ahrâm du 17 avril ; « L'Égypte célèbre demain la Journée mondiale du patrimoine », al-Akhbâr du 17 avril).
II e Fête des archéologues
La IIe Fête des archéologues sera célébrée ce soir à l'Opéra du Caire. Lors de ces célébrations, le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, décernera des distinctions à dix éminentes personnalités parmi les archéologues et les restaurateurs. La médaille des pionniers honorera la mémoire de cinq pionniers : Ahmad Qadrî, Labîb Habashî, Gamâl Mukhtâr, Su'âd Mâhir et 'Abd al-'Azîz Sâlih. Une médaille dorée sera également accordée au Dr Ahmad al-Sâwî, Ibrâhîm al-Nawâwî, Yûsuf al-Gharyânî, Fahmî 'Abd al-'Alîm et Kâmil 'Atiyya. Cette fête sera agrémentée d'un récital de musique classique et de ballet. Soulignons que le choix du 14 janvier pour célébrer la Fête des archéologues correspond à la nomination du premier Égyptien, Dr Mustafa 'Âmir, au poste de directeur du Service des antiquités égyptiennes à la suite de la Révolution de 1952. (« 10 savants honorés lors de la IIe Fête des archéologues », al-Wafd du 14 janvier 2008. Voir également Ashraf Ibrâhîm, « Célébration de la IIe Fête des archéologues », al-Ahrâm du 16 janvier).
Lors des célébrations marquant la IIe Fête des archéologues organisées à l'Opéra du Caire, le secrétaire général du CSA a annoncé son intention de poursuivre l'augmentation des salaires et l'amélioration des conditions de vie des archéologues. 4 000 CDD seront titularisés en coopération avec le ministère des Finances. La prime de fin de service sera calculée sur la base de 54 mois, puis rehaussée plus tard pour atteindre 100 mois. Le club destiné au personnel du CSA est sur le point d'être achevé à Fustât. Une unité médicale y sera créée pour soigner les employés du CSA. Des bourses d'études à l'étranger seront accordées aux jeunes archéologues du CSA, afin de rehausser leur niveau scientifique. Enfin, Hawwâs a annoncé
que près de 3 milliards de L.E. ont été
affectés aux projets de restauration, de
création de nouveaux musées et
d'aménagement des sites archéologiques. (Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « IIe Fête des archéologues célébrée à l'opéra ! », Sabâh al-Khayr du 15 janvier. Voir également « Dr Hawwâs : 80 % d'augmentation des indemnités de travail versées aux archéologues », al-Wafd du 16 janvier ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Dr Hawwâs : 80 % d'augmentation des indemnités de travail versées aux archéologues », al-Ahrâr du 16 janvier ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Hawwâs : 3 milliards de L.E. alloués aux restaurations des antiquités au cours des dernières années », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 16 janvier).
Lors de la cérémonie organisée lundi dernier à l'Opéra du Caire à l'occasion de la IIe Fête des archéologues, le Dr Ahmad al-Sâwî a prononcé un discours dans lequel il a souligné la nécessité de créer un syndicat pour défendre les droits des archéologues égyptiens. Il a été chaleureusement applaudi. (Usâma Fârûq, « Les archéologues réclament la création d'un syndicat », Akhbâr al-Adab du 20 janvier).
Le doyen de la faculté d'Archéologie du Caire, Dr 'Alâ'al-Dîn Shâhîn, s'est rendu au Niger à la tête d'une délégation égyptienne à la demande de l'Université de Niamey. Cette mission vise à poursuivre la création d'un Centre linguistique qui regroupera un Centre d'enseignement de l'égyptologie. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 11 mars 2008).
France
Les deux institutions emblématiques pour la culture arabe, la Bibliotheca Alexandrina et l'Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) de Paris organiseront des expositions, des colloques, des échanges ainsi que différentes autres activités sur la numérisation des données sur des sujets d'intérêt communs, concernant surtout le dialogue interculturel dans la région méditerranéenne et la promotion de la culture arabe. À cet égard, un accord-cadre a été signé, en Alexandrie, par les directeurs de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ismâ'îl Sirâg al-Dîn, et de l'IMA, Dominique BAUDIS, en marge de la Conférence du dialogue entre les peuples et les cultures dans la région euro•méditerranéenne et celle du Golfe, organisée par l'Institut des études pour la paix du 19 au 21 janvier 2008. « Il s'agit de créer un axe permanent de dialogue, comme une diagonale culturelle entre Paris et Alexandrie », a affirmé Dominique BAUDIS, en se félicitant d'un accord qu'il juge stratégique entre deux grands pôles de la culture arabe. « Nous avons beaucoup à apprendre de la numérisation très impressionnante de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina », a repris également BAUDIS, venu participer au troisième et dernier Atelier culturel dans la Méditerranée et dans le Golfe.
Plusieurs projets de coopération ont déjà été identifiés, dont une grande exposition qui aura lieu l'année prochaine sur l'Expédition de Napoléon BONAPARTE en Égypte, et à l'occasion du bicentenaire de la publication de la Description de l'Égypte. D'autres expositions conjointes sont aussi prévues, consacrées aux deux plus grands artistes égyptiens du XXe siècle : la diva Umm Kulthûm et l'écrivain Nagîb Mahfûz. Une autre exposition aura lieu plus tard sur l'architecture arabe moderne dans les pays du Golfe. « Ces rencontres, qui se tiennent autour du dialogue entre les civilisations, offrent une très grande occasion pour signer ce genre de conventions censées enrichir le dialogue et les échanges culturels. Cette convention prend place dans le cadre d'une relation privilégiée et bien ancienne entre l'IMA et la Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Elle vise à promouvoir les relations déjà existantes et les actions de coopération déjà menées entre les deux institutions », a annoncé le directeur de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina, suite à la signature de l'accord. Or, l'IMA a déjà participé à des manifestations culturelles en relation avec l'Égypte et dans différents domaines comme l'exposition sur l'architecte Hasan Fathî, tenue dans le cadre de la célébration du cinquième anniversaire de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina. L'IMA a aussi participé à plusieurs autres conférences internationales organisées par la Bibliotheca Alexandrina. (Amira Samir, « Collaborer sans compter », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 20 février 2008).
Grèce
Le directeur de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Dr Ismâ'îl Sirâg al-Dîn, a signé hier à Athènes un protocole de coopération avec le président de l'Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation et l'ambassadrice de l'Unesco, Marianna VARDINOYANNI. Ce protocole stipule la création au sein de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina d'un Centre d'études hellénistiques, avec la collaboration de l'Université d'Alexandrie. Financé par la Fondation grecque, ce Centre sera habilité à délivrer aux étudiants des certificats de magistère ou de thèse reconnus par l'Université d'Alexandrie. L'inscription y sera ouverte aux étudiants du monde entier. L'enseignement sera dispensé en langue anglaise. ('Abd al-Sattâr Barakât, « Nouveau Centre d'études hellénistiques dans la Bibliotheca Alexandrina », al-Ahrâm al-'Arabî du 5 janvier 2008)
Hongrie
Hungarian Culture and Éducation Minister Hiller ISTVAN is to arrive in Cairo on a three•day visit Friday. During the visit, ISTVAN will sign an executive protocol with his Egyptian counterpart on cultural, scientific, and educational cooperation between the two countries, Hungarian Ambassador in Cairo Peto TIBOR told Daily News Egypt. The protocol is to cover the period from 2008 to 2010. An agreement of cooperation in cultural and scientific areas had been in tact between the two countries for the last 50 years. More than 500 Egyptian students completed their graduate studies in Hungary in the past, including prominent figures such as Hasan Ghallâb, former president of 'Ayn Shams University. The Hungarian minister is expected to offer Egyptian students more academic scholarships to study in Hungary. ISTVAN will meet with Hânî Hilâl, Minister of Higher Éducation, Fârûq Husnî, Minister of Culture, and Zâhî Hawwâs, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, TIBOR added.
The visit also marks 100 years of Hungarian monument excavations in Egypt, the ambassador said, noting that Budapest is interested in celebrating the event as well as organizing an exhibition in Hungary on Islamic and Pharaonic culture. "Hungary gives a priority to its cultural cooperation with Egypt, which hosts the only Hungarian Cultural Center in Africa," the ambassador said. ISTVAN is to open the renovation works of the Hungarian Cultural Center in 'Âbidîn Street, Downtown Cairo. He will also attend a show by Hungarian artists at the Opera House on Saturday. (Sherine Abdel Monaim, "100 years of Hungarian excavations, and more", Daily News Egypt, January 24, 2008).
Italie
L'Italie participera à hauteur de plus de 1,3 million d'euros au réaménagement du Musée du Caire, ont annoncé les ministres égyptien et italien de la Culture. Fârûq Husnî et Francesco RUTELLI ont signé dans la capitale égyptienne un protocole d'accord pour réaménager ce musée à l'imposante bâtisse rose, où s'entassent des dizaines de milliers de pièces archéologiques dont seule une partie est exposée faute de place. « Le don italien représente une importante participation au coût de mise en œuvre de ce projet, qui s'élève à 5,1 millions de dollars », soit près de 3,5 millions d'euros, a déclaré M. Husnî lors d'une conférence de presse. « Les Italiens réaménageront le musée de l'intérieur et de l'extérieur, après le transport de nombreuses pièces archéologiques vers le Musée national de la Civilisation qui doit ouvrir ses portes dans les deux années à
venir et vers le Grand Musée Égyptien en
construction actuellement près des
pyramides », a-t-il poursuivi. (Hassan
Saadallah, « L'Italie donne 1,3 million d'euros pour le réaménagement du Musée du Caire »,
Progrès Dimanche du 6 janvier 2008. Voir également « Don italien de 2 millions de dollars pour moderniser le Musée Égyptien », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 7 juin).
Marco MARCHETTI, coordinateur et directeur du projet de sauvegarde de la réserve naturelle d'al-Gulf al-Kabîr, détaille les efforts de coopération déployés par l'Italie sur ce site :
For many years Italian and Egyptian travel agencies have been arranging safari trips to the al-Gulf al-Kabîr for Italian tourists. Nowadays the Italian government supports a number of natural reserves in Egypt within the Egyptian Italian environmental co•operation programme, among which is Wâdî al-Hîtân or Whale Valley. Italy also supports the New Valley's two recently-declared natural reserves, the al-Gulf al-Kabîr and the White Desert. The region is very rich in natural treasures, and has caves containing prehistoric rock art, which is threatened by tourists who write and scratch on them. Some even put water or oil on the drawings so that they look clearer in photographs. The state of these drawings was definitely much better some 20 years ago, and this called for quick intervention to preserve the region. In January 2007 Egypt declared the al-Gulf al-Kabîr a natural reserve, and two months later the nature conservation sector sent there a delegation that included, among others, members of the Italian co-operation bureau, the Environment Ministry, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), German experts and representatives of NGOs. They thoroughly surveyed the region and prepared a draft plan of action for the preservation of the reserve. Awareness of the region and highlighting the value of both the White Desert and the al-Gulf al-Kabîr on the one hand and tourism development on the other are the aims of the Italian contribution to the project.
Among the most important characteristics of the al-Gulf al-Kabîr is the geological composition of the granite and of other materials, as well as the natural silicon glass in Silica Valley. Silica Valley is the world's biggest silicon glass region. It is believed that prehistoric man used to make weapons such as arrowheads from the glass. It was also discovered that Tutankhamun's famous pectoral contained a fine piece of silicon glass. The al-Gulf al-Kabîr region is very dry desert. In spite of being very rich with its fauna and flora there are no rare specimens there. To date 41 kinds of flora have been found in the al-Gulf al-Kabîr and 71 in 'Uwaynât. The acacia is among the most important trees in the region. Seventeen species of insects, butterflies and spiders were found, 12 species of reptiles, and mammals such as foxes.
The global Italian subsidy for the preservation of the region's natural reserves amounts to nine million Euros with an additional LE20 million from the Egyptian-Italian debt fund. In addition 5.5 million Euros have been earmarked for the New Valley reserves. The preliminaries of the project have already cost 400,000 Euros, and the survey delegation 20,000 Euros. A bureau and an information centre for visitors will be created in Dâkhla Oasis to serve the al-Gulf al-Kabîr, and a visitor centre will be built near Farâfra Oasis to serve the White Desert. Guards from the local community will be appointed in both reserves, and tour guides and rangers will be trained on observation in order to prevent the tourists from causing damage to the reserves. There will be annual inspections of the reserves to ensure standards are maintained. In cooperation with the ministries of environment and tourism, as well as with the governorate of the New Valley and the SCA, a programme will be set up to preserve the area's fauna and flora. Audio-visual aids about both reserves will be published to promote awareness of the region. With the assistance of local residents, roads and paths will be made and signs put in place so that cars and visitors will follow the correct paths and not damage surfaces. Any other activities that will serve the local residents and make environmental tourism smoother will be studied. Ninety percent of all tourists start their journey in Bahariyya Oasis, so an information centre will be placed there. It already has a natural reserve office.
In cooperation with national organisations, projects will be made in the other oases of the Western Desert - Dâkhla, Khârga and Farâfra - in order to promote and develop handmade industries, of which each oasis has its own speciality. The area will be managed by two national associations, which will build two resorts in the region. The reserve project will be carried out in co-operation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP). We would love to have the entire al-Gulf al-Kabîr area declared a "Transboundary Cultural Landscape", a multi-national natural reserve endorsed by UNESCO. But Egypt is ahead of Libya and Sudan in preserving natural heritage and has already declared the site within its borders, even though it is a much smaller portion than that which lies in Libya and Sudan, as a nature reserve. We hope Sudan and Libya would follow suit. (Mary Fikry, "Al-Gulf al-Kabîr", Watanî, April 6, 2008).
Pays arabes
In the framework of Syria's celebrating Damascus being chosen as a Capital of Arab Culture 2008, a conference was held last week on digitising the Arab heritage in the Assad National Library in the capital. The purpose of the Conference on the Digitisation of Arab Heritage was to discuss digitisation issues, highlight Arab efforts and initiatives in this domain, promote the role of libraries in the documentation of literary heritage and emphasise the role of information technology in this field. On the sidelines, the Second Executive Committee Meeting of the Memory of the Arab World project focused on discussing the progress of the project in documenting and setting up a co-operation mechanism among Arab organizations, centres and institutions working in this field. The meeting reviewed the achievements since the signing of the Sharjah Declaration, an official agreement regulating the project approved during the first meeting held in Sharjah, UAE, in October 2007.
The purpose of the Memory of the Arab World project is to implement regional cooperation for publishing information on the region's heritage on a portal entitled "Memory of the Arab World" and to promote previous heritage digitisation initiatives. Every Arab country collects and digitises its heritage, while Egypt's Centre for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT) is entrusted with setting the various working standards, training specialists from all participating countries in the use and the application of these standards and developing the bilingual (Arabic and English) portal. The event "Digitisation of Arab Heritage" was co•organised by Egypt's Ministry of Technology (which also sponsored the Memory of the Arab World project) ; the General Commission for the Festival of Damascus ; the Tarim Centre for Architecture and Heritage in Syria ; and CULTNAT, a Bibliotheca Alexandrina affiliate. A high-level Egyptian delegation, headed by Senior Adviser to Egypt's Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dr Huda Baraka and CULTNAT Director Fathî Sâlih, participated in the even.
The Egyptian official delegation also included the President of the Association for the Preservation of Folkloric Heritage, Suhayr Wastâwî ; the head of the Library Sector at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Rîm Bahgat ; and the Deputy Director of CULTNAT and Manager of the Memory of the Arab World project, Hiba Barakât. Representatives from the Islamic Éducational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the United Nations Éducational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Arab Union for Electronic Publishing, as well as a number of researchers and specialists, also attended the pan-Arab event. Hiba says that the Memory of the Arab World project was created in 2004 when the Arab communication ministers decided to promote this joint regional IT venture, adding that UNESCO has decided to participate in it, as part of its Memory of the World Project, launched in 1992. "The project will be implemented in several phases. Phase One, now finished, was concerned with preparing the project and lasted for one year. Phase Two, still in progress, is devoted for collecting tangible evidence of Arab civilisation and oral heritage," she explains. The project is very pertinent, as only 0,5 per cent of the worldwide Web content is in Arabic. The purpose of this ambitious project is to make all the heritage of Arab countries available on the Internet, allowing the surfer to clock, on any Arab country to get all the information he needs. (Hassan Saadallah, "Digitising the Arab heritage", The Egyptian Gazette, June 12, 2008. Voir également Ashraf Mufîd,
« L'Égypte participe au congrès sur la
numérisation du patrimoine arabe tenu en
Syrie », al-Ahrâm du 21 mai).
- -
U n i o n E u r o p é e n n e
The Alexandria Library's Center for
Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage is participating in an international project to prevent the smuggling and counterfeiting of antiquities made of metal. The project involves documenting these antiquities according to an international scientific programme. The documentation includes establishing the age of the antiquities, as well as marking them in a special way, so that experts can recognise them if they've been lost or stolen. "The idea is to use modern technology to carefully analyse metallic antiquities and to document them accurately," said Fathî Sâlih, the Director of the Centre. "The project began nearly a year ago, and will take 30 months, during which time we come up with an international strategy for documenting these antiquities," Sâlih added. "We plan to design a mobile device to microscopically examine the metal surfaces. Laser and electronic nose technology will be involved in this. This analytical device will not harm the antiquities, because they won't have to be moved from place to place." The project, funded by the European Union, involves eight countries : Egypt, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Poland, Britain and Tajikistan. The research centres, academies, museums and organizations concerned with preserving antiquities in these countries will collaborate with the European Network for Jewellery Technology that has been doing research in this field for the past decade. (Hassan Saadallah, "Protecting antiquities the hi-tech way", The Egyptian Gazette, June 19, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Projet égyptien et international pour réduire le trafic archéologique », al-Ahrâr du 17 juin ; Ashraf Mufîd, « Projet égyptien et international pour réduire le trafic archéologique », al-Ahrâm du 18 juin).
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) organised in collaboration with conservation centre of Grand Egyptian Museum a workshop on paper conservation at the premises of the new project site. The four-day workshop, which ended on Thursday, contributed to the capacity development of conservators by delivery of both practical measures and theoretical background on paper conservation. The Japanese experts at the workshop introduced a wide range of the latest concepts, materials and techniques of conservation of cellulose•based materials, which employ both traditional Japanese and Western paper conservation with fibrous artefacts. ("Workshop on paper conservation", The Egyptian Gazette, March 2, 2008).
La Grèce va créer prochainement une école d'archéologie en Égypte, au Caire ou en Alexandrie. Le ministre grec Michel LIAPIS a fait cette annonce à l'issue d'entretiens avec son homologue égyptien Fârûq Husnî, en marge d'une rencontre des ministres de la
Culture d'Europe et des pays du pourtour de la Méditerranée, qui s'est tenue à Athènes
dans le cadre du Processus de Barcelone.
« Nous avons décidé de créer une école
grecque pour contribuer aux fouilles et
promouvoir la collaboration des deux pays
dans cette matière », a indiqué M. LIAPIS. Une importante minorité grecque vivait au Caire et en Alexandrie, notamment au cours de la première moitié du XXe siècle. M. LIAPIS a indiqué qu'un mémorandum entre la Grèce et l'Égypte serait signé d'ici à la fin de l'année à Louqsor, pour promouvoir leur collaboration en matière culturelle. (« En bref », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 4 juin 2008. Voir également « La Grèce va créer une école d'archéologie en Égypte », Progrès Dimanche du 1er juin).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a critiqué le niveau scientifique et le nombre exorbitant d'archéologues diplômés chaque année. « J'ai déjà attiré l'attention du ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, Hânî Hilâl, sur la nécessité de fermer les départements d'archéologie dans les différentes universités et de se satisfaire d'une seule Faculté dont la promotion annuelle se résume à 5 archéologues et 5 restaurateurs. Car au CSA, nous n'avons nullement besoin de tous ces diplômés surnuméraires qui atterrissent sur le marché du travail. En outre, nous avons actuellement un problème pour entraîner les archéologues », a déclaré Hawwâs lors d'une causerie organisée avant-hier au Salon culturel de l'Opéra. Hawwâs a ajouté : « J'ai du mal à payer les salaires de 8 000 fonctionnaires non-titulaires. Je lance un défi de me trouver un seul étudiant universitaire qui fréquente les bibliothèques ou mesure l'intérêt de la recherche scientifique ». (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Hawwâs : Nous avons uniquement besoin de 10 archéologues diplômés chaque année », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 4 avril 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a affirmé que le système routinier et stérile d'enseignement de l'archéologie dans les écoles est la cause du désintérêt des élèves dans l'apprentissage de l'histoire de leur pays. Pour preuve, le Dr Hawwâs a révélé que les enfants européens et américains lui avaient posé 30 mille questions sur son site Internet, alors qu'il n'en a reçu que 3 questions de la part des enfants égyptiens. [] Hawwâs a annoncé que les ventes des reproductions signées de son célébrissime chapeau ont rapporté 500 mille dollars. Cette somme sera intégralement versée au profit du musée Suzanne Mubârak pour les enfants. Enfin, Hawwâs a exprimé son attachement à ce chapeau usé à présent, mais avec lequel il a réalisé ses découvertes archéologiques les plus grandioses. (Abû Naddâra, « Les ventes du chapeau de Hawwâs rapportent 1/2 million de dollars », al-Akhbâr du 6 avril 2008).
Le Doyen de la faculté d'Archéologie du Caire a annoncé que 35 stagiaires de l'Unesco et de l'Organisation islamique pour l'Éducation, les Sciences et la Culture (ISESCO) ont suivi la semaine dernière des conférences dans sa Faculté dans les domaines des antiquités égyptiennes et islamiques et de la restauration archéologique. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 20 mai 2008).
Italian Ambassador in Cairo Claudio PACIFICO and Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Zâhî Hawwâs tomorrow open a training programme for curators of the National Museum in Tahrîr Square in central Cairo, according to Nino MEROLA, the Director of Cooperation for Development Office at the Italian Embassy in Cairo. MEROLA added that the Italian Centre in Rome was committed to organising workshops in Egypt to help preserve the internationally famous artefacts. ("National Museum upgrade launch", The Egyptian Gazette, May 4, 2008. Voir également « Stage de formation pour les restaurateurs et les conservateurs du Musée Égyptien », al-Wafd du 2 mai ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Grand projet pour développer le Musée Égyptien », al-Ahrâr du 6 mai ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Réaménagement du Musée Égyptien », Sabâh al-Khayr du 6 mai ; « Programmes italiens pour sauvegarder les antiquités égyptiennes », Uktubar du 11 mai ; « Le Musée Égyptien dédié uniquement aux chef-d'œuvres », Akhbâr al-Adab du 11 mai).
[ ] Ces stages de formation s'inscrivent dans le cadre du projet de réaménagement du Musée Égyptien conformément à la convention signée par l'Égypte et l'Italie. En effet, le gouvernement italien a accordé un don de 1,3 million d'euros destiné à moderniser l'exposition muséologique des pièces qui seront conservées dans ce musée, après le transfert du reste des collections vers le Grand Musée Égyptien de Gîza et le Musée national de la Civilisation situé à Fustât. Le musée de Tahrîr deviendra alors le musée d'art de l'Égypte ancienne. Ces stages de formation sont assurés par des experts italiens spécialisés en muséologie, en éclairage, en documentation et en restauration. Par ailleurs, ces stages coïncident avec le début de la deuxième phase de réaménagement du Musée Égyptien lancée par le CSA. Le parcours de la visite sera modifié. L'accès au musée s'effectuera à travers le portail principal utilisé actuellement à la fois pour l'entrée et la sortie. Celle-ci s'effectuera exclusivement à travers un autre portail situé en face de l'hôtel Nile Hilton. [] Le projet de modernisation s'étendra également au réaménagement du jardin du Musée Égyptien. Les piétons de la place 'Abd al-Mun'im Riyâd pourront alors admirer les pièces archéologiques exposées dans ce jardin. Autres objectifs : améliorer la climatisation du musée et l'étanchéité des toits, réaménager les entrepôts, installer des filtres modernes pour protéger les pièces contre les rayons ultraviolets, etc. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Don italien de 1,3 million d'euros pour moderniser le plus vieux des musées égyptiens », al-Ahrâr du 2 mai. Voir également « Grand projet pour développer le Musée Égyptien », al-Wafd du 6 mai ; « Coopération avec l'Italie pour former les conservateurs des musées », al-Ahrâm du 6 mai).
« Les Cairotes sont responsables de l'augmentation du chômage parmi les jeunes de Louqsor » : une accusation portée par le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, à l'encontre des travailleurs du Grand Caire installés dans sa ville. Dr Farag affirme que 80 % du personnel hôtelier de Louqsor vient du Caire contre seulement 20 % d'autochtones. Dr Farag confie : « Les récents embellissements de Louqsor sont dus à mon goût raffiné. Je ne suis pas artiste, mais tout simplement un homme de goût ». (Abû al-Su'ûd Muhammad, « Samîr Farag : Louqsor est belle car j'ai du goût », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 6 février 2008).
[ ] Dr Samîr Farag told that a 50 million euro publicity campaign would not promote Luxor internationally as much as the visit of French President SARKOZY to the city did. "It was Minister of Housing Eng. Ahmad al-Maghrabî who was confident of the major publicity campaign, which came as a result of the French President's visit to Luxor," Dr. Farag said, adding that more than 109 television crews from different world countries, journalists and reporters gathered in Luxor to cover SARKOZY's visit. (Salah Attia, "Luxor celebrates remarkable success", The Egyptian Gazette, March 10, 2008).
Le secrétaire général du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a nié l'existence de toute coopération entre le CSA et les missions archéologiques juives depuis plus de six années. Lors de la Rencontre des
Ve archéologues, Dr Hawwâs a démenti la présence d'aucune mission archéologique israélienne sur le sol égyptien. Il a affirmé : « Nous ne sommes pas contre les juifs, car celui qui s'y oppose est un taré ». [] À plusieurs reprises, Hawwâs a appelé à la création d'un syndicat pour les archéologues. Mais, jusqu'à présent le gouvernement refuse d'y consentir. C'est pourquoi, le CSA a passé des accords avec quelques hôpitaux privés au Caire, à Louqsor et à Mansûra, afin d'offrir des prestations médicales aux archéologues à des prix symboliques. En fait, il s'agit d'un
ersatz de Sécurité sociale ! (Ni'mât Magdî,
« Zâhî Hawwâs : Pas de missions
archéologiques israéliennes en Égypte »,
Ruz al-Yûsuf du 21 juin 2008).
Réaménagement de la ville de Louqsor
The heat wave that hit Egypt last Sunday did not deter Prime Minister Ahmad Nazîf from going ahead with his planned two-day tour of Luxor to view the progress achieved so far with the project to develop the whole area, including the town itself, into an open air museum. The plans include more facilities and easier access for tourists. Luxor has been under major development since 2005 under President Husnî Mubârak's programme to
improve services for the residents of Upper Egypt and to develop and promote tourist
projects, which will in turn fuel the local
economy and provide job opportunities.
Buildings that encroached on ancient
monuments were cleared, making way for excavations that revealed the full route of the Avenue of Sphinxes, once the royal path between Luxor and Karnak temples. After three years of makeover, Luxor is looking more alluring than ever. New houses and shops have been built to replace those that were forcibly demolished. All the buildings along the Corniche have been repainted in earth colours, and the city's streets and squares have been given a facelift, including the planting of large numbers of trees and flowers.
Nazîf's visit started with an inspection of the road leading to and from Luxor international airport, which has been revamped and lined with trees and flowers. The prime minister then stopped at Karnak Temple to check on work being undertaken on the temple foreground and its surroundings. This project, which was launched in May 2006, aims at protecting the monument from construction infringements as well as restoring the temple's aesthetic aspect. All encroachment has been removed from the forefront of the temple in an attempt to allow excavation to uncover the ancient harbour and a canal that was once connected to the Nile. According to ancient maps, the ancient Egyptians used a canal to access the Nile and cross to the West Bank in a position corresponding to Hatshepsut's Dayr al-Baharî Temple, which was built on the same axis. Over the last 20 months, excavations in front of the temple have uncovered a Ptolemaic ceremonial bath, a private ramp built for Pharaoh Taharqa of the 25th Dynasty, a large number of bronze coins, an ancient dock and the remains of a wall that once protected the temples of Karnak from the rising Nile flood. Later on the first day of his visit, the prime minister viewed the progress at Luxor Temple where shanty houses, bazaars and rubbish dumps have been cleared and a small public garden opened. The unregulated building around the temple had been described by Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî as "a time bomb waiting to explode". Now, Husnî said, the clearances had opened up to view a small Coptic church and the Abû al-Haggâg Mosque, providing a new aspect to the temple. "Train passengers will now be able to admire the colossi of Luxor Temple as soon as they step out of the station," Husnî told Al-Ahram Weekly. The station itself, a major transport hub in a city that receives more than two million tourists a year, has been given a LE20 million refurbishment. (Nevine El-Aref, "New dawn for Luxor temples", Al-Ahram Weekly, March 27, 2008).
[ ] Que l'on débarque par train ou par avion, les changements qu'a subis la ville [de Louqsor] sont surprenants. Certains travaux ont été achevés, d'autres sont en cours. Un grand projet de développement dans le cadre d'un plan entamé vers la fin de 2004 va être réalisé en plusieurs étapes jusqu'en 2030. Arrivé par train, on voit la gare qui offre un nouveau look, embellie par des allées de marbre, des murs ornés de fresques de style pharaonique, de grands écrans LCD, des surfaces de vente et de nombreux guichets. Des changements alliant civilisation ancienne et modernité. À la sortie de la gare, un paysage verdoyant accueille le visiteur avec des rues plus larges. Beaucoup de cafétérias et une bonne vue d'ensemble qui va jusqu'au temple de Louqsor et la place Abû al-Haggâg. Et l'on peut même apercevoir au loin les deux rives, d'un côté le temple de Louqsor et de l'autre celui d'Hatchepsout. À la place du jardin public et des constructions anarchiques qui entouraient le temple de Louqsor et la mosquée Abû al-Haggâg, l'on a installé des bancs, construit un théâtre et planté des arbres. Les itinéraires des microbus ont changé et même leurs stations ont été déplacées. Non loin et dans la même rue, le souk populaire du quartier a lui aussi changé d'allure avec son portail au style pharaonique. Ce marché, où se bousculaient calèches et voitures défiant les propriétaires de bazars et vendeurs de légumes et de fruits, s'est transformé en un endroit réservé aux piétons. Aujourd'hui, le visiteur peut flâner à son aise tout le long d'une rue bordée de part et d'autre de bazars.
Surprenant, mais beau, ce changement est une excitation à retrouver les traces d'un passé glorieux, surtout avec l'allée des sphinx à tête de bélier qui lie le temple de Louqsor à celui de Karnak et traverse la ville sur une distance de 2,7 Km. Une allée qui rappelle le voyage d'Amon durant la fête d'Opet et dont les échos joyeux semblent parvenir du fond des âges. Une allée toujours envahie par des constructions sauvages, mais appelées à être rasées entièrement dans le cadre du développement de la ville. Un plan qui a sans doute fait des victimes. Des citoyens qui vivent autour et au-dessus des sites pharaoniques et qui ont aussi le droit de vivre. En fait, pour changer le visage de cette ville touristique, des quartiers entiers d'habitations doivent être rasés, afin de laisser apparaître des sites portant l'histoire de la civilisation égyptienne et laissant place à des allées en marbre, des places immenses, des souks et des cafétérias destinés aux touristes. Un changement qui pourrait plaire aux étrangers qui viennent découvrir les monuments pharaoniques dans la plus célèbre des anciennes capitales de l'Égypte, mais qui déplaît à la plupart des habitants de Louqsor dont beaucoup vivent dans des conditions déplorables.
Des travaux de réaménagement, des rues pavées et des constructions modernes ont été réalisés non loin de la cour des temples de Louqsor et de Karnak. Malheureusement, la scène est différente dans la rue Mahmûd Murâd ou 'Izbat al-Safîh. Une cinquantaine de familles vivent terrées comme des bêtes dans des pièces exiguës, sombres, aux murs délabrés et suintant d'humidité, même si quelques façades sont ornées de motifs à caractère pharaonique. Des familles qui vivent au jour le jour et dont la plupart des hommes sont au chômage. Ils expliquent que leur vie a été bouleversée après le transfert de la station de microbus qui se trouve sur la route d'al-Karnak, à 14 Km de l'aéroport. « Cette station nous servait de gagne-pain. Nous vendions des boissons, des repas ou des sandwiches pour les passagers. Aujourd'hui, même si nous allons travailler dans la nouvelle station, il faut verser 700
L.E. par mois pour louer un endroit. Qui de nous est-il en possession d'une telle somme ? Nous vivons avec les moyens de bord et chacun possède une famille composée au minimum de 6 membres », explique Farag Ramadân, homme âgé qui s'est trouvé avec son fils au chômage. Des cas similaires de souffrance, de Sarhân, Ashraf ou de Bannûra lequel vit dans la rue avec ses trois filles
après qu'un incendie eut détruit l'unique
pièce où il vivait.
Une question s'impose : les habitants
profitent-ils de cette promotion du tourisme si apparente dans la ville ? Une prospérité dont les chiffres font preuve lors de la saison touristique. Entre 13 000 et 14 000 visiteurs par jour. Et si le plan de développement a contribué à augmenter le nombre de touristes à Thèbes, le modeste citoyen ne semble pas avoir gagné grand-chose, surtout avec des prix qui ne cessent de flamber dans cette ville touristique. « Le revenu du tourisme revient à une certaine catégorie de gens ; quant à nous, nous vivons dans des conditions de vie plus qu'inhumaines, et dans un an, ce sera la famine », s'indigne 'Adlî Sidhum, fonctionnaire à la retraite. Il cite l'exemple du kilo de fèves qui se vend aujourd'hui à 6 L.E., des lentilles qui coûtent 7 L.E. et de la bouteille d'huile qui a atteint les 8 L.E., sans compter la crise du pain due à la hausse du prix de la farine. Que peut faire un ouvrier qui gagne entre 10 et 20 L.E. par jour ? Entouré d'un nombre de journaliers au chômage et qui veulent profiter de l'occasion pour exprimer leur vie malheureuse. Ils expliquent que même si beaucoup de travaux de construction ont lieu à Louqsor, ils restent les bras croisés, sans travail. « Ces travaux sont exécutés par des sociétés d'infrastructures qui ont déjà leurs propres ouvriers. Ils ne nous offrent pas de travail », explique l'un d'eux.
Un chômage qui a poussé 'Abdallah, comme beaucoup d'autres jeunes natifs de la ville, à aller travailler à Hurghada. Lui, qui est en vacances dans sa ville natale, explique qu'il n'a pas trouvé de boulot à Louqsor, puisque la plupart des métiers de tourisme sont exercés par des Cairotes ou des jeunes habitants hors de cette ville. Une réalité assurée par Samîr Farag, chef du Haut Conseil de la ville qui l'argumente par le manque des qualifications des jeunes de Louqsor dans le domaine du tourisme. Cependant, il explique que dans son plan de développement qui comprend aussi le côté social, économique et culturel, le citoyen est une priorité. « Nous avons commencé à donner des cours de formation en tourisme pour les jeunes de Louqsor, surtout ceux qui n'ont pas fait d'études dans ce domaine. Autrefois, les hôtels et grandes sociétés préféraient faire travailler des jeunes Cairotes, plus qualifiés, mais aujourd'hui, j'ai promulgué un décret qui stipule que chaque nouvel hôtel doit recruter 80 % de son staff de la région de Louqsor », explique Farag qui demande cependant aux citoyens d'améliorer leurs compétences et leurs moyens. « Comment un chauffeur de taxi pourrait-il convaincre un touriste de l'accompagner si sa voiture est dans un état lamentable ? Il faut que les gens changent de manière de vie et soient plus flexibles face à ce développement de la ville », ajoute-t-il.
Samîr Farag pense que les habitants de Louqsor profitent de ce plan de réaménagement. Ils vivaient dans des maisons délabrées, sans les services les plus élémentaires, au milieu des tombes et des égouts, ce qui risque de provoquer des dégâts aux sites touristiques. Les déplacer vers d'autres lieux de vie plus humains, à l'exemple des habitants d'al-Qurna à la rive Ouest, leur permettra de vivre dans des conditions de vie meilleures. Cela dit, la réinstallation des habitants d'al-Qurna n'a pas manqué d'avoir des aspects négatifs même aux yeux des étrangers. Pour les citoyens, être déplacé de son lieu de vie ou de son commerce n'est pas une affaire facile, surtout quand les sommes offertes comme indemnités ne sont pas suffisantes dans une ville où le prix de l'immobilier ne cesse de flamber. Muhammad 'Abdu, herboriste qui a dû céder son magasin pour permettre l'expansion du plan de développement, réplique qu'il avait déjà forgé sa réputation et rien ne pourra le compenser pour cette perte. « Que peut-on faire aujourd'hui avec 40 000 ou 50 000 L.E. d'indemnités dans une ville où le prix du m2 dépasse les 700 L.E. Le plus petit magasin coûte 100 000 L.E. J'ai une famille à ma charge composée de 18 membres et 7 personnes qui travaillent pour moi. Eux aussi subviennent aux besoins de leurs familles. Que dois-je faire ? », s'interroge-t-il tout en cédant la parole à son voisin, Sha'bân, un autre jeune herboriste. Bien que ce dernier soit satisfait de tous ces changements qui embellissent la ville et attirent plus de touristes, il est indigné, car il ne se sent pas concerné par cette prospérité. « Le touriste aujourd'hui est bien cerné et orienté par le personnel de l'agence touristique qui l'a ramené. Son voyage est bien organisé et c'est son guide qui le conseille où se rendre et où acheter ses souvenirs. Parfois, ce sont les guides qui dictent le prix avec lequel les touristes doivent acheter dans les magasins. Des complicités bien calculées. Alors, nous avons de moins en moins de clients étrangers et évidemment aucun bénéfice », explique Sha'bân qui n'est pas le seul à se plaindre.
Une promenade dans cette ville prestigieuse fait parade de nouveaux édifices au style architectural exceptionnel à l'exemple du centre Mubârak pour le patrimoine culturel, le centre de formation artisanale pour les femmes, le centre de préservation pour le patrimoine nubien, le magnifique édifice du Conseil de la ville et les services du gouvernement électronique pour faciliter les procédures bureaucratiques aux citoyens et ce, à travers un circuit tout informatisé. Des projets prometteurs, mais du chauffeur de taxi au vendeur du coin, jusqu'aux chômeurs assis dans les cafés, beaucoup se plaignent des conditions de vie qui ne se sont guère améliorées en parallèle. Et une phrase revient toujours à la bouche des citoyens : « Tout cela est beau, mais cela ne nous concerne pas ».
Un plan de développement a été entamé depuis trois ans avec un budget qui s'élève à 1,2 milliards de L.E. et qui va s'étaler jusqu'en 2030 pour transformer cette ville splendide en un musée ouvert et moderne. Cependant, le modeste citoyen supposé faire partie intégrante de ce projet demeure insatisfait, surtout qu'environ 5 % de la population de cette ville jouissent pleinement des revenus du tourisme. Et c'est le cas de toute l'Égypte, comme l'affirme Samîr Farag. Cependant, il ajoute que le citoyen n'est nullement exclu dans le cadre de ce plan. On a prévu des centres de formation aux femmes pour la production artisanale, des cours de formation dans le tourisme. Il rétorque qu'il n'est pas facile de tout faire en un seul moment. Qui sait ? Peut-être que les habitants de Thèbes se sont trop pressés et un jour ils se sentiront concernés, eux aussi, par ce développement. Peu importe, c'est le citoyen qui a toujours tort. (Doaa Khalifa, « Louqsor se développe à deux vitesses », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 13 février 2008).
L'hebdomadaire officieux Akhbâr al-Yawm consacre une page entière à l'éloge des travaux gigantesques en cours aussi bien dans la ville de Louqsor que sur la rive Ouest et dont le montant s'élève à 1,2 milliards de livres égyptiennes. Le journaliste Muhsin Gûd détaille les décisions récentes approuvées par le Premier ministre :
-Collaboration entre le ministère des Télécommunications et le Conseil Suprême de Louqsor pour la création d'un site Internet visant à assurer une promotion touristique internationale et à fournir aux touristes des informations archéologiques, des facilités de réservation et d'organisation de séjour Un réseau Internet Wifi est déjà installé gratuitement dans la plupart des sites touristiques. Il permet aux visiteurs de rester en contact permanent avec leur pays d'origine.
-Outre les touristes étrangers, le Premier ministre égyptien a pensé à améliorer les conditions de vie des simples citoyens : modernisation du débarcadère de la rive Ouest, création d'espaces verts sur une superficie de 7 feddan-s, assainissement des zones d'urbanisation anarchique.
-Parmi les projets les plus importants, le Premier ministre a approuvé la création du premier cinéma IMAX au Moyen-Orient. Deux documentaires historiques et archéologiques produits par le National Geographic y seront projetés. L'acteur 'Umar al-Sharîf animera le premier film ; le Dr Zâhî Hawwâs le second.
Parmi les trois sites proposés, le Premier ministre a choisi lui-même l'implantation de ce cinéma à proximité du temple de Karnak.
-Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, a annoncé l'inauguration en décembre 2008 du projet de réaménagement de l'esplanade du temple de Karnak et le dégagement autour de la Corniche de l'espace compris entre les temples de Louqsor et de Karnak. Au Sud de Karnak, le bâtiment appartenant à l'entreprise The Arab Contractors, situé directement en bord du Nil, sera rasé pour faire place à un espace vert baptisé Jardin Suzanne Mubârak.
-Le budget supplémentaire décidé par le Premier ministre sera également consacré à l'indemnisation des personnes expropriées et à la création de nouveaux axes routiers, afin de fluidifier la circulation automobile dans la ville.
-Une nouvelle marina sera créée sur une superficie de 500 feddan-s dans le village al-Marîsî, à seulement 15 Km au Sud de Louqsor. Ce projet dont le coût s'élève à un milliard de livres égyptiennes résoudrait tous les problèmes d'amarrage et de stationnement des bateaux de croisière et des hôtels flottants. C'est l'Institut de recherches nilotiques, dépendant du ministère de l'Irrigation, qui a choisi al-Marîsî pour l'implantation de cette marina ultramoderne de 3 Km de long et qui crée 10 000 offres d'emploi dans la région. En attendant, le Premier ministre a chargé le ministère du Tourisme d'élaborer un plan global pour sécuriser les hôtels flottants contre les nombreux incendies survenus récemment.
-À la demande du Premier ministre, le ministère de l'Investissement sera chargé de la préservation et de la gestion du village créé à al-Qurna par l'architecte Hasan Fathî. (Muhsin Gûd, « Louqsor autrement ! », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 5 janvier. Voir également « Pour les beaux yeux des investisseurs américains : mise en jachère de 500 feddans dans la rive Ouest de Louqsor », al-Maydân du 16 avril).
Muhammad Sâlih, membre du Conseil municipal de la ville de Louqsor, a révélé l'arrêt du projet de réaménagement de Louqsor faute de crédits budgétaires suffisants pour indemniser le relogement des habitants expulsés des villages al-Qurna, Qurnat Mar'î et Marîsî situés sur la rive Ouest. Ce plan de réaménagement englobe l'expropriation de 550 feddans de terrains agricoles très fertiles dans le village al-Marîs, ainsi que la démolition d'environ 618 maisons pour la création d'une marina, de plusieurs hôtels, restaurants et bazars. 85 autres feddans doivent être également expropriés autour du village de Hasan Fathî sur la rive Ouest. Mais, faute d'argent, les arrêtés d'expulsion n'ont pas été exécutés. Muhammad Sâlih a mis en garde contre la mise en friche de ces vastes terres agricoles au profit de projets d'investissement touristique. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Arrêt du projet de modernisation de Louqsor faute de crédits », al-Badîl du 26 février).
Prime Minister Ahmad Nazîf held a series of meetings 22/3/2008 with the ministers in Luxor to implement the country's plan towards comprehensive development, ending the citizens'suffering and providing new job opportunities for the Upper Egypt's youth within the framework of the plan aiming at turning Luxor to an open museum. During the first meeting, the Investment Minister Mahmûd Muhyî al-Dîn explained the Ministry's plan concerning al-Tûd Plateau, which is expected to be turned to 4500 hotel units at a cost of $ 450 million. At the same time, Nazîf agreed to establish two industrial zones ; one for light products and the other for the various products. During the second meeting, Nazîf discussed with Minister of Communications Dr. Târiq Kâmil the steps of implementing an electronic gate for Luxor City through the Internet at a cost of LE 7 million. During the third meeting, Nazîf agreed on starting immediately in implementing the project of lighting the West Bank, which will be financed by Culture Ministry at a cost of LE 52 million. Moreover, Nazîf watched a recorded film about the dimensions of the project, which is currently implemented on an area of 6 KM as well as the developments of sound and light in Karnak Temple. During the fourth meeting, Fârûq Husnî, the Culture Minister displayed the ministry's plan, which is currently implemented in Luxor, in addition to the great discoveries by the Egyptian-German mission of 7 statues of the god of war and 2 statues of Sphinx as well as a statue of Amenhotep III. ("Developing Luxor City to be open world museum", Egypt State Information Service, March 23, 2008).
Une des maisons menacées d'être rasées à Karnak
Près de mille personnes se sont rassemblées devant l'école préparatoire d'al-Karnak, afin de protester contre l'arrêté de démolition de dix nouveaux immeubles d'habitation situés dans la région attenante au parvis du temple de Karnak. Cet arrêté municipal a été pris par le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, qui prévoit l'installation de projets touristiques à cet emplacement. Il est à souligner que le sit-in des habitants de Hawd al-Sharîf à Karnak dure depuis vendredi dernier. Quelques membres des conseils régionaux ont exprimé leur solidarité avec les protestataires et leur droit de conserver leurs habitations. Le rassemblement devant l'école d'al-Karnak a duré cinq heures, au milieu d'une forte présence policière. Ensuite, une délégation des habitants s'est dirigée pour rencontrer le Dr Farag et lui présenter leurs doléances. (Nasr al-Qûsî, « Sit-in des habitants de Hawd
al-Sharîf à Karnak », al-Badîl du 8 janvier
2008).
- -
Dans une réaction violente contre les
opérations de démolition des habitations orchestrées par le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, des milliers de citoyens ont organisé un sit-in après la prière communautaire du vendredi. Ils ont dénoncé l'humiliation, l'expulsion et la démolition de leurs habitations, sous prétexte de réaménagement de la ville et de sa transformation en un musée à ciel ouvert. Alors qu'en réalité, le motif principal derrière ces opérations consiste à revendre ces terrains aux investisseurs. Les forces de sécurité dépêchées à Hawd al-Sharîf à proximité du temple de Karnak et le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor ont été accueillis avec des jets de pierre. Très vite la situation dégénère. Une grande manifestation s'est lancé vers la Corniche pour couper la circulation et détruire les cars de touristes. Seule l'intervention des sages et des notables de la ville a permis d'éviter une catastrophe. Ces troubles rappellent à l'esprit les affrontements meurtriers déclenchés en 1998 sur la rive Ouest entre la population et les dirigeants exécutifs qui tentaient de les expulser. (al-Maydân du 14 janvier. Voir également Gamâl al-Uqsurî, « La révolution de la colère pourchasse Samîr Farag », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 14 janvier ; Nasr al-Qûsî, « Les habitants de Karnak menacent d'organiser des grèves de la faim si les responsables ne renoncent pas à raser leurs maisons », al-Badîl du 1er avril).
Près de 3 000 habitants de Louqsor ont organisé une manifestation pour protester contre l'expropriation de leurs maisons contiguës au temple de Karnak. Des banderoles hostiles au président du Conseil Suprême de la ville, Dr Samîr Farag, ont été brandies. Les manifestants ont dénoncé la destruction illégale de leurs habitations. Ils ont refusé les logements de substitution qui leur sont proposés et ont appelé le gouvernement à retirer ce projet de réaménagement. De son côté, le Dr Samîr Farag a déclaré que toutes les expulsions sont effectuées dans le cadre de la loi et que son plan de développement vise à la fois l'intérêt du pays et des citoyens. (Muhsin Gûd, « Les habitants de Karnak manifestent contre la destruction de leurs maisons », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 29 mars. Voir également Nasr al-Qûsî, « Le Parquet ordonne l'arrestation de 25 manifestants ayant participé aux émeutes de Karnak », al-Badîl du 30 mars).
[ ] Des femmes en pleur ont pris part aux manifestations. Elles ont crié : « Où pouvons-nous aller, Samîr Farag ! », « Nous ne quitterons pas nos maisons que dans un cercueil », etc. Les manifestants ont brandi des banderoles appelant à la démission de Samîr Farag comme du gouvernement. Ils ont barré la route devant les cars de touristes. Des véhicules blindés ont été appelés en renfort pour ramener l'ordre et disperser les émeutiers. (« Manifestation à Louqsor contre les transferts des maisons dans le secteur de Karnak », al-Wafd du 29 mars. Voir également Nasr al-Qûsî, « Les habitants de Karnak manifestent contre la destruction de leurs habitations », al-Badîl du 27 mars).
[ ] Les forces de sécurité ont réussi à maîtriser une marche de protestation qui a viré en actes de vandalisme, afin d'obliger le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor à annuler sa décision de détruire quelques habitations pour développer la zone archéologique de Karnak. Lors de ces échauffourées, 5 circonscrits ont été légèrement blessés. Le calme règne à nouveau sur la rive Ouest. (Usâma al-Hawwârî, « Arrestation de 25 agitateurs dans des incidents de Louqsor », al-Ahrâm du 29 mars. Voir également Huda Khalîl, « Arrestation de 25 manifestants à Louqsor », al-Dustûr du 30 mars ; Khâlid Mahmûd, « Manifestations à Karnak », al-Usbû' du 5 avril).
Le Parquet de Louqsor a ordonné la mise en examen de 25 agitateurs qui ont provoqué des dégâts importants sur l'esplanade du temple de Karnak. Au cours des émeutes organisées hier, ces accusés ont saccagé plus de 25 bazars touristiques qui vient d'être aménagés et n'ont pas encore été remis à leurs propriétaires. Les manifestations ont également arraché des arbres, démoli la façade du Centre d'information touristique ainsi que 92 projecteurs qui coûtent 1 200 livres égyptiennes l'unité. Le Parquet a ordonné l'arrestation de 15 autres suspects et la formation d'une commission technique chargée d'évaluer le montant des dégâts. [] Le directeur général des antiquités de Haute-Égypte, Dr Mansûr Burayk, a déclaré que ces incidents n'ont eu aucun effet sur le taux de fréquentation des temples. Celui de Karnak a accueilli 5 402 touristes étrangers. Les travaux de réaménagement de la ville sont financés par l'État et non pas par les citoyens. De son côté, le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, estime que les travaux réalisés actuellement constituent une avancée notoire. (Muhsin Gûd, « Mise en examen à Louqsor de 25 agitateurs », al-Akhbâr du 30 mars. Voir également "Police detain 25 Luxor residents", The Egyptian Gazette, March 30 ; Nâsir Harîdî, « Le Parquet interroge 36 manifestants qui ont saccagé le rest-house du président de la ville de Louqsor », al•'Arabî du 6 avril).
[ ] Les manifestants ont affirmé protester
contre l'injustice et le désespoir de voir
détruire leurs habitations suite à des
décisions anarchiques. Ragab 'Abd al-Râdî,
employé à l'Institut hôtelier, ne voit aucun lien entre la démolition des maisons et un prétendu projet de développer ou de modernisation de la ville. Muhammad Khalîl souligne que ces maisons ont été récemment construites d'une manière tout à fait légale, avec l'accord du CSA et des permis de bâtir délivrés par Samîr Farag lui-même. « Nous avons organisé cette manifestation pacifique après avoir reçu les notifications d'expulsion et que certains d'entre nous aient été convoqués pour signer les contrats des nouvelles maisons », souligne-t-il. Certaines maisons expropriées et détruites pour cause d'utilité publique ont été revendues par la suite à un investisseur pour y implanter un projet privé. Par ailleurs, certains propriétaires n'ont pas touché jusqu'à présent les dédommagements qui leur sont dus. Après avoir mis toutes ses économies dans la construction légale d'une villa, le hagg Fu'âd 'Allâm a été subitement exproprié pour cause d'utilité publique. Il a été désagréablement surpris de constater que sa terre a été revendue à un investisseur au prix de plusieurs millions de livres égyptiennes. Le hagg Fu'âd s'insurge : « Qui a donné au Dr Samîr Farag le droit de disposer de la sorte du sort des habitants de Louqsor qui ont consacré leur vie au service du tourisme et des antiquités égyptiennes ! ». (Nagâh Hasan, « Arrestation de 25 citoyens de Louqsor impliqués dans une manifestation de protestation contre leur expulsion de leurs maisons », al-Wafd du 30 mars).
Police on Saturday detained 25 Luxor residents for questioning about their involvement in clashes with police during a protest against government attempts to move the group from their homes to make room for an open-air museum, a security official said. The detainees are facing charges of "illegal gathering and vandalism," 'Umar 'Allam al-Dîn, head of the local prosecutor's office, told the Associated Press. During a violent demonstration on Friday in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor, police forcibly prevented hundreds of protesters from entering the Karnak Temple, one of the most famous sites from the Pharaonic era. The protesters hurled stones at police, who responded by firing tear gas and arresting several of them on the spot. Nearby tourist bazaars and street lampposts suffered considerable damages, said 'Allam al-Dîn. Many of the residents who are to be displaced under the new museum plan have refused governments offers of compensation and temporary housing. Some complain the money is insufficient while others simply do not want to move. (Haggag Salama, "Police detains 25 Luxor residents after clashes over museum plan", Daily News Egypt, March 30).
Les femmes de Hawd al-Sharîf ont mis leurs vêtements noirs de deuil et se sont assises devant leurs maisons dont la démolition a été décrétée par le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag. Ces femmes ont décidé de rester à l'extérieur de leurs maisons en attendant le retour de leurs hommes détenus pour avoir manifesté contre les arrêtés de démolition. [] Les habitants de Karnak ont adressé la pétition suivante au président Mubârak : « Des tempêtes
impétueuses et sinistres se déchaînent
actuellement contre tous les villages, les
quartiers et les ruelles de Karnak et de
Louqsor. Ses habitants invoquent votre intervention urgente. Le moment est peut-être venu pour appeler à un grand colloque réunissant les experts égyptiens dans le développement des villes historiques, à côté d'une élite de responsables exécutifs, populaires et législatifs. Il est temps de mettre les points sur les i et de nous écouter, au lieu d'entendre parler de nous. Car douloureuse est la réalité. Les velléités de démolition et de destruction brillent dans les yeux des démons. Pourquoi les nouveaux pharaons de Louqsor nous revêtent-ils des habits du chagrin ? Pourquoi transforment-ils nos jours en nuit noire dénuée de toute lueur d'espoir ? Transformer Louqsor en musée à ciel ouvert : nous en sommes tous favorables. Mais, ils [les responsables] imposent un black-out sur une situation scandaleuse et injuste. Quant aux indemnisations dont ils se gargarisent, elles dissimulent humiliation, coercition, anéantissement et exil. Les petites gens de Karnak et de Louqsor ne se laisseront pas intimider par les hordes des Mongols. Ils comptent bien les affronter avec courage et détermination dans leur droit à une vie libre et digne ». (Nasr al-Qûsî, « Les femmes de Karnak habillées de noir assises devant leurs maisons à attendre le retour des hommes arrêtés », al-Badîl du 31 mars).
Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, a reçu hier les représentants des familles influentes à Karnak, afin de calmer les esprits après les incidents survenus vendredi dernier. Lors de cet entretien tenu dans son bureau, le Dr Farag leur a affirmé qu'aucune zone de Karnak ne sera évacuée, à l'exception de Nag' al-Hasâsna dont l'évacuation a été décidée depuis des années, afin de pouvoir fouiller l'entrée Sud du temple de Karnak. Dr Farag a démenti les rumeurs concernant la démolition des habitations situées sur 3 kilomètres entre l'esplanade du temple et al-Zayniyya. Enfin, il s'est engagé à indemniser correctement les citoyens expropriés de manière à ce qu'ils puissent être dignement relogés ailleurs. Les mères des 25 manifestants arrêtés vendredi dernier ont réclamé l'intervention du Dr Farag pour leur libération. (Nagâh Hasan, « Le président de Louqsor accueille les habitants de Karnak », al-Wafd du 4 avril).
Sous le titre « Une leçon qui nous vient de Louqsor », le journaliste Usâma Haykal ne tarit pas d'éloges sur les grands projets de réaménagement de cette ville orchestrés par le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor et mis en place par le corps d'ingénierie de l'armée. Un patrimoine archéologique mis en valeur, de meilleures conditions de séjour pour les visiteurs et de vie pour les habitants, qui sont gracieusement indemnisés : le journaliste dresse un portrait paradisiaque de « Louqsor qui, désormais, fait honneur à l'Égypte. Les habitants ont reconquis leur ville. Samîr Farag a mérité leur respect et leur confiance. L'expérience de Louqsor est une belle leçon à mettre au profit des autres villes égyptiennes ». (al-Masrî al-Yawm du 12
janvier).
-
Pour couronner les succès du projet réaménagement de la ville de Louqsor, de un
nouveau festival annuel intitulé Festival de Karnak sera organisé le 24 avril prochain,
Mme
sous le haut patronage de Suzanne Mubârak. Celle-ci commencera cette semaine des réunions de travail avec le ministre de l'Information, Anas al-Fiqî, afin de concevoir la programmation de ce festival, qui se déroulera durant toute une semaine sur l'esplanade du temple de Louqsor et non de Karnak comme le laisse entendre son intitulé. Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, salue cette initiative et rêve d'inscrire ces festivités sur l'agenda des festivals internationaux comme ceux de Gerach, de Baalbek ou de Dubaï. (al-Usbû' du 26 janvier 2008).
Annoncé officiellement fin 2004, le projet de développement de Louqsor s'articule autour de trois axes principaux qui s'étalent jusqu'en 2030. En voici quelques jalons : évacuation du village al-Qurna, transfert de ses habitants vers le nouveau village al-Târif, baisse du niveau des eaux souterraines à Karnak, dégagement du dromos (destruction notamment d'un commissariat de police, 2 mosquées, une église et 600 maisons), préservation des colosses de Memnon (4 millions L.E.), modernisation de la gare centrale (18 millions L.E.), réaménagement des rues principales et de l'avenue du marché touristique (19 millions L.E.), création du village nubien (15 millions L.E.) du centre civilisationnel pour les femmes et d'un centre de formation et d'entraînement de la main-d'œuvre pour résoudre le problème du chômage, installation d'une halle moderne pour résoudre le problème des marchands ambulants, création d'un centre commercial (15 millions de L.E.) et de nouveaux bazars sur la rive Ouest, construction de l'hôpital al-Qurna sur la rive ouest pour servir plus de 6 000 touristes qui s'y rendent quotidiennement, modernisation de l'hôpital public de Louqsor, construction d'une nouvelle centrale téléphonique d'une capacité de 30 000 lignes (40 millions L.E.), installation d'une usine à gaz (15 millions L.E.) et d'un terminus routier (3,5 millions L.E.), implantation d'un certain nombre de stations-service (28 millions L.E.), aménagement d'un club sportif (3,5 millions L.E.), élargissement de la route de l'aéroport qui commande l'entrée Nord de Louqsor, construction de l'autopont al-Gûd pour servir plus de 75 mille citoyens qui résident à l'Est du chemin de fer (20 millions L.E.), création de la bibliothèque publique Mubârak, du centre Mubârak pour le patrimoine et du club international d'aviron (7 millions L.E.), création d'une nouvelle marina et d'une zone industrielle au sud de Louqsor, augmentation des investissements dans les secteurs de l'habitat, de l'agriculture et des services, etc. Le coût de tous ces projets est estimé à 1,2 milliards de livres égyptiennes. Cette somme sera allouée notamment par les ministères de la Coopération internationale, du Tourisme, de l'habitat, du Transport, etc. (Shâhînâz al-'Aqbâwî, « 55 millions de L.E. pour embellir la fiancée du tourisme », al-Ahrâm al-'Arabî du 19 janvier 2008. Voir également Salah Attia, "Luxor celebrates remarkable success", The Egyptian Gazette, March 10 ; Muhsin Gûd, « Résurrection du dromos », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 21 juin).
Pour finir, disons qu'il est encore extrêmement difficile à l'heure actuelle de se faire une opinion exacte sur le projet de réaménagement de Louqsor et de sa rive Ouest, tant les informations diffusées par les médias égyptiens sont contradictoires. La presse pro-gouvernementale ne tarit pas d'éloges, crie au miracle et s'auto-félicite d'une réussite éclatante réalisée pacifiquement aux frais de l'État. La presse indépendante et d'opposition parle, elle, de destruction massive et aveugle du patrimoine, dénonce une corruption insoutenable et déplore un gâchis phénoménal et des expulsions manu militari. Le lecteur pourrait se reporter à ce florilège : « Vente de la région de Hawd al-Rimâl dans la Vallée des Reines à un investisseur mystérieux après l'expulsion de ses habitants », al-Wafd du 10 janvier ; Usâma Haykal, « Une leçon qui nous vient de Louqsor », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 12 janvier ; Muhsin Gûd, « Achèvement du plus grand projet de développement du temple de Karnak », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 12 janvier ; Durriyya Sharaf al-Dîn, « Avant de perdre le plus précieux des trésors », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 12 février ; « Louqsor, une histoire à succès méritant l'estime », Le Progrès Égyptien du 13 mars ; Muhammad Fahmî, « La rive Ouest : seul Dieu le sait ! », al-Ahâlî du 2 avril ; Yâsir al-Buhayrî, « Samîr Farag : Je dis aux Américains que nous sommes l'original et vous n'êtes que la copie ! », Uktubar du 13 avril ; Riyâd Tawfîq, « Louqsor plus resplendissant », al-Ahrâm du 14 mai ; Nesrine Choucri, « À l'ère Mubârak, Louqsor retrouve sa grandeur d'antan », Le Progrès Égyptien du 15 mai.
Quant à l'instigateur principal de ce projet national, Dr Samîr Farag, il reste une figure énigmatique. Ce militaire qui a totalement chamboulé la ville de Louqsor en moins de quatre années suscite autant d'admiration sans borne que de haine implacable. À titre d'exemple, le quotidien indépendant al-Dustûr n'a pas manqué de relever le « geste humanitaire » que vient de faire le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor. Celui-ci a décidé l'octroi d'un passeport et la prise en charge des frais de visa de Mme Hadiyya Abû al-Wafâ, qui doit se rendre au Koweït. À l'issue d'un procès tonitruant, le fils de celle-ci a été condamné à mort pour pédophilie et viol de dix-huit jeunes garçons ! Un homme d'affaires égyptien assumera les frais de séjour de cette mère, qui embrassera son fils pour la dernière fois avant son exécution. (al-Dustûr du 31 janvier 2008 ; Imân Raslân, « Dr Samîr Farag : Je rêve que Louqsor devienne comme Sharm al-Shaykh ! », al-Musawwar du 22 février ; al-Naba'al-Watanî du 23 février). Sur ce personnage équivoque surnommé par ses aficionados « Ahmosis de Louqsor », voir également : Hamdî Hamâda, « Louqsor et le Dr Samîr Farag », al-Wafd du 31 mars.
É vacuation du village d'al-Qurna
The residents of al-Qurna village in Luxor continue to be divided on the question of their relocation after being evacuated to make room for excavation efforts. Many were optimistic at first with promises of better living conditions and utilities in their new homes. However, some found this was not the case, and are now complaining about the amount of money they have to spend repairing their new flats, which they claim were not built in line with set standards. In April 2006, some of the old al-Qurna residents moved to their new homes in al-Târif area, east of the Nile's west bank, as part of a master plan to improve the villagers'living conditions and allow the unearthing of the tombs lying beneath their old abodes. Al-Qurna, home to a population of 30,000, stretches across an expansive hill between Hâbû City and Naga' al-'Atiyyât. Once evacuated, the village will be removed in stages in preparation for a major archaeological project to modernize Luxor,
aiming to position the ancient city as the
biggest archaeological site in the world.
As the project progresses, many are
protesting against the displacement of a community that has always been considered as significant as the surrounding monuments. Throughout history, the al-Qurna villagers have specialized in making pottery, emulating the work of their forefathers, the ancient Egyptians. While the evacuation decision is irreversible, al-Qurna villagers struggle to adapt to the changes. "I really don't know what's going on," said 'Abd al-Hamîd Harîdî, a clerk who still lives in the area. "We were informed of a major plan for this area, but we don't know exactly what they have in mind,"
he added. "Life is becoming almost impossible for me and other families in al-Qurna many of our townsfolk left for the new area located four or five kilometers away. We have lived as one community and we're waiting impatiently to be reunited. We visit each other regularly. Each has to wait for his turn to receive his new house in al-Târif."
However, the long-awaited relocation turned out to be a big disappointment for some who, for the past seven decades, have been dreaming of the promised better living conditions. "Certainly moving to al-Târif was a blessing for those who have been deprived of a sanitary system, water and electricity and other services for a long time," said Mahgûb Gâbir, another al-Qurna resident. "But arriving in the new area, some were shocked to find walls collapsing and pipes bursting. The third phase of the housing project was completed so clumsily that some had to be evacuated [again] so that repairs could be carried out." Of all neighborhoods on Luxor's west bank, al-Qurna is the most coveted due to the lucrative trade of pottery and the rumored clandestine trafficking of antiquities recovered from the tombs beneath the houses.
" Let them say what they like. Only few of us are well-off," said Ahmad Mahmûd, a potter at an alabaster workshop in al-Qurna. "Don't speak of trade or heritage. There is no future in these houses. Look at how dilapidated they are," added Mahmûd as he pointed at the village uphill. "What kinds of traditions are we bound to preserve in this unhealthy environment ? The new houses that need maintenance pale in comparison to others here that are collapsing." He continued that those houses are convenient for most of the potters who may find it difficult to pay for the transportation expenses in case they move to the new area. Still, he says, there is no guarantee that all these workshops and exhibitions will survive the change either.
Some of the residents welcomed the move, while others rejected it for various reasons. One complaint is that the large families of 10 or 12 formerly accommodated in spacious old houses are now crammed into one-or two•room flats. Others claim that they were not compensated for the luxurious tiling, interior décor and other renovations made over the years in their old homes. The majority seems satisfied with the better living conditions, but their outlook for the future remains tainted. "We don't know if they will remove or keep the workshops. You never know how
decisions are being made," said Harîdî.
Al-Qurna became conspicuous on the tourist map more than 20 years ago. Pottery outlets and workshops were set up downhill to attract tourists with skillful artwork and colorful Pharaonic paintings. Before the shops were set up, "potters used to work at home and sell their pieces in any part of the country," said Râshid 'Abd al-Wâhid, a shop assistant at a bazaar in al-Qurna. "We hope that at least these outlets won't be moved elsewhere so we would remain part of the tours," he added. Barakât 'Alî, owner of a small souvenir shop from the neighboring village of al-Bu'ayrât, does not sympathize with al-Qurna residents. "Looking at the conditions of the village, I don't think anyone should object to the relocation," he said. "More than a decade ago, accumulated rain water flooded their cemeteries and coffins were seen floating on the water. Some will tell you they are holding on to their heritage, but they are liars. Many have become rich by plundering the tombs under their houses. They build houses for their children in Cairo and continue to claim they are poor. This is the reason why they refuse to move." Modernization efforts are not focused on the west bank but on the entire city of Luxor. Some say that an open archaeological museum will replace al-Qurna village. The tombs underneath will be illuminated to dispel the dark that envelops the west bank after sunset. (Ahmed Maged, "Al-Qurna villagers face uncertain future as evacuation continues", Daily News Egypt, January 1, 2008).
(c) Sherif Sonbol
Almost 60 mud brick houses were demolished Sunday near tombs in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor after security forces used tear gas to force out residents, according to inhabitants. For the past half-century, local authorities and officials in Egypt's antiquities department have been trying to move inhabitants out of the al-Qurna area adjacent to the Pharaonic era tombs of the Valley of the Kings. Last year, several houses were demolished and inhabitants moved to new houses several miles away, however many locals still refuse to leave, describing the replacement houses as substandard. "They had no mercy, if they had any they wouldn't have tear gassed us," Sayyid Muhammad Hasan told the Associated Press late Sunday by telephone from the al-Qurna Hospital. "They treated us worse than animals." Hasan, 36, said that his wife, three children, mother and father are now in the street after their houses were demolished and together with 50 others, he has gone on a hunger strike. Neither security officials nor anyone from the local Luxor government was able for comment on Sunday night. Hasan admits that he and the others had no official title to the land, which they began squatting on eight years earlier, though he noted the government was happy to charge them for utilities during that time. Muhammad Baghdâdî, another resident, said that only by bribing the city officials, were they able to keep their houses for so long. "If you pay them, they keep quiet, but if you don't pay, they pull the house down and throw your children out," he said.
(c) Sherif Sonbol
Officials from Egypt's antiquities department have long decried the al-Qurna residents and there have been several attempts over the years to move them out because their homes rest near several tombs. They accuse the residents of making their living by robbing tombs and selling the artifacts to tourists and collectors. The locals, however, vigorously dispute this accusation and maintain that the
current houses that were demolished were nowhere near archaeological sites. "It's not near the tombs, it's six kilometers from the monuments," Baghdâdî said. "We do not steal from the tombs, it is the big people, like the head of antiquities, who do that no one from al-Qurna is a rich person." (Daily News Egypt, January 11).
The Supreme Council of Antiquities has achieved its goal. It has evicted what it regards as squatters (in fact 10,000 long-standing residents) from an area known as Shaykh 'Abd al-Qurna, one of Luxor's most important archaeological sites, where they lived over and among the tombs of the nobles. Apart from a few of the most decorative and brightly-decorated mud-brick houses, most of the homes belonging to the people, known as Qurnâwî, have been demolished. Speaking on the occasion of the opening of the new community for the displaced residents in December 2006, Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, expressed delight at their relocation and mentioned that the tombs could now be adequately protected. The foreign press picked up on this and justified the demolition of the houses by propagating a myth that the Qurnâwî were thieves who traditionally pillaged artefacts to sell to tourists and who had done terrible damage to the tombs. The accusation is not deserved, and Al-Ahram Weekly wants to set that record put straight. To quote Egyptologist Nicole HANSEN, who said in a paper presented at the Egyptologists'Electronic Forum some time ago, "Our Egyptological predecessors of the 19th century were just as involved in this trade (i.e. the pillaging of monuments) as the Qurnâwî."
HANSEN spoke with passion. She pointed out that the negative perception of the Luxor west bank population was an outcome of European and Egyptology-induced labour relations, and that "Qurnâwî incorporation into a global system includes the international demand for antiquities, the vagaries of economic downturns, and the steady stream of archaeologically-focussed foreign tourists largely ignorant about contemporary Egyptians." She claimed that racist remarks about the Qurnâwî were hypocritical and should be ended, and added that the label "west bank bandits" was an attribution contradicted by historical and anthropological research. On the contrary, recent studies of unexcavated tombs in al-Qurna revealed that some were inhabited by local craft producers making of fake antiquities for tourists through to the 1990s.
HANSEN indicated that, with each generation of archaeologists, methods and technology had emerged that made it possible to recover more and more information about the past. That methodology and technology, however, did not exist in theory or in practice in the 19th century. CHAMPOLLION himself was involved in illicit antiquity dealings with the residents of Qurna while was working on BELZONI's Tomb. "If such things happened today, yes we might be right to criticise it because now we practise archaeology in a totally different way," HANSEN said.
Qurnâwî have lived among the tombs of the nobles for some 200 years, not for the purpose of pillaging the tombs but to provide a service to late 18th and early 19th-century Egyptologists, who employed them to excavate the tombs of the nobles. These, unlike the royal tombs which were burial places, were for loyal and trusted subordinates : the Pharaoh's chief vizier, treasurer, or keeper of the vineyards, and were funerary rooms and burial chambers combined. Decorated with scenes of everyday life, they shed a flood of light on life and times in the New Kingdom in 1567-1320 BC. With the help of the Qurnâwî, the tomb of Nakht, scribe of the granaries under Thutmose IV, was released from the encroaching sand. They also played a part in the uncovering of the tomb of Userhet, royal scribe in the reign of Amenhotep II, and the even more famous tombs of Rekhmire, an outstanding vizier in the reign of Thutmose III, Sennufer, overseer of the gardens of Amun under Amenhotep II, and Menna, which has some of the most beautiful representations to be found of harvest, feasts and hobbies. If the workmen from these tombs settled in Qurna, close on the heels of archaeological excavation came tourists in search of culture and souvenirs - real or fake. To cater to demand the Qurnâwî started to produce forgeries - or fakes if you like, because these "antikas" so closely resembled the original that it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference. They frequently set up temporary workshops in undecorated tombs to produce them, which accounts for the fact that fakes have sometimes been found in an archaeological setting, much to the confusion of scholars. John GARDNER WILKINSON and other early Egyptologists described art and craft production on the Theban necropolis on sale to tourists, and let it be added that Egyptologists themselves were not averse to filling their museums in Europe with sections of decorated walls.
Back in the 18th century Charles SONNINI, the first visitor to the necropolis to make reference to "banditti" residing in Qurna, yet acknowledged that in their antiquities'dealings with him they displayed "as much integrity and fairness as if they had been the most honest people in the world". He remarked, however, on the desolation of the place and the poor living standards of the people, adding incidentally that he was in no personal danger. SONNINI, and others like him, branded the Qurnâwî as thieves and robbers for no other reason than that they were poor and looked forbidding. Unfortunately this reputation clung to them and was repeated by Europeans ad nauseam until it caught on with Egyptians. These are racist remarks, and they are also hypocritical. As HANSEN remarked, "Our Egyptological predecessors of the 19th century were just as involved in this trade, but at the other end. If the Qurnâwî were 'bandits' then we need to call the Egyptologists of those days the 'kingpins' for whom the Qurnâwî did the dirty work."
When the bureau of the World Heritage Committee met back in August 2001 to consider reports from a mission to Qurna, it recommended that the Egyptian authorities freeze the ongoing "unplanned demolition" of houses at the village of Qurna and requested technical assistance from the World Heritage Fund to prepare a management plan for the site. This stressed the need to reduce the population of the village of Qurna, ensure a decent standard of life to residents who wished to stay on as official wardens of the site, and "enhance and protect the traditional character of the urban environment from the present chaotic development." The bureau furthermore recommended the preparation of a plan to determine archaeological areas of Qurna which should be explored and protected, and study the conditions required to allow some residents to continue living in that part of the village where houses were allowed to remain. It cannot be sure how carefully these recommendations were followed. What is on record is that six years later the Luxor authorities ordered the demolition of all the mud brick houses in the village. "In just five minutes," it was reported by Agence France Presse on 3 December 2006, "under the deafening roar of bulldozer engines, three long-abandoned houses were the first to go" It was a stage-managed affair that included a fashion show of children who paraded in ancient Egyptian costumes to the beat of drums. Suited government officials were on hand to give enthusiastic speeches in front of the television cameras. Some "3,500 families will leave for a better life. It's the most important resettlement operation since the rescue of Abû Simbil in Nubia some 40 years ago," announced Luxor's governor Samîr Farag, while Hassân 'Âmir, an Egyptologist and Cairo University professor who was born in a village south of Qurna, was not so optimistic. "They will turn Qurna into a city of the dead without caring
much for the living and their history," he
said.
The residents of Qurna have resisted
interference for more than half a century, and despite all efforts to move them they have refused to budge. "They turned up their noses when different destinations were offered," government officials noted, accusing them of resisting eviction because they wanted to remain on site in order to continue to pillage the tombs. In fact, what has not been understood, or ever acknowledged, is that Qurnâwî are of Arab stock, not fellahin who are tillers of the soil. When Hasan Fathî's "ideal village" was built for them on the floodplain, they refused to live in it because it was on agricultural land, not at the edge of the desert where they felt they rightfully belonged. New Qurna is located at the edge of the desert, but the relocated villagers are now far from the steady flow of tourists from whom they have traditionally made a living. They are, in fact, as much a part of the urban fabric of the Theban necropolis as the tombs they once excavated. So strange that even the few Qurnâwî who have been allowed to remain on in their brightly painted houses to cater to the tourists are still not able to shake off the lingering, unjustified reputation as grave robbers and thieves - and neither, by the way, have those who have been forcefully settled further north. "It is time that we accept the state of the antiquities trade in the 19th century for what it was - a very early form of archaeology", HANSEN said.
The Weekly heartily agrees. Let us put an end to those said stories that are still perpetrated by official guides, and in guide-books, and accept that the Qurnâwî form part of a larger and more complicated picture. As for the site of Qurna itself, there is no sign of the official wardens recommended by the World Heritage Committee. No apparent steps have been taken to "enhance and protect the traditional character of the urban environment". And as for "the preparation of a plan to determine archaeological areas which should be explored and protected," well, not even the rubble from the demolished houses has been cleared from historical Qurna. (Jill Kamil, "Vindicating Qurna", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 7, 2008).
[ ] La curiosité m'a poussé à visiter la nouvelle Qurna située à 20 minutes en voiture de l'ancienne Qurna. Dès l'entrée, on découvre des maisons d'un étage peintes en rouge, des jardins et des rues larges, qui ressemblent aux villages touristiques de la côte Nord. Ce secteur a été soigneusement aménagé et boisé afin, paraît-il, d'être présenté au chef de l'État lors de sa visite d'inauguration. Toutefois, plus on s'enfonce dans la ville, plus on s'approche de ces maisons peinturlurées, et plus on constate les défauts gravissimes de construction. Ces nouvelles maisons sont probablement meilleures que les anciennes des points de vue de la propreté et de l'adduction à l'eau potable. Mais elles sont trop éloignées du lieu de gagne-pain des habitants. En outre, elles sont trop étroites pour contenir les étables. Séparées les unes des autres, ces nouvelles maisons ne respectent guère l'habitat traditionnel dans lequel des grandes familles soudées vivaient en fusion. Désormais le fils se trouve séparé de son père et les clans fragmentés. Par ailleurs, la distribution des nouveaux appartements a été entachée d'irrégularité. Certains ont pris plus que leur droit. D'autres n'ont même pas obtenu la moitié de leur dû.
Au fond du village se dressent des maisons de 18 m2 consacrées aux veuves. Érigées au-dessus d'un profond ravin, elles ressemblent plutôt à de nouvelles tombes. Les planificateurs de ces unités de logement pour veuves supposent, visiblement, que celles-ci sont condamnées à vivre seules jusqu'à la mort dans ces espaces oppressants. Personne ne leur avait demandé leur avis quant à la nature des maisons dans lesquelles ils souhaitaient vivre. Tout a été implanté par « injonction » comme si les occupants étaient des quantités négligeables.
À l'extrémité de la nouvelle Qurna se trouvent des dizaines de maisons jaunes endommagées par des fissures longitudinales et transversales. Elles menacent de s'effondrer sur la tête de leurs occupants. L'entreprise de BTP qui a sous-traité le marché les a déjà vainement restaurées. Mais, les fissures reviennent aussitôt, sans que l'on sache pourquoi. Est-ce la nature du sol ou la mauvaise qualité des matériaux de construction ? J'ai vu un vieillard entouré de sa famille dans une maison sans murs. J'ai vu un jeune marié craignant l'effondrement de son toit. Pourtant, ces unités de logement ont été construites il y a à peine un an. Qu'en sera-t-il donc dans cinq ou dix années ? Nous semons une nouvelle catastrophe dans le jardin du pays. Nous ne tarderons pas à en récolter les fruits comme ce fut le cas en Alexandrie et dans les autres villes gangrenées par la corruption. Les habitants de ces nouvelles maisons ont pour consigne de ne pas se plaindre à la presse. Car les autorités tiennent à étouffer l'odeur de corruption qui monte au nez. L'erreur saute aux yeux. La question évidente qui s'impose : qui diantre a réceptionné ces maisons ? Comme c'est triste de voir une nouvelle ville avec autant de fissures, de plaintes et de peur ! Il est fort à craindre que nous ne plantions la haine dans l'âme des gens pour que Louqsor devienne un musée à ciel ouvert. ('Alâ'Khâlid, « La nouvelle Qurna », al-Wafd du 29 mars 2008. Voir également Nasr al-Qûsî, « La municipalité de Louqsor se penche sur les fissurations des maisons d'al-Târif », al-Badîl du 13 mars).
Restrictions imposées aux Égyptiens sur les sites historiques
L'information est du moins insolite. Une mise au point pour rassurer les Égyptiens. Oui, vous pouvez visiter les pyramides de Gîza et le Sphinx pendant le Shamm al-Nasîm, mais ne vous approchez pas trop. Regardez-les de loin. Quant aux touristes étrangers, ils auront, eux, droit aux premières loges. Les Égyptiens, pour accéder à la zone, entreront par la lointaine entrée du Fayyûm. Celle, directe, ne leur est pas permise. La décision est du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA). Elle a l'air de venir tout droit d'un texte de loi en vigueur en Afrique du Sud du temps de l'apartheid. Le CSA, dont le patron est le très médiatisé Zâhî Hawwâs, a voulu au départ interdire aux citoyens la visite pendant ce jour de fête et de liesse populaire. Mais, il a voulu quand même faire preuve d'indulgence en imposant cette séparation. C'est mieux que rien, semble-t-il dire. Pour les descendants des pharaons, les monuments de leurs ancêtres sont donc interdits. Ce sont des vitrines pour les touristes et puis comme le justifie le CSA dans une information publiée lundi dans le quotidien al-Masrî al-Yawm, les Égyptiens viendront sur le site avec le fisîkh (poisson salé consommé lors du Shamm al-Nasîm), les oignons, les œufs et autres mets, et qu'ils laisseront les reliefs de repas sur les lieux. D'ailleurs, l'état d'alerte a été proclamé et tous les services chargés d'entretien et de propreté ont été privés de vacances. Ils doivent être là et offrir à chaque citoyen se présentant sur les lieux de grands sacs en plastique pour y déposer les restes.
Très humiliant pour les citoyens, c'est le moins que l'on puisse dire, l'interdiction n'a rien d'exceptionnel. Le CSA a toujours fait de manière à dissuader les Égyptiens de connaître leur histoire. Dans tous les sites, c'est pareil. On essaie toujours de consacrer des entrées différentes et d'être très arrogant et soupçonneux à l'égard des visiteurs égyptiens. Le Musée du Caire en est un bon exemple. Ils subissent une fouille en règle et les regards hautains des fonctionnaires. En fait, on peut dire que s'il y a abus de la part de certains visiteurs, ils s'expliquent par une politique des responsables des antiquités et d'autres instances qui ne font guère intéresser les Égyptiens à leur patrimoine. (Ahmed Loutfi, « À qui appartiennent les pyramides ? », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 30 avril 2008. Voir également Muna Yâsîn, « Les Égyptiens sont autorisés à accéder à la zone archéologique et à contempler les pyramides et le Sphinx de loin », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 28 avril).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a lancé une attaque virulente contre ce qu'il qualifie de « comportement arriéré » du peuple égyptien. Il a précisé que l'accès aux pyramides est interdit 8 jours par an aux Égyptiens « pour les punir ». Hawwâs a ajouté : « Si votre fils est mal élevé, il faut le corriger ». Cette diatribe lancée par Hawwâs est advenue avant-hier soir lors d'une rencontre organisée par le Lions Club de Gîza. En réponse à une plainte d'un Égyptien empêché de visiter les pyramides le jour de Shamm al-Nasîm, Hawwâs rétorqua : « Faut-il absolument y aller ce jour-là ! ». (Khâlid Warbî, « Hawwâs : les Égyptiens ont des conduites arriérées », al-Badîl du 1er mai).
Dans son entrefilet quotidien, Dr Nabîl Fârûq dénonce le traitement humiliant réservé sur tous les sites archéologiques aux visiteurs égyptiens soucieux de découvrir leur propre patrimoine archéologique. Contrairement aux touristes étrangers qui sont accueillis comme des rois, l'Égyptien, lui, est traité comme « un terroriste en puissance, un criminel, un escroc, un voleur », déplore le journaliste. (al-Dustûr du 1er janvier 2008).
" The number of tourists visiting Egypt is expected to reach 14 million by 2011," said the Tourism Minister Zuhayr Garâna on Monday 18/2/2008 at a meeting of the Shûra Council's committee on tourism and culture. Tourist nights are expected to double to 140 million and hotel capacity is expected to increase by 15,000 annually. Tourism revenues account nearly 7 percent of Egypt's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 40 percent of the country's service exports and 19.3 percent of foreign currency, he further said. Garâna said an ambitious plan has been drawn up to attract 25 million tourists by 2022. ("An ambitious plan to attract 25 million tourists by 2022", Egypt State Information Service, February 19, 2008).
Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, a déclaré que la vente des billets d'entrée des sites historiques rapportent à sa ville un milliard de livres égyptiennes chaque année. (Hânî al-Mikâwî, « Les recettes des sites archéologiques de Louqsor s'élèvent à 1 milliard de L.E. », al-Ahrâr du 6 février 2008).
Le ministère de la Culture a décidé une hausse de 25 % des tarifs d'entrée des sites
1er
archéologiques à partir du novembre 2008. Le CSA a prévenu la Chambre de Tourisme de cette nouvelle augmentation justifiée par la nécessité de renflouer le Fonds des restaurations et des projets archéologiques. Cette majoration servira également à soutenir le budget des musées spécialisés. (Sa'îd Gamâl al-Dîn, « 25 % de majoration des tarifs d'entrée des sites archéologiques », al-Ahrâr du 7 février 2008. Voir également Hassan Saadallah, "Egypt raises ticket prices of museums", The Egyptian Gazette, March 23).
The World Travel Awards (WTA) named the Gîza Pyramids as the "World's Leading Attraction" of the year. The 14th annual awards ceremony was held this past December at the Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa in the Caribbean. Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Secretary General Zâhî Hawwâs said the coveted award is like the Oscars of the tourism industry. He explained that 167,000 travel agencies, tour and transport companies, in addition to tourism organizations in 160 countries voted for the Gîza Pyramids through the WTA website. Sharm al-Shaykh was named the "World's Leading Dive Destination," with the Royal Savoy Sharm al-Shaykh named the "World's Leading Diving Resort." Finally, the Oberoi Sahl Hashîsh won the "World's Leading All-Suite Hotel." The WTA was conceived in 1993 to recognize, reward and celebrate excellence in the global travel and tourism industry, with trophies awarded in over 1,000 categories. ("Gîza Pyramids named 'world's leading attraction'", Daily News Egypt, January 15, 2008. Voir également "Gîza Pyramids win world's best tourist destination prize", Egypt State Information Service, January 16).
Seven tourists suffered minor injuries when their hot air balloon crash-landed Wednesday in Luxor, police said. Four of those hurt are Scottish and the others are from Belgium, England and New Zealand, said al-Shâfi' Muhammad Hasan, the police chief in Luxor. Two of the tourists were hospitalized with broken bones, Hasan said. Hot air ballooning, usually at sunrise, is popular with tourists in Luxor, the site of the Valley of the Kings and other ruins from Egypt's pharaohs. ("7 tourists injured in hot air balloon accident in Luxor", Daily News Egypt, April 10, 2008. Voir également Muhsin Gûd, « Chute d'une montgolfière à Louqsor », al-Akhbâr du 10 avril ; "Tourists injured in Luxor balloon fall", The Egyptian Gazette, April 11).
La Providence divine [sic] a sauvé 53 touristes étrangers d'une catastrophe certaine suite au crash de trois montgolfières au-dessus de la zone archéologique de Louqsor. Le premier ballon, Hudhud Sulaymân, est tombé à proximité de l'aéroport international de Louqsor. Ses 24 occupants sont sains et saufs. Le deuxième ballon, Magic Horizon, a chuté dans une zone agricole à proximité du village al-Habîl. On déplore un blessé britannique parmi ses 16 occupants. À peine deux heures plus tard, ce fut le tour du ballon Sindbad de s'écraser en plein champ à côté du village Munsha'at al•'Imrî. Six des vingt touristes colombiens à bord ont été blessés et évacués vers une clinique privée. Selon les enquêteurs, cette série noire est due à la vitesse des vents qui a précipité les trois montgolfières vers la rive Est de Louqsor, alors qu'elles devraient atterrir sur la rive Ouest. (Muhsin Gûd, « 60 touristes échappent à la mort après la chute de 3 montgolfières à Louqsor », al-Akhbâr du 27 février 2008).
Les touristes et les habitants de la rive Ouest de Louqsor ont échappé à une terrible catastrophe, suite à l'explosion le 31 mai 2008 d'un dépôt d'hélium situé à al-Rawâgih à al-Qurna. Une série d'explosions s'est produite pendant que des ouvriers de la compagnie Viking Air Egypt tentaient de remplir d'une manière anarchique les réservoirs de quatre montgolfières. Il a fallu trois heures et l'intervention de vingt camions de pompiers pour maîtriser les flammes. L'accident a eu des dégâts matériels énormes estimés à plus de 5 millions de livres égyptiennes. Cinq montgolfières ont été totalement ravagées. Deux des sept blessés brûlés à 70 % sont décédés quelques jours plus tard à l'Hôpital international. Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, s'est rendu sur les lieux du sinistre. Il a ordonné la formation d'une commission d'enquête pour élucider les circonstances de l'accident. (Muhsin Gûd, « 7 ouvriers blessés et 5 montgolfières détruites dans un gigantesque incendie à Louqsor », al-Akhbâr du 1er juin 2008. Voir également « 6 blessés dans l'explosion d'un réservoir d'hélium à Louqsor », al-Ahrâr du 1er juin ; Mansûr Gamâl al-Dîn, « 7 blessés dans l'explosion du dépôt d'hélium à Louqsor », al-Badîl du 1er juin ; Huda Khalîl, « Décès de 2 des 7 blessés dans l'incendie du dépôt d'hélium à Louqsor », al-Dustûr du 9 juin ; Hamdî, « L'accident mystérieux de Louqsor », Sawt al-Umma du 9 juin).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a affirmé que l'explosion du dépôt d'hélium situé à al-Qurna n'a pas affecté les tombes antiques de la Vallée des Rois et de la Vallée des Reines situées à environ 3 km. Le ministre a reçu un rapport urgent du secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, dans lequel il souligne la nécessité de prendre des mesures urgentes pour réglementer le vol des montgolfières au-dessus de la zone archéologique. Dr Hawwâs a également adressé une note urgente au ministre de l'Aviation civile, afin de contrôler le travail de
ces montgolfières dont les chutes sont de
plus en plus fréquentes. (« L'explosion du
réservoir d'hélium n'a pas endommagé les
monuments de la rive Ouest », al-Akhbâr du 2 juin).
Une délégation égyptienne d'experts en son et lumière s'est rendue à l'île Maurice, afin de créer un spectacle son et lumière dans la plus célèbre des citadelles de l'île. Cette délégation de haut niveau regroupe entre autres le Président du Conseil d'administration de l'Egyptian Sound and Light Show Compagy (ESLSC), ingénieur 'Isâm 'Abd al-Hâdî. (Muhammad Raslân, « Expertise égyptienne pour la création de son et lumière dans la plus célèbre citadelle de l'île Maurice », Al-Ahrâm du 2 janvier 2008).
The Chairman of Egyptian Sound and Light Show Compagy (ESLSC) affiliated to the Ministry of Investment said that the company has decided for the first time to implement two projects of sound and light in Idfû Temple in Aswân, and in Abidos Temple in Suhâg. The first project's cost hit LE 40 million and the implementation period will take two years while the second project's cost hit LE 30 million and will take 3 years. The chairman added that there is a plan for replacing and renewing the sound and light shows in Karnak Temple with a cost of LE 8 million and it is due to be inaugurated in next July. Also, the renewing of the sound and light shows in al-Haram area is under•implementation at a cost of LE 6 million. The plan includes developing the shows in Abû Simbil and Philae Temples in Aswân as of the next year. He said that developing the sound and light shows includes adding new light circles which give various numbers of colors and embodiment of light on the walls of temples, and a renewal in the dialogue for what has been discovered during the past years. In addition, the plan includes for the first time the establishment of a sound and light project in Hurgada on an area of 42.000 meters. He added that the company has finalized the project of lighting 16 Islamic monuments in al-Mu'izz Street in Cairo at a cost of LE 7 million, while the project of lighting the Citadel at a cost of LE 40 million is under-implementation. ("LE 70 million investments for sound, light shows in Upper Egypt", Egypt State Information Service, March 29, 2008. Voir également « Son et lumière dans le temple d'Abydos », al-Wafd du 23 février).
Le Premier ministre, Dr Ahmad Nazîf, a approuvé la mise en place d'un projet d'éclairage de la rive Ouest de Louqsor dont le coût s'élève à 50 millions de livres égyptiennes. Un contrat de partenariat a été signé hier entre l'Egyptian Sound and Light Show Company (ESLSC) et un consultant français. Le président de l'ESLSC, 'Isâm 'Abd al-Hâdî, a précisé que ce projet est conçu à l'instar de ceux de la tour Eiffel et du plateau de Gîza. Les travaux démarreront dans deux mois et dureront 13 mois. L'éclairage de la rive Ouest vise à sécuriser la zone archéologique et à en permettre la visite nocturne. (Haggâg Salâma, « Nazîf approuve le projet d'éclairage de la rive Ouest de Louqsor », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 23 mars 2008. Voir également Usâma al-Hawwârî, « La rive Ouest brille la nuit. Ouverture nocturne des tombes pharaoniques », al-Ahrâm du 23 mars ; « L'ESLSC éclaire la rive Ouest jusqu'à la Vallée des Rois », al-Maydân du 11 juin).
St. Catherine Mountain in Sinai
A Senior Egyptian official yesterday snubbed an offer to include the St. Catherine Mountain in Sinai in a contest to choose the New 7 Wonders of Nature. "The organisers are not serious and the choice lacks in scientific accuracy," said Zâhî Hawwâs, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). "The organisers base their choices on votes from non-specialists," he added. Meanwhile, 'Abd al-Halîm Nûr al-Dîn, a
professor of archaeology and an ex-SCA
chief, urged the Egyptian officials "against
missing this chance to promote Egypt's
tourism". "There are other Egyptian sites such as Wâdî al-Hîtân and Wâdî al-Rayyân in Fayyûm, as entries in this contest," he adde. (Hassan Saadallah, "Seven World Wonders snubbed", The Egyptian Gazette, February 27, 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « Hawwâs attaque les organisateurs du New 7 Wonders of Nature et les traitent de charlots », al-Badîl du 26 février ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Polémique archéologique autour des 7 nouvelles merveilles naturelles du monde », al-Ahrâr du 27 février).
La police fluviale de Qinâ a sauvé 123 touristes à la suite d'une collision survenue entre leur bateau de croisière et l'écluse d'Isnâ. Cet accident n'a causé que des dégâts matériels à la coque du bateau et au corps de l'écluse. (Huda Khalîl, « Sauvetage de 123 touristes après la collision de leur bateau avec l'écluse d'Isnâ », al-Dustûr du 11 mars 2008. Voir également Nagâh Hasan, « Sauvetage de 123 touristes », al-Wafd du 11 mars ; Muhammad Hamdî, « 123 touristes secourus à la suite de la collision d'un bateau à Qinâ », al-Ahrâr du 13 mars).
Starting today 1/1/2007 in Idfû, Upper Egypt, Horus Temple receives for the first time its visitors at night. This came in the context of the integrated project by the Ministry of Culture to develop the temple according to the modern world systems of lighting. Minister of Culture, Fârûq Husnî said that the project extended 3 years and in a cost of L.E 12 million to adjust the temple surrounding area, electronic security system, setting up a Nile special anchorage to receive the tourist ships. Dr. Zâhî Hawwâs, Secretary of the Supreme Council for Antiquities pointed out that such step leads to develop the tourist movement towards the temple. ("Horus Temple in Idfû receives visitors at night", Egypt State Information Service, January 1, 2008).
Some 7,000 tourists and Egyptians witnessed Friday 22/2/2008 the phenomenon of the sun falling perpendicular on the face of Ramses II statue in Abû Simbil temple, south Egypt. Happening twice a year, the first rays of the rising sun reach 60 meters into the sacred inner sanctuary of the temple in Abû Simbil on February 22 and October 22 to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of the gods seated there. For twenty•four minutes, the sun shines on the statues of Ramses II, Amon Ra, and Ra-Harakhtye, god of the rising sun. ("7,000 tourists watch illumination of Ramses II statue", Egypt State Information Service, February 23, 2008. Voir également "Sun falls on Ramses'face today", The Egyptian gazette, February 22 ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Des archéologues affirment que l'équinoxe sur le visage de Ramsès n'a rien à voir avec la date de sa naissance ni de son ascension sur le trône », al-Badîl du 22 février ; « 4 000 touristes assistent à l'équinoxe à Abû Simbil », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 23 février).
Copyright sur les antiquités
Le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) envisage de protéger le patrimoine archéologique avec une loi sur le copyright qui lui permettra de demander des indemnisations aux auteurs de reproductions des pyramides, du sphinx et de tous ses monuments anciens. Zâhî Hawwâs, secrétaire général du CSA, a justifié mardi cette mesure par la nécessité de dégager des fonds pour l'entretien des sites archéologiques. « La nouvelle loi interdira complètement la duplication des monuments historiques égyptiens », a-t-il dit à l'AFP, précisant qu'elle aurait une portée internationale. Le patron des antiquités égyptiennes a souligné que le Parlement examinerait prochainement un projet de loi rédigé par le gouvernement dans ce sens. Il a également affirmé que cette mesure ne nuirait pas aux artisans égyptiens. « L'Égypte est légitimement détentrice des droits de reproduction de ces monuments et peut en bénéficier financièrement dans le but de restaurer, préserver et protéger les monuments égyptiens », a-t-il dit.
Cependant, la loi « n'interdira pas aux artistes égyptiens ou étrangers de faire des bénéfices sur des dessins ou des reproductions des monuments égyptiens et pharaoniques, tant qu'ils n'en font pas des reproductions exactes », a-t-il souligné. Selon lui, « les artistes doivent pouvoir s'inspirer de tout ce qui les entoure, et notamment des monuments ». Interrogé sur le cas du Luxor Hotel de Las Vegas, qui se décrit sur son site Internet comme « le seul bâtiment en forme de pyramide au monde »,
M. Hawwâs a estimé qu'il ne s'agissait pas d'une « copie exacte des monuments pharaoniques, en dépit de sa forme », soulignant que son aménagement intérieur différait de celui des pyramides.
Les propos de M. Hawwâs interviennent après que le quotidien égyptien d'opposition al-Wafd eut demandé dans son édition de dimanche au complexe hôtelier de Las Vegas de reverser une partie de ses bénéfices à la ville égyptienne de Louqsor, où se trouve la légendaire Vallée des Rois. « Trente-cinq millions de touristes visitent Las Vegas pour voir la reproduction de la ville de Louqsor, alors que seuls six millions visitent la vraie ville égyptienne de Louqsor », déplore le journal. Cet hôtel a ouvert ses portes le 15 octobre 1993. Construit sur le thème de l'Égypte antique, il doit son nom à la ville de Louqsor. La partie principale est une pyramide de 106 mètres de haut et l'entrée se fait à travers une immense reproduction du sphinx de Gîza. Le décor comporte d'autres éléments rappelant l'Égypte, notamment des obélisques et des statues de dieux.
L'hôtel Louqsor comporte 4 407 chambres réparties sur 30 étages dans la pyramide et sur 22 étages dans les deux tours extérieures qui ont été rajoutées en 2001. Il occupe ainsi la 3e place au rang des hôtels les plus grands du monde. Il est relié au Mandalay Bay et à l'Excalibur par un métro aérien. On trouve au Louqsor des restaurants : l'Isis, le Fusia, le Luxor Steakhouse, le Pyramid Café On trouve aussi une boîte de nuit (Ra nightclub) ; une chapelle de mariages. La pyramide possède à son sommet un très gros projecteur qui, la nuit, illumine le ciel et qui est visible partout sur le Strip (le Las Vegas boulevard). À l'intérieur se trouvent un cinéma IMAX et une rivière artificielle. Le Luxor a également un très bon point de vue sur le terminal d'EG & G, qui relie Las Vegas à la Zone 51. Cet hôtel a comme particularité d'avoir des ascenseurs qui montent à l'oblique le long des arêtes de la pyramide. (AFP, « Halte à l'imitation », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 2 janvier 2008. Voir également « La nouvelle loi sur les Antiquités protège le copyright des pharaons », al-Qâhira du 1er janvier ; Magdî Hilmî, « Les Américains ont volé Louqsor ! », al-Wafd du 3 janvier).
A 17-meter-tall polyethylene replica of Egypt's famous Sphinx statue is towed through the Hong Kong harbor on September 22,1991. (c) Vincent Yu/AP
" Ancient Egyptian antiquities will soon be copyrighted." This was a short headline that caused ripples in the media and cultural circles when it first appeared just a few days before the end of last year. The issue of copyrighting cultural properties has been under discussion for more than a decade. But the decision to apply such rule to Egyptian monuments and artifacts - everything from pyramids to scarabs - couldn't simply pass as a move aimed at protecting intellectual properties. "The copyright law relating to antiquities comes at a time when it is so badly needed to enforce attempts aimed at preservation and documentation," 'Abd al-Halîm Nûr al-Dîn, professor of archaeology and former director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The main thrust of the law, which is still undergoing debate and drafting in the People's Assembly, is thought to apply to exact full-scale replicas of monuments. However, there seems the possibility that it will apply also to the manufacture and sale of tourist trinkets based on the nation's precious antiquities. 'Alâ'Mahrûs, of the underwater archaeology department, Alexandria, spoke of the necessity of enforcing the law to curb semi-rather than exact imitations. "Distorted imitations are even more dangerous. You never know. Over the years they can pass as original," remarked Mahrûs.
However, there are other concerns. China is thriving on trading in Egyptian souvenirs manufactured in Chinese territories, an industry worth millions. Some nations have locally reproduced exact copies of some of the Egyptian sites to promote them as national tourist attractions, and these are generating profit from which Egypt doesn't benefit. Dr 'Abîr 'Inânî, a senior tourist guide, regretted the fact that the China-made Egyptian souvenirs are filling a gap left by the Egyptian market. "These souvenirs are an essential part of any tourist's shopping spree. We have some made by Egyptian hands but those are insufficient and expensive. One item could originally cost LE 5 and is sold for LE 100. We are copyrighting these items simply because we have failed to stand the Chinese rivalry." Critics, therefore, argue whether the Supreme Council of Antiquities'(SCA) decision has been motivated by the keenness to preserve cultural heritage or the desire to share the profit of imitators. It is difficult to argue strongly for one side against the other. Indeed, the two issues of cultural protection and financial gains are deeply entwined. According to intellectual property laws, art works are not protected by copyright 50 years after their creation. But should the law be applied differently to the heritage of nations ?
The issue of copyrighting Egyptian antiquities has alerted other nations more than ever before to the importance of what might happen if they don't pay more attention. In its New Year issue, the French women's magazine Marie Claire carried a detailed feature on a replica of part of Paris in China.
The replica came complete with a model of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Avenue Champs-Élysées. The magazine reported that Venice, Zurich and other European cities frequented mostly by tourists were underway. When asked if they were concerned about copyright, the Chinese shot back inquiring sarcastically if anyone had ever asked the French or British colonizers about copyrights when they invaded their nation, looted their antiquities and shipped them to their museums. Obviously, it is also a conflict of civilizations, the freshest memory of which is the destiny of some of the Iraqi antiquities that have undergone sabotage in the wake of the American invasion in 2003.
The debate also involves areas that relate to customs and folklore. A few years ago, a conference organized by the Sharjah Cultural Directorate, UAE, has drawn attention to the importance of documenting Arab heritage, with a focus on curbing the Israeli thefts of Palestinian culture. After many years of occupation dishes like « tabbûla », « mittabil », and « falfel » have passed in Europe as Israeli delicacies and the « dabka » dance as part of the Jewish folklore. Israeli tour guides in Jerusalem would tell non-Muslim visitors that al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock were built by Jewish artisans. The gravity of the issue relating to such thefts has fuelled the region•wide move to document heritage - a subject that seemingly takes a different dimension from ordinary intellectual copyright, although it partakes of it. While the former relates more to an individual or group's right to protection in the market economy, the latter bears more on the future and identity of nations.
But can antiquities be copyrighted in the same way as books, songs, films and other intellectual creations ? "Heritage is definitely part and parcel of the intellectual property rights," noted Nûr al-Dîn. "Many seminars have been organized at Cairo University and elsewhere on the necessity of documenting Arab heritage, so that it would be preserved against plunder and loss," the professor told Daily News Egypt. Dr Ibrâhîm Darwîsh, director of the Alexandria Museums said : "The law already exists and can't be ignored. The problem, however, relates more to implementation, especially in Egypt and other Third-World countries. Any new copyright law would only stress a law that's already in place." He added, "In a country like Egypt we tend to ignore the law and give others the chance to justify their attempt to encroach on our specialties." But some argue how the law can be enforced beyond Egyptian territories,
especially amid the widespread and decades•old circulation of Egyptian antiquities.
Ahmad al-'Ashmâwî, legal consultant to the SCA and author of the new legislation, told National Geographic News that Egypt could enforce the law in other countries through diplomatic pressure, or by barring those who violate the law from entering Egypt or sell their goods there. "It might prove difficult at the beginning, but many are not usually aware that, when introduced, the new copyright law will be enforced by international organizations like the UNESCO, ICOM and Unit Des Lois, all of which are empowered to prosecute those who make exact copies of the monuments," Nûr al-Dîn explained. Darwîsh pointed out that the law should take force because all of our antiquities are locally registered. "This is more important. For when you start a related case you're first asked if the piece is registered in you territories," he said.
Tour guides, who believe they are closer to the practical aspect of the issue, say that the law is likely to create a new kind of problem for Egypt. Bassâm al-Shammâ', a senior tourist guide said, "I believe it's important to safeguard our sizeable monuments against imitation and distortion. But we should have given it a thought before drafting such law ; we will endanger Chinese products that help promote our tourism industry and fill the racks of souvenir shops in Khân al-Khalîlî and elsewhere. Where's the alternative once this ban is applied ? Also, other nations would react by taking strict measures against Egyptians copying brand sports wear, fashion and other products. Have we prepared ourselves for that ?" al-Shammâ' pointed out that we can't ignore the business aspect that motivated the law. "Instead of banning the Chinese products, why don't we invite Chinese businessmen to set up their souvenir workshops locally against a worthwhile business deal ? Think about the consequences of the ban : our souvenir shops will find little to display once we stop importing the Chinese pieces," he said. Copyrighting Pharaonic antiquities will remain a true challenge. But the problem is not with the law itself. It is the Egyptomania that many believe can't be dampened by a sole decision. Egypt and the rest of region are establishing their own documentation and preservation centers in what is argued to be preparation for a battle between civilizations. (Ahmed Maged, "Copyrighting Egyptian antiquities", Daily News Egypt, February 15, 2008).
Interior (c) Hotel images provided by Leonardo Media Services B.V
Le comité général du parti al-Wafd à Louqsor, présidé par Sha'bân Harîdî, a décidé de confier à quatre de ses avocats l'étude du dossier relatif à l'accaparement par une ville américaine du nom de « Louqsor ». Le comité a également décidé le lancement de poursuites judiciaires, sur les plans national et international, contre l'Administration du Luxor Las Vegas resort hotel and casino, la compagnie qui a créé une réplique de la ville de Louqsor, ainsi que les responsables égyptiens qui n'ont pas réagi à cette affaire. Le comité d'al-Wafd a dénoncé le laxisme dont a fait preuve le gouvernement égyptien dans ce dossier et son annihilation du droit historique de cette ville. Enfin, le comité a appelé les habitants de Louqsor à le soutenir dans son combat national et international. (al-Wafd du 4 janvier 2008. Voir également Magdî Hilmî, « Les Américains ont volé Louqsor ! », al-Wafd du 3 janvier ; « Hawwâs minimise le crime de Louqsor aux États-Unis ! », al-Usbû' du 26 janvier ; Yâsir al-Buhayrî, « Samîr Farag : Je dis aux Américains que nous sommes l'original et vous n'êtes que la copie ! », Uktubar du 13 avril).
Abu Dhabi
Louvre du désert
It was only natural for Egyptians to be enraged when they heard that the Louvre Museum will open a museum for Pharaonic antiquities in Abu Dhabi. Many angry members of the public and journalists rang me and demanded I do something about this. Our antiquities are not ordinary commodities to be sold or bought, especially as, in recent years, we have succeeded in retrieving our stolen antiquities from international museums. We also remember how people reacted when the Director of the Egyptian Section at the Berlin Museum allowed two sculptors to make a bronze statue of a headless naked woman, so the head of Nefertiti could be rested on it. Photographs were then taken of the statue with the head on. We sent the Director a strongly worded message of complaint, so that museums and archaeologists worldwide will learn to better respect our antiquities. Everyone should be ware that, when we in the Supreme Council of Antiquities face a problem with a museum or an international archaeological institution, we always bear international law in mind, as well as Egypt's international relations and its interests with other countries. We also communicate with Egypt's embassies abroad and lawmen to prepare our case for safeguarding our antiquities. It's not about losing our temper and making angry declarations. In the case of the Louvre Museum for instance, we gathered lawmen in the SCA and State Council to discuss the museum's violations before lodging an official complaint. We do have some international laws that we rely on, including the Egyptian Antiquities Protection Law 117/1983 and the UNESCO agreement regarding the protection of international, cultural and natural heritage, besides the Paris agreement, which prohibits the illegal importation and exportation of antiquities.
I would like to clarify how these Egyptian antiquities found their way to the Louvre. They were smuggled out in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when all of Egypt was plundered by foreigners. There are even books telling stories of adventurers, who came and stole obelisks and statues, and smuggled them abroad. In Rome, there are 13 Egyptian obelisks and in France there are many of our antiquities. France and its kings were very fond of Egyptian antiquities. They got their hands on a lot of our statues, mummies and papyri. They were truly smitten by Egyptomania. The French Consul to Egypt in 1692 was the first to discover Egyptian antiquities and their value and the French campaign to Egypt in the late 18th century saw the smuggling out of a huge quantity of Egyptian antiquities. These antiquities were officially sold, many carrying the seal of approval of the Egyptian Antiquities Authority until 1983. When I was Director of the Pyramids Plateau I went to Boston to have lunch with the Director of the Boston Museum. I knew at the time that the museum was in possession of some Egyptian paintings. I mentioned this to the Director and he assured me that the museum had bought these paintings legally and that the boxes in the basement of the museum carried the official seal of the Egyptian Museum. At that time I had no official authority to issue a complaint, but I told him that if these paintings did not return to Egypt within a month, we would not allow the museum's mission to work in Egypt. I was surprised when, a month later, the museum sent a letter expressing its intention to send back the paintings.
Dandara Temple in Luxor is famous for its zodiac signs. The original Zodiac, with its 12 figures is in the Louvre Museum. We sent a letter to the French museum informing it that we would like to have the Zodiac for display at the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in five years'time and for three months. The museum replied, explaining that the Zodiac, hanging on a wall, would be difficult to ship. The museum offered to send some other antiquities instead. Switzerland is the first country to have signed an agreement with Egypt to send back Egyptian antiquities, while Italy has also expressed its intention to do so. The Zodiac itself is one of the most precious pieces of evidence of Egyptian advances in astrology. What happened is that a French archaeologist saw a picture of the Zodiac in an Egyptian book. He then went to the Dandara Museum and said he wanted to do excavations near the temple. He discovered some mummies and statues and hid the Zodiac among them. When he came back to France, King Louis XVIII bought it from him for 15,000 Swiss francs. Unfortunately, 90 per cent of our antiquities left Egypt at a time where there was no law or Egyptians to challenge such an action. Prime Minister Ahmad Nazîf has instructed a higher committee chaired by Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî to retrieve our antiquities. This is a way of letting the whole world know that Egypt is serious about getting its antiquities back. (Zâhî Hawwâs, "Reversing effects of Egyptomania", Egyptian Mail, February 5, 2008. Voir également Zâhî Hawwâs, « Notre mission : préserver les antiquités », Ruz al-Yûsuf du 2 février).
Dans sa tribune hebdomadaire dans le quotidien gouvernemental al-Ahrâm, le secrétaire général du CSA revient sur la polémique qui agite la presse égyptienne depuis quatre mois, au sujet de l'accord signé le 6 mars 2007 entre la France et les Émirats arabes unis pour la création en 2012 d'une branche du musée du Louvre sur l'île al•Sa'diyyât à Abu Dhabi. Pour la énième fois, le Dr Hawwâs réitère ses positions :
1) Lorsqu'un État étranger achète n'importe quelle pièce archéologique, il en devient naturellement le propriétaire. Le CSA n'a pas le droit de réclamer des choses qui ne lui appartiennent plus !
2) Le Louvre est parfaitement libre d'ouvrir des antennes n'importe où, dans la mesure
où il a acquis légalement ces pièces
é gyptiennes, qui n'appartiennent plus à
l'Égypte.
3) Le Louvre a tout à fait le droit de prêter des pièces égyptiennes à Abu Dhabi.
4) Le Conseiller juridique du CSA, Ashraf al•'Ashmâwî, affirme que ni le CSA ni l'Égypte n'ont le droit de s'opposer à ce projet dans la mesure où la plupart de nos antiquités sont sorties frauduleusement du territoire national avant 1970, date de la signature de la Convention de l'Unesco concernant le retour des biens culturels à leur pays d'origine.
5) Le Louvre du désert assure une excellente publicité pour nos antiquités.
Pour mieux calmer les esprits, le Dr Hawwâs souligne que le vice-président du Service culturel et patrimonial d'Abu Dhabi a déclaré qu'il n'est pas prévu de créer un département d'antiquités égyptiennes au sein du Louvre du désert pour l'instant. Les responsables émiratis sont convaincus que toute exposition pharaonique temporaire doit se faire dans le cadre d'une coopération entre l'Égypte et les Émirats. (Zâhî Hawwâs, « Le Louvre d'Abu Dhabi et les antiquités égyptiennes ! », al-Ahrâm du 2 et du 16 février. Voir également « L'Égypte proteste contre le transfert de ses antiquités vers le Louvre du désert », al-Badîl du 7 février).
L'hebdomadaire indépendant al-Karâma consacre un grand dossier au réchauffement climatique et à ses conséquences catastrophiques : fonte des glaciers, hausse du niveau des océans, la Méditerranée en particulier, engloutissement de 4 500 Km du
Delta du Nil, suppression de la carte de
certaines villes (Alexandrie, Rosette,
Damiette, al-'Arîsh, etc.). Le journaliste
'Imâd Hamdî s'interroge sur le sort de près
de 100 sites archéologiques égyptiens menacés par ce déluge annoncé à court terme par plusieurs instances scientifiques. Le responsable des antiquités de Basse-Égypte, Dr Muhammad 'Abd al-Maqsûd, confirme que parmi les sites les plus exposés se trouvent le Nord-Sinaï, Port Sa'îd, les lacs al-Manzala et al-Burulus et Abû Qîr. Toutefois, 'Abd al-Maqsûd précise que ces menaces ne devraient pas freiner la création du musée d'archéologie sous-marine en Alexandrie. Enfin, 'Abd al-Maqsûd estime qu'il « s'agit d'un problème international qui ne concerne pas que l'Égypte. D'où l'importance d'une coordination entre les organisations internationales et les pays développés, afin d'élaborer un plan de sauvetage de ce patrimoine, sous les auspices des Nations Unies ou de l'Unesco ». ('Imâd Hamdî, « Les monuments aussi vont disparaître », al-Karâma du 7 janvier 2008).
Delta
Une altercation violente a éclaté entre le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, et le gouverneur de Banî Swayf, major général Ahmad 'Âbidîn, à propos de la négligence dont fait preuve le CSA dans la protection de la zone archéologique de Ihnâsyâ. Ces accusations désobligeantes font écho aux fouilles archéologiques clandestines et au pillage pratiqués à grande échelle par les habitants de cette région en quête d'enrichissement rapide et facile. (Muhsin 'Abd al-Karîm, « Altercation entre Hawwâs et le gouverneur de Banî Swayf », al-Wafd du 17 janvier 2008).
Dans un droit de réponse publié par le quotidien indépendant, al-Masrî al-Yawm, le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, rejette les accusations de négligence formulées à son encontre par le gouverneur de Banî Swayf. Le CSA entreprend plusieurs projets archéologiques dans ce gouvernorat : création d'un entrepôt muséologique, baisse du niveau des eaux souterraines à Ihnâsyâ, restauration et réaménagement du musée de Banî Swayf. « Le CSA est le seul et unique responsable des antiquités et non pas le gouverneur de Banî Swayf », conclut en colère le Dr Hawwâs. (« Hawwâs : C'est moi le responsable des antiquités de l'Égypte et non pas le gouverneur de Banî Swayf », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 25 janvier. Voir également « Hawwâs : Nous n'avons pas négligé les antiquités d'Ihnâsyâ et je n'admets pas les déclarations du gouverneur de Banî Swayf », al-Wafd du 25 janvier).
É glise de la Sainte Vierge à Sakhâ
Last Monday fire broke out in the church of the Holy Virgin in Sakhâ, Kafr al-Shaykh, in the north Delta. The church being a fourth century building that included several pieces from the early Christian centuries, Kafr al-Shaykh governor General Ahmad Zakî 'Âbidîn ordered the formation of a committee to restore the church. "Fire broke out at 2 : 30pm in front of the iconostasis which dates back to the fourth century," the church's priest Father Timotheos Henein told Watanî. "Neighbours saw the smoke and hastened to alert Ayyûb, the church doorman who in turn called me at once. Since I live close to the church I rushed there to find fire everywhere inside the church building. The church had been closed and neither the doors nor windows were open. I called the security officials and firemen who came and put out the fire. People from the criminology lab came in and took samples of the burnt wood and damaged electric wires for examination." "The fourth century icon of St Mary and the iconostasis, nine air conditioners, some benches, electric equipment, and the sound system were all burnt," Fr Timotheos said. "The burnt pieces which date back to the fourth century are priceless," he said. The several saints'relics in the church escaped harm. They have been now carried away to a safe place. Among these are St George and Anba Zakharias (695-725). Fr Timotheos noted that, where the burnt icon of St Mary had stood, an exact imprint of the icon was found on the wall - a scene which stunned the congregation and the officials. The church serves some 120 Coptic families in the district, and a large number of visitors who come for the celebration held every June to mark the entry of the Holy Family into Egypt.
General 'Âbidîn was quick to go to the scene of the fire, accompanied by some leading officials. The decision was taken that the cost of the restoration work would be borne by the governorate. The investigation is still ongoing. Father Butrus, deputy of the bishopric, called upon the governor to form a Supreme Committee including members from the Coptic Museum to plan the renovations, since the roof and some walls of the fourth century building cracked due to the fire. Muhammad al-Nagdî, Chief prosecutor officer of Kafr al-Shaykh told Watanî that the accident was a result of an electric short circuit and there was no criminal suspicion. The congregation was overwhelmed with sorrow at the loss. A few were even weeping. Until the late hours of the night men, women and children were helping to remove the debris. A woman criticised the delay in the arrival of the fire trucks some 45 minutes late, even though the fire brigade is headquartered a mere 5km away. "When the first fire truck arrived," she lamented, "it was out of order and we had to wait for others." Gamâl Girgis, a member of the Church's council lamented the damage of his childhood church "which is one of the loveliest in Egyptian Coptic antiquities," he said.
Sakhâ is one of the spots where the Holy Family rested on its flight into Egypt in the first century. Tradition has it that the Baby Jesus placed his foot on a rock, and the foot was imprinted there in bas-relief. That rare rock remained in the church for centuries until it was lost in the 13th century. Some 18 years ago, however, that rock was found, together with an ancient column capital, during some works in the church. Pilgrims and visitors converge on the church every year in 24 Bashans (1 June) to celebrate the Holy Family's entry into Egypt. The rare rock was saved from the fire. Even though the priests said that Copts and Muslims in Sakhâ had good neighbourly relations, and that the Muslims had rushed to help extinguish the fire in the church, this reporter had a personal encounter in Sakhâ that put such allegations in doubt. Leaving the town late at night, two young men helped lead the way to the main road where transportation to Cairo could be found. As he they chatted about their town, one said that it included "an ancient church of the 'apostates'". This was a university student, supposedly well-educated, yet he regarded Christians as apostates. (Nader Shukry, "Church on fire", Watanî, June 22, 2008. Voir également "Faulty wires blamed for church fire", The Egyptian gazette, June 27).
[ ] Des sources proches de l'Église orthodoxe ont nié catégoriquement les allégations du gouverneur de Kafr al-Shaykh qui attribue l'incendie à un court-circuit. Vu les circonstances délicates, ces sources ont promis de révéler plus tard les causes réelles de cet incendie. (Yûsuf al-Masrî, « L'église de la Vierge à Kafr al-Shaykh ravagée par un incendie », al-Dustûr du 17 juin).
Le Caire
Al-Hamzâwî
Les sapeurs-pompiers du Caire ont sauvé la zone archéologique d'al-Hamzâwî d'une catastrophe certaine. Un incendie gigantesque s'est déclaré hier matin dans une herboristerie. Les flammes se sont vite propagé pour ravager 20 magasins et entrepôts ainsi que 3 maisons. Il a fallu plus de 6 heures aux 30 camions de pompiers pour parvenir à maîtriser les feux. L'étroitesse des ruelles de cette zone hautement archéologique et touristique a considérablement gêné les manœuvres des secouristes. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, et le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs - qui accompagnent actuellement le Premier ministre dans sa tournée en Haute-Égypte - ont suivi la situation grâce à un contact téléphonique permanent. Le ministre a ordonné la formation d'une commission présidée par le superviseur du projet de développement du Caire historique, 'Imâd Muqlid, et le président du secteur des antiquités islamiques et coptes, Farag Fadda, afin de vérifier qu'aucun monument n'a été touché. (Dusûqî 'Imâra, « Un incendie dans une herboristerie menace la zone archéologique d'al-Musqî », al-Akhbâr du 24 mars 2008. Voir également Ibrâhîm Qurrâ'a, « Incendie gigantesque à al-Musqî », al-Wafd du 24 mars ; Muhammad 'Azzâm, « 22 commerces, 18 entrepôts et 3 maisons ravagés par un incendie à al-Azhar », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 24 mars ; Nawâl 'Alî, « Un incendie ravage 100 herboristeries à al-Hamzâwî », al-Badîl du 24 mars).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a affirmé que l'incendie qui s'était déclaré dimanche dernier à al-Muskî n'a eu aucun effet sur les monuments islamiques situés dans cette zone. Le président du secteur des Antiquités islamiques et coptes, Farag Fadda, a révélé qu'un premier foyer d'incendie s'est déclaré dans de vielles habitations situées derrière la mosquée 'Alî al-Mutahar qui remonte à l'époque ottomane. Un autre foyer s'est déclaré dans la rue al-Mu'izz, derrière la madrasa al-Ashrafiyya qui date de l'époque ottomane. La commission archéologique du CSA n'a pas quitté la zone avant l'extinction totale des feux. (« Les monuments islamiques d'al-Muskî n'ont pas été affectés par l'incendie », al-Qâhira du 25 mars. Voir également Yâsir 'Abd al-Hâdî, « Les sinistrés accusent le gouvernement de fomenter l'accident pour les obliger à quitter les lieux », al-Badîl du 25 mars).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a demandé de vider la région d'al-Muskî de tous les ateliers qui manipulent des produits dangereux et inflammables, afin de protéger la zone archéologique. Le Conseiller archéologique auprès du ministre, 'Abdallah al-'Attâr, a souligné que la municipalité du Caire n'a pas obligé les propriétaires de ces ateliers à changer leurs activités dangereuses, bien que le gouverneur soit persuadé de cette idée. Réunis au Caire en 2002, les experts de l'Unesco avait déjà recommandé la nécessité de transférer les ateliers qui utilisent des produits inflammables à l'extérieur de la rue al-Mu'izz l-Dîn Allah et de ses environs. Conscients de la dangerosité de leurs activités, certains artisans ont d'eux-mêmes changé de métier. Al-'Attâr invite la municipalité du Caire à contraindre les patrons récalcitrants, quitte à annuler leur permis. (Nawâl 'Alî, « Le ministre de la Culture en appelle à l'évacuation d'al-Muskî des ateliers industriels », al-Badîl du 25 mars).
Le gouverneur du Caire, Dr 'Abd al-'Azîm Wazîr, a décidé d'étudier le transfert du commerce de textile d'al-Muskî et d'al-Hamzâwî vers le Nouveau-Caire, afin de mettre un frein aux incendies fréquents qui se sont déclarés à al-Azhar dans les entrepôts de textile et d'herboristerie. (Magdî Sabla, « L'incendie d'al-Hamzâwî remet à l'ordre du jour le transfert des grossistes de textile d'al-Azhar », al-Musawwar du 28 mars).
Mont Muqattam : Cairo Financial and
Tourist CentreRenderings of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative designs for the Cairo Financial Center, which is now compliant with UNESCO's requirements.
It was perhaps one of the most significant pieces of news to come out of the local financial sector since the global credit crunch last summer : Look out Dubai, the Cairo Financial Center is coming soon. At its current estimated investment costs - between $450 and $730 million (subject to construction costs) - Egypt's Cairo Financial Center (CFTC) will feature a five-star hotel, retail and office space, business and leisure facilities, a large plaza, shopping arcades, restaurants, and an amphitheater - all overlooking Cairo's historic Citadel and Muhammad 'Alî Mosque. With a combined land bank of 740,000 square meters in Muqattam Hill, CFTC is gearing up to challenge Emirates long-celebrated Dubai Financial Center. According to the sites owner and developer company, CFTC is poised to become a financial and business hub both locally and regionally. "Egypt is currently making an attempt to become a business hub for the entire Middle East ; and with extensive cost of living in Dubai, that goal is not that
[far-fetched]," said Mâgid al-Shaykh, senior principal and Middle East managing director of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative (OLC), the sole developer of the CFTC. According to al-Shaykh, the site has what it takes to attract the nation's financial titans. "Compare costs of living in Dubai to those of Cairo. Compare traffic jams in Dubai to Cairo." The balance is in favour of Egypt, he said. "Furthermore, the site is at the heart of Cairo. It is accessible from different districts : Ma'âdî, Heliopolis, Nasr City and Haram. The CFTC will be an icon in Cairo and will bring out Egypt as the new hub for business in the Middle East."
Despite all the excitement that surrounded news of the CFTC finally breaking ground at the center of Muqattam Hill, its birth process was full of twists and turns. As early as 1995, Alkan Holding - which is owned by billionaire Muhammad Nusayr and operates at least 13 subsidiaries in networking, telecoms, textiles and digital mapping projects - was the first to reveal its intentions to build the city's largest business complex. Soon afterwards, the project ran into a number of bumps, as several authorities - chief among them was the Supreme Council of Antiquities - billed the project hazardous to the area's historic and national heritage that lies just steps away. Officials were concerned that construction and excavation work on the site would jeopardize the long-standing Citadel and Muhammad 'Alî Mosque or that the site's initial height (59 meters high) would obscure view of these two major landmarks. Consequently, the United Nations Éducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) intervened as a mediator between both parties (owner and authorities), passing a set of requirements that ensure the design complies with restrictions to preserve the historical integrity of the landmarks as well as reduces the site's height to 31.5 meters high.
Accordingly, a bidding competition began whereby five architectural companies submitted designs for the CFTC. Finally, in December 2006, OLC - a US consulting firm based in Denver - won the competition and is now serving as the architect of record on the design of the CFTC. "The idea behind the competition was to come up with a design that complies with the UNESCO's requirements that [necessitate] preserving the historic nature of the site and [does not block] the view of the Citadel or Muhammad 'Alî Mosque to tourists coming from Salâh Sâlim Street," al-Shaykh explained. Not only does the OLC design not obscure the historic view, al-Shaykh added, it also blends in with the Muqattam Hill rise in terms of gradual stepping of the site's height. "To address design constraints imposed by its proximity to historic Cairo and to avoid competing with or imposing upon the nearby Citadel, OLC used the context of the Muqattam Hill surrounding the location as inspiration for the facility's design," he pointed out. "The project will blend into the hill with a stepping approach that also allows unobstructed views of the historic scenery."
According to OLC, the first stage of the $730 million CFTC is scheduled to open by the end of 2010 and will include a 3,000-car underground parking structure, a 16-screen theater complex, 600,000 square feet of office space, and 950,000 square feet of retail shops. "It will account for 40 percent of the total area of the complex," al-Shaykh said. The second stage is due to open by 2013 and will include 3,000 additional underground parking spaces, 1.1 million square feet of office space, 800,000 additional square feet of retail space, a 100,000 square-foot exhibition and conference center, a health club and a five star, 450-room hotel. CFTC marks the company's first project in Egypt and the biggest contract in its history. "The project will equal the size of three Empire State Buildings but spread out across 667,000 square feet (about 15 acres)," the firm said in a press statement. "OLC Egypt was established in 1999 to [assist in] design and construction projects implemented in the US," al-Shaykh said. "Our objective was not to directly address the Egyptian market until we have a prosperous project that can [utilize] all of OLC's talent and expertise."
The CFTC prompted the internationally renowned firm to penetrate and tap the growing Egyptian real estate market. "CFTC stood out as a challenging project - being in a historic area that is mainly desert - all these factors attracted us," he added. With offices in the US, Japan, Egypt and the Emirates, OLC is a full-service architectural firm. Its recent projects include the Viera Health First Wellness Center in Melbourne, Florida ; Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado ; and Summa Wellness Institute in Hudson, Ohio. OLC has designed facilities in 47 states and nine countries. The firm recently won Innovation Awards for projects in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Broomfield, Colorado. Touted as the single biggest complex in the region, both owners and developers are confident the CFTC will lure movers and shakers of the business and financial sectors and appeal to domestic, regional, and international corporations. Located in the heart of prominent Islamic landmarks, the CFTC is also eyeing Egypt's green tourism sector. "The CFTC hotel will be the first hotel built so close to historic Cairo," said al-Shaykh, explaining that it will appeal to several tourists. (Sherine El Madany, "US firm gives Cairo Financial Center new, antiquities•friendly design", Daily News Egypt, June 8, 2008. Voir également Nûr 'Alî, « Zâhî Hawwâs promet de résoudre la crise des tours de la Citadelle d'ici 2 semaines », al-Dustûr du 24 février ; « La Commission de la culture, du tourisme et de l'information recommande la poursuite du projet du CFTC sans aucune entrave », al-Naba'al-Watanî du
1er
mars ; Usâma Fârûq, « La délégation de l'Unesco réclame des modifications radicales des tours de la Citadelle », Akhbâr al-Adab du 30 mars).
Gîza
SphinxLe secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a récusé les rumeurs soulevées récemment au sujet de la sécurité du Sphinx de Gîza. Il a déclaré : « La statue du Sphinx est hors de danger ». Devant la Commission du tourisme et de la culture dépendant du Parlement, Dr Hawwâs a nié que cette statue soit fissurée par les infiltrations d'eau provenant du canal al-Mansûriyya. (al-Akhbâr du 14 janvier).
[ ] Dr Hawwâs a affirmé que les études préliminaires attribuent la hausse du niveau des eaux souterraines à plusieurs facteurs : le jardin du son et lumière, les terrains de golfe de l'hôtel Mena House et le coffrage du canal al-Mansûriyya. Hawwâs a appelé à fédérer tous les efforts déployés par le CSA, la municipalité et le ministère de l'Irrigation. Il a déclaré que ce sont les eaux usées et non pas les eaux douces qui attaquent les monuments, en plus des habitations contiguës au plateau de Gîza. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Zâhî Hawwâs : Découverte d'un temple sous le Nil à Aswân », al-Ahrâr du 4 avril 2008. Voir également Hassan Saadallah,
" Sphinx in good Shapd -official", The
Egyptian gazette, March 26).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî
Hawwâs, a critiqué le rôle joué par la municipalité de Gîza pour résoudre le problème des eaux souterraines dans la région des pyramides, de Saqqâra et de Nazlat al-Sammân. Il a affirmé que l'accroissement de la négligence provoquera la disparition catastrophique des antiquités égyptiennes au cours des quatre prochaines années. Au cours de la réunion des commissions de la culture et de l'information tenue hier au Parlement, Hawwâs a reconnu que la route de Saqqâra et le canal al-Mansûriyya sont devenus de véritables décharges publiques. Le procédé utilisé pour recouvrir le canal al-Mansûriyya sans référer au CSA a contribué à la hausse du niveau des eaux souterraines et a transformé le canal en dépotoir. Hawwâs a appelé les responsables des ministères de l'Irrigation, de l'Habitat et ceux de la municipalité de Gîza à coopérer pour résoudre la crise actuelle. (al-Wafd du 24 février. Voir également "Pyramid underground water warning", The Egyptian Gazette, February 24 ; Ingi Amr, « Les pyramides menacées par l'eau souterraine », Le Progrès Égyptien du 28 février).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a déclaré que la résolution du problème des eaux souterraines accumulées dans le secteur du Sphinx coûterait 100 millions de livres égyptiennes. Ce montant a été fixé par une agence d'ingénierie qui, à la demande du Dr Hawwâs, a mené une étude du terrain. Devant la Commission du tourisme et de la culture réunie hier au Parlement, Dr Hawwâs a demandé à la ministre de la Coopération internationale, Dr Fâyza Abû al-Nagâ, de charger le consultant suisse, qui a déjà résolu le même problème dans les temples de Karnak et d'Abû Simbil, d'élaborer une étude sur le Sphinx. Le CSA choisira par la suite entre les offres faites par ces deux agences d'ingénierie. De son côté, le député Hishâm Mustafa a appelé à la formation d'une commission mixte entre le CSA et le ministère de l'Irrigation, afin de résoudre le problème des eaux souterraines qui commencent à menacer l'un des monuments les plus importants en Égypte. Il a imputé au ministère de l'Irrigation la responsabilité des dégâts causés au Sphinx. (Muhammad 'Abd al-Qâdir, « Hawwâs : La résolution du problème des eaux souterraines du Sphinx coûtera 100 millions de L.E. », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 14 janvier. Voir également « Hawwâs : le Sphinx est en bon état », al-Wafd du 14 janvier).
With one leap, Sharîf al-Khudarî tried to cross a small lake of sewage water that had formed in front of his house in Nazlat al-Sammân, but he came short of reaching the end of the lake that formed in the middle of the street. With his leg falling on the dirty water, al-Khudarî cursed his bad luck for living in this village that is a few metres away from Egypt's pride and source of self-glorification : the Gîza Pyramids. "Hardly does a day pass without sewage water seeping out of the houses here and into the streets," the 27•year-old salesman said. "It continues to give us a hard time, but nobody cares." Bad sewage in the vicinity of Egypt's Pyramids does not seem to pose threats to the thousands of residents in this disorganised and randomly built area only. It also jeopardises the Sphinx. A year ago, water flowed from the ground a few metres away from the Sphinx and formed a pool, besetting the whole of Egypt. Some people said the water had oozed under the rock of the Sphinx and that the guardian of Egypt's Pyramids was in fatal danger. Others went as far as saying that the Pyramids themselves were in danger and that they would collapse within a few months. The small pool of subterranean water that formed 4,6 metres away from the Sphinx made headlines in local publications and drew the attention of the Egyptian Government at its highest levels.
Since its appearance in March last year, the Government has been busy assuring everybody that neither the Pyramids nor the Sphinx is in peril. The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) had commissioned a specialised centre from Cairo University, Egypt's oldest and biggest state-owned university, to make a study about the reasons for the presence of the water beside the Sphinx and means of getting rid of it. "The study has shown that this water poses no threat to the Sphinx," said Kamâl Wahîd, a civil servant commissioned by SCA to supervise the Pyramids and the Sphinx. "This problem will be solved soon," he told the Egyptian Mail. Kamâl, a swarthy 49-year-old from the Governorate of Suhâg, about 500 kilometres south of Cairo, has been coming to the Pyramids'plateau at 9am six days a week to patrol the whole place together with his aides for two years now. When he was by the Sphinx on a sunny day last year, he saw the pool that formed by the statue. "I was haunted by extreme fear for the Sphinx," Kamâl said. "I can't come to grips with a situation when Egypt's heritage can be in danger."
With Kamâl's dusty and austere office metres away, a female tour guide stood in front of the pool of subterranean water by the Sphinx and told a few tourists, who accompanied her, that the problem with the ground in Egypt was that it was steep. "But I'm sure this problem will be solved soon," she told her doubtful audience. Behind them around the plateau of the Pyramids, high-rises, the symbols of Egypt's chaotic urban crush, appeared on the horizon like a menacing cloud. The buildings were not uniform, but their proximity to the Pyramids was expressive of Egypt at present : a country that sees the ugly face of modernisation stifling its history and the achievements of its early founders. [] Egypt's growing population has brought urbanisation to the country's most sensitive places. Experts say sewage in the houses that popped up in the vicinity of the Pyramids starting from the middle of last century has caused water to leak to the plateau of the Pyramids, resulting in the aforesaid pool of subterranean water.
SCA points at the golf course and the garden of the Mena House Hotel, an old luxury hotel at the entrance to the Pyramids, accusing them of being responsible for the presence of the water by the Sphinx. "The staff at the hotel throw big amounts of water at the ground of the golf course and the gardens," Wahîd, the SCA employee, said. "This water seeps through the rocks and comes here." At the golf course of the Mena House Hotel, Salâh Zakî, a 44-year-old golf trainer, stood in silence to watch two foreigners playing in front of him. Zakî held a bottle of carbonated soft drink and was mesmerised by the game. "This is all nonsense," Zakî said. "The SCA people want to tarnish our image for the sake of our competitors, other golf courses in the Egyptian capital," he told this newspaper. For any passerby, the ground of the Mena House golf course seems to be lower than the plateau of the Pyramids. That is why Zakî and his colleagues vehemently challenge accusations that they threaten Egypt's heritage. They say they spray the golf playground three days a week during the summer and one day a week during the winter. "We don't dampen the ground with the water as these people claim," Zakî said. "It takes us 30 minutes only to spray the whole playground with water." The Mena House Hotel will launch a LE3-million worth project to upgrade its golf course in a way that economises on the use of water.
In spite of this, members of the Cairo University that champions the efforts to save the Sphinx from this subterranean water say the statue is six metres higher than that water and that it will take the water a long time to reach it. "But we need to act quickly to stop all that," said Hâfiz 'Abd al-Azîm, a professor of engineering and the head of the team. "This can be very dangerous." Hâfiz and his colleagues asked SCA Chairman Zâhî Hawwâs to talk to the Government to take an action to stop the water at the source : ask residents in the houses around the Pyramids to repair their sewage systems. Hawwâs, however, told them that such a thing "needed a decision at the highest political levels." They will start reducing the level of the water next June in a project that might cost the Egyptian Government between LE5 million and LE10 million." But this will be a partial solution to the problem," Hâfiz said. "As long as the source is still there, you can't make sure that the water wouldn't appear again."
A few metres away from the sewage water pool in Nazlat al-Sammân village, hagg Sa'îd Shîmî swore that the sewage system of his two-storey house cost him "an arm and a leg." "We are so far away from the Sphinx," Shîmî, 56, said. "You can't tell us that it's our fault after we had spent these amounts of money." Visitors of the Sphinx seem to have started to consider the pool beside the statue one of the attractions of the place. On their way to have a look at and take pictures beside the Lion King, these visitors stop by the pool and wonder whether the statue they have travelled thousands of miles to see is "in for rough time ?" Hâfiz and his colleagues also suggest the construction of a concrete wall that will be 20 metres deep around the plateau to prevent any water from reaching the area. People at the SCA seem to be anathema to the idea, which will cost a hefty sum of money. "But this is the only solution," Hâfiz said. "We'll reduce the water within six months, but 10 or 20 years from now, nobody knows what will happen. Next time the whole thing might be beyond any rescue." (Amr Emam, "Fiddling while the Sphinx sinks", Egyptian Mail, April 8, 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Une ordonnance pour résoudre le problème des eaux souterraines sous le plateau des pyramides », al-Akhbâr du 13 avril).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, remettra dans quelques jours au Premier ministre un rapport urgent sur le problème des eaux souterraines qui menacent le Sphinx de Gîza et les solutions préconisées par les experts égyptiens et étrangers. Le ministre a présidé hier une commission mixte
composée d'experts du CSA et de
l'Engineering Center for Archaeology de
l'Université du Caire. Ont assistés à cette
commission le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs ; le premier secrétaire, Fârûq 'Abd al-Salâm ; et le président du secteur des antiquités égyptiennes, Sabrî 'Abd al-'Azîz. Fârûq Husnî a affirmé la nécessité de décisions politiques pour maîtriser le problème, mettre en place un réseau d'égouts à Nazlat al-Sammân et lutter contre l'accumulation des poubelles dans le canal al-Maryûtiyya. Enfin, le ministre a précisé que le Sphinx est hors danger et que les sondages réalisés situent la nappe phréatique à 4,6 mètres en dessous du colosse. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Fârûq Husnî : le sauvetage du Sphinx exige une volonté politique », al-Akhbâr du 26 mars. Voir également Ibtihâl Ghayth, « Projet urgent pour sauver le Sphinx ! », Uktubar du 23 mars ; Hassan Saadallah, "Sphinx in good shape-official", The Egyptian gazette, March 26 ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Fârûq Husnî : Le sauvetage du Sphinx nécessite une décision politique », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 26 mars).
[ ] Au sujet du transfert des habitants de Nazlat al-Sammân dans le cadre d'un projet de réaménagement de la zone archéologique des pyramides de Gîza, le ministre de la Culture affirme : « Il faut transférer les habitants de cette région afin de préserver les monuments ». Dès son ascension à la tête du ministère de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî avait décrété l'interdiction de surélever les maisons de Nazlat al-Sammân. « Si je n'avais pas pris cette décision, les pyramides seraient assiégées aujourd'hui par les buildings ». (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Fârûq Husnî : l'Égypte est un pays culturel qui ne se distingue plus par le commerce, ni l'industrie ni l'agriculture », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 mars 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « Le ministre de la Culture en appelle à l'évacuation de Nazlat al-Sammân afin de protéger les pyramides », al-Badîl du 11 mars).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé que 100 millions de livres égyptiennes seront consacrées au pompage des eaux souterraines accumulées autour du Sphinx. Il s'agit d'un projet conjoint entre le CSA et la faculté de Polytechnique du Caire, qui sera soumis à un expert suédois et à l'entreprise SWECO International AB, qui avait mis en place le système de drainage dans les temples de Karnak et de Louqsor. Selon le Dr Hawwâs, Ce sont les infiltrations d'eau en provenance du canal al-Mansûriyya qui rehaussent le niveau de la nappe phréatique et non pas le système de drain sanitaire de la région de Nazlat al-Sammân. (« 100 millions de L.E. pour sauver le Sphinx », al-Ahrâm al-'Arabî du 26 janvier. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Un consultant suédois pour résoudre le problème des eaux souterraines accumulées sous le plateau de Gîza », al-Akhbâr du 29 février ; Nafîsa 'Abd al-Fattâh, « Le Sphinx : victime de l'habitat anarchique, des terrains de golf et du son et lumière », al-Usbû' du 15 mars ; Muna Yâsîn, « Une
commission présidée Gîza pour sauver le Yawm du 1er juin). par le Sphinx gouverneur », al-Masrî de al•
- -
Fayyûm
Réserve naturelle du lac Qârûn
Widân al-Faras, Qasr al-Sâgha, Dimiyya al-Sibâ', et l'antique route qui relie Fayyûm à Bahariyya sont des sites archéologiques connus sur la rive nord du lac. D'ailleurs, cette zone renferme aussi Djebel Qatrânî, riche par les squelettes d'espèces d'animaux fossilisés, sans oublier la grande quantité de bois fossilisés dont la date remonte à des milliers d'années. Une telle richesse archéologique et géologique a encouragé le ministère du Tourisme à réaliser dans cette région historique un grand projet qui vise en premier à mettre en valeur ces sites sur le plan touristique. Le ministère a pris des mesures concrètes sur ce sujet en publiant dans les journaux une adjudication pour la réalisation du projet. « C'est une zone fascinante et vierge qu'il faudrait exploiter sur le plan touristique », assure 'Abd al-Muhaymin Muhammad, directeur du département du développement des zones touristiques. Pour lui, cette région a été choisie pour son paysage insolite qui comprend à la fois le désert, le lac et les montagnes. D'ailleurs, cette région, étant proche du Caire, va inciter les visiteurs de la capitale à y faire de petites randonnées. Cependant, l'annonce d'un tel projet a déplu à la fois au secrétaire général du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) et aux responsables de la réserve naturelle Qârûn dont une grande partie de la surface est incluse dans cet aménagement prévu. Pour ce, un comité composé d'archéologues et de géologues a été formé pour examiner le chantier du nouveau projet. « Nous accueillons avec plaisir tous les projets de promotion touristique, mais à condition qu'ils ne nuisent pas aux sites patrimoniaux, considérés comme les plus rares du monde entier », affirme Khâlid Sa'd, président du comité formé par le CSA. Il s'agit en fait de l'installation d'une cité touristique qui s'étale sur 400 000 m2 au nord du lac Qârûn. Elle est planifiée de manière à renfermer en principe deux quartiers séparés par un centre-ville. Celui-ci devra comprendre tous les services ainsi qu'un centre sportif, notamment des terrains de golf. Quant aux quartiers, l'un comportera des villas privées et l'autre 18 hôtels dont la capacité de chacun sera de 300 chambres. « Cette superficie ne représente que le dixième des 1 121,4 hectares que l'Organisme de la promotion touristique a le droit d'utiliser selon un décret présidentiel promulgué en 1992, au profit de la réserve naturelle de Qârûn », explique 'Abd al-Muhaymin Muhammad. Pour lui, un tel projet va servir aussi les touristes de la région de Wâdî al-Hîtân qui est déclarée comme patrimoine mondial.
Cependant, les examens préliminaires du comité ont révélé que la zone sélectionnée comprend plusieurs sites archéologiques de différentes époques, depuis l'Ancien Empire jusqu'à l'âge copte, en passant par le Moyen Empire et l'époque gréco-romaine. De plus, l'intérêt archéologique est accentué grâce aux trouvailles dégagées chaque saison. Ainsi se distingue la région Widân al-Faras « les oreilles du cheval », dont la nomination est attribuée suite à la forme typique des montagnes de basalte qui ressemblent, de loin, aux oreilles du cheval. « C'étaient les carrières essentielles desquelles étaient ciselés les blocs de basalte utilisés dans la construction des temples de l'époque », explique Ahmad 'Abd al-'Âl, directeur général des antiquités du Fayyûm au CSA. D'ailleurs, Widân al-Faras comprend l'unique antique route pavée de l'Ancien Empire qui reliait le Fayyûm à Bahariyya. Une découverte qui redouble l'importance archéologique du site.
De même, la zone destinée pour le projet de la promotion touristique comprend Qasr al-Sâgha. Elle renferme un temple de grès datant du règne d'Amenemhat III du Moyen Empire. Et bien qu'il soit bâti d'une matière fragile et qu'il soit dépourvu de décoration impressionnante, ce temple est considéré comme l'une des plus rares constructions de son époque. D'une part, celui-ci garde toujours toutes ses composantes, représentant en fait une architecture représentative du Moyen Empire. D'autre part, celui-ci reflète la dévotion religieuse de la société égyptienne, puisque ce bâtiment a été édifié pour répondre aux besoins d'une petite communauté de mineurs qui ciselaient la pierre des montagnes des alentours. D'ailleurs, la zone en question comprend encore Dimiyya al-Sibâ' qui renferme une ville gréco-romaine complète où opère depuis plus qu'une dizaine d'années une mission italienne présidée par Mario CAPASSO et Paola DAVOLI de l'Università di Lecce. Cette ville, outre ses maisons intactes de plusieurs étages, renferme essentiellement une enceinte religieuse composée d'un temple ptolémaïque prolongé d'un autre romain, auxquels sont annexées des salles pour le clergé. « Tous ces éléments architecturaux ont été révélés lors de la dernière saison de fouilles », explique l'archéologue. Mais le plus important aux yeux de 'Abd al-'Âl, c'est « la muraille romaine qui entoure cette enceinte considérée comme incomparable dans le monde entier », commente l'archéologue. Pour lui, cette muraille, étant complète, se dresse majestueusement, livrant les secrets architecturaux d'une civilisation écroulée. En plus, les récentes fouilles ont livré, au bout de la ville, une route pavée qui la reliait à la côte nord du lac Qârûn. « Nous sommes alors devant une ville antique dans son intégrité qui est en train de livrer ses précieux secrets annuellement », reprend l'archéologue qui trouve ridicule de laisser le ministère du Tourisme réaliser un tel projet sur la côte nord du lac. « Comment admettre qu'une telle région archéologique, voire culturelle fasse l'objet de telles menaces destructives ? », se demande-t-il.
Le projet a un autre aspect pour les responsables de la réserve naturelle de Qârûn. En effet, la région désignée, si elle bénéficie d'un droit d'usufruit pour l'Organisme de la promotion touristique depuis plus d'une quinzaine d'années, c'est parce que les « relevés géologiques de l'époque n'étaient pas aussi avancés que ceux aujourd'hui », explique Muhammad Gibaylî. Désormais, une telle décision doit être révisée, ainsi que le projet touristique déclaré par le ministère du Tourisme. En effet, cette région comprend d'importantes formations géologiques dont Djebel Qatrânî est le plus important, puisqu'il est considéré comme la mine la plus riche en fossiles du monde entier. D'autre part, « notre propre expérience avec ce genre de projets touristiques est déplorable », explique le géologue. Il s'agit de celui qui a été déjà installé, depuis longtemps, sur la rive sud du lac. La plupart des hôtels et villages touristiques qui y sont fondés sont désertés tout au long de l'année. Juste un petit nombre est fréquenté pendant deux mois seulement par an. Un tel état pitoyable s'explique par l'absence complète d'infrastructure. En plus, ceux-ci se débarrassent de leurs eaux usées dans de gros dépôts érodés qui les versent dans le lac. Résultat : le taux de pollution y est élevé. Par conséquent, les touristes ne fréquentent plus le site. « Pourquoi le ministre du Tourisme veut-il répéter une telle catastrophe sur la côte nord du lac ? Il vaut mieux étudier, voire réviser les projets déjà installés », reprend le géologue.
Or, « nous n'assumons aucune responsabilité quant au succès ou non des projets. Notre rôle se limite au soutien apporté à la construction d'unités. Mais leur réussite, c'est une autre affaire », reprend 'Abd al-Muhaymin Muhammad. C'est le cas du village touristique Shakshûk dont l'état est déplorable. Quant au projet de promotion touristique au nord du lac Qârûn, 'Abd al-Muhaymin Muhammad accepte l'établissement d'une coopération avec le CSA et le service des réserves naturelles. S'étant rendu compte de l'importance du patrimoine culturel et naturel, celui-ci a accepté d'annuler tout réaménagement dans les zones importantes tout en maintenant la carte du projet. Avis complètement rejeté par Hawwâs qui assure que chacune de ces régions archéologiques a une enceinte qui doit être gardée intacte et respectée. Pour lui, il faut annuler le projet purement et simplement. (Doaa Elhami, « Des intérêts discordants », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 5 mars 2008. Voir également Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Dispute entre le CSA et le gouvernorat du Fayyûm autour des terres de Qârûn », al-Musawwar du 7 mars ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Destruction de 2 500 feddans dans la réserve de Qârûn pour construire des hôtels et des villages touristiques », al-Badîl du 11 mars ; Sa'îd Nâfi', « Les ministères du Tourisme, de l'Environnement et de la Culture sont réservés quant au projet d'investissement de 20 milliards de L.E. dans le Fayyûm », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 17 mai).
Réserve naturelle du lac Qârûn
Le directeur général des mines et des carrières, Dr Hasan 'Abd al-Rahmân, a démenti que le Service des Mines ait donné son accord pour la mise en place de projets d'investissement touristique au Nord du lac Qârûn. Cette antique zone géologique est classée réserve naturelle par décret du Premier ministre 943/1989. Dr 'Abd al-Rahmân a souligné que le Service des Mines possède de vastes étendues dans cette région. Par conséquent, son accord est indispensable pour l'implantation de quelques projets que ce soit. Il a critiqué l'annonce faite par le ministère du Tourisme au sujet de la création d'hôtels et de villages touristiques sur une superficie de 2 500 feddans au Nord du lac sans l'aval du Service des Mines, conformément à la loi sur les mines et les carrières 86/1956.
De son côté, le Conseiller du ministre du Tourisme, Dr Mahmûd al-Qaysûnî, a affirmé que le nouveau projet de développement touristique au Nord du lac Qârûn avait obtenu l'approbation de la présidence du Conseil des ministres. Le ministère du Tourisme examinera les critiques formulées par les archéologues, les géologues et les environnementalistes à l'encontre de ce projet. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Le ministère du Tourisme accusé d'implanter des projets touristiques dans le lac Qârûn sans l'aval du Service des Mines », al-Badîl du 16 mars ; Khâlid Warbî, « Des experts dévoilent le complot visant à transformer la réserve du lac Qârûn en projets touristiques », al-Badîl du 18 avril).
During his meeting in Tourism, Media and Culture Committee of People's Assembly on 17/5/2008, Tourism Minister Zuhayr Garâna announced that the plan of developing the tourism movement in Fayyûm governorate is based on establishing a world tourism zone at the north of Qârûn Lake. This plan was put forth for the investors who presented 60 demands for 20 pieces of land. Garâna added that the development plan in Fayyûm includes also establishing new rail and land roads to connect the new tourism zones with Cairo and the 6th of October to facilitate the tourists'movement to Fayyûm after establishing the new museum in al-Haram
6th
area, and after operating the new of October international airport. Fayyûm Governor said that a great project is currently carried out by Arab and Egyptian investments to establish many factors for producing salt from Qârûn Lake which will contribute in reducing salt's percentage in it, increasing the fishery wealth and protecting it from pollution. This plan escorted the tourist comprehensive development projects to return Fayyûm as it was a world tourism zone, especially for its closeness from Cairo and the neighbouring governorates, and to encourage the internal tourism besides attracting this world tourism whether for entertainment, safari or natural world protectorate after the UNESCO listed Fayyûm as the most important and ancient cultural and natural museum in the world. ("LE 20 billion for developing tourism movement in Fayyûm", Egypt State Information Service, May 18).
Minyâ
Dayr Abû Hennès
À proximité de la région de Shaykh 'Abâda, dans les environs de Mallawî, et sur une superficie de près de 2 hectares s'étale prestigieusement le monastère antique d'Abû Hennès, avec son remarquable clocher. Datant du début du Ve siècle, ce monastère a été fondé par l'abbé Jean le Petit ou Yehnes al-Qasîr. Une appellation qui lui a été attribuée à cause de sa petite taille. Le monastère d'Abû Hennès est considéré par beaucoup d'archéologues non seulement comme l'un des plus importants monuments coptes de tout le gouvernorat de Minyâ, mais en plus de toute l'histoire copte. Une telle importance est due en fait à plusieurs raisons : son architecture originale, les trésors qu'il renferme, son emplacement, sur le trajet de la Sainte Famille en Égypte, d'après les manuscrits coptes, ce qui a décuplé sa valeur à la fois religieuse et archéologique. Cela sans oublier la période au cours de laquelle le monastère a été construit. Celle-ci constitue une phase délicate de l'histoire des coptes en Égypte. Malgré tous les atouts de ce monastère et son importance archéologique et religieuse, Abû Hennès souffre d'une négligence absolue.
Le clocher antique reflète l'ancienneté et la valeur antique de tout l'endroit avant même de franchir le seuil du monastère. On croyait que les murs étaient décorés tous de fresques et d'icônes monumentales. Or, ce n'est plus le cas. « La négligence est le maître des lieux par excellence », déplore l'archéologue Hilâl Hennès, du bureau du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) à Mallawî. Selon lui, ce monastère renferme beaucoup d'ornements sous les récentes couches de peinture et les couches de poussière qui ont caché la splendeur et la valeur esthétique de l'original qui semble être le joyau de l'art copte. Le monastère regroupe en fait à la fois le style basilique et byzantin. Le premier est visible dans les coupoles. Quant au style byzantin, il se voit clairement dans les couronnes des colonnes qui séparent les portiques du monastère. Malheureusement, ces éléments architecturaux dont la combinaison est rare sont actuellement noircis à cause des couches épaisses de poussière.
Cela dit, l'un des portiques conserve ses ornements anciens. « Le portique est surmonté de fragments de fresques colorées en bleu, symbole de la pudeur, le rouge celui du sacrifice et du noir qui représente l'éternité. Aussi, sur l'un des murs de ce portique est inscrit un texte qui explique le calendrier copte », explique l'archéologue. D'autres fragments de fresques dont des parties d'auréole lumineuse qui entouraient les têtes des saints sont vues à peine. Pour lui, toutes ces fresques ont besoin de nettoyage et de restauration urgents qui pourraient restituer à la fois non seulement la valeur esthétique de ces éléments décoratifs, mais encore ces « travaux vont ajouter sûrement beaucoup de renseignements archéologiques qui restent inconnus pour les spécialistes », explique-t-il. C'est le cas des trois autels du troisième portique qui semblent être les plus importants aux yeux de l'archéologue. L'un de ces trois autels est consacré à l'Abbé Jean le Petit, le deuxième à la Vierge, quant au troisième, il porte l'éloge funéraire d'une certaine Vévéronie dont la date remonte à l'an 910 de notre ère. Sur les murs de ce dernier « ont été trouvées des inscriptions coptes suite aux travaux de nettoyage et de restauration partiels qui ont eu lieu il y a quinze ans », affirme-t-il. Selon les archéologues, ces opérations avaient mis au jour beaucoup d'autres secrets, à l'instar de l'antique baptistère qui est au nord du deuxième portique. Celui-ci est construit « de blocs de pierres originaires de corniches égyptiennes dont les traces sont toujours claires », affirme l'égyptologue Hamâda 'Abd al-Mû'în du bureau du CSA à Mallawî.
Les restaurations partielles qui ont eu lieu il y a quinze ans ont délivré, d'après les archéologues, très peu de secrets que garde jalousement le monastère. Ce qu'on a pu expliquer ce sont beaucoup d'icônes antiques et des croix égyptiennes en plâtre sur les différents murs. Mais il en reste autant d'autres à dévoiler et à étudier. Et ce, sans oublier que de nouvelles opérations de nettoyage et de restauration doivent être menées afin de valoriser les icônes et les fragments de fresques présents. Les experts espèrent en fait soumettre tout le monastère à des restaurations et des études minutieuses suivies d'une sauvegarde urgente. (Doaa Elhami, « Un joyau à dépoussiérer », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 9 janvier 2008).
Suhâg
Osireion
Le chercheur Bassâm al-Shammâ' a lancé un cri d'alarme à propos de la hausse du niveau des eaux souterraines dans l'Osireion, situé dans le gouvernorat de Suhâg. Des poissons et des algues prolifèrent dans ces eaux souterraines qui attaquent les peintures murales et empêchent la visite du temple. De son côté, le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, attribue le danger à l'expansion agricole et urbaine dans la région d'Abydos, en l'absence de projet de drain sanitaire des habitations situées au Nord et à l'Est du site archéologique. Une commission du CSA et d'experts de l'Institut des recherches sur les eaux souterraines a confirmé la nécessité de dévier le réseau de drain agricole d'une distance de 10 mètres à l'Ouest de la chaussée descendante de l'Osireion. Aucune canalisation ne doit être installée sur la chaussée dans le côté Nord. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Les eaux souterraines menacent le temple de l'Osireion à Suhâg », al-Badîl du 5 mai 2008).
Dayr al-Malâk
The fourth century monastery of Dayr al-Malâk (Monastery of the Angel) in Girgâ, Suhâg, in Upper Egypt, some 480km south of Cairo, incurred some heavy losses due to a fire which broke out at midnight on Thursday 5 June. There were no casualties and the monastery churches, which lay on the other side of the buildings that caught fire, escaped intact but, according to Father Mitiass Lamie of Dayr al-Malâk, losses are estimated at some LE1.5 million, to say nothing of the incalculable historical value of some of them. The priceless library and manuscript collection were entirely lost, together with a portion of the buildings, and the shrine of Anba Mina - a modern-day saint who had been Archbishop of Girgâ and abbot of Dayr al-Malâk from 1960 to 2003 - which was tantamount to a small museum containing all his personal belongings, clerical vestments, books, hand-written documents, as well as valuable gifts presented to the monastery and to Anba Mînâ as monastery abbot. The grain and dry supply stores, the poultry farms, dovecots, industrial size refrigerators, olive press and a huge store of olives and olive oil, the wine produced by the monastery, as well as all the guesthouse furniture were all lost.
" Limiting the damage was not impossible," Father Bola from the monastery told Watanî, "but the fire brigade did not show up till two hours after the fire broke out, and then they came with no water supply. The nearby villagers rushed to the monastery with fire extinguishers to put out the fire when they saw the smoke, but the official security guard at the gate, Muhammad al-Daba', prevented them from entering, and dissuaded them by saying the monastery was entirely ruined and that there were gas cylinders in the monastery that were expected to blow up any minute and would threaten their lives. We have our own water-operated fire extinguisher system at the monastery but, since both the water and power supply had been cut off the area, the system was useless." The fire raged on from midnight till 3 : 00am when a fire brigade was sent from Suhâg upon an SOS sent by the monks to leading officials there. It took two hours to extinguish the fire. The police insisted on citing an electric short circuit as the cause of the fire even though there had been a power outage when the fire started.
The fire spread to a nearby house of a poor farmer, Anwar Wadî' Hasaballah, who lives with his wife and three children, as well as his mother. Hasaballah lost all the harvest of the year, and even his house. "Now, we own only the clothes we are wearing", he sadly says. The police arrested Hasaballah and accused him of burning the monastery and his house, but when the other policemen reported the incident as the result of an electric short circuit they set him free. Dayr al-Malâk was built in the fourth century by Queen Helena, mother of King Constantine. Historian Abû al-Makârim mentioned that in the eighth century it was a convent that included thirty nuns. It fell into decline and was later restored several times throughout history ; the last restoration was at the hands of Anba Mînâ in the 1960s following which the monastery flourished once more. (Jimmy Gaballah, "Monastery on fire", Watanî, June 22, 2008. Voir également al-Sayyid Abû 'Alî, « 10 camions de pompiers pour maîtriser l'incendie de Dayr al-Malâk à Suhâg », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 7 juin ; al-Wardânî 'Abd al-Hâfiz, « Gigantesque incendie à Dayr al-Malâk », al-Dustûr du 7 juin).
Désert Occidental
Dayr Abû Lîfa
We are on our bellies now, crawling through silky-fine sand, watching the shadows for vipers and scorpions. Inches above our heads is a huge rock, the roof of a collapsed chamber, supported by walls cut from soft, rather crumbly sandstone. Ahead of me, my companion switches on his head torch and lights up the chamber, revealing the object of our search. Around the walls, just below the ceiling is a layer of plaster, and on it some painted images, the heads of religious figures, saints or apostles perhaps. One bears a striking resemblance to traditional images of Jesus. We take photographs until the sand causes my camera to seize up, and then return to the fresh air above. My companion is Amîr Mîlâd, a desert guide of many years experience, and he has brought me to Dayr Abû Lîfa, an abandoned Coptic monastery in the Western Desert north of Fayyûm. Dating back to the early days of Coptic Christianity, the monastery is cut into an outcrop of the Qatrânî mountain ; a remote place in which monks could lead the contemplative life safe from raids and persecution. The name points to the saint assumed to have founded it, Abû Lîfa, also known as Abû Banukhm or St. Panoukhius. The southern section is now collapsed, perhaps due to erosion or earthquakes, leaving only two rooms intact at the northern end. It is in the southern section that the paintings lie hidden.
" I've been coming here for about fifteen years," says Mîlâd, "making desert safaris, taking groups around the north side of the lake, around Fayyûm Oasis. There are various archaeological sites here, and we'd visit them, and then come to this place." "We'd always visit the northern end, and look inside and take photographs. But then last November I was curious to look further inside. And so I found this tunnel between the rocks, and after some time, I came across the room with the paintings. When I saw the paintings, I was amazed. I felt sure that nobody else had seen them, certainly none of the other desert guides I know." Convinced that he'd made a fresh discovery, Mîlâd began to ponder what else might be hidden beneath the sands of Dayr Abû Lîfa. A devout Christian, he is fascinated by the religious significance of the paintings, which he suspects mark the site of the monastery's church. Beneath the gathered sands, he believes, may lie religious relics, texts, even the bodily remains of a saint.
In February of this year Mîlâd paid a visit to the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Zamâlik, where he presented news of his find to Dr Mustafa Amîn, head of the Department of Islamic and Coptic Monuments. The initial signs were promising. Dr Amîn said that the paintings did indeed seem to be a fresh find, and a search of the Supreme Council's records showed that Dayr Abû Lîfa, while recorded as an abandoned Coptic monastery, had never been visited by an official inspector, much less been the subject of any major excavations. Dr Amîn made arrangements for a committee to be formed with a view to making an inspection of the site later this year. While Mîlâd was waiting for the committee to convene, he learned more of Abû Lîfa's history. A study published in 1937 by French archaeologist Henri MUNIER contains a rough sketch of the northern rooms, as well as a translation of some of the Coptic texts painted on the walls there. One of the texts, apparently written by a monk named Stephen, reads : "Christ remember me Do penitence for me Pray that God will give me patience" MUNIER dates this text at 686 AD, and another at 858 AD. A further study in 1993 by the Italian Paolo GALLO provides more detail, including an exploration of the collapsed southern section. Here he identifies fragments of pots used for cooking and vessels for storing wine, as well as a piece of glass found at the foot of the monastery. Somewhat to Mîlâd's disappointment, GALLO's work also contains photographs of the church and its sacred wall paintings. GALLO describes them as "fragments of a parade of saints or apostles, which are painted frontally. Two of the faces are still almost intact, and their halos have a diameter of 50cm. The head of a third figure has eyebrows and eyes painted in white against a black background."
Clearly, Mîlâd was not the first to set eyes on these images in modern times. But his initial assumptions raise interesting questions about its conservation and that of similar sites. The fact that the monastery is unguarded and shows no sign of excavation work initially suggests either that it is unknown to the authorities or that they are acting negligently with regard to a site potentially rich in archaeological finds. But further investigation points to the significance of Dayr Abû Lîfa relative to other, more complete, Coptic sites. Elizabeth BOLMAN is an expert in Medieval art and Director of the Red and White Monastery Project. As she points out, Dayr Abû Lîfa is just one of many Christian sites in Egypt containing religious paintings, many of which have survived the centuries more or less intact. Based solely on photographs, she tentatively places the figures at Dayr Abû Lîfa in the Late Antique period, but explains that there are several better-preserved examples from this period and later. "There are two sites with significantly better surviving painting that's Late Antique," she tells Daily News Egypt. "One is in the Monastery of St. Simeon in Aswân. But there's another one called Dayr Abû Kinnîs, which is near Mallawî. And then there's this later period, like Wâdî al-Natrûn, and then a Mediaeval flowering, which is St. Anthony's." "This is part of a larger class of monuments. Some of them have been conserved ; some of them are being conserved and partially protected or
fully protected. But I can't imagine much more than an inspector being assigned to Dayr Abû Lîfa to check on it every once in a while." "I mean, I have to tell you, this is not a great find. It's not negligible, but it's not spectacular. There's far too much of great value in this country to be properly conserved. I mean, that's just a general fact of life," she concludes.
Considering the limited resources of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the body has the unenviable task of giving priority to those sites that present the greatest opportunities for preservation, leaving the more humble ones somewhat neglected. BOLMAN's view is echoed by Dr Amîn at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who told Mîlâd that a preliminary report may indicate the need for a fuller excavation, but in the meantime the authorities can only offer very limited protection. "If we come to the site and see it is valuable, we can protect it," says Dr Amîn. "But because the site is so remote and there are no facilities in the area, we can only hope to put a guard on patrol to visit the site from time to time. There is no place for a guide to live, so he can't stay there all the time, just visit once or twice a week." He adds that the site has survived for several centuries, and so it is likely to survive for a while longer. "It is natural that it might fall apart due to natural effects. The factor of time may cause damage. But since it is still there after all this time, it is apparently self-protecting," he says. But Mîlâd is keen that work on the site begin sooner rather than later.
Treasure hunters have been visiting Abû Lîfa in recent times, motivated by a local legend concerning treasure hidden there, possibly the wealth of the monastic community buried for safe-keeping. Indeed, evidence of their activity can be seen in the northern chambers, where the walls are pocked with freshly dug holes and piles of rubble covering the floor. In some places, the plaster on the walls has been smashed, with the loss of sections of ancient graffiti. The deserts of Egypt are sprinkled of similar Coptic sites prey to unscrupulous exploitation. As for the idea of guards being employed to protect Abû Lîfa, Mîlâd is more than a little sceptical. "You can't trust them at all," he says. "They take money to allow people into areas that should be closed, and I'm sure they would be more than happy to help the treasure hunters." Mîlâd is still waiting for the Supreme Council of Antiquities to get back to him with a date for the official site visit. Meanwhile, he is taking matters into his own hands. In recent weeks he has been back to Abû Lîfa and
surrounding sites, and says he has taken to tracking the treasure hunters as they go about their work. "The last few times I went there I saw tracks in the sand and not just tourist jeeps. There were tractor tracks and motorbikes," says Mîlâd. "They are looking for the treasure and they will take anything they find and try to sell it. They are not religious people ; they are only interested in money." (David STANFORD, "Coptic monastery prey to time and treasure hunters", Daily News Egypt, April 24, 2008).
Le Premier ministre, Dr Ahmad Nazîf, a signé un décret ministériel pour classer la zone de Tell al-Mashraba à Dahab sur la liste du patrimoine et la soumettre à la loi 117/1983 sur la protection des monuments. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a souligné que cette zone de 2222 m2 comprend le port antique de Dahab qui au cours des IIe et IIIe siècles avant J.-C. était une plaque tournante des échanges commerciaux entre l'Orient et l'Occident via le Sinaï. Tell al-Mashraba a été découvert en 1989 par une mission archéologique égyptienne qui y poursuit encore des fouilles archéologiques. (Ashraf Mufîd, « Classement de Tell al-Mashraba situé au Sud-Sinaï », al-Ahrâm du 29 avril 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Décret ministériel pour classer Tell al-Mashraba », al-Akhbâr du 17 avril).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a approuvé l'enregistrement sur la liste du patrimoine islamique de la mosquée Abû al-Haggâg située à Louqsor et de ses dépendances. Cette décision fait suite à l'incendie qui avait ravagé l'intérieur de cette mosquée dont seul le minaret était classé monument historique. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 20 mai 2008).
Les responsables égyptiens ont récemment présenté à l'Unesco 26 sites du pays à inscrire au Patrimoine naturel mondial. Dans les déclarations qu'il a faites à ce sujet, l'ingénieur Mâgid Georges, ministre d'États aux Affaires de l'Environnement, a fait savoir que des dossiers complets ont été préparés pour chacune de ces régions, documents qui mentionnent les particularités de chaque région choisie, sa localisation exacte, les richesses naturelles dont elle dispose et ses composants géologiques. Les propositions qui ont été faites concernent notamment les oasis Nord avec leurs dinosaures, le désert Blanc à Farâfra, l'oasis de Sîwa à Matrûh, Gabal Qatarânî au Fayyûm, les oasis de Khârga et de Dâkhla dans la Nouvelle Vallée, Karkar et Dankel à Aswân, Gârat Umm al-Saghîr à Matrûh, pour ne citer que ceux-ci. L'ingénieur Mâgid Georges à d'autres part affirmé aux médias que le choix des sites et leur enregistrement ont été faits par les membres des commissions nationales du programme de l'Individu et de l'Environnement vital. Quant à leur évaluation, elle sera faite par les experts de l'Union mondiale de protection de la nature. (« L'Unesco étudie l'inscription de 26 sites égyptiens au patrimoine naturel mondial », Progrès Dimanche du 11 mai 2008. Voir également Hanân Fikrî, « Le patrimoine mondial attend Gabal Qatrânî », Watanî du 30 mars).
Alexandrie
Numérisation de la presse francophone d'Égypte
Le directeur du Centre d'Études Alexandrines (CEAlex), Jean-Yves EMPEREUR, annonce la poursuite de la collecte et de la numérisation de toute la presse francophone publiée en Égypte depuis l'Expédition française en 1798 :
[ ] D'ici un mois, ces journaux devront être mis en ligne et l'on pourra les consulter sur le site www.cealex.org. Certains seront sceptiques en lisant ces lignes, mais lorsque le chiffre de 240 quotidiens et périodiques est avancé, on comprend cette nouvelle initiative. En effet, le français avait une place particulière dès la moitié du XIXe siècle et a même remplacé l'italien, alors que l'effectif des Italiens dépassait celui des Français. Mais, les Italiens n'avaient pas assez d'écoles et envoyaient donc leurs enfants dans des écoles missionnaires où ils apprenaient le français. Les Juifs aussi formaient une large communauté en 1927 (25 000 personnes). Les Shawâm sont venus grossir le nombre de francophones, alors que les Français, eux, ne dépassaient pas les 5 000 personnes. Ces groupes avaient besoin d'une lingua franca, autre que l'arabe. Or, les « Frères » avaient une école primaire dans chaque quartier. L'école Sainte Catherine était une école secondaire réputée qui sera remplacée plus tard par l'école St. Marc. Et il y avait aussi le Lycée français. Même si ces effectifs ont complètement baissé, il reste encore aujourd'hui des collèges francophones en Alexandrie qui groupent quelque 12 000 élèves.
L'imprimerie est arrivée très tard en Égypte par rapport aux pays voisins, puisqu'elle était déjà présente en 1480 à Constantinople. BONAPARTE, accompagné de 167 membres de la Commission des Sciences et des Arts, avait compris l'importance et le rôle de la presse. Deux journaux ont été publiés en Égypte durant l'occupation française. La Décade égyptienne, journal littéraire et d'économie politique dont le premier numéro a été publié en 1798 et le dernier en 1801. Le Courrier de l'Égypte a été publié à la même date. C'était une revue d'actualités politique et militaire. Ces deux publications permettaient la diffusion des dernières nouvelles aux troupes de l'armée française et aux savants. À partir du règne de Sa'îd Pacha, on constate qu'il y a 250 titres publiés en français (périodiques, mensuels, revues). On peut expliquer cette profusion par le fait que la presse arabophone fut très lente à émerger alors qu'un étranger pouvait éditer un journal sans problème. D'autre part, cette presse avait un plus grand espace de liberté d'expression. Jusqu'en 1837, on trouve une centaine de titres en français.
Mais quel est l'intérêt de ce travail de numérisation ? Tout d'abord, il faut admettre que la presse est un patrimoine comme un autre et qui garde en lui les traces du passé. À travers ces journaux, l'histoire de l'économie, du droit, de la publicité, de la société, des communautés peut être appréhendée, même le féminisme. L'Égyptienne, publiée en 1924 par Huda Sha'râwî, est un bel exemple. D'ailleurs, ajoute Jean-Yves EMPEREUR, cette presse sert aussi aux archéologues. C'est à travers cette presse d'époque qu'on a pu retrouver les traces du pionnier des fouilles archéologiques en Alexandrie, Kamâl Abû al-Sa'adât. Ce travail de numérisation est réalisé avec le Centre de Conservation du Livre (CCL) à Arles. L'équipe qui travaille sur ce projet a déjà des milliers de pages, en partie fournie par les archives de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina et aussi par des particuliers qui viennent apporter des lots de journaux. (Marian El-Kholy, « Numérisation de 200 ans de journaux et revues francophones d'Égypte »,
Progrès Dimanche du 9 février 2008).
Désert Occidental Oasis de Dâkhla
Dès l'annonce du classement sur la liste du patrimoine islamique du village al-Qasr situé à Dâkhla, le gouverneur de la Nouvelle Vallée, Ahmad Mukhtâr, a décidé d'évacuer près de 190 familles qui occupent des maisons construites en briques crues. Ils seront relogés d'ici un an et demi dans un nouveau village d'une superficie de 10 feddans et dont le coût de construction s'élève à 30 millions de livres égyptiennes. Situé à 32 km de la ville de Mût, ce village qui vient d'être classé avait accueilli dès l'an 40 de l'hégire les premières tribus arabes lors de la conquête de l'Égypte. Al-Qasr a connu une grande prospérité sous les époques ayyubide, puis Mamlûke et ottomane. ('Amru Ismâ'îl, « Indemnisation de 190 familles d'al-Qasr après le classement de leurs maisons », al-Badîl du 14 avril 2008).
- -
Oasis de Kh ârga
Les sites Amour et de Wâdî 'Ayn al-Manâwir al-Labsont akha, des 'Ayn sites
préhistoriques que « l'Unesco examine actuellement dans les environs de la ville de Khârga, capitale du gouvernorat d'al-Wâdî al-Gadîd, pour les inscrire sur la liste du patrimoine mondial », affirme Véronique DAUGE, chef de la section des États arabes auprès de l'Unesco. Un tel intérêt pour ces sites provient de la rareté des monuments qui s'y trouvent. En effet, les objets archéologiques en question sont hors de la classification mondiale déjà connue. Par ailleurs, les régions égyptiennes en question étaient exploitées pour de longues durées.
L'homme préhistorique y laissait ses outils qui indiquent son existence. D'ailleurs, ces sites comprennent une grande diversité d'outils lithiques, graffitis ainsi que quelques monuments à l'instar des vestiges des maisons découvertes récemment. Tous ces éléments qui retracent l'occupation de l'homme préhistorique de ces lieux les ont rendus incomparables au monde entier. Pour toutes ces raisons, le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) a décidé de continuer les relevés archéologiques pour mettre en évidence l'importance majeure de ces sites. D'autre part, ces emplacements seront mis sur la carte touristique parmi les lieux archéologiques subsahariens, dont la clientèle augmente au fur et à mesure. Il est à noter que le nombre d'amateurs d'endroits préhistoriques situés en plein désert est en croissance, jour après jour. Raison pour laquelle beaucoup d'agences de voyage, notamment celle du safari, ont organisé désormais des programmes touristiques destinés à ces lieux préhistoriques ainsi qu'aux régions subsahariennes. (Doaa Elhami, « Le désert observé par l'Unesco », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 14 mai 2008).
Zone Sainte -Catherine
St Catherine's Monastery (c) Aure-Anne de Coniac
[ ] In 2002 the site [Mount Sinai] was described on the World Heritage List as "mixed property, cultural and natural", which means that the monastery and the area around it were on the list. The area encompasses almost some 601 sq km within the 5,750 sq km-area of the St Catherine's National Park. On 18 April, the forecourt of the Coptic Museum was the stage for the telling of the history of Sinai and its stupendous monuments of nature, archaeological sites and recent discoveries. In the course of the special evening Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), announced that the Greek government had offered Egypt a grant of LE2 million to help restore St Catherine's Monastery. The money will go towards developing the surrounding area and converting it into a destination with up-to•date facilities for tourists. Hawwâs added that during the upcoming archaeological season, which will start in September, excavation work will take place in the area around St Catherine's in the hope that it will reveal more about the history of Sinai.
The first steps to conserve the natural and cultural features of South Sinai were taken back in 1996, when the St Catherine National Park was declared under the management of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the commission of the European Union. The aim then was to conserve the area by laying down certain rules for visitors. These included respecting the sanctity of the land ; protecting its large variety of flora and fauna (some unique to Sinai) ; and prohibiting
the removal or interference with wild
animals, plants or rocks. The aims were
prudent, but they could not be fully
implemented because controversy arose on the question of responsibility. All natural reserves in Egypt, which differ in kind, are run by the EEAA, which has voiced concerns about the advisability of privatisation. However, some newspapers at that time called for privatisation, claiming that the government could not control all the reserves and that investors under the supervision of the EEAA were necessary. At that time, according to Law 102/1983, the EEAA, in cooperation with various ministries and governmental bodies, was the only authority responsible for running natural reserves. The EEAA accused the private sector of aiming at gaining quick profits without giving much care to the nation's natural wealth.
Zone Sainte Catherine (c) Fanny Rozier
As the controversy raged, the monastery's Greek Orthodox monks found their haven of tranquillity falling more and more under threat. There was no control of the area around the monastery, which was rapidly being developed to meet tourist demands. The al-Salâm Hotel, Morgan Land, St Catherine's Village and the Zaytûna Camp sprang up, followed by several cafés. The monks, naturally, resented their loss of privacy. They made an effort to control the movement of pilgrims, limiting visiting hours and giving access to carefully-controlled areas within the monastery complex. But then a modern highway was built, and an airport, and tourists and pilgrims began to arrive in there thousands, in groups of 30 to 50, several times a day - and on every day of the year that the monastery was open. So many tourists climbed the 2,629m-high Mount Sinai that its sacred peak became littered with soft drink bottles and cans, plastic bags and other refuse. The fertile lower reaches of Mount Catherine - the highest peak in the Sinai Peninsula, named in honour of the monastery's patron saint - became depleted of the desert herbs and reeds, which provided nutritious feed for camels and goats. Its summit was treated with ill respect by adventure travellers. But fortunately, since it was a World Heritage Site, a stop was put to the controversy and a management and protection plan was set in motion by the minister of culture, the SCA, the governorate of South Sinai and the monastery authorities themselves.
The area of South Sinai described on the World Heritage list encompasses the Monastery of St Catherine and Justinian's basilica, the Church of the Transfiguration : the Chapel of the Burning Bush, the most sacred part of the monastery ; the mosque near the belfry which stands as evidence of the protection of the monastery by the caliphs of Egypt and the monks'tolerant attitude to Islam ; the old refectory, situated south-east of the basilica ; the Library and the Icon Collection ; and Mount Sinai and Mount Catherine. (Nevine El-Aref, "Sacred Sinai", Al-Ahram Weekly, May 15, 2008).
Islamic Éducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) decided signing a partnership agreement with Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), by which the BA will be considered a deposition library for all the ISESCO's cultural releases and publications in a historical step of Alexandria's history that coincides with choosing it as a capital of Islamic culture in 2008. Dr. Khâlid 'Azab, the Director of Information Administration in BA, said in press conference yesterday 17/2/2008 Dr. 'Abd al-'Azîz al-Tubgarî, Director of ISESCO, will visit Alexandria for final singing of the partnership agreement as well as participating in the inauguration of Alexandria International Book Fair which will start on 21/2/2008, during which the Islamic World celebrations of choosing Alexandria as an Islamic cultural capital will be launched. Moreover, it is settled that the BA will display all the publications related to Alexandria's establishment, history, development, population, renaissance, and several cultures, in addition to all the fields that distinguish this deep-rooted city through the eras. ("Partnership agreement between ISESCO, Bibliotheca Alexandrina", Egypt State Information Service, February 18, 2008).
Le National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) vient de publier un ouvrage en anglais intitulé 'Âbidîn Palace : the Jewel of 19th Century Cairo. Préfacé par Madame Suzanne Mubârak, cet ouvrage de 288 pages regroupe plus de 300 photographies et illustrations exceptionnelles sur l'architecture du palais 'Âbidîn, comme du quartier, dont un plan rare qui remonte à 1874. Cette nouvelle publication, qui a nécessité près de deux années de travail, retrace l'histoire récente de la monarchie égyptienne et s'inscrit dans un cadre général d'un projet national visant à documenter tous les palais présidentiels et royaux du XIXe siècle en Égypte. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Ouvrage de documentation sur les collections du palais 'Âbidîn », al-Akhbâr du 3 janvier 2008. Voir également Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Documentation du palais 'Âbidîn », Sabâh al-Khayr du 1er janvier ; Hassan Saadallah, "A downtown jewel", Egyptian Mail, January 8).
Mirvat 'Abd al-Nâsir vient de publier aux éditions Nahdat Masr un ouvrage intitulé Isis et ses sœurs. Ce livre de 72 pages renferme de nombreuses photographies de différents monuments. Outre la légende d'Isis et des reines d'Égypte, l'auteur évoque également certains aspects de la vie dans l'Égypte
ancienne (la famille, l'architecture, etc.).
L'auteur, qui enseigne la psychiatrie au
Royaume-Uni, a déjà publié Pourquoi Horus
a-t-il perdu son œil ?, ainsi qu'une Encyclopédie de l'histoire de l'Égypte antique
en 40 volumes destinés aux enfants. (« Un ouvrage qui dévoile les secrets de l'architecture et de la famille dans l'Égypte pharaonique », al-Ahrâr du 8 janvier 2008).
Egypt's religious authorities have banned a book about the Pharaoh of the Exodus on the grounds that it is offensive to Islam and shallow in its information. The book's author, Nâsir Ahmad Salâh, said the decision by al-Azhar to ban "The Pharaoh of Moses" was an infringement of the freedom of expression. "They just say this is offensive to Islam and the Qur'ân," he said, adding that al-Azhar, the Sunni Islam's historic seat of learning, does not really justify it or explain it or go into detail. ("Book about Pharaoh of the Exodus banned", The Egyptian Gazette, January 14, 2008).
[ ] L'ingénieur égyptien Sâmih Maqqâr Narûz a publié un dictionnaire hiéroglyphique -arabe où il a regroupé plus de cinq mille mots pharaoniques et leurs équivalents en langue arabe dans un volume de 560 pages. Le nouveau dictionnaire est une publication de l'Organisme égyptien du Livre. Son auteur y a regroupé plus de cinq mille termes pharaoniques ayant été utilisés durant le Moyen Empire et leurs équivalents en langue arabe. Les équivalents en langue copte y sont ajoutés au cas où ils existent. En outre, le dictionnaire renferme une explication de plus de 500 signes hiéroglyphiques. (Ingi Amr, « Un dictionnaire hiéroglyphique -arabe », Progrès Dimanche du 30 mars 2008).
The Eternal Light of
Egypt
Hall 44 of the Egyptian Museum saw an unusual buzz of activity last week as intellectuals and art lovers gathered for the launch of AUC Press's new publication The Eternal Light of Egypt, a photographic journey by talented artist Sarite SANDERS. To accompany the launch, the walls of the hall were covered with large prints of SANDERS'photos as seen in her book : black and white pictures of Egyptian monuments covered the specially crafted partitions. Unlike the conventional pictures of the Sphinx, Horus and Ramses II, SANDERS'perspective captures these ancient icons in a fresh way. The light and dark contrasts are "magical and mysterious," says Mark LINZ, director of the AUC Press. LINZ told Daily News Egypt that he admires SANDERS'work so much that he has some of these very same prints hanging on the walls of his house.
In these pictures, the artist aims to "evoke the elusive intimacy of her genius loci, unveiling Egypt's secret spiritual heart, and her haunting immanence when beholding her [Egypt's] monuments for the first time," SANDERS said. A picture of the great Sphinx - taken from a low angle looking up at the legendary figure - captures the grandeur of the landmark. The monochrome picture is grainy, which makes it look like a newspaper print. "Their mystique and perennial allure remain timeless and seem to testify to a prodigious sacred science impervious to change," the artist said. Another picture featuring the Palm Grove at Saqqâra looks like a charcoal painting with smudged edges. In some of the other exhibited photos, SANDERS experiments with infrared photography. "I took color images as well but the infrared black and white was much more stunning," she explained. In this type of photography, the film or image sensor used is sensitive to infrared light. The technique, which gives the images a lurid effect and is often referred to as the Wood Effect, was especially popular in the 60s when musicians like Jimi HENDRIX and Frank ZAPPA used it on their album covers. "The figures come alive, almost stepping out of the pillars," LINZ said of one photo taken inside a Luxor temple. One of the highlights of the exhibit is a picture of the Sacred Lake in Karnak with the reflection of the monument in the water giving a glazed, dreamy effect.
SANDERS first came to Egypt in 1974 and was "mystified. » It was no surprise then that she returned dozens of times to record her experience. "I was looking for a way to express and challenge my voice without all the dispersive talk about Egyptology but from an inner perspective," she says. SANDERS didn't plan to turn her photos into a book. She simply regarded them as her personal 30-year journey. Throughout those years, she kept cultivating and culling from the pictures she had been taking, and the story naturally emerged. One of SANDERS'main goals was to capture the aura of light in the ancient ruins. "There is a mystical marriage of light and beauty that seems to awaken the energy of the temple."
Accompanying the pictures in the book is an enlightening forward by Dr Dorothea ARNOLD of Lila Acheson Wallace, curator for Egyptian Antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. "She [ARNOLD] immediately saw what it was I was trying to say, which was a great validation to me It was really her recognition that brought in a literal form to the book," says SANDERS. There's also a forward by Egypt's chief archaeologist Zâhî Hawwâs - who also attended the launch of the exhibition - discussing and praising SANDERS'work. The exhibition at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Hall 44, will be displayed until April 5. The book is available at the AUC bookshop. (Farah El Alfy, "Egypt's eternal light", Daily News Egypt, April 3, 2008. Voir également Ahmed Loutfi, « Quand la lumière dissipe les ténèbres », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 9 avril ; Zâhî Hawwâs, « Le danger des eaux souterraines sur le Sphinx et sur nos antiquités ! », al-Ahrâm du 12 avril).
Creating Medieval
Cairo
Paula SANDERS'Creating Medieval Cairo is not a quick read for an average tourist, but a book for the more serious observers and students. It is a meticulously researched book with more than 50 pages of notes and bibliography at the back to prove it. Paula SANDERS is herself an academic ; she is the dean of graduate and post doctoral studies and associate professor of history at Rice University. SANDERS has already published one book and several articles on the history of Cairo and allied subjects. Hitherto it has been generally accepted that the conservation of Cairo began as the answer to the need for rescuing Cairo's dilapidated Arab architecture in the middle of the 19th century. For this reason, the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l'Art arabe, founded in 1881 by Khedive Tawfîq, was commissioned and charged with the task of preserving Islamic monuments in Egypt. Paula SANDERS reframes this story of conservation and allows for a new understanding of Medieval Cairo as a creation of the 19th century. She goes on to look at "The Arabian Nights" and "Medieval Cairo" in relation to each other and shows us how they were produced and regarded by readers, viewers and restorers. She maintained that these two were themselves a mixture of old and new and provides evidence to this effect. Later she discusses "Keeping Cairo Medieval : World Heritage and the Debate over Fatimid Monuments." Here she analyzes the heated controversy over the Buhra restorations in 969-1171 that clashed with the World Heritage ideas of preservation. She presents the reader with a marvelous collection of 36 photographs.
Some figure the "before" and "after restoration" of particular mosques and others, like the Mahmal procession in the early 1900s, exhibits a wonderful piece of religious history as well as a glimpse of life and conditions then. So do figures 12 ("A Storyteller") and 13 ("The Souk al-Nahhâsîn"). The photo of the bricked in arcades forming dwellings in the Ibn Tûlûn Mosque courtyard, round about 1870, prompts the reader to ponder some of the hardships and discomforts caused by restoration. I must admit that the academic language took a bit of unraveling, but perhaps the failure was on my part and not Paula SANDERS'. Creating Medieval Cairo is not a book you read from cover to cover. A wealth of information is packed into this monumental publication, so it is better to take it in small bites. (Jamila Yosri, "Creating Medieval Cairo", Daily News Egypt, February 28, 2008. Voir également Mirvat 'Imâra, « L'invention du Caire du Moyen-Âge », Akhbâr al-Adab du 8 juin).
200 Years after the French Expédition in Egypt
" 200 Years after the French Expédition in Egypt" by Nâsir Ahmad Ibrâhîm with a forward by Egyptian historian Ra'ûf 'Abbâs, offers a new interpretation of historical incidents, which became known as the French Expédition of 1798-1801. It challenges the notion, widely held by Occidental historians and French writers, that the French Expédition into Egypt transferred knowledge, culture and civilisation from the advanced West to the backward East. The exact impact of the French Expédition has long been a hot•button issue with Arab writers often pointing to the French invaders as a point of foreign interruption and the beginning of political and economic decline in the Middle East. Ibrâhîm's book presents the Expédition in its true colour, as an undertaking of colonialism, while it sheds light on the bitter resistance of Egyptians in face of the French. It examines Egyptian resistance, which was not only concentrated in the nation's two major cities Alexandria and Cairo, as many believe, but included Upper Egypt and the Delta as well. The book also delves into the experience of the French themselves who faced not only unexpected resistance but also severe epidemics that took the lives of many French soldiers.
The benefits gleaned from the expédition, which introduced management science and administrational theories to the Egyptians, are discussed fully. This was particularly evident in the Dîwâns, where French administration was introduced only as an attempt to group the Egyptian political intellectuals to be readily put into service for French political interests. A very important issue is also highlighted in the book that the French campaign proved to the Egyptians the Ottoman Empire was weak and unable to protect Egypt from foreign occupation. This alerted Egyptian popularist leaders to the necessity of changing the ruling system and to detach from the Turks. In turn this led to the setting up of new laws allowing people to participate in decision-making and choose their own leaders. This 750-page tome is divided into four major chapters : resistance, criticism of the campaign itself, translations and their ambiguity, and a comparison of how French and modern Arab writers differ on the subject. The conclusion provides a comprehensive criticism from an Egyptian perspective. The author has not made the common error of being dizzied by French glitter. It puts the expédition in its true framework in the development of international history in the Middle East Egypt. (Mohamed Tharwat, "200 years after the expédition", Egyptian Mail, May 13, 2008. Voir également « Point de vue égyptien sur la
campagne de Napoléon », al-Ahrâr du mai ; Dina Heshmat, « Salutaires mises point », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 11 juin). 10 au
- -
A H i s t o r y o f E g y p t :
From Earliest Times to the Present
With his new book, Jason THOMPSON attempts the ambitious task of covering the entire span of Egyptian history from its earliest settlers to the present day. This is the first major work of its kind, and it succeeds triumphantly. Never before has any individual tried to provide a comprehensive coverage of Egyptian history from predynastic settlements through the pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras, followed by the Ottoman Turks, the birth of modern Egypt, mid-nineteenth-century Egypt, the British occupation and the parliamentary era through to Nâsir, Sâdât and Mubârak. How, one might well ask, could a modern historian assume to tackle so wide a range of subjects, which are usually divided by scholars into distinct eras ? Is it possible to cover a history of the many thousands of years, through great periods of progress and development, others of decline and decadence, in a country that has experienced cultural, political, economic and spiritual growth, as well as subjugation, humiliation and corruption in one form and another ?
I began reading THOMPSON's A History of Egypt with some trepidation and not a little scepticism. Could an American, a khawâga (foreigner), provide an analytical and balanced coverage of the historical events of all periods and, more important, would he
manage to trace an Egyptian identity - because that, I felt, is what a book bearing such a title should convey. Frankly, I doubted that I could give an honest appraisal. For one thing I anticipated an orientalist bias. THOMPSON's previous published works suggested that the author might be so inclined. After all, he rescued for posterity orientalist Edward William LANE's Description of Egypt (based on notes and views in Egypt and Nubia between 1825 and 1828 that were not published in LANE's lifetime), and wrote the biographies of LANE (whose classic An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians was published in 1836) and Egyptologist WILKINSON. But I was wrong. A History of Egypt is a remarkable work of synthesis, cohesion, and understanding. "Egypt," he writes in his Preface, "is the most written-about land in the world, an inexhaustible source of inspiration for writers and interest for readers - but they almost invariably concentrate on one particular period, as if hermetically sealed from each other. Yet few if any lands have as many threads of continuity running throughout their entire historical experience as Egypt. While the country has changed almost beyond recognition, one is repeatedly confronted by the paradox - indeed the outright contradiction - that many aspects of Egyptian culture have remained recognisably the same and can be documented across the millennia."
I had only to read a dozen pages before my fears were put to rest. THOMPSON makes clear that although the Egyptian culture emerged from the general matrix of northern African material culture, it developed early on many of the distinctive features of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. He describes the development, and then acceleration, of predynastic Egyptian cultures (with some stimulus from Mesopotamia) that ultimately led to unification under King Narmer of the First Dynasty. What I liked most about this section was THOMPSON's final refutation of the notion of a struggle between two competing political entities - Upper and Lower Egypt. He rightly points out that this was based largely on myth and an ancient Egyptian penchant for duality, and was no longer believed by scholars and not supported by archaeological evidence.
THOMPSON has travelled widely in Egypt, exploring archaeological sites from the Mediterranean coast to Egypt's southern frontier at Aswân. He has crossed barren deserts to the oases of the Western Desert and Sinai, and has shared these journeys with archaeologists and scholars of various specialisations who have aided his understanding. He has lived with an Egyptian family, his "extended family", in their house beside the mausoleum of Sultan Qâytbây in Cairo, and has had a close-up view of the so•called City of the Dead and its living residents. From ancient monuments and burial grounds to Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic Egypt ; from the crowded streets of Fatimid Cairo, along trade routes ancient and modern, to towns and villages all over the country, THOMPSON has seen it all. He is by no means a specialist in all periods of Egyptian history, but he is observant, he retains information, synthesises ideas, and has writing talent. He paints a wonderfully vivid picture of Egypt's ancient past, its mediaeval chronicle and present-day realities. His History is extremely readable.
When THOMPSON was first approached by Mark LINZ, the director of the American University in Cairo Press, to write this book, he at first declined - probably because he saw it as too daunting a task. Challenged and encouraged, he eventually decided to take on the brief because, as he himself puts it, "It was an opportunity to address readers who want an introduction to the major epochs in Egyptian history and the elements of continuity and transition between, and to supply travellers to Egypt with historical background to the places they visit." He starts, appropriately, with a chapter on the Nile because, he writes, "To envision Egypt historically, and to understand its geographical essence, one must think first about the Nile." In his concluding chapter he again talks about the Nile, in this case the harnessing of its waters by the High Dam and the burdens being placed on the river today. The author must be congratulated for dispensing with the traditional division of pharaonic history into Great Periods followed by Intermediate Periods. In presenting the predynastic, early dynastic and intermediate periods as preludes to Great Periods, he traces tradition through change and continuity, and avoids the questionable, and often debatable, dynastic framework of modern scholars. "The ancient Egyptians were unaware of such periodisation and likely would have thought it unreflective of the times in which they lived," he writes.
I particularly liked THOMPSON's description of the ancient Egyptian state being embodied in the king and the pharaoh, and that the concept of maat - variously translated as "truth", "order", "proper behaviour", and "justice" - was, above all, the Egyptian way of doing things. In describing the prodigious demand for artistic productions to adorn palaces and temples, he points out that : "Art was not practiced for art's sake nor did artists enjoy the special status they acquired in early modern times from the Renaissance onward. They were craftsmen like any others" Unlike the relatively anonymous craftsmen, however, "their literary counterparts often achieved significant and lasting levels of individual recognition." The author gives due attention to the scribal profession. THOMPSON is clearly comfortable writing about pharaonic Egypt, the achievements of its succession of kings, the conquest by the Hyksos who subjected the country to the humiliation of foreign occupation and "altered Egypt's attitude towards the outside world" We learn of its long-awaited liberation from foreign rule, its strong government in the 18th Dynasty under Amenhotep III, with expansive trade and an artistic and architectural revolution. THOMPSON describes the country's halting recovery from Akhenaten's religious revolution, when the capital was moved from Thebes to Amarna, which he summarises as "another intriguing episode in ancient Egyptian history where the ending is not fully known."
Ptolemaic Egypt, when Macedonians ruled as divine kings of Egypt and were addressed as pharaohs, had their names written in hieroglyphs (never hieroglyphics stresses THOMPSON !) in royal cartouches, is an excellent chapter. "It has often been said that the Ptolemaic system was so thorough that the Romans left it mostly intact when they took control of Egypt," he writes, adding that the statement does not quite hold up under detailed examination but is nevertheless indicative of the efficiency of Ptolemaic exploitation. THOMPSON points out that beneath the Hellenic veneer, Egyptian culture and society continued to retain its vitality, diversity and creativity, and that the old Egyptian aristocracy was not destroyed during three centuries of Ptolemaic rule. He adds that although Greeks and Romans in Egypt brought their own ideas about religion, and about life after death, "these notions inevitably took on Egyptian trappings over time, and, moreover, Egypt made a strong impression on Roman culture." Few Roman emperors came to Egypt, even though it was Rome's most important province. The most sensational visit, according to THOMPSON, was Hadrian's eight to ten-month tour in AD 130•131, a relatively orderly time in the history of the Roman empire. He contrasts this with the military rule of Septimius Severus and his heirs "when Egyptians were harried with increasing demands for money and goods from the army in addition to regular taxes". Under Diocletian, the size of the Roman army was doubled and Egypt was split into six separate provinces, but his reforms came at a heavy financial price to the people of Egypt. As the demands of taxation, civic duties, and conscription became ever more oppressive, increasing numbers of Egyptians fled their homes and villages to seek refuge in the countless tombs and caves that honey•combined the cliffs above the river valley. "In fleeing the vicissitudes of this world, it was only a step to move towards contemplation of the next," THOMPSON writes, adding, "This was the genesis of the anchorite movement, one of the many contributions Egypt made to the development of Christianity".
THOMPSON's chapter on Coptic Egypt is strong. He points out that Egypt "was one of the first and most fruitful fields for Christian conversion and the establishment of Christian institutions." THOMPSON says much of the orthodoxy of Christianity "was hammered out in Egypt in the first catechetical schools, which were established in Alexandria," and that "far from being an exotic, isolated offshoot, Egypt was first a nursery and then a pillar of the early Christian Church". He draws attention to a fact not widely known - that the first major heresy to shake the church was entirely Egyptian in origin. It concerned the nature of Jesus Christ and was a feud between two Alexandrian churchmen, Arius and Athanasius (who eventually became bishop of Alexandria and was later an intimate association with the Holy Family based on the passage in the Gospel of Matthew ; and that even as the Christians triumphed in Egypt, "they found the positions of the Egyptian church and the See of Alexandria threatened by imperial politics and the upstart city of Constantinople." This rivalry found expression in the Monophysite controversy, which led, eventually, to the separation of Coptic Orthodox Christianity from mainstream Christianity. In 570, Egyptian Christians took the decisive step of appointing their own patriarch. On his vast canvas THOMPSON's oversights, if there are any, are trivial and not worth mentioning. What is worthy of note is that Egyptian history can be treated as a whole, and that, by drawing on historical scholarship as well as his own research, THOMPSON has written a one-volume narrative of the extraordinarily long course of human history by the Nile.
canonised). THOMPSON stresses that one of
Egypt's most important contributions to
Christianity was the institution of
With the Arab conquest and the withdrawal of the Byzantine army, we come to THOMPSON's chapters on the Advent of Islam, followed by The Fatimids and Ayyubids, The Mamluks, and Egypt in the Ottoman Empire. The historical analysis presented here is compelling. THOMPSON starts with Muhammad and his message, moves on to the foundation of the city of Fustât and the building of the first mosque in Africa, describes the various periods of Egyptian history when the rulers were first governors for the caliphs (of Damascus and Baghdad respectively), and then Caliphs in their own right under the Fatimids. We then have a sequence of rulers as diverse as the Libyans, Kushites and Persians in ancient times ; they are the Kurdish ruler Saladin ; Turkish and Circassian Mamluks ; and Egypt under the Ottoman Turks. The author points out that, until fairly recently, early Ottoman history has received less than its share of attention from modern historians, and he sets out to rectify this omission. He writes that the impact of Ottoman influence on the urban fabric of Cairo was at first almost imperceptible, but that over time it became an integral part of the visual presentation of the city. "The Egyptians have their past all around them, and they generously share it with those who read about it and who visit their country," THOMPSON says. "Therefore those of us from abroad should bear in mind that Egyptian history is ultimately the property of the Egyptian people, past and present, and treat it with the respect, indeed the reverence, that it deserves."
His chapter on The Birth of Modern Egypt, following BONAPARTE's 1798 expédition and Muhammad 'Alî's glorious rule, is followed by chapters on Mid-Nineteenth-Century Egypt and The British Occupation of Egypt, which are, understandably, not written in such depth as earlier periods, because, after all, we are now in familiar territory. "A bit more space is devoted to the past two centuries," THOMPSON explains, "not because they are intrinsically more important but in order to bring the picture into sharper focus as it approaches the present, thereby emphasising the connectedness of this moment to the totality of the Egyptian past. The detail then dissolves around the end of the twentieth century as recent history merges into current events". A History of Egypt is an important book, a distinguished work of scholarship and of understanding. It provides an engaging one-volume narrative of the extraordinarily long course of human history, tracing how Egypt emerged from predynastic kingdoms, through pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine, Coptic, mediaeval Islamic, and Ottoman eras, to its nation-state status in the 21st century. Let me add that the book is timely. The National Museum of Egyptian History on the pyramid plateau at Gîza is well on its way to completion, and it, too, will cover under one roof the whole span of Egyptian history from the most ancient past to the present. (Jill Kamil, "Unbroken story of human progress", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 19, 2008).
Akhenaton, the Father
o f A l l P r o p h e t s
Although the association between the
Prophets and Pharaonic sovereigns has
triggered heated debate among scholars, it cannot be dismissed as irrelevant since the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam establish clear links between ancient Egypt and prophets like Moses and Joseph. And so when a devoted researcher advocated delving into ancient Egyptian history to learn more about Islam in his book Akhenaton, the Father of All Prophets (published in 2000), arguing that the monotheistic king of the 18th dynasty was none other than Prophet Ibrâhîm, his work couldn't be dismissed as a mere divination. Yet author Sa'd 'Abd al-Muttalib al-'Adil faced rejection that overshadowed the little support he had garnered from very few members of the intellectual elite. Regrettably, this rejection came from top Egyptian archaeologists rather than from al-Azhar - the bastion of Sunni Islam - which had wholeheartedly welcomed his work as "igtihâd." Lack of scientific evidence was the reason behind this impatient dismissal by archaeologists, some of whom refused to even comment on this bewildering revelation. Nationalistic chauvinism also played its role in sidelining the research, for the Saudi Arabian Wahabi institution and its supporters were not comfortable with a fresh twist that would place Prophet Ibrâhîm for the first time in a tangible historical context. Neither could many believing Jews swallow the hypothesis since they had always attempted to link the escape of Akhenaton from Tell al-Amarna with their own Exodus.
What al-'Adil had attempted to do was find historical, linguistic and Quranic evidence to establish the hair-raising similarity between the story of Prophet Ibrâhîm and that of the monotheistic sovereign Akhenaton. At an early age Akhenaton, meaning "Close to Aton" - who was formerly called Amenophis VI - had revolted against the apotheosis of his father, King Amenophis III, interestingly known in Asian courts as Namoria, Nammorus or Namrud as the name appeared later in the Arabic version of the story. Al•'Adil argued that the prince regent and heir to the throne of the Egyptian Empire had demolished all the idols sheltered in the Temple of Amenophis III on the west bank of Luxor, two defaced statues of which survive to our day and are known as Memnon. Both these idols, which later became a sanctuary for the Greeks and Romans, were paradoxically left behind to set an example for generations to come, explained the author.
Ironically, from whichever angle you look, the Temple of Luxor, which was also created to celebrate the apotheosis of Namoria, you would come across a reminder to counter that type of idolatry. My fascination with Akhenaton, The Father of All Prophets was the highlight of my recent visit to Luxor. The temple was built by Namoria but it remains debatable whether it was intended as a replacement for the one demolished by Akhenaton. According to Egyptologists and tourist guides, many of the busts of the mammoth statues of Amenophis III were replaced with those of Ramses II, arguably the most powerful and tyrannical of ancient Egyptian kings. If Islam had marked the triumph of monotheism and the worship of the unseen God, Creator of Heavens and Earth and all those who thrive on them, that triumph could never be illustrated more realistically than at the Temple of Luxor.
From any angle, in the middle of the ruins on the temple's two yards would feature a dome, a minaret, or a wall that made up part of Abû al-Haggâg sanctuary and mosque. The mosque was built atop the temple in the Fatimid era on a large area of land that concealed the temple underneath it. But when the temple was uncovered it was impossible to remove the mosque. If removed, significant parts of the temple would have come down. The obelisk flanked by two colossal statues of Ramses II on the eastern yard of the temple is countered by the shrine and mosque of Abû al-Haggâg that could be reached through the Lion Alley on the western yard. A passage made up by two lines of magnificent columns in the east yard amazingly ends with a minaret. Finally, on the outer part of that same yard, the shattered statue of King Ramses II lies on its back after it was reassembled by archaeologists. Those accustomed to the scene might have failed to heed that significant juxtaposition. They might have needed al-'Adil's eye-opener to reckon with its implications. His research triggered one of the most controversial issues in ancient history : Prophet Ibrâhîm called for monotheism, and while uncovering the history of ancient Egypt, archaeologists found a king who also preached a significant phase of this belief system.
So what is the connection between the two ? It has been argued that both lived in different ages, but the age in which Ibrâhîm lived remains unknown. What is known, however, is that both revolutionaries lived some 25 centuries ago. And the fact that Ibrâhîm's historical background has never been established makes it all the more urgent to find out exactly where he lived. The research in question places him historically and linguistically in the Amenophis III/Akhenaton era. This was a time when idols were said to have been perfected and demolished, while others were dwarfed and disfigured by Akhenaton, paving the way for true monotheism - the worship of one God. Although some experts stress that their objections are based on the lack of hard evidence, they can't dismiss altogether this exciting, mind-storming historical venture. Moreover, it has, for the first time, drawn attention to the need for historians, archaeologists, theologians and linguists to join forces in unraveling the mysteries surrounding such subjects. Each group is either rushing to have the final say, simply rejecting the hypothesis altogether or forgetting that other specialists must weigh in with their own research before reaching a consensus. But the most unequivocal statement is that Egypt has managed to become one of the cornerstones of Islam simply because it was prepared for monotheism over the course of its long ancient history. This belief was accentuated with the Islamic conquest of Egypt ; unlike the case in other cultures in Asia, where the new Muslims had to struggle to reconcile it with old beliefs. (Ahmed Maged, "Akhenaton, Islam and the ruins of Luxor Temple", Daily News Egypt, January 10, 2008).
- -
I n a n A n t i q u e L a n d :
H i s t o r y i n t h e G u i s e o f
a Traveler's Tale
Aplatypus. A creature out of place. A worshipper of cows. An oracle of water•pumps. With such amusing comparisons, Amitav GHOSH evoked the puzzlement with which he was received in 1980 in a village in Egypt's Buhayra governorate while working on an anthropological study. In a lecture held at the American University in Cairo last week entitled "The Making of 'In An Antique Land': India, Egypt and the Cairo Geniza," GHOSH revived history with narrative, providing a guided tour of the places he's visited and an overview of his research into the 200,000 Jewish manuscripts believed to hold a detailed historical account of the period between 950 and 1250 - also known as the "Cairo Geniza." GOSH had published travel narrative "In an Antique Land : History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale," in 1992. "Latâyfa and I were undeniably a shock to each other," referring to the village with the fictive name provided in his novel. The people of the neighboring village Damanhûr could easily remember the name of the foreigner whose first name sounded much like Indian movie icon Amitabh BACHAN. They even reproduced soliloquies and dance-numbers for the Indian audience member. The audience at AUC relished GHOSH's articulation of the queries regarding the manner, times and ways in which cows are worshipped in India. "Would I not transfer my allegiance to the camel ?" produced much laughter.
Sister states in the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1950s, India and Egypt also co-operated economically. It was in that period when GHOSH found himself consulting in a little village in Buhayra regarding a water-pump imported from India. Comparing the Kirloskar-brand pumps to the newer Japanese ones he found on his last visit 12 years ago, GHOSH remarked that Egypt had undergone an "epidemic of prosperity." Believed to be a bourgeois muwazzaf (government employee), GHOSH nevertheless made close friends from among the peasant farmers. Carrying the rural dialect he learned in Latâyfa, GHOSH "learned what it meant to be a fellah." Long after completing his thesis, GHOSH revisited the 10-volume diaries on Latâyfa and proposed writing a narrative intertwined with his quest for the Geniza documents. In search of the medieval literature section in a library, GHOSH stumbled upon a passage concerning an Indian slave corresponding with a Tunisian Jewish merchant and traveler. The search for this slave's story attracted GHOSH to Egypt and the Geniza documents.
The Cairo Geniza is an accumulation of almost 200,000 Jewish manuscripts that were found in the Genizah (a synagogue storage room for religious documents) of the Ben Ezra synagogue. These documents, which encompass a large number of books, are regarded by numerous historians as detailed records of the social and economic history for the period between 950 and 1250. Access to the documents was not easy. GHOSH recalled having visited the site of Ben Ezra near Mar Girgis where the documents were first stored simply by being thrown into a cavity in the synagogue's wall. It was here where the letters of Abraham Ben Yiju, the Tunisian merchant, were first found. In the late 19th century, at the time of Lord CURZON's presence in Egypt, the Geniza documents were taken away and have been archived in various Western institutions. GHOSH advocated for these documents to be placed in a museum and archived in Egypt. It was only in 1981 that GHOSH managed to get hold of the documents of Geniza. In the library in Oxford, he realized that the voice of an ordinary Jewish merchant in medieval Judeo-Christian Arabic sounded "uncannily similar to the colloquial Arabic in Latâyfa." On his return that year, he found that the damask paper used by Ben Yiju in 1132 must have come from a shop like a more modern one now behind al-Husayn Mosque.
It was not difficult for GHOSH to tie places in his narrative to contemporary counterparts. The result was a rich book filled with plenty of anecdotes, social and historical commentaries, revelations about a little•known aspect of Egyptian culture and the relationship that has developed between GHOSH and Ben Yiju. It is no wonder that "In an Antique Land," published 16 years ago, has not dated. GHOSH said initial sales were not noteworthy. Anticipating religious rivalries, and not wanting to pander to them, the author changed the original title of "An Infidel in Egypt" to the anguish of his publisher. The novel is essentially a friendly encounter between Egypt and India. GHOSH's interest in Cairo itself was the product of a strange moment of decolonization. The period of 1960s and 1970s was an "age of friendships" akin to those between "GANDHI and Zaghlûl, NEHRU and Nâsir." Perhaps the novel remained popular, said the author, having "borrowed a lead from its characters and learned how to survive." Written in acknowledgment of existing conflicts, the book was also about accommodation, "a book about how people live and reconcile their memories." Asked by an audience member whether he had found a home or continued to feel a sense of dislocation so salient in many of his works, GHOSH answered, "dislocation is my home." GHOSH, who was awarded the Padma Sri, the highest honor in India last year, has made his peace with the dislocated lifestyle he found characteristic of modern life. "Some people live with broken roofs." (Chitra Kalyani, "An Indian in Egypt", Daily News Egypt, April 9, 2008).
Le Manuscript Center de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina a achevé la préservation et la mise sur Internet des manuscrits arabes du monastère de Sainte-Catherine. Le directeur du Manuscript Center, Yûsuf Zaydân, a déclaré que sept manuscrits exceptionnels ont été choisis parmi les trois milles manuscrits que compte le monastère dont les quatre Évangiles, Silim al-Fadâ'il, etc. (Salwa Mahmûd, « Les manuscrits de Sainte-Catherine sur Internet », Uktubar du 3 février 2008).
Le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, a annoncé qu'un terrain d'une superficie de 6 000 m2 a été choisi dans le secteur de Karnak pour l'édification de la première salle de projection IMAX au Moyen-Orient, en coopération avec le National Geographic Society (NGS). Celui-ci est réputé au Canada, aux États-Unis et en Australie pour ce type d'installation cinématographique permettant de visionner des films 3D grâce à des lunettes spéciales. Samîr Farag a précisé qu'en vertu de l'accord approuvé par le Premier ministre, la municipalité de Louqsor fournira le terrain, alors que le NGS assumera les frais de construction du cinéma et de projection des films. Les deux parties partageront ensemble les bénéfices, qui financeront les travaux de réaménagement de la ville. Cette nouvelle salle sera dédiée à la projection des films historiques qui retracent l'histoire de la civilisation égyptienne à travers les différentes époques. Le NSG prépare actuellement un nouveau documentaire intitulé Illustres pharaons. (al-Ahrâr du 12 février 2008. Voir également Ashraf Mufîd, « Création de la première salle de projection IMAX au Moyen-Orient », al-Ahrâm du 5 février ; « Cinéma à Louqsor avec des lunettes spéciales », Uktubar du 10 février ; Kâmilyâ 'Atrîs, « Salle de projection IMAX à Louqsor », Sabâh al-Khayr du 12 février ; Hânî al-Mikkâwî, « Un écran américain pour projeter les mystères des pharaons à Louqsor », al-Ahrâr du 13 février ; Nasr al-Qûsî, « Création à Louqsor de la première salle de projection IMAX au Moyen-Orient », al-Badîl du 22 avril).
In cooperation with the major software manufacturer IBM, the Centre for Documentation of Cultural and National Heritage (CULTNAT), has launched the e-commerce website www.egyptmemory.com. "The website features an unprecedented collection of high quality pictures of the Egyptian heritage in its different epochs - the Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic
era," said Fathî Sâlih, the Director of the Centre. He added that other photos available on the site included three-dimensional photos of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. The Centre, Dr Sâlih explained, has enriched the site with copies of its publications, including a directory on plants in ancient Egypt and an encyclopaedia on Arab musicians. The site is featured in three languages : Arabic, English and French. ("Website for national heritage launched", The Egyptian Gazette, April 12, 2008).
Sponsored by Germany, Nâdya Tumûn (an expert at Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities) together with Elke REINHUBER (a professor at the Institute of Media Research at the University of Braunschweig/Germany) in cooperation with the Supreme Council of Antiquities as well as the Coptic Museum in Cairo created a new website aimed at making the Coptic culture accessible to a broader number of people. The project started with a workshop : training a selected number of staff in documentation and presentation of objects, professional handling of camera/light/tripod and achieving as well as further processing the results at the computer. After the workshop, the project culminated in the establishment of the new website, hosting prominent contributions of experts in diverse areas like Coptic architecture, language, art, music and much more. Zâhî Hawwâs, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Father Gabriel (Abû Sirga Church), Farîd Mansûr (The Friends of the Coptic Museum) and Bishop Siluanis (Old Cairo, History and Importance of Old Cairo) are among the prominent contributors. Following the opening ceremony last night, the new website : www.coptic-cairo.com is accessible to visitors. ("Website on Coptic culture", The Egyptian Gazette, April 24, 2008).
Doubts about the ethnic origins of the Pharaohs are surfacing with the unearthing of mummies with red and blond hair. But an Egyptology scholar stresses that such doubts are unfounded. According to Bassâm al-Shammâ', a senior tourist guide and an Egyptology researcher, the physical differences in these mummies, which date back to early dynasties and the pre-dynastic era, are a result of marriages between Egyptians and foreigners at the time. There are basic traits that distinguish the ancient Egyptian race, he added, and any physical variations are results of contact with other races. The issue, according to al-Shammâ', has started a debate on the genes of the ancient Egyptians. The issue kicked off when "Ginger," a mummy with red hair dating to the pre-dynastic times, started the controversy of whether the builders of the ancient Egyptian civilization were Egyptians. "This would call again the question of exceptions and variations, for there were also individual differences marking the Nubian race [believed to be the ethnic origin of the pharaohs]. Excavations revealed that some of these Nubians were red-haired." Al-Shammâ' explained that "those who examine the facial features of the many ancient Egyptian royals like Tutankhamun, Ahmos Nefertari, mother of queen Hatshepsut, kings Amenemhat 1, 2 and 3 of the Middle Kingdom and Amenohotep IV of the 18th dynasty [will see that they] were of Nubian descent. The general features of many other royals and common people certainly reflect the Nubian blood and suggest Nubia is the home of the original Egyptian race." This, however, doesn't mean that ancient Egyptians came from Central or Southern Africa. "The Nubian territories only border the Black Continent," he added. Thus in spite of the similarities between the people of Africa and Ancient Egypt al-Shammâ' says these are two different races.
" Ginger", the World's Oldest Mummy (from Egypt, ca. 3500 BCE, British Museum).
Further research revealed that Ginger, who is currently on display at the British Museum, is in fact Egyptian, said al-Shammâ'. "Ginger, who was recovered at Bayn al-Gabalayn, Idfû, in Upper Egypt, was 163 cm tall, the typical height of an ancient Egyptian. He was buried in hot sands in the fetal position, an indication that he was transferred to the pre•birth condition. In the fashion of ancient Egyptian royal mummies he was equipped with a dagger and some pottery, evidence that inspires the ancient Egyptian religion and belief in life after death." For al-Shammâ' any study of ancient Egyptian genes should start with the several cultures discovered in Ma'âdî, Hilwân, Mirandat Banî Salâma in Fayyûm, and Naqâda 1, 2 and 3, all of which predate the dynasties. "The cultures located to the north like Ma'âdî and Hilwân reflect a certain affinity with Asian races from Palestine and Syria, going by the kind of pottery and tools discovered," he said. This cultural exchange and trade, and the resulting mixed marriages had their effect on the physical traits of following generations.
" Another genetic surprise in the north was a painting found in a tomb in Gîza close to the Pyramids Plateau, which shows a female dignitary with typical Egyptian features and blond hair." At the time henna was the common dye. The explanation is simple. "The beginnings of the dynastic era have witnessed an interaction between the ancient Egyptians and the Libyans, a race with blond hair and green eyes, features that were handed down to the oases dwellers in Egypt, who still have a lot in common with the Libyans." However, less interaction with other races could be traced in the cultures of the south like the Nakadas and the Sibilian culture, believed to have flourished 10,000 years ago in Kom Umbû, 45 km north of Aswân. "The ancient Egyptians have always referred to the original dwellers of the Nile Valley in Egypt as 'remeth,' a hieroglyphic word meaning 'the true people'," said al-Shammâ'. "The ancient people distinguished between two types of foreigners. The first came from foreign land or mountainous areas, which they always referred to as highlands. Those basically constituted the 'heka-khasout,' a word which was later shortened into 'heksous,' the well-known invaders of Egypt, who were believed to have originated from the Arabian Peninsula. The second are the 'khefto'and those were the dwellers of the Mediterranean islands like Cyprus and Crete. The presence of Egyptian deities in their lands is an indication they have expressed some kind of allegiance to the Egyptian people and culture."
Al-Shammâ' also points to another type : "Egyptianized foreigners." "Their existence in history shows that the ancient Egyptians have adopted a successful policy with regard to outsiders. The Egyptians royals were always adamant in inviting foreign dignitaries to come and not only visit Egypt, but to also stay for a lifetime," he added. The offspring of the marriages of these dignitaries to the Egyptian royals would generally carry 50 percent of the original Egyptian genes. Yet, these numbers were insignificant because Egypt has always been referred to in historical chronicles as Kemet (the black land) in line with the dark skin of its people. (Ahmed Maged, "The ginger and blond elements in Pharoanic genes debated", Daily News Egypt, February 3, 2008).
Une équipe scientifique présidée par le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, se rend aujourd'hui à Louqsor pour examiner deux momies pharaoniques. La première momie présumée royale a été trouvée devant la tombe de Séthi II dans la Vallée des Rois et entreposée dans le musée d'al-Qurna. La seconde momie est celle d'un enfant. Elle se trouve dans la tombe de Thoutmosis IV. Des sources archéologiques ont précisé que ces deux momies seront transférées au Caire pour subir des radiographies et des analyses ADN afin d'en déterminer la lignée. (Huda Khalîl, « Transfert de deux momies pharaoniques de Louqsor vers Le Caire », al-Dustûr du 29 mai 2005. Voir également « Transfert de momies de Louqsor vers le Musée Égyptien », al-Wafd du 30 mai ; Ashraf Mufîd, « Momies transférées de Louqsor pour être tomographier au Musée Égyptien », al-Ahrâm du 30 mai).
A British museum is covering up its collection of ancient Egyptian mummies following visitor complaints about them going on show "naked," it said Wednesday. Two unwrapped mummies and one partially wrapped mummy out of 11 on display at The Manchester Museum in northwest England were covered after comments were received that they should be treated with more respect and dignity. The mummies will be kept under wraps temporarily while a public consultation is carried out about the best way to display human remains at the center, said Deputy Director Piotr BIENKOWSKI. "This is an interim measure designed to find out public reaction because of the negative comments we have been getting, especially about the unwrapped mummies," he told AFP by telephone. "We collect visitor comments on a regular basis and over the last few months there have been an awful lot of people questioning the public and educational value of showing such mummies." He said that public perception of displaying human remains, particularly those from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, had shifted and questions are now being asked why Egyptian remains are treated differently. [] BIENKOWSKI accepted that covering the mummies was "slightly provocative" but said it was designed to generate debate and to determine whether the museum's policy on displaying human remains should be applied consistently.
Reaction on the museum's weblog showed that many Egyptologists are against the move. One respondent called it "totally misguided." Another called it "misinformed" while a third called it a "step backwards." The chairman of the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society, Bob PARTRIDGE, called the decision "ridiculous" and that he was "almost at a loss for words." "If the university museum is to continue its policy of education and informing visitors, then covering up the mummies is not achieving this end, and is making the museum a subject of ridicule," he wrote on the site. The Manchester Museum is home to one of Britain's largest collections of artifacts from ancient Egypt, with about 20,000 objects. (AFP, "British museum covers up 'naked' mummies after complaints", Daily News Egypt, May 22, 2008. Voir également Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Le Manchester Museum décide de couvrir des momies nues suite aux protestations des visiteurs », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 24 mai ; « Angleterre : des momies provocatrices », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 4 juin).
Pour plus d'information, voir (http://egyptmanchester.wordpress.com/) ; (http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/a rticles/2008/05/22/220508 mummies egypt feature.shtml).
To wrap or not to wrap Is it disrespectful to display humanremains such as the mummy of Ramses I ?
Photograph : Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters.
Antiquities chief Zâhî Hawwâs on Thursday welcomed a decision by a British museum to cover up its collection of ancient Egyptian mummies, saying it was a question of ethics. Covering up the mummies is "a very important decision. I myself am with this position on an ethical basis, not a religious one," Hawwâs told AFP. "We don't want people to see our naked bodies when we are dead, so why should we allow ourselves to view the bodies and expose them in this manner ?" something which is not necessary for the mummies'appreciation, he said. (AFP, "Hawwâs hails 'naked' mummies cover-up", Daily News Egypt, May 23. Voir également Ahmad Ragab, « Campagne en faveur du transfert des momies exposées dans les musées vers les tombes », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 19 juin).
A tourist guide is planning to launch a campaign to send back all the Egyptian mummies exhibited in museums to their original tombs. Targeting local cultural and antiquities authorities, guide Bassâm al-Shammâ' is presently waiting for the response of the religious authorities to his proposal. His suggestion includes returning mummies to their original tombs in Luxor amid a venerable procession similar to that which marked the transportation of the statue of King Ramses II from Ramses Square to Rimâya Square. Such a procession would, he suggests, serve as a major tourist event. "Each mummy should be wrapped in a proper coffin again and placed in the glove case that's equipped with the gadget necessary for controlling air and humidity. The mummy of King Tutankhamun has been preserved in like manner within its tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Visitors enter the tomb and watch the king's face from behind a glass barrier. Why don't we do the same with
the rest of the kings to safeguard the future of these mummies ? Some tombs are closed simply because there is nothing to show in them. We can revive them by returning the mummies to them," he argued.
A devoted Egyptology researcher, al-Shammâ' began to think seriously about the campaign when he noticed the reactions of tourists after their visits to the mummies'room at the Egyptian Museum. "Some were deeply saddened by their visit, while others came out and burst into tears," said al-Shammâ'. "While many refuse to enter the room, others who insist on entering came out mocking [what they saw] because it didn't meet their expectations," he said. Al-Shammâ' argues that in Western museums the mummies are carefully wrapped and maintained in a manner consistent with their sanctity, while in Egypt we appear to have disregarded basic preservation procedures. He also said that displaying the mummies outside their tombs is disgraceful to ancient Egyptian culture. "That the mummies are now part of some museum exhibits worldwide simply contradicts ancient Egyptian beliefs relating to the sanctity and integrity of the dead," he noted.
" The ancient Egyptians climbed mountains, cleaved rocks, dug tombs that could be only accessed through a labyrinth of alleys and passages and cursed in his holy texts all those who try to disturb his eternal slumber so that the dead should remain intact and rest in peace," he explained. Those who dare to disturb the dead will be devoured by a hippo, a lion or a crocodile, warned one holy text that was recovered from the tomb, which sheltered the builders of the Pyramids. According to al-Shammâ', throughout history Egyptian mummies have undergone a series of degradations when they were sold to farmers to grind and use as a fertilizer or to sorcerers for black magic. "If we take pride in kings like Ramses II, Ahmos I, or Queen Hatshepsut and their contributions to humanity, we shouldn't degrade their memory and their glorious image by displaying them as dry mummies," elaborated al-Shammâ'. He added that from an Islamic perspective the practice is bound to be prohibited in line with Islamic teachings that preach the sanctity of the dead. "Think about it from a scientific viewpoint : what have we gained by examining these mummies ? Besides being subject to decay as a result of getting exposed to climactic changes, the current advanced technology has failed to fully identify some of them or establish the blood relations among some of the royals through the testing of the mummies," he added.
In the 1970s the mummies'rooms in all museums were closed to the public on religious grounds. The decision was reversed following President Anwar al-Sâdât's death on account of the revenue generated through entrance fees. The current fee is LE 100 per visitor. "Revenue-wise, the funereal festivities that would mark the return of these mummies to their final abodes would make up for what many believe to be a big loss," said the tourist guide. "And even if we lose revenue, this is nothing compared to the immeasurable loss if these mummies decay in museums." The subject of exhibiting the royal mummies to the public has been out of the limelight for some years. Religious objections were hardly heard of. But today, al-Shammâ' hopes to get numerous religious officials - led by the Grand Muftî - on his side of the argument before launching the campaign. However, whether these religious scholars would agree to a funeral procession reminiscent of pagan traditions remains to be seen. (Ahmed Maged, "Returning mummies to the tomb", Daily News Egypt du 4 mars 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Des archéologues appellent au retour des momies dans les tombes antiques », al-Ahrâr du 24 mai ; Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Ré-ensevelir les momies : vieille polémique qui revient à l'ordre du jour ! », al-Musawwar du 30 mai).
C'est sur la zone archéologique de Saqqâra que s'est porté le choix du secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, pour implanter un second laboratoire d'analyses ADN, après celui du Musée Égyptien. Hawwâs a affirmé que ce nouveau laboratoire constitue une nécessité scientifique puisque la réglementation stipule l'existence de deux laboratoires de référence distants l'un de l'autre d'au moins 30 kilomètres. Par conséquent, l'analyse des échantillons et la vérification des résultats peuvent être menés simultanément sur les deux sites. Le nouveau laboratoire, qui participera au projet d'analyse ADN des momies pharaoniques, sera supervisé par deux professeurs spécialisés de l'American University in Cairo (AUC). Il est à noter que le laboratoire implanté dans le sous-sol du Musée Égyptien est placé sous le contrôle du Dr Yahya Gâd Zakariyyâ, assisté par le Dr Samiya 'Abd al-Samî' du Centre national de la Recherche. (« Création à Saqqâra d'un second
laboratoire ADN », al-Musawwar du 27 juin
2008).
-
M o m i e d e T h o u t m o s i s I e r
The mummy once believed to be that of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I, father of the Pharaoh-Queen Hatshepsut, may not be his after all. CT-scans indicate that the mummy belongs to a young man who was not placed in the royal pose of mummification and had the remains of an arrow embedded in his chest, implying that he had been killed. Tuthmosis I
(c. 1506-1493 BC) is known to have died of natural causes. Hatshepsut's own mummy has been identified not only by circumstantial evidence and the presence of the royal pose but by similarities between her mummy and other royal family members. Now CT-scans and DNA tests conducted on mummies believed to be most closely related to Hatshepsut, including those thought to belong to Pharaohs Tuthmosis I, II and III - the first was Hatshepsut's father, the second her husband and probably her half-brother, and the third her stepson - have trapped archaeologists into another riddle.
Until now the mummy of Tuthmosis I was assumed to be known. However, not only are the pose and the cause of death wrong, but also the dates don't fit. The mummy thought to have been that of the Pharaoh is that of a man who died at the age of 30, making it impossible for him to be Hatshepsut's father since she died when she was 50. "That means that if the so-called mummy of Tuthmosis I was Hatshepsut's father, she would have been born when he was 15," Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly. Hawwâs added that doubts about the identification of the mummy were raised at the time of its discovery in 1881, when it was one of 40 royal mummies seized from a hidden cache at Dayr al-Baharî that had already been discovered by a family of grave robbers. The mummy was inside two coffins dating back to the 18th and 21st dynasties, of which the first bore the cartouche of Tuthmosis I. To solve the riddle, Hawwâs said CT-scans and DNA tests concerning their lineage were now being conducted on three unidentified mummies from Luxor's west bank and currently in the Egyptian Museum. The first belongs to an unidentified man in the royal pose of mummification unearthed early in the 20th century in the area in front of the tomb of Pharaoh Seti II (1201-1195 BC) in the Valley of the Kings. Hawwâs suggested that this may be Tuthmosis I's. The two other mummies belong to unknown females and were discovered by Giovanni BELZONI in tomb number 21 in 1817, but were later deliberately damaged. Hawwâs points out that both mummies are also in the royal pose, with the left hand placed on the chest and the right hand beside the body. "A position explaining that they could belong to princesses," Hawwâs concludes.
" I had to depend on a team of skilled Egyptologists, radiologists, anatomists, pathologists and forensic experts to examine these mummies," Hawwâs continues. "We are keeping in mind that they were moved quickly at night by the high priests of Amun who controlled the Theban necropolis during the Late Intermediate Period, and who wanted to hide and preserve the bodies of the 18th, 19th and 20th-Dynasty rulers. The priests might have stripped the mummies and the royal tombs of their most valuable treasures, yet still they wanted to protect the royal remains from the tomb robbers who roamed the sacred hills of Thebes." In their hurry, Hawwâs believes, mummies were misplaced or unidentified. Initially, the royal mummies were rehoused in nearby tombs - records show, for instance, that the mummy of Ramses II was originally moved to the tomb of his father Seti I, and only later transferred to the Dayr al-Baharî cache. "It is difficult to plot the routes followed by the mummies," Hawwâs says. In the process of moving the corpses and the confusion that ensued some, at least, were wrongly identified, while others were stripped of all identification.
" The SCA initiated the CT-scan project in order to solve at least some of the mysteries that grew out of the relocation of mummies," Hawwâs says. "Hatshepsut seemed a perfect place to starta, and now we are trying to find the key to Akhenaten's family. Now we have the studies of Tutankhamun's mummy, and over the upcoming six months scientific studies are going to take place on the so•called skeleton of Akhenaten and the mummies of his grand parents, Yuya and Tuya, in order to establish who is the real father of the boy king Tutankhamun," Hawwâs told the Weekly. He added that he believed Akhenaten to be Tutankhamun's father and Queen Kiya his mother, not the beautiful Nefertiti. "The puzzle will be soon solved," he said cheerfully.
Tuthmosis I's reign is generally dated from 1506 to 1493 BC. He was the third Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, ascending the throne on the death of Amenhotep I. During his reign he campaigned deep into the Levant and south into Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt further than ever before. He built several temples in Egypt and dug a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the first confirmed ruler to have done this (although Amenhotep I may have preceded him). He was succeeded by his son Tuthmosis II, who in turn was succeeded by the latter's sister, Hatshepsut. The original coffin of Tuthmosis I was taken over and reused by a later Pharaoh of the 21st Dynasty. The mummy of Tuthmosis I was originally thought to be lost, but Egyptologist Gaston MASPERO, largely on the strength of familial resemblance to the mummies of Tuthmosis II and Tuthmosis III, believed he had found his mummy in the otherwise unlabelled mummy. This identification has been supported by subsequent examinations, revealing that the embalming techniques used came from the appropriate period of time - almost certainly after that of Ahmosis I and some time during the course of the 18th Dynasty. It is this finding that is now being contested. (Nevine El-Aref, "In search of a lost king", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 5, 2008. Voir également "SCA works to identify mummy believed to belong to Tohotmos I", Egypt State Information Service, May 30 ; "DNA test for 3,500-year•old mummy", The Egyptian Gazette, May 31).
II -MUSÉESAprès les grandes réalisations enregistrées par le ministère de la Culture en 2007 (inauguration de Dâr al-Kutub, du musée Copte, etc.) le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités poursuivra ses efforts en 2008 avec l'inauguration du Grand Musée Égyptien (2011), du musée national de la Civilisation (2009), du musée d'Art islamique, en plus des musées régionaux à Suhâg, Kafr al-Shaykh, Suez et Sharm al-Shaykh. Parallèlement, des travaux de réaménagement sont en cours dans le Musée Égyptien de la place Tahrîr, le Musée gréco•romain d'Alexandrie, celui des Carrosses royaux situé à Bûlâq, ainsi que le musée des Bijoux royaux d'Alexandrie. (Tâha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : Inauguration en 2008 de nouveaux projets culturels et
archéologiques », al-Ahrâr du 2 janvier
2008).
- -
En coopération avec le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités, le Calligraphy Center de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina organise un atelier d'apprentissage de la langue hiéroglyphique destiné aux enfants. Cet atelier se tiendra au cours des vacances de mi-année dans le musée national d'Alexandrie. Le directeur du Calligraphy Center, Dr Khâlid 'Azab, situe cette nouvelle initiative dans le cadre du rôle éducatif et culturel qui incombe aux musées. (Muhammad Raslân, « La Bibliotheca Alexandrina apprend les hiéroglyphes aux enfants », al-Ahrâm du 5 janvier 2008. Voir également « Apprentissage des hiéroglyphes aux enfants d'Alexandrie », Uktubar du 13 janvier).
La deuxième et avant dernière phase de construction du Musée Atonien est achevée. Établi sur une superficie de 24 feddan-s dans le gouvernorat de Minyâ et avec un coût de 50 millions de livres égyptiennes, ce musée ouvrira ses portes en 2011. (« Le musée d'Akhenaton ouvrira ses portes en 2011 », Le Progrès Égyptien du 10 janvier 2008).
- -
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a
décidé la création d'un musée dédié à
l'écrivain Nagîb Mahfûz à l'intérieur du palais Bashtâk, situé dans la rue al-Mu'izz. Fortement endommagé par le séisme de 1992, ce palais a été restauré grâce à la collaboration avec le Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Kairo (DAIK) pour un coût de 50 millions de livres égyptiennes. (« Réaffectation du palais Bashtâk en musée de Nagîb Mahfûz », Akhbâr al-Adab du 20 janvier 2008).
7e musées du pays ouvriront gratuitement leurs portes aux jeunes entre 6 et 17 ans, afin de célébrer le festival du Pharaon doré durant les vacances scolaires de mi-année. Intitulée Rois et reines, l'édition de cette année vise à enseigner aux enfants l'histoire royale des pharaons. Entre création et divertissement, différents ateliers artistiques (dessin sur cuir, fabrication de poupées, confection de maquettes, sculpture, mosaïque) seront organisés, en plus d'un concours pour la meilleure information archéologique. (al-Akhbâr du 27 janvier 2008. Voir également Nahla 'Âbidîn, « Festival du Pharaon doré pour les enfants », al-Ahrâm du 27 janvier).
Pour la année consécutive, tous les
Le journaliste Sulaymân Gûda interpelle Fârûq Husnî au sujet du palais archéologique al-Shinnâwî situé dans la ville de Mansûra. Le ministère de la Culture avait acheté ce palais pour la somme de 20 millions de livres égyptiennes pour le transformer en musée. Or, depuis deux ans, le palais est fermé. Son état se détériore. « Pourquoi le CSA n'a rien fait jusqu'à présent ? », s'interroge le journaliste. (al-Wafd du 30 janvier 2008).
Le ministère de la Culture inaugurera le premier musée égyptien consacré au textile archéologique, à l'issue des travaux de réaménagement de la zone avoisinante dont le coût s'élève à 20 millions de livres égyptiennes. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé que ce musée est doté de vitrines ultramodernes équipées de systèmes d'éclairage et de sécurisation adéquats. Ce projet, qui a duré près de 24 mois, a été réalisé grâce à une expertise 100 % égyptienne. Le musée abrite 250 pièces de textile et 15 tapis qui remontent aux différentes ères historiques, depuis l'époque pharaonique jusqu'à celle de Muhammad 'Alî. (Ashraf Mufîd, « 250 pièces exceptionnelles exposées dans le premier musée égyptien pour les textiles à travers les différentes époques », al-Ahrâm du 10 février 2008).
Dans le cadre de la coopération entre les ministères de la Culture et du Développement économique, le Conseil des ministres a approuvé l'affectation de 140 millions de livres égyptiennes au développement des musées régionaux. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a précisé que ces sommes seront allouées aux musées archéologiques de Suez, de Minyâ, de Suhâg, de Sharm al-Shaykh, d'Hurghada, d'al-'Arîsh
et de Port-Saïd. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd,
« Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 19
février 2008).
- -
Le Parquet administratif d'Alexandrie mène des investigations élargies après la
disparition de billets magnétiques d'entrée des musées et leur substitution par des faux billets d'une valeur de 2 millions de livres égyptiennes. Les soupçons tournent autour d'un chauffeur du ministère qui a été chargé de transporter ces billets du Caire vers Alexandrie. Il aurait probablement commis ce vol des vrais billets. Certains responsables vont être interrogés. L'enquête suit son cours. (Muhammad Raslân, « Vol de billets d'entrée des musées alexandrins d'une valeur de 2 millions de L.E. », al-Musawwar du 22 février 2008).
Following a restoration and renovation process costing upwards of LE85 million, the Islamic Museum in Cairo is ready to open to the public. The museum first opened in 1903 as the "House of Arab Antiquities". It expanded in 1952 to become the Islamic Museum with the addition of a wider range of antiquities from Egypt and the Islamic region. The last phase of development was completed in 1983, by which time the museum housed 2,300 objects representing some of the most remarkable examples of Islamic art. The new project involved the restoration of the main galleries, which are now arranged according to the most modern museological techniques. Some galleries include exhibits belonging to specific historical periods, while others are allocated to different forms of Islamic art. The museum now boasts a new network of fire alarm and fighting equipment, as well as new administrative offices. One of the most famous of the museum exhibits, the Mamluk fountain, was successfully disassembled and moved to the restoration laboratory at the Saladin citadel for restoration under Spanish and Egyptian restorers. It is now on display in the museum courtyard. (Tereza Kamal, "Cairo's Islamic museum", Watanî, February 24, 2008).
Having transferred many ancient artefacts to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), being constructed on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, Italy is funding a project to develop the Egyptian Museum in al-Tahrîr Square downtown, in the framework of a bilateral memorandum of understanding. The purpose of the project, costing over 1,3 million euros, is to transform the Egyptian Museum into a home for unique antiquities, as well as an architectural and cultural landmark. The Director of the Cooperation Development Office at the Italian Embassy in Cairo, Nino MEROLA, says that the Egyptian Museum will be overhauled inside and outside. In order for it to keep abreast with the latest museum technologies, it will be provided with an electronic security system, including burglar alarms and monitors. "The project will offer training to museum employees to improve their professional skills in wood, glass, metal, papyrus, clothing and leather repair and restoration work. They will also be given training in computers, archaeological photography and museum sciences". The exhibition halls in the museum will also be comprehensively developed, while the lighting and ventilation systems will be changed. "A delegation from the Italian Central Institute of Restoration recently
visited Cairo in order to take responsibility for the 12-month project,' adds MEROLA. (Mohamed Ismail, "Italian funding for museum renovations", The Egyptian Gazette, March 6, 2008).
Egypt has put more than 1,000 artefacts, tracing the history of Sinai, in a new museum unveiled yesterday. Egypt's First Lady Suzanne Mubârak yesterday opened the al•'Arîsh Museum in Sinai. Most of the artefacts on display were recovered from Israel in 1994, years after the Jewish State seized them following its occupation of the Egyptian peninsula in 1967. Annexed to the 17,000•square-metre museum is a library housing rare manuscripts and books. Other facilities include an amphitheatre, an auditorium and bazaars. A hall is designated for showcasing the heritage of the Sinai people and traditions. "The al-'Arîsh Museum is part of a plan worked out by the Supreme Council of Antiquities to set up a number of provincial and thematic museums," said Egyptian Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî after the inauguration in northern Sinai. (Hassan Saadallah, "First Lady opens new museum", The Egyptian gazette, March 17, 2008. Voir
« Mme
é galement Rafik Baracat, Suzanne Mubârak inaugure le Musée national d'al•'Arîsh », Le progrès Égyptien du 17 mars ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Le musée d'al-'Arîsh soutient le flux touristique en Égypte », al-Ahrâm du 17 mars ; Nâhid Hamza, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure le musée d'al-'Arîsh », al-Akhbâr du 17 mars ; « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure le musée d'al-'Arîsh », al-Qâhira du 18 mars).
Le président du Secteur des musées, Muhammad 'Abd al-Fattâh, a souligné que le CSA est en train de moderniser le musée des Monnaies situé à la Citadelle du Caire, afin qu'il puisse retracer l'histoire de l'évolution des monnaies en Égypte. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 18 mars 2008).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, inaugurera le 24 octobre prochain le musée national de Suez, qui retrace la lutte des habitants contre l'occupation israélienne, ainsi que l'histoire de cette ville côtière à travers les différentes époques. Ce musée, dont le coût s'élève à 10 millions de livres égyptiennes, abrite près de 3 000 pièces archéologiques exceptionnelles. Il s'étend sur une superficie de 6 000 m2. (Ashraf Mufîd, « Le musée de Suez raconte l'héroïsme et la lutte de ses habitants », al-Ahrâm du 7 avril 2008).
Le CSA a décidé la création d'un musée à ciel ouvert sur le site de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie. Ce musée abritera une collection exceptionnelle de pièces archéologiques qui remontent aux époques grecque, romaine et byzantine. (Mâgid Muhammad, « Musée à ciel ouvert sur le site de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie », al-Wafd du 15 avril 2008. Voir également Muhammad Abû Dhikrî, « Réaménagement de la zone de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie », al-Akhbâr du 1er mai).
Lors de la visite en Égypte du président bulgare Georgi PARVANOV, un accord de
jumelage entre les villes de Louqsor et de Kazanlak a été signé par le maire du district de Kazanlak et le président du Conseil Suprême de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag. Celui-ci a déclaré que cet accord vise à promouvoir l'échange des données historiques entre le musée de Louqsor et celui d'Iskra en Bulgarie, en plus des délégations officielles, des recherches archéologiques et des expertises dans les domaines de la culture, du tourisme et du patrimoine entre les deux États. (Ashraf Ibrâhîm, « Jumelage entre les villes de Louqsor et de Kazanlak », al-Ahrâm du 16 avril 2008. Voir également « Jumelage entre les villes de Louqsor et de Kazanlak », al-Qâhira du 29 avril).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé l'inauguration la semaine prochaine du premier Musée des crocodiles momifiés devant le temple de Kom Umbû. Ce musée abrite 40 crocodiles dont les tailles varient entre 0,5 m. et 4,5 m. et qui ont été découverts entreposés dans le temple. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Inauguration à Aswân du premier Musée des crocodiles », al-Badîl du 18 avril 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Un musée en Haute-Égypte pour exposer les crocodiles des pharaons », al-Ahrâr du 21 mai).
Barque funéraire découverte en 1954 au pied de la pyramide de Chéops, actuellement exposée dans un musée sur le plateau de Gîza
Une mission de la Waseda University a lancé une expérimentation visant à exposer aux touristes la deuxième barque funéraire de Chéops, à travers des écrans immenses installés aux abords de la pyramide. Le président du secteur des antiquités égyptiennes, Sabrî 'Abd al-'Azîz, a révélé que la réalisation de ce projet a été confiée au chef de la mission japonaise, Dr Sakuji YOSHIMURA. Des caméras et des moniteurs seront donc installés à l'intérieur de la fosse abritant la deuxième barque de Chéops, qui n'a pas encore été remontée. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Exposition de la barque enterrée de Chéops à travers des écrans immenses », al-Badîl du 24 avril 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a décidé la formation d'une commission d'archéologues qui regroupe le président du secteur des musées, Muhammad 'Abd al-Fattâh ; le directeur des musées régionaux, Ahmad Sharaf ; le directeur des musées et des antiquités d'Alexandrie, Dr Ibrâhîm Darwîsh ; et le superviseur général des antiquités d'Alexandrie, Ahmad 'Abd al-Fattâh. Cette commission sera chargée du lancement de la création du musée d'archéologie sous-marine en Alexandrie
dont le coût s'élève à 2 milliards de dollars. (Muhammad Abû Dhikrî, « 2 milliards de dollars pour la création du musée d'archéologie sous-marine en Alexandrie », al-Akhbâr du 27 avril 2008).
En collaboration avec l'Union africaine (UA) et la Ligue arabe, le ministère de la Culture organisera une célébration culturelle le 25 mai prochain dans le palais Muhammad 'Alî à Shubrâ, à l'occasion de la célébration de la Journée mondiale de l'Afrique. Un grand nombre d'ambassadeurs et de représentants des États africains assisteront à cette célébration à côté d'intellectuels égyptiens, arabes et étrangers. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a révélé l'intention de l'Égypte de créer un musée pour le patrimoine africain dans la citadelle de Salâh al-Dîn al-Ayyûbî au Caire. Ce musée est destiné à abriter la mémoire du continent noir, les arts et les traditions de ses peuples et de ses tribus, en plus d'une collection archéologique qui retrace l'histoire de chaque État. (Ashraf Mufîd, « Création d'un musée pour le patrimoine africain dans la citadelle de Salâh al-Dîn », al-Ahrâm du 1er mai 2008. Voir également « Premier musée du patrimoine africain dans la citadelle de Salâh al-Dîn », al-Ahrâr du 6 mai).
Le Musée national archéologique d'Athènes a ouvert jeudi au public une exposition permanente d'un millier de chefs-d'œuvre de la civilisation égyptienne antique qu'il détient depuis la fin du XIXe siècle. Quelque 300 pièces de cette collection avaient déjà été exposées de 1994 à 2002 jusqu'à la fermeture temporaire du musée, le plus grand du pays, pour cause de rénovations. La nouvelle exposition comprend tous les aspects de la vie des Égyptiens de 4 000 av. J.-C. jusqu'à l'époque romaine au IVe siècle après J.-C. Elle comprend des statues, des figurines, des stèles, des sarcophages, des momies d'animaux, des coffres et des urnes funéraires, des céramiques, des bijoux et des portraits peints de type Fayyûm. « L'exposition a pour objectif de présenter au visiteur la vie quotidienne des anciens Égyptiens », a souligné le ministère de la Culture dans un communiqué. Elle se veut pédagogique, présentant de façon chronologique des unités thématiques qui soulignent « la relation étroite entre l'hellénisme et la civilisation égyptienne pendant l'Antiquité ». La collection a été formée essentiellement par les donations de deux Grecs d'Égypte, Ioannis DIMITRIOS dans la période 1880-1887, et Alexandros ROSTOVITZ en 1904. Le gouvernement égyptien a également fait don en 1893 de neuf momies de l'époque des pharaons, a précisé le ministre de la Culture, Michalis LIAPIS, en inaugurant la nouvelle exposition permanente. Il a précisé que le musée, le plus visité de Grèce avec plus de 400 000 visiteurs en 2007, accueillera à la fin de l'automne de nouvelles collections permanentes comprenant des figurines en terre, des bijoux en or, de la verrerie antique et une collection chypriote. (Amira Samir, « Le Musée d'Athènes expose ses chefs-d'œuvre égyptiens », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 21 mai 2008. Voir également Nicholas PAPHITIS, "Athens museum to show its priceless Egyptian collection", Daily News Egypt, May 14 ; "Egyptian antiquities in Athens", The Egyptian Gazette, May 16 ; Hassan Saadallah, « Le Musée national d'Athènes expose ses chefs-d'œuvre égyptiens », Progrès Dimanche du 25 mai).
Les travaux de réaménagement du Musée gréco-romain d'Alexandrie ont été provisoirement gelés à cause de la présence dans son jardin de deux tombes d'époque gréco-romaine et d'une statue de crocodile qui date de Ptolémée II. Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a demandé de recourir à l'expertise étrangère en vue du démontage et du transfert de ces trois pièces antiques. (Abû Naddâra, « Le crocodile de Ptolémée entrave le réaménagement du musée », al-Akhbâr du 12 juin 2008).
Musée des Bijoux royaux
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé l'achèvement du projet de restauration du musée des Bijoux royaux situé en Alexandrie et son inauguration en juin prochain. Il a fallu 3 années, 50 millions de livres égyptiennes et le concours d'une équipe de restaurateurs russes pour que le CSA puisse réaliser différents travaux : consolidation des plafonds, restauration des peintures, des vitraux, des sculptures et des parquets, etc. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : 50 millions de L.E. pour restaurer le musée des Bijoux en Alexandrie », al-Ahrâr du 2 avril 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Inauguration en juin prochain du musée des Bijoux après sa restauration », al-Akhbâr du 8 avril ; Ashraf Mufîd, « 50 millions de L.E. pour restaurer le musée des Bijoux royaux en Alexandrie », al-Ahrâm du 10 avril).
Musée Égyptien
In an attempt to preserve Egypt's priceless treasures, both stored and newly discovered, as well as to create the best environment for their display and to release the pressure in some overstuffed museums, the Ministry of Culture has placed Egypt's museums at the top of its priorities. The last few years have witnessed the inauguration of several new regional and national museums and the reopening of few others after restoration and development to bring them up to international standards and to match their counterparts abroad. The museums initiative also aims at transforming Egypt's museums into huge educational institutions that will teach visitors to be aware of the importance of preserving their shared cultural and historical heritage. Geared towards achieving the cultural, educational and institutional museums, Egyptian museums were divided into five main categories : regional, specialty, sites and non-Pharaonic museums. In addition to the three main Cairo museums : the Grand Egyptian Museum, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation and the Egyptian Museum (EM) in Tahrîr. With the building of the laboratory and the stores of the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Gîza Plateau, significant portions of the EM's original collections have been removed and the museum in Tahrîr Square, regarded as the cornerstone of the museum network, will be dedicated to Pharaonic arts. To reach this goal the exquisite, neo-classical 19th-century façade of the EM will be redesigned, renovated and developed.
To take its place as one of the principal players in the revitalisation of Egypt's museums, Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî and Italian Minister of Culture Francesco RUTELLI early this month signed a memorandum of understanding on the redesigning of the EM with a budget of 1,319,000 euros. Since its inauguration in 1902, the neo-classical edifice of the Egyptian Museum has been the home of all ancient Egyptian artefacts unearthed at the nation's archaeological sites. This has led to the overcrowding of its various galleries, even down to the basement, which for most of its history had been a storeroom. Husnî told Al-Ahram Weekly that the redesigning project would transform the Egyptian Museum into a "cultural lighthouse" that would help Egyptians to "rediscover the meaning of their identity and the features of the Egyptian personality". It will also renew the museum as an educational institution that will help revive the cultural awareness of the Egyptian people.
Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the project aimed at redesigning the museum both inside and out. "Redesigning the Egyptian Museum in Tahrîr will re-envision the space in which the museum's collection will be displayed, and develop exhibitions with maximum educational impact on the public," Hawwâs said. A new scenario based on guidelines provided by the special committee and a detailed plan of the new displays within the exhibition space, including new showcases and an up-to-date lighting system, will be implemented. The committee will be responsible for studying both the structural and aesthetic problems related to the restoration, renovation and upgrading of the existing museum building in such a way as to seamlessly integrate the restoration of the existing building. The renovation will accommodate the modernisation of the museum's technological and structural facilities.
Improvements to the museum's facilities will include the installation of new security and fire safety systems, as well as an air•conditioning system and a lighting system to include natural and artificial light sources. Updated communications technology will include connections for access to external and internal data networks. The plumbing and sanitation system will be also enhanced. A preliminary plan for the proposed enlargement of the museum, which will take into account the museum's position in its urban environment, will also be developed. Hawwâs said the project would also include the implementation of a number of training courses to enhance the professional skills of the museum's curators and restorers. The first of these courses will be a restoration and conservation training course designed to introduce the theoretical and practical aspects of restoration techniques used on wood, stone, leather, textiles, glass, metal and other materials. Other training programmes will enhance the staff's skills in information technology, documentation, photography and museology.
Wafâ'al-Siddîq, director of the Egyptian Museum, said the project would also pay attention to personnel working in the museum's library and administration, and would enhance their skills in cataloguing procedures, services to patrons and the conservation of library materials. The first two students in this training programme will be offered a two-month internship at the Italian Centre of Restoration (ICR) in Rome. For his part, project coordinator Hishâm al-Laythî said the museum's collection would be placed on display both thematically and chronologically to relate the history of ancient Egyptian art from the prehistoric period right through the late Pharaonic era. Al-Siddîq added that the redesigning project would last for a year beginning from the date of ratification of the convention signed between the Italian Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The two main components of the activities, master plan and training programmes, will be executed simultaneously. Each component will consist of a preparatory phase, an executive phase and a conclusive and audit phase. (Nevine El-Aref, "A cultural lighthouse", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 17, 2008. Voir également Mohamed Ismail, "Italian funding for museum renovations", The Egyptian Gazette, March 6 ; "Massive upgrading for Egyptian Museum", Egypt State Information Service, May 6).
« Vous n'êtes pas moins que les autres. Vous pouvez aller où vous voulez et toucher ce qui vous plaît », ainsi s'exprime 'Âdil dès le début de la visite au Musée du Caire. Aveugle lui-même, il sert de guide à d'autres comme lui, privés de la vue. L'objectif : leur donner confiance en eux-mêmes, les débarrasser de ce sentiment de crainte qu'ils éprouvent vis-à-vis des gens qui les entourent ou de la gêne qu'ils ressentent à se mouvoir parmi les voyants. Il est donc devenu habituel de rencontrer ces non-voyants, passer d'une salle à l'autre au musée, accompagnés de leurs guides. Là, ils ont le droit de toucher de leurs mains chaque pièce exposée et ils sont les seuls à le faire sans qu'on ne le leur
interdise. Une fois par semaine,
généralement le mercredi, mais pas
régulièrement, le musée accueille des
groupes de non-voyants, des élèves des écoles pour aveugles pour leur permettre d'élargir leurs connaissances et de s'intégrer dans la société. Pour réaliser cet objectif, les enfants se sont d'abord documentés à travers des ouvrages rédigés en braille et ce pour avoir une idée sur les pharaons et leur époque. Et par ouï-dire sur certains récits ou événements, avant d'entamer l'étape importante qui est de visiter le musée et pouvoir toucher de leurs mains des pièces authentiques que leurs yeux ne peuvent voir.
Excités, les enfants balancent la tête de droite à gauche comme s'ils cherchaient quelque chose. En fait, ils sont concentrés et attendent le klaxon du véhicule qui va les transporter au musée car leur journée préférée va commencer. Une fois dans l'autobus, 'Âdil, le guide, commence à les préparer à la visite en leur faisant croire que ce bus va les transporter loin de cette époque moderne pour les plonger dans celle des pharaons. « Ces enfants comme tous les non-voyants ne possèdent que leur imagination pour percevoir les choses et, bien entendu, chacun à sa manière », dit 'Âdil qui affirme que lui-même a discerné les choses d'après son imagination. Très jeune, il possédait ce talent de transformer tout événement qui se déroulait autour de lui en une histoire imaginaire, et c'est ce qu'il fait avec ses élèves sachant pertinemment qu'ils apprécient le jeu. Au cours du trajet, les enfants ne semblent guère s'intéresser à ce qui se passe dans la rue, ni à la cohue, ni au trafic puisqu'ils sont aveugles, mais ils sont tout ouïe pour 'Âdil. Ce dernier raconte l'histoire d'Isis et Osiris. Une célèbre histoire d'amour qui se raconte depuis des milliers d'années. « L'amour, c'est le point faible de tout le monde, alors je joue sur cette corde pour attirer l'attention des enfants, faire travailler leur imagination et les faire réfléchir sur certains événements », dit 'Âdil. Arrivés au musée, les enfants font halte dans une pièce qui a été réservée pour eux, le temps de discuter avec 'Âdil et trois autres guides et jouer un peu au jeu des questions-réponses.
Selon Ahmad Nagîb, un des guides, de tels dialogues montrent à quel point les élèves saisissent rapidement et veulent en savoir plus sur leur histoire. Ils ne prennent rien à la légère et aiment ce qu'ils sont en train de découvrir. « À mon avis, cela est dû à la manière avec laquelle on leur transmet les informations. Une méthode basée sur la participation, la recherche et surtout le travail de terrain. Et une fois arrivés au musée, ils peuvent toucher du doigt toutes les personnalités dont on parle », dit Ahmad. Il poursuit que l'école de guides n'accueille qu'un nombre limité de non-voyants, afin de les initier au métier de guide. Les élèves, pour la plupart du cycle préparatoire, ont l'occasion de visiter le musée et à tour de rôle, plusieurs fois par an.
Ces élèves non-voyants et leurs guides se déplacent de leur pièce vers les différentes salles du musée, avec une aisance et une grande connaissance de l'endroit. Au début, ils attirent l'attention, car ils marchent en se tenant par la main, pour ne pas se perdre. N'arrêtant pas de balancer la tête dans tous les sens, ils tâtent les murs et les vitrines pour retrouver l'endroit qu'ils désirent visiter. Il ne leur faut pas beaucoup de temps pour s'imprégner de l'ambiance et se fondre dans la foule. Une fois dans le musée, ils se divisent en petits groupes. Chaque guide conduit trois ou quatre élèves. Mais c'est Nagwa qui organise et rassemble le plus d'élèves car elle est la seule voyante et donc capable de mieux les aider. Les enfants passent d'une statue à l'autre et quand ils se perdent, c'est grâce à leurs voix ou la chaleur de leurs corps qu'ils se retrouvent. « Est-ce que cet enfant ne pourrait pas me donner ses yeux ? Il n'en a pas besoin, moi si », dit un des jeunes après avoir tâté la statue d'une Romaine qui embrasse son enfant. Le guide qui connaît cette statue s'avance et aide les enfants à poser leurs mains sur son corps pour en palper tous les détails. Ces derniers peuvent reconnaître à quand elle remonte. « Elle date de la période romaine car sa robe est longue et plissée et elle porte une couronne en forme de serre-tête », lance un élève non-voyant. Devant une autre statue et après quelques minutes de palpation, les enfants découvrent qu'il s'agit d'un pharaon et probablement de sa femme ; les coiffes ne sont pas similaires, leurs corps non plus. Le roi porte un cobra sur sa coiffe, il tient un sabre à la main. Une autre reine tient d'une main son bébé, de l'autre, elle lui tend son sein.
D'après Tahânî Nûh, une spécialiste d'aide aux handicapés et aux aveugles, responsable et coordinatrice entre l'école et la direction du musée, ce sont les détails qui font toute la différence avec ces enfants. « On attache beaucoup d'importance à chaque détail. On s'y attarde pour que les élèves comprennent et c'est grâce au toucher qu'ils devinent la nature des choses. Des détails comme la grosseur des doigts ou l'emplacement du nombril peuvent leur donner un aperçu sur les dimensions de la statue », explique-t-elle. Pendant environ une heure, ces non-voyants se déplacent partout dans le musée, essayant d'éviter les endroits encombrés par les voyants, pour se sentir à l'aise et prendre tout leur temps. Ils n'ont pas l'air triste ou semblent manquer de quelque chose, bien au contraire, aussi bien les guides que les élèves, ils sont souriants, de bonne humeur, s'échangent les blagues tout le temps sur eux-mêmes avant que les autres ne le fassent. Après la visite, les groupes rejoignent la pièce qui leur est réservée pour découvrir des maquettes et du matériel préparé au préalable par les étudiants de la faculté des Beaux-Arts. Les élèves sont alors prêts pour exprimer ce qu'ils ont ressenti et appris en composant des pièces identiques à celles qu'ils viennent de retenir dans leur tête : coloriage, statues en argile ou en granite, peu importe les matériaux. La surprise est grande lorsqu'on constate que les pièces ressemblent étrangement aux originaux. C'est comme s'ils avaient vu ce qu'ils ont touché de leurs mains. Ce travail de toute l'année va être exposé dans un mois dans le jardin du musée pour que tout le monde réalise que même si on a perdu la vue, on peut garder sa clairvoyance si on le désire.
Chœur des non-voyantes du Musée Égyptien.
Tout a commencé en 2002 pour 'Âdil, alors qu'il étudiait à la faculté de Lettres. Il a entendu que le Centre culturel français recherchait des bénévoles non-voyants pour les entraîner à transmettre des informations historiques aux aveugles. « Ahmad et moi avons été les premiers à se présenter. En deux semaines, on a appris comment palper les objets avec nos doigts et faire transmettre cette maîtrise aux autres pour qu'ils puissent faire la même chose », dit-il. Et d'ajouter : « Depuis, nous avons entraîné d'autres aveugles pour devenir des guides pour des élèves non-voyants. Aujourd'hui, nous sommes quatre dont Nagwa ». Cette équipe pleine d'enthousiasme est fière de ce qu'elle a pu accomplir. Elle pense que le non-voyant est capable de transmettre une information à un autre comme lui, car les deux pensent, réagissent et sentent de la même manière. « À travers cette expérience, on a réussi à détruire les barrières qui claustrent l'aveugle malgré lui, car les non-voyants passent leur vie dans une école pour aveugles et donc ils restent isolés et n'osent pas s'intégrer aux autres parce qu'ils ne les connaissent pas », dit 'Âdil.
En effet, cette école considérée comme une exclusivité dans le monde représente une lueur d'espoir pour ceux qui sont touchés par la cécité. Pourtant, ces gens se sentent comme des parias. Nagwa, comme les autres guides, demande à ce qu'ils soient au moins embauchés surtout que la loi donne la place à 10 % d'handicapés, ce qui n'est pas le cas au musée. Alors, ils ont peur de l'avenir et savent qu'ils n'ont pas beaucoup de chance, surtout que les voyants souffrent du chômage. De l'autre côté de la barre, les élèves qui visitent le musée doivent être récompensés d'une manière ou d'une autre pour les encourager. « On ne leur offre même pas un jus », dit un des guides. Les enfants, quant à eux, ne s'intéressent qu'à ce nouveau monde qu'ils découvrent et qui leur ouvre des perspectives d'entrer dans un monde d'imagination sans limites. Ils sentent que l'amour qui a réuni Isis et Osiris les a liés tous et même à leurs guides. 'Âdil affirme que l'amour était toujours la force la plus puissante dans l'univers et qui peut faire des miracles. « Je suis fier de mon histoire, mais triste à la fois, car les Égyptiens d'aujourd'hui ne font pas ce qui les rend dignes de leurs ancêtres, ceux qui ont fait connaître au monde entier leur civilisation. Peut-être qu'un jour, je ferais moi-même quelque chose d'important », dit Mustafa dont le sourire ne quitte jamais le visage. (Hanaa Mekkawi, « Par la magie du toucher », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 9 avril 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « 4e année pour l'école des non-voyants du Musée Égyptien », al-Badîl du 18 mai).
Le Parquet de Qasr al-Nîl mène actuellement des investigations autour de la disparition de quinze pièces archéologiques du Musée Égyptien du Caire. C'est l'expert dans les études touristiques, Husâm al-Dîn Ahmad, qui avait constaté qu'à l'intérieur de la vitrine n° 182 située au deuxième étage du musée, quinze pièces antiques ont été substituées par des répliques. ('Umar Hasânayn, « Dénonciation de la disparition de 15 pièces antiques du Musée Égyptien », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 janvier 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a catégoriquement démenti la disparition de toutes pièces archéologiques du Musée Égyptien du Caire. Hawwâs a mis en exergue le système performant de sécurité, de surveillance et de contrôle du musée. (« Hawwâs nie la disparition de pièces archéologiques du Musée Égyptien », al-Wafd du 12 janvier 2008. Voir également « Hawwâs nie la disparition de 15 pièces antiques du musée de Tahrîr », al-Ahrâr du 12 janvier).
La journaliste Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî publie le même communiqué de presse ci-dessus. Pour le secrétaire général du CSA, « aucune pièce archéologique n'a été volée ni substituée dans le Musée Égyptien. Il s'agit d'allégations mensongères ». Hawwâs a annoncé qu'il déposera, demain, une plainte contre l'auteur de ces rumeurs qui devra être jugé pour diffamations et troubles à l'opinion publique. « Il convient de mettre un terme à ces récriminations et aux déclarations fallacieuses et sensationnelles », a-t-il ajouté, tout en accusant leurs instigateurs d'exploiter l'archéologie pour assurer une médiatisation et une propagande personnelle.
De son côté, la directrice du Musée Égyptien, Dr Wafâ'al-Siddîq, a répliqué : « C'est vraiment n'importe quoi. Une accusation infondée ». Elle s'est demandée : « D'où proviennent ces informations, lorsque l'on sait que les pièces archéologiques sont conservées à l'intérieur de vitrines scellées. Le plaignant a-t-il pu sortir les 15 pièces de la vitrine pour les examiner et déterminer qu'elles sont soi-disant des répliques ? ». al-Siddîq a affirmé que les collections archéologiques du musée sont totalement sécurisées à l'intérieur de vitrines scellées officiellement. Outre les caméras de surveillance qui tournent 24 h/24, des gardiens et des policiers assurent la sécurité du musée. La directrice a précisé que « dès que nous avons pris connaissance de cette affaire mercredi dernier, nous avons immédiatement examiné les 15 pièces de la vitrine incriminée ; alors même que nous étions persuadés qu'il s'agit d'une dénonciation calomnieuse ». (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Hawwâs nie la disparition de 15 pièces du Musée Égyptien », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 12 janvier).
[ ] Wafâ'al-Siddîq's interest in children encouraged her to create a section for blind children at the Egyptian Museum in al-Tahrîr Square, where she's been in charge for four years now. "We organise workshops for 'ordinary'children at the Museum. Sometimes we even hold exhibitions in some of the governorates for children's Pharaonic artwork, that reflects the public's fondness for this," she adds. To encourage this, she has sent many members of staff at the Museum to Germany and Belgium to do courses in museum education, teaching them how to organise such workshops and work in a scientific manner. Her work for children's museums and museum education was rewarded with her being presented with the UN Golden Peace Dove last December.
Al-Siddîq is in fact the only woman director worldwide of a museum of the calibre of the Egyptian Museum. Pope BENEDICT XVI was astonished to discover this when he first met her and a number of other directors of the world's biggest museums. The Pope awarded her a special medal for her efforts in enhancing dialogue between civilisations. Unlike many other officials working in the field of archaeology, al-Siddîq sees no problem in hosting the monuments of other civilisations here and has even organised exhibitions for them at Egypt's biggest museum. "Over the past four years, we have organised 15 exhibitions of different countries'antiquities, the most recent of which was the exhibition of Mexican civilisation. It might not be as ancient as that of the Pharaohs, but it's still a human civilisation that our people should experience, in order to enhance and deepen their understanding and communication with other civilisations and nations," she stresses. At present, the Museum is hosting a month-long Australian exhibition marking the passage of 25 years of co-operation between Egypt and Australia in the field of excavation. "Such exhibitions also encourage the Egyptians to visit the Museum to learn more about their forefathers'antiquities, as well as those of other countries," shed adds.
Al-Siddîq conducted a study in the 1990s, which showed that Egyptians only constituted 2 per cent of the visitors to the Egyptian Museum. "I'm pleased to say that it's now risen to 20 per cent and I'm hoping to improve on that," she says. "Schools should organise more trips to our museums and monuments, rather than funfairs. History should also be made a more attractive subject at schools, to make pupils more interested in our heritage," she argues.
As for the future, al-Siddîq wants to introduce state-of-the-art exhibition systems and improve security at the Museum. "However, I'd like to preserve the unique 'ancient exhibition'style of the Egyptian Museum that makes it distinct from other world museum," she adds. "Most of the Museums around the world follow the one and the same display system. So a visitor to the Metropolitan Museum won't sense a big difference there from the display system adopted at the British Museum, for examples." At the
Egyptian Museum, she has introduced a sophisticated system to control both humidity and temperature. "Many Japanese and British security experts have expressed their admiration for the security systems we've already introduced," she says proudly. As for all the antiquities stored in the basement that visitors don't see, al-Siddîq explains that they are being well looked after, while experts are busy registering them, in preparation for some of them to be eventually moved to the Egyptian Grand Museum, currently under construction near the Pyramids Plateau, as well as many other museums across the country. (Egyptian Mail, February 19, 2008. Voir également Fâtima Muhammad, « Wafâ'al-Siddîq : première femme à diriger le Musée Égyptien », al-Akhbâr du 17 janvier).
Grand Musée Égyptien
Le ministère de la Culture vient d'achever la deuxième phase du projet du Grand Musée Égyptien (GEM) actuellement en construction sur l'autoroute Le Caire-Alexandrie. Cette phase englobe la construction d'un centre international pour la restauration, d'une grosse unité de lutte contre les incendies et de deux centrales électriques. Ces travaux seront probablement inaugurés par le président Mubârak lors d'une grande cérémonie prévue fin mars. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a révélé que le coût de cette deuxième phase implantée sur une superficie de 80 mille m2 s'élève à 200 millions de livres égyptiennes. Un appel d'offre international sera lancé début avril 2008 pour la troisième phase du projet, qui consiste en la construction du bâtiment principal du GEM dont l'inauguration officielle est prévue en 2011. Husnî a précisé que sur les 550 millions de dollars de ce projet, 100 millions constituent un autofinancement et 300 millions proviennent d'un prêt du gouvernement japonais à un taux de seulement 1,5 % remboursable après 20 ans. Quant aux 150 millions restants, ils proviennent de dons nationaux et internationaux dont 8 millions de dollars ont été recueillis jusqu'à présent. Le ministre a appelé tous les citoyens à contribuer à la réalisation de ce projet colossal qui appartient à l'humanité tout entière.
Le superviseur du projet, Fârûq 'Abd al-Salâm, a souligné que près de 700 architectes, techniciens et ouvriers travaillent jour et nuit, afin de concrétiser ce rêve dans les délais impartis. Ils sont encadrés par 14 bureaux de consultations égyptiens et internationaux. Le bâtiment principal du GEM occupe 120 mille m2 d'une superficie totale de 480 mille m2. Des galeries souterraines relieront ce bâtiment avec ses annexes (entrepôts archéologiques, centrales électriques et centre de restauration). Le site entier sera relié au plateau de Gîza à travers des passerelles suspendues qui atterrissent au Sud du plateau, afin de ne pas défigurer le panorama de la zone. Sécurisé contre toutes les catastrophes naturelles ou humaines (tremblement de terre, conflit armé), le GEM sera rentabilisé au bout de 12 années d'exploitation. Le directeur exécutif du projet, Muhammad Ghunaym, a annoncé la constitution actuellement des équipes qui seront chargées de la gestion du futur musée. Les cadres sélectionnés recevront à l'étranger des stages et des formations de haut niveau dans le domaine de la muséologie. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Le ministère de la Culture célèbre l'achèvement de la deuxième phase du GEM », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 1er mars 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Mubârak inaugure la 2e phase du projet du Grand Musée Égyptien », al-Ahrâr du 28 février ; "Second phase of Grand Egyptian Museum finalized in March", Egypt State Information Service, February 28 ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Une interpellation au Parlement accusant le ministère de la Culture de gaspillage des deniers publics », al-Badîl du 29 février ; Ingi Amr, « Grand Musée : les travaux de la deuxième phase de construction achevés », Le Progrès Égyptien du 11 mars ; Ashraf Mufîd, « Appel d'offre international pour la dernière phase de réalisation du Grand Musée », al-Ahrâm du 4 mai).
Musée national de la
Civilisation égyptienneMusée national de la Civilisation. État du chantier au 1er août 2008.
(c) Aymé Lebon
Despite the heavy rains that hit Cairo Sunday, a score of ministers, along with Cairo Governor 'Abd al-'Azîm Wazîr, Minister of Housing Ahmad al-Maghrabî, Minister of Tourism Zuhayr Garâna and a gaggle of journalists and photographers gathered at the edge of the 'Ayn al-Sîra lake to mark the completion of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation's (NMEC) first phase. Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî led Mrs Suzanne Mubârak on a tour around the museum grounds. Located at the edge of the 'Ayn al-Sîra lake and neighbouring Old Cairo, the site of the 'Amr Ibn al-'Âs Mosque, Hanging Church and Ben Ezra synagogue, the 35-feddan-museum celebrates Egyptian civilisation from prehistoric to modern times. Although plans for the museum were drawn up in 1990 the first phase of the project began in 2002, when Mrs Mubârak laid a pyramid-shaped foundation stone. Husnî said that the museum had originally been planned for what is now the parking area of the Cairo Opera House. When this proved too small the plans remained dormant until 1997 when, during an iftâr with the minister of interior, Husnî was so impressed with the panoramic views from the edge of the 'Ayn al-Sîra that he suggested to archaeologists and experts from UNESCO that it could make a suitable location for the museum. All the concerned authorities agreed.
The site for the NMEC began to be cleared in 2000, when the Cairo governorate removed all encroachments on the 35 feddans it had offered the Ministry of Culture. In 2002 Mrs Mubârak laid the foundation stone, and by 2004 the site was ready for construction to begin following an extensive pre-building inspection to check for antiquities buried below ground. In addition, an up-to-date storehouse, similar to the ones at the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, was built on site. Fârûq 'Abd al-Salâm, head of the office of the Minister of Culture, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the magazine is the first in Egypt to be directly linked to the police via a sophisticated alarm system. To access the storehouse requires two magnetic cards held by separate inspectors, and each storage unit registers the identity of whichever curator opens it. The first phase of the museum also saw the construction of a laboratory to restore pieces in the museum's collection. The second phase of the project, said Husnî, will be completed within six months and the museum is on schedule to be inaugurated in 2009.
Musée national de la Civilisation. Au premier plan, l'avenue Salâh
Sâlim. En haut à droite, le lac 'Ayn al-Sîra. (c) Aymé Lebon
Actual buildings will occupy five feddans of the 35-feddan site, with the remainder of the land given over to gardens and outdoor exhibits, many found during the course of the pre-building inspection. Al-Ghazali Kesseba, the project's consultant engineer, described to Mrs Mubârak the planned four-storey building. The first two floors will comprise exhibition spaces, the third a documentation centre and the fourth a library. The architecture of the museum will mediate between its exhibits and immediate surroundings : the large, square shape will represent the base of a pyramid, while a gallery - equivalent to a pyramid ramp - will lead to a smaller building modelled on a Nile Valley temple which will house a 400 sq m educational institute and conference hall. To emphasis the pyramid-shape of the complex, the building has a benben-shaped top which will house the archaeological library. Éducational workshops for children are also included in the design. Kesseba concluded his presentation by asking all concerned authorities - especially the Ministry of Housing and Cairo governorate - to help protect the area from encroachment and draw up an urban plan for the immediate surrounds that would unify the façades and height of neighbouring buildings.
Husnî stressed that the museum will showcase the diversity of Egyptian civilisations from prehistoric to modern times. It will contain 150,000 artefacts drawn from the collections of, among others, the Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic museums in Cairo, the Graeco-Roman and National museums in Alexandria, the Luxor Museum, and archaeological storehouses across Egypt. "These will be carefully selected by a committee which is now sifting through the halls and storage of these museums and of the major archaeological sites," says Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). "Exhibits featuring the skills and achievements of Egyptian history will be organised within the museum's walls."
The Nile, handwriting, handicrafts, society and faith will be the major organisational themes of the museum. In the Nile pavilion visitors will travel through the Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic and modern periods, with a major display being given over to the creation of Lake Nâsir and its profound impact on Egyptian agriculture. The irrigation system exhibit will start with the reign of Mena, founder of the First Dynasty, and will continue until the time of the Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Senusert III. The pavilion will also include a section devoted to Egypt's flora and fauna. The handwriting section will comprise displays plotting the evolution of astronomy, mathematics and medicine, and the impact of technological developments on Egyptian society. There will also be special displays devoted to crafts, including metalworking sculpture and architecture. The hierarchy of Egyptian society and its system of government will be explained in an ethnographic section. Hawwâs told the Weekly that royal mummies will be displayed in such a way as to illustrate their personalities and achievements within a social context. The displays will include models of relevant temples, tombs and obelisks.
Outdoor exhibits will include many items uncovered on the site of the museum, among them a Fatimid laundry found during the 1960s, the oldest existing ground plan of an Islamic house, dating from 75 AH, and a dyeing factory which contained more than 100 clay dyeing pots. Ancient Egyptian artefacts found in the debris include udjet eye and scarab amulets. Construction of the museum is being funded by the Egyptian government - the total cost is estimated at LE550 million - while experts from UNESCO are supervising technical aspects of the project. Husnî said that to attract more Egyptian visitors a commercial zone with a cafeteria, restaurants, a cinema and a theatre will be installed in the museum garden alongside bazaars and shops. (Nevine El-Aref, "According to plan" Al-Ahram Weekly, January 31, 2008. Voir également Gihân Mustafa, « Suzanne Mubârak inspecte aujourd'hui le musée de la Civilisation », al-Ahrâm du 26 janvier ; "Mrs. Mubârak tours Fustât Museum", Egypt State Information Service, January 26 ; Nâhid Hamza, « Suzanne Mubârak inspecte le projet du musée de la Civilisation à Fustât », al-Akhbâr du 27 janvier ; « Suzanne Mubârak inspecte la première phase du projet du musée de la Civilisation », Progrès Dimanche du 27 janvier ; Rîhâm Mâzin, « Suzanne Mubârak inspecte la première phase du musée de la Civilisation », al-Ahrâm al-'Arabî du 2 février ; « Le nouveau musée abrite 50 000 pièces appartenant aux différentes époques historiques », Uktubar du 3 février).
Musée juif
With Egypt's native-born Jewish community now numbering fewer than 100, the diaspora and government officials alike are wondering whose duty it is to preserve the heritage of the nation's smallest religious minority. Fourteen years ago, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) found itself in an enviable position : They had just won a $15 million grant to restore Egyptian antiquities. Antiquities in Egypt are not hard to find, and the money was split among 50 projects. At the suggestion of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), two of those projects were drawn from the slew of deteriorating sites that belong to Egypt's smallest, but perhaps oldest, religious minority : the Jewish community. An estimated 80,000 Jews lived in Cairo in 1948, and Egypt for a long time was a haven for Arab, Mediterranean and even European Jewish culture. Jews trace their presence in Egypt to biblical times ; Judaic tradition maintains that the Hebrews built tombs and temples for the Pharaohs. Pesach, one of the faith's major holidays, recounts the story of the Jewish sojourn by the Nile. Today, fewer than 100 Jews remain in Egypt, mostly elderly widows.
Synagogue Maïmonides, Hârit al-Yahûd, Le Caire 1993. (c) Alex Nacamuli & Yves Fedida
ARCE sent architects to study the synagogues of Haim Kapucci and Maimonides, two decrepit synagogues in Hârit a-Yahûd, the one-time Jewish Quarter in the heart of downtown Cairo. The interior of the Eighteenth Century Italianate Haim Kapucci was salvageable, they found. Also salvageable was the Nineteenth Century Maimonides Synagogue with its attached Twelfth Century school - once the home of the sage Moshe ben Maimon, personal physician of Sultan Salâh al-Dîn al-Ayyûbî - even though its roof had collapsed. ARCE gave the reports, finished in 1995 and 1996, to the SCA, which still has them. But ARCE, stymied on two fronts, ceased work on the sites.
Synagogue Maïmonides, Hârit al-Yahûd, Le Caire 2005. (c) Alex Nacamuli & Yves Fedida
First, the groundwater level in the entire area had risen, flooding the basements of the two buildings, says Jaroslaw DOBROWOLSKI, project technical director for ARCE. An engineering project of that scope was outside ARCE's technical capabilities, but the sites would continue to deteriorate as long as they were flooded. Even if they had been able to pump away the groundwater, the restoration would still be futile, he says, unless they had a plan for using the restored buildings. Without opening them up to tourism or using them for consistent cultural events or exhibitions, the conservation would be unsustainable. ARCE's mandate did not extend to planning for the buildings'future use, and neither the small Jewish community nor the SCA was able or willing to step in. In short : No one could figure out what to do with historic Jewish buildings in modern-day Cairo. "This was one of the factors why ARCE never decided to actually proceed with any actual physical conservation, because this would also require a well-thought-out plan of future use," says DOBROWOLSKI.
Not much has changed in the decade since ARCE found itself at a dead end. Now, however, a group of Jews from Egypt and abroad is dusting off DOBROWOLSKI's reports and seems to have convinced the SCA to restore Maimonides Synagogue. DOBROWOLSKI is surprised to hear this project mentioned ; news of the embryonic efforts had not yet spread beyond those directly involved. "This would be very good. This would be good news." The SCA and Jewish leaders are still unsure of how to use the buildings once restored. In the meantime, part of Egypt's national patrimony sits crumbling, and with it goes the legacy of their ancestors and those ancestors'contributions to the modern Egyptian state. Time, apathy, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism work against them, but this group is plowing forward, working to preserve their chapter of Egyptian history before it comes to a complete close.
Magda Hârûn, born in Egypt to Egyptian-born parents and grandparents, estimates that at 55 she is the second-youngest member of Cairo's Jewish community. Her 52-year-old little sister, Nâdya, is likely the youngest. Hârûn, born 10 days before the 1952 Revolution, stands out among Egyptian Jews because her family never left Egypt. When non-Jewish classmates asked her why her family wasn't leaving Egypt with the rest of her Jewish classmates, she would lie, telling them their tickets fell into their fireplace and the family couldn't afford another set. "We never had a fireplace ; I was confabulating," she says now. Whenever she started talking politics with her father, his response was clear : "This is your country."
A mix of Jews - ethnically, religiously and economically diverse - made up the Cairo community. Most were Sephardic, Jews whose ancestors had fled Spanish persecution as early as 1165 AD. A poorer population of Karaite Jews traced their ancestry to a community in Fustât that flourished in Egypt beginning in the medieval period. Ashkenazi Jews, fleeing nineteenth and twentieth-century persecution in Eastern Europe, were the Egyptian Jewish community's most recent arrivals. As historian Joel BEININ, professor at the American University in Cairo, describes in his book, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, the pre-revolution community was fairly cosmopolitan, as indigenous Jews were joined by those from Arab lands and Europe. While Karaites dealt mostly in Arabic, middle and upper class Ashkenazim or Sephardim often spoke some combination of Arabic, French, English, Italian, Yiddish or Ladino. Families such as the Suareses, Qattawis and Circuels were leaders of the local business community, working closely with Tal'at Harb on his economic nationalization projects. The Circuel family's department store was one of the most fashionable in Cairo, and Yûsuf Aslân Qattawî helped write Egypt's 1923 constitution. Lys LAKELAND, who left as a young teenager in 1955, said class, not religion, built the barriers between Egypt's different populations. Her father ran a Jewish newspaper, L'Aurore, and relatives owned stores - a pharmacy, a shoe shop, a real estate agency - tucked away under the Moorish-looking arches of Heliopolis'main road. She remembers playing with Palestinians at the Heliopolis Sporting Club ; her aunt married a Coptic dentist, and her husband's class at the Lycée included the brother of the current minister of the interior. But the turmoil of the Revolution, the chaos of the Suez crisis and the defeat in 1967 battered Cairo's reputation as a haven of tolerance. The city hemorrhaged its Jewish population. LAKELAND's father was exiled, and her family followed - to Naples, then France, and then England. Some Jews she knew went to Israel ; more, she says, went to America.
Intérieur de la synagogue Ben Ezra. Reproduction de carte postale.
Hârûn estimates that 40 native Egyptian Jews remain in Egypt today, all of them elderly women, many of them widowed. Carmen WEINSTEIN, who followed her mother's footsteps to become president of the Jewish Community of Cairo, serves as the community's public face and shepherd. From her store on Downtown's Sheraa Basha, where her family's name is carved into the stone facade, she organizes holiday celebrations and promotes relationships both within Egypt's community and between that community and the Egyptian Jewish diaspora. WEINSTEIN handles the job with a tenacity clearly born of a life spent struggling against bureaucracy and defending her work against emigrated Egyptian Jews who criticize her for not moving faster. She is not one to let herself be marginalized, and the members of the diaspora who work with her are as quick to praise the quality of her work as to point out that no one - not even WEINSTEIN - can go it alone.
The Egyptian-Jewish trajectory has led to some convoluted life stories. Robert BILBOUL, for one, grew up in Alexandria as part of an Iraqi family that came to Egypt in 1912. After leaving Egypt in 1959 at age 18, he moved through Italy and France before settling in England, where he now lives, speaking English with a French accent. BILBOUL, president of the Nebi Daniel Association, an umbrella group of Egyptian Jews, spoke at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in late October, at the opening of an exhibit displaying copies of documents from the Genizah, a collection of records describing Cairo's Jewish life during its medieval golden age. His voice was almost a plea as he reached out beyond his immediate audience to seemingly explain himself directly to the Egyptian nation. "We are a living Egyptian diaspora that wants to connect to its past," he said. "Egypt is very much in our DNA. We hope we can keep it there."
Diplomats choose their words carefully, and US Ambassador to Egypt Francis J. RICCIARDONE is no exception. RICCIARDONE delivered short remarks in late October at a celebration WEINSTEIN organized for the centennial of Shaar Hashamayim, the synagogue on 'Adlî Street still used occasionally for religious celebrations. "This is a symbol of something beautiful and something that Egyptians hold dear," the Ambassador said. "I congratulate the small but proud community of Egyptians who are Jewish." That contortion - "Egyptians who are Jewish" - sums up the main problem facing those, Jewish and otherwise, working to preserve Cairo's Jewish sites : convincing Egyptians to see the story of Egypt's Jews as part of the story of Egypt. "This synagogue was built as an integral part of the local history and culture," says Professor Yoram MEITAL of Israel's Ben Gurion University, speaking at Shaar Hashamayim's centennial. MEITAL, who specializes in modern Egyptian history, points to marble panels at the front of the synagogue, inscribed with the names of the congregation's members. "Think about the names that were so instrumental to the Egyptian economy of the beginning of the twentieth century !" Some Egyptians, he says, are beginning to write about Egypt's Jewish heritage, including a book from top publishing house Dâr al-Shurûq entitled Al-Yahûd fî Misr (The Jews in Egypt, 1993) by writer Kâsim 'Abd al-Kâsim and a 2007 Arabic translation of BEININ's book on Jewish emigration, also from Dâr al-Shurûq. Although much of what is published about Judaism is anti-Semitic - reprints of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example - MEITAL says that every two or three years a new book of serious scholarship is published.
Muslim-Jewish relations in Egypt deteriorated as a result of the 1948 war, but the period before the war was a sort of golden age of cohabitation. Maimonides, MEITAL points out, whose synagogue and school are most in need of conservation, is himself a symbol of positive interfaith relations : He served as an advisor to medieval Muslim leaders, and his work on classical Greek philosophy would heavily influence Christian philosophers in the centuries to come. "I would be among the people who would ask the Egyptian society in general [] to see this synagogue as part of their identity, their general, broader identity as Egyptians and not, of course, to exclude these Jewish institutions and [push] the whole of this issue into the arms of the Arab-Israeli conflict," MEITAL says.
Synagogue Meyer Enaim, dite « Biton » à Ma'âdî. Vue de la galerie des dames. (c) Alex Nacamuli & Yves Fedida
Jews as prominent as Rene Qattawî, a community leader during the Second World War, opposed Zionism, a philosophy led mostly by European Jews. According to BEININ's documentation, Qattawî encouraged Jewish war refugees to come to Egypt rather than overburden Mandate Palestine. But acts of espionage and sabotage by a handful of Egyptian Jews against Egypt in the early 1950s - known as Operation Susannah - tainted the perception of Jewish loyalty to the Egyptian nation. Some of those Jews who left Egypt ended up in Israel, and Cairo's Israeli Academic Center contributes some funds for the upkeep of libraries in a few synagogues, including Shaar Hashamayim. But the ties today stop there. Members of the local community are quick to point out that 'Jewish'and 'Israeli,' or 'Jewish'and 'Zionist'are not synonyms. Hârûn, for one, has never been to Israel, in deference to her father's strongly anti-Zionist views. "I'm independent in my things ; she's independent in her things," says Professor Gabriel ROSENBAUM, director of Cairo's Israeli Academic Center, about WEINSTEIN's leadership of the Jewish Community of Cairo. "She doesn't ask what we think."
Rabbi Andrew BAKER, director of international Jewish affairs for the American Jewish Committee, sees a parallel between Cairo and the situation in Eastern Europe, which was also home to a vibrant Jewish culture until the middle of the twentieth century. Sitting on the back steps of Shaar Hashamayim after its centennial, BAKER outlines the usefulness of a partnership among Egyptian officials, local Jews, and members of the international community, a partnership that could eventually lead to reuse of an old synagogue as a museum commemorating Cairo's Jewish heritage. BAKER proposed that the museum could combine texts, photos, and historical artifacts to teach visitors about the Jewish experience in Egypt. Such a museum, he said, is now being built in Warsaw, a center of Jewish life until nearly the entire community - once one third of the city's population - was killed in the Holocaust. "There's some value in Egypt showcasing the diversity that was also part of life here," he says. The crowd in the synagogue courtyard below mingles, nibbling on plates of kusharî and shwarma sandwiches and drinking fresh licorice tea from small plastic cups. "The Middle East conflict may overshadow everything [] but there was a long history here." If it is built, the museum will be one of very few Jewish historical museums not to touch upon the legacy of Europe's Holocaust. As Hârûn puts it : "Jews were not mistreated in Egypt. They were not killed ; they were not exterminated. On the contrary, lots of Jews fled to here. This is a good thing for Egypt."
LAKELAND recalls standing on her family's balcony watching the smoke from the riots that burned down the famous Shepheard Hotel. Some of her mother's friends died in the blaze. "People felt uncomfortable in Egypt, a lot of Jews and non-Jews," she says. "They left, in dribs and drabs." Fast forward 60 years, and today most Egyptians have never met a Jew. That and Egypt's chilly peace with Israel feeds misunderstandings of Judaism, misunderstandings that sometimes slide over into anti-Semitism. Some Egyptian Jews living abroad, remembering the bitterness of their departure and sensing anti-Semitism on the rise in the modern Arab world, want to remove sacred books and community records for preservation in the West. Removal of the antiquities today would be illegal, though that hasn't stopped all thefts, including the removal a few decades ago of a large part of the community's records, which are now in a university library in New York City. WEINSTEIN and others oppose the thefts not only because they were illegal, but also because the thieves denied the extent to which the objects are part of Egyptian - not just Jewish - history. "We don't want to break Egyptian law," says BILBOUL. "We have been received with the utmost graciousness by Egyptian officials."
After the centennial celebrations, Jewish leaders, including BILBOUL and BAKER, met with SCA chief Zâhî Hawwâs and Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî to discuss the future of the sites. Thanks in large part to WEINSTEIN's effective work with the Egyptian government, seven of Cairo's 12 synagogues are official state antiquities, which the government is responsible for maintaining. But restoration of Cairo's synagogues dragged and did not include sites like the community's cemetery or plans for dealing with the community's registers and civic records. Many, particularly those from abroad, were also concerned about the absence of long-term plans for preservation once WEINSTEIN is no longer capable of serving as an advocate for the community. "People in the past have tended to respond in positive and sort of general ways," says BAKER, of past meetings. "We're hopeful," BILBOUL says. "It's been four years, and we haven't had a specific negative - nor have we had a positive."
This meeting, however, was a success. Limited perhaps, but one they hope has established foundations for future work. Hawwâs was "very forceful" in pledging to restore the Maimonides Synagogue, says BAKER, who added that Hawwâs called up assistants during their meeting to get the specifics of the work he was pledging to undertake. Muhsin 'Abd al-Rahmân Rabî', the SCA general manager for Jewish antiquities, says the council will issue a call for tenders from companies interested in carrying out the restoration. The schedule remains uncertain because of the number of other projects the SCA is working on, but he says the work will get done. "The Jewish community is composed of Egyptian citizens, and we always have open communication with them, as well as cooperation for our projects that deal with Jewish sites," he says. "We have a common vision about the importance of restoring these sites." BAKER says the meeting broached, but left unanswered, the idea of developing a museum to occupy one of the restored synagogues, as well as the issue of long-term maintenance of the sites and cemetery. He said Husnî, in particular, was open to the idea of creating a museum and invited BAKER and his colleagues to present him with a more detailed plan. "We feel very positive," says BAKER.
Among the Jewish artifacts in Cairo sits a collection of community records. If a person - their parents, or their grandparents - were born, held a coming-of-age ceremony, married, divorced or died in Egypt, then their name will be found in those books. And if they - or their children or grandchildren - need to prove they're Jewish or need to prove the identity of their ancestors, then they need access to these books. BILBOUL tells one story of a 24-year-old woman who needed to prove she was Jewish before she could get married by a rabbi. Because Judaism is inherited maternally, she needed to prove her mother and grandmother were both Jewish. BILBOUL helped her track down the documents - all of which were kept, on paper, in Cairo - and she and her husband now live happily in Italy. He is still working on another case : a descendant of Egyptian Jews who wants to reclaim his Italian nationality. To do so, he needs to prove he is his mother's son. So far, BILBOUL has had no luck finding the relevant marriage licenses or birth certificates that would solve the man's case. "The wealth of this information really ought to be saved and made available easily," he says. He would love to see the records digitized so Egyptian Jews living abroad could access them easily. Work on that has been tangled up in concerns that diaspora Jews will sue for restitution of confiscated property, as one family has sued Coca-Cola to retrieve a factory they owned until they were forced to emigrate in the mid•1960s. Some government officials fear the records could be used by the diaspora to make more claims on property.
BILBOUL says the registers did not record property ownership. Moreover, the community had, until recently, relatively easy access to the records, as there were more Jews in Cairo who could conduct research for those abroad. "One really didn't need to do very much compared to the more urgent need today," he says. Today, Hârûn rests on the sofa of her Duqqî living room. Her elderly mother lives in the apartment next door. She does not often encounter anti-Semitism, which she says comes more from ignorance than malice. For the most part, she loves Cairo : "Here, if you fall in the street, you have 20 people coming to help you." When Hârûn was growing up in Cairo, her father, she remembers, sent occasional letters to President Gamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir, and then Anwar al-Sâdât, when he had a complaint. The presidents did not, as she remembers it, respond, but, still, he would write. Asked what she would write President Husnî Mubârak, if she were going to send him a letter, she pauses, folds her hands and chooses her words carefully. "I am Egyptian, and I am very proud to be Egyptian. And I am Jewish, and I am proud to be Jewish. It is very hard on me, and the load is too heavy when I think that if everything goes according to nature, my sister and I will close the doors to the theater, and that's it. The theater will be empty [] So, please, do something to keep the theater alive." (Sarah Mishkin, "Second Exodus", Egypt Today, January 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « L'Égypte refuse de remettre à Israël les documents récents de la Genizah », al-Badîl du 16 avril).
Musée des Textiles égyptiens
(c) Aymé Lebon
Dr Usâma al-Nahhâs, professeur d'architecture à la faculté de Polytechnique de Shubrâ et ex-président de l'Administration centrale pour l'architecture des musées au sein du CSA, a critiqué la réaffectation par le ministère de la Culture du sabîl Muhammad 'Alî situé dans la rue al-Mu'izz comme musée des textiles antiques. Architecturalement conçu pour collecter puis redistribuer l'eau potable aux habitants du Caire, ce monument - où l'on enregistre un taux élevé d'humidité - n'est pas adéquat à la conservation ni à l'exposition des textiles qui, eux, nécessitent un milieu sec. Al-Nahhâs a souligné que l'humidité expose les textiles antiques à la dégradation et favorise la prolifération des bactéries et des micro•organismes. L'architecture du sabîl aménage de multiples ouvertures d'aération garantissant une bonne circulation de l'air à l'intérieur du monument. Ce qui élimine les odeurs putrides dues à la stagnation de l'eau servie fraîche aux passants. Pour al-Nahhâs, un musée des textiles doit être implanté dans un milieu sec, à moins d'enfermer les pièces exposées dans des vitrines hermétiques. C'est d'ailleurs ce qu'a fait le ministère de la Culture. Toutefois, le danger réside dans les tapis accrochés simplement aux murs, car difficile à mettre en vitrine. Ces tapis antiques sont donc exposés à de nombreux facteurs de dégradation due à la hausse du niveau d'humidité dans ce sabîl. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Un architecte égyptien critique la création d'un musée des textiles dans le sabîl Muhammad 'Alî », al-Badîl du 8 mai 2008).
Musée Gamâl 'Abd al -
Nâsir
Late Egyptian president Gamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir, leader of the 1952 Revolution, is a symbol of pride throughout the Arab world. One of the 20th century's most important political leaders, his impact on the political direction of the developing world in the immediate post-liberation period was immense. His espousal of pan-Arabism won followers across the region and though his status as "the leader of the Arabs" was tarnished by the devastating defeat of Arab armies in the 1967 War he remains for many a symbol of Arab dignity and freedom. Following a decree issued by President Husnî Mubârak earlier this week, Nâsir's house in Manshiyat al-Bakrî, where he lived until he died, is to be turned into a museum. Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî told Al-Ahram Weekly that the decision reflects the leading role Nâsir played in Egypt and in the Arab and Islamic world. The museum will focus on Nâsir's tenure as president from 1954 until his death in 1970, casting light on the struggle to free Egypt of foreign influence and the aid Egypt offered other Arab countries as they struggled to throw off the yoke of colonisation.
Gamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir giving a homeless Egyptian man a job.
In addition, the museum will showcase exhibits from Nâsir's life since his birth in Alexandria, including family photographs and personal possessions. Among the latter will be suits and military uniforms, neck ties, cameras, sun glasses, radio, binoculars, pilgrimage robes and a number of belts and shoes. Documents relating to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, the building of the High Dam, the Tripartite Aggression will also be displayed, alongside drafts of many of his most famous speeches. Letters and messages sent by Nâsir to other leaders will form part of the museum's permanent collection, and visitors will be able to watch archive film from the period as well as wander through his office, bedroom and living quarters. This museum will be the third in Egypt dedicated to Nâsir : the house in Bâqqûs in Alexandria where he was born has been preserved and is open to the public, while the Pharaonic Village in Cairo has a permanent exhibition on the life of the late leader. (Nevine El-Aref, "A glimpse of domesticity", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 10, 2008. Voir également "House of Nâsir to turn into a museum", Daily News Egypt, January 4 ; Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Premier musée historique et documentaire retraçant en détail la vie d'un président de la RAE », al-Musawwar du 11 janvier ; Salâh 'Îsa, « Le musée de Manshiyyat al-Bakrî », al-Ahrâm al•'Arabî du 12 janvier ; « Commissions architecturales et techniques pour transformer le maison de Manshiyyat al-Bakrî en musée », al-Qâhira du 19 février).
Musée Imhotep
(c) Aymé Lebon
Les revêtements en pierre des murs du Musée Imhotep situé à Saqqâra se sont lézardés, un an seulement après son inauguration et son développement qui avait coûté 20 millions de livres égyptiennes. Une source responsable du CSA qui a requis l'anonymat a révélé que la société de BTP chargée des travaux n'avait pas respecté les normes techniques et n'avait pas résolu lors de la construction le problème de la hausse du niveau des eaux souterraines accumulées sous le musée. Pour traiter les parois fissurées, le Secteur des projets du CSA a commencé à fixer des revêtements neufs à la place de ceux qui sont lézardés. Ce traitement cosmétique ne résout pas le fond du problème. En effet, le musée risque de s'écrouler sur des centaines de pièces archéologiques exceptionnelles à cause des eaux souterraines. (Amîra Ahmad, « Un an après son inauguration, effondrement des murs du musée Imhotep qui a coûté 20 millions de L.E. », al-Badîl du 14 avril 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a nié la moindre influence des eaux souterraines sur le musée Imhotep dont les revêtements muraux commencent à se détacher. Il a déclaré que le niveau des eaux souterraines est situé à 4 mètres au-dessous du sol du musée. Aucun indice ne trahit la présence d'infiltration à l'extérieur comme à l'intérieur du musée et de ses dépendances dont toutes les parois sont en bon état.
Hawwâs a toutefois reconnu le détachement de certains revêtements des façades qu'il qualifie de chose naturelle pour ce genre de pierre calcaire. La société de BTP a été chargée du démontage puis du remontage des blocs fissurés de la façade principale du musée. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Hawwâs innocente les eaux souterraines des fissures du musée Imhotep », al-Badîl du 8 mai).
Musée national d'Asy ût
The Alexan Pasha Palace stands on the Nile Corniche in Asyût, its faded decorative façades waiting for restoration. With a budget of LE18,181,000, the palace is now on Egypt's antiquities list almost a century after its construction. Alexan Pasha built his splendid palace on the bank of the Nile in 1910, creating a garden on just a feddan around his new residence in Upper Egypt. The palace originally had three floors ; the first two for Alexan's family and the top floor for the servants. The first floor has two large rooms ; the eastern one being the reception hall, furnished with a number of salons in different colours, decorative motifs and styles and with European oil paintings hanging on the walls and a number of showcases filled with small European-style antiques. The second hall at the western end of the house was used as the dining room, and holds three sets of tables and chairs and three cupboards laden with silver pieces. The room was connected to a fully-equipped kitchen, and next to it an office, a bathroom and two bedrooms complete with beds and cupboards. The dining room also has an adjoining reception area and a billiard room. The second floor has a number of bed and drawing rooms.
In 1995, owing to the exquisite and unique architectural features of the house, the Ministry of Culture and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) put the palace on Egypt's antiquities list, but the lack of money delayed all work on restoring the palace until 2004. Now studies to restore such a palace and transform it into the local national museum have been carried out, and the building will host the artefacts discovered in and near Asyût and restored in its magazines. "This is the first building to be devoted to an Asyût National Museum," said Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA. He says the plan for a museum of antiquities in Asyût had been permanently shelved, but periodically the idea resurfaced to be "reconsidered". However, no concrete steps towards its construction were taken until 2004, when the SCA embarked on a project to make the dream come true.
Although the Upper Egyptian town of Asyût is rich in archaeological sites, including Pharaonic, Coptic and Islamic monuments, it has never had a museum to suit its great archaeological treasures. The only museum Asyût has had was a small hall at the Salâm Secondary School, which displayed a collection that had once belonged to an antiquities enthusiast and private collector who happened to own the school in the 19th century. After the 1952 Revolution, the owner offered his collection to the antiquities department. The school's administrative board allocated the second floor of the library as temporary museum space for the collection until a special building was constructed to house it. It never happened. At the Salâm School museum, the room was crammed with objects too numerous for the space itself, leaving an overall impression of chaos and making certain over-stuffed corners of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo look positively orderly. The small hall displays more than 600 objects in 20 showcases, ranging from predynastic pottery to the late Mameluke era, but the objects are nevertheless exhibited in chronological order. They were obviously put together by someone with a cultivated awareness of Egyptian history ; a curator who had even considered the aesthetic quality of the display. This was no storeroom.
The objects range from pottery and papyrus to scarabs and statues ; from cosmetics and coins to coloured engravings and fabrics. Historically, the range is enormous, but a sequence can nonetheless be traced, moving from the Pharaonic collection through early Christianity to Islamic military equipment and soldiers'uniforms. Stelae, coffins, and a beautiful collection of gilded mummy masks are also exhibited along with a wooden sarcophagus covered with gold leaf patterns and inscribed with religious texts. One can also see a mummy with a broken leg inside his sarcophagus. He was probably a high•ranking official, as the mask features the face of a man wearing the sun disk and adorned with the uraeus. "All these objects will probably move to the new museum after its completion," Hawwâs said. (Nevine El-Aref, "Palatial museum for Asyût", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 19, 2008. Voir également Yûnis Darwîsh, « Transformation du Palais Alexan en musée national : une décision en sursis depuis 13 années », al-Wafd du 18 mai).
Musée archéologique d'al -'Arîs h
Mrs. Suzanne Mubârak inaugurated Sunday 16/3/2008 al-'Arîsh National Museum which occupies an area of 17,000 Square meters and costed LE 40 million. Mrs. Suzanne Mubârak inaugurated as well the al-'Arîsh premises of the Women National Council, which costed almost LE one million, on the occasion of celebrations marking the Egyptian Women Day. The museum exhibits as well antiquities selected from the Nile Valley. The museum includes 1700 antiquity pieces, mostly Egypt has restored from Israel, in 1994 as they were stolen by the occupation troops in 1967 war. Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî said that al-'Arîsh Museum was built as a part of Higher Council for Antiquities'plan to establish a number of regional and specialized museums. He added that the museum contains about 2000 pieces of antiquities, a huge statue of Thutmose III and photos showing the Christ's birth. ("Mrs. Suzanne Mubârak opens al-'Arîsh Museum, premises of Women National Council", Egypt State Information Service, March 17, 2008. Voir également Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Le musée al-'Arîsh expose les pièces archéologiques restituées par Israël ! », al-Musawwar du 28 mars ; Ibtihâl Ghayth, « Musée ultramoderne pour raconter l'histoire du Sinaï », Uktubar du 30 mars).
-
-
III - RESTAURATIONS, PRÉSERVATIONSLe ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a approuvé la restauration de Dâr Ibn Luqmân et la rénovation des sites archéologiques et culturels situés dans la ville de Mansûra et leur préparation à la visite touristique. Le gouverneur de Daqahliyya, Dr Ahmad Sa'îd Sawwân, a annoncé que le gouvernorat a adressé aux autorités compétentes toutes les études et les recherches nécessaires à la mise en place de ce projet. Fondée en 1250, Dâr Ibn Luqmân fut le lieu de séquestration de Louis IX, roi de France, à l'issue de la célèbre bataille de Mansûra. (« New-look pour les monuments de Mansûra ! », Uktubar du 6 janvier 2008).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé l'achèvement des travaux de restauration de la tikiyya Mawlâwiyya qui sera prochainement inaugurée. Ce monument du XIVe siècle sera transformé en un centre pour les célébrations religieuses et musicales. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Réaffectation de la tikiyya Mawlâwiyya en centre pour les célébrations religieuses », al-Ahrâr du 11 janvier 2008).
Lancées au mois de novembre 2005, les trois phases de restauration de la Mosquée al-Sayyid al-Badawî à Tantâ s'achèveront fin juin 2008. Ce projet, dont le coût s'élève à 17 millions de livres égyptiennes, est financé par le gouvernorat d'al-Gharbiyya (7 millions) et le ministère de l'Habitat (10 millions). Le CSA supervise les opérations de restauration mises en place par le géant du BTP, Arab Contractors & Co. (al-Ahrâm du 15 janvier 2008).
Le Directeur général de la documentation archéologique du Secteur des Antiquités islamiques et coptes, Thamrât Hâfiz, a annoncé que le Comité permanent a approuvé la demande de l'American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) pour poursuivre début 2009 ses travaux dans l'église Saint-Serge située dans le Vieux-Caire. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 15 janvier 2008).
After 18 months of work on an LE85 million project for the refurbishment of Karnak Temple in Luxor, the temple is this month ready to receive visitors. A surprise discovery during the work was a huge dam dating back to 4000 years ago and designed to protect the temple from the annual Nile floods. Also found was a Roman bath from the first century AD. A new bazaar area has been built in Pharaonic style, new administration buildings have been erected in place of the old ones which were taken down to create an area in front of the temple spacious enough for a clear view of the monument from riverboats on the Nile. A nearby cultural centre has been equipped to show the history of the French expéditions that have worked in Karnak since 1828. Another project of no less importance will be finished within the next few days. This is a ring road around Karnak Temple that will help shorten the time taken to reach the complex, since it separates residential areas from the site. All open tourist sites now have electronic gates to ensure security. (Sanaa'Farouk, "Karnak refurbished", Watanî, January 27, 2008).
Center de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina a achevé la restauration de 290 manuscrits appartenant à la bibliothèque de Tantâ. Ces manuscrits seront remis au Dâr al-Kutub au Caire, afin d'y être exposés, en attendant de trouver un lieu adéquat pour leur conservation. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « La Bibliotheca Alexandrina restaure 290 manuscrits », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 1er février 2008. Voir également « Célébration à la Bibliotheca Alexandrina à l'occasion de l'achèvement de la restauration des manuscrits de Dâr al-Kutub à Tantâ », al-Wafd du 2 février ; Ikhlâs 'Atallah, « Restauration des manuscrits de Dâr al-Kutub », Watanî du 23 mars).
Sous la supervision de son secrétaire général, le CSA vient d'élaborer un projet de
sauvetage de cinq temples pharaoniques situés à l'Ouest de Louqsor contre la hausse du niveau des eaux souterraines. Une équipe égypto-américaine, dirigée par le président du Secteur des antiquités égyptiennes, Dr Sabrî 'Abd al-'Azîz, a délimité le tracé des réseaux de collecte puis d'évacuation des eaux en partant du temple funéraire de Séthi 1er. Ce projet, qui sera mis en place à partir du début de juillet 2008, durera 18 mois. Le directeur général de la zone archéologique d'al-Qurna, Dr 'Alî al-Asfar, a précisé que ce projet sera financé par l'United States Agency for International Development (USAID) à hauteur de 50 millions de livres égyptiennes. Il vise à réduire le niveau des eaux souterraines sous
1er
les temples de Séthi, de Mérenptah, d'Amenhotep III, de Madînat Hâbû et du Ramesseum, ainsi que les vestiges des temples funéraires d'Horemheb, de Thoutmosis III et IV. Les eaux seront pompées et piégées dans des puits, puis déversées dans les canaux avoisinants. (Haggâg Salâma, « Projet de protection de 5 temples pharaoniques contre les eaux souterraines », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 5 février 2008).
Le Conseiller archéologique auprès du CSA, 'Abdallah al-'Attâr, a confirmé la restauration des peintures murales de la coupole Nord du Dayr al-Suryân entre le 1er septembre 2007 et mai 2008. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées L'ambassade de France au Caire a appelé, par l'intermédiaire de son Conseiller culturel, Jean-Paul GUIHAUMÉ, à la préservation des bâtiments historiques de Port-Saïd. Ces bâtiments de style architectural français ont été construits lors de l'inauguration du canal de Suez en 1869. L'appel a ciblé tout particulièrement l'hôtel International situé à la place al-Mu'adiyyât. Cet hôtel délabré est aujourd'hui fréquenté par une clientèle extrêmement démunie, composée de journaliers et d'ouvriers égyptiens installés à Port-Saïd. Le gouverneur de Port-Saïd, Dr Mustafa Kâmil, a accueilli quelques responsables de l'ambassade de France au Caire accompagnés de la directrice de
et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 12 février
2008).
- -
Mme
l'Alliance française de Port-Sa'îd, Fabienne RODRIGUEZ. De son côté, le gouverneur a appelé à la sauvegarde du patrimoine architectural de sa ville, comme le siège de l'Organisme du canal de Suez, l'ancien phare, le port ou la cathédrale. Mais l'attention des responsables français s'est focalisée sur l'hôtel International tout délabré. Un protocole de coopération a été signé en vertu duquel le commissariat de l'Union Européenne donnera son appui à ce projet de sauvegarde du patrimoine. (Gamâl Nufal, « L'ambassade de France appelle à la préservation d'un hôtel vieux de 150 ans », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 16 février 2008).
À la demande du gouverneur de Daqahliyya, Sa'îd al-Sawwân, le CSA a approuvé le transfert du sosie du colosse de Ramsès II et son érection sur la plus grande place de la ville de Mansûra. Rappelons que ce sosie avait servi en juillet 2006 de test préparatoire au transfert du vrai colosse qui, lui, se trouve actuellement sur le site du futur Grand Musée Égyptien. (« Envoie à Mansûra du sosie du colosse de Ramsès II », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 16 février 2008. Voir également Abû Naddâra, « Le sosie de Ramsès II à Mansûra », al-Akhbâr du 7 février ; Ahmad Mustafa, « Un sosie de Ramsès II érigé dans la plus grande place de Mansûra », Uktubar du 17 février)
Les travaux de restauration de la mosquée al-Zâhir Baybars ont commencé à la suite de la signature d'un accord de coopération entre l'Égypte et le Kazakhstan. Ces travaux, dont le coût s'élève à près de 53 millions de livres égyptiennes, se dérouleront en trois phases et dureront trois ans. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 19 février 2008. Voir également Muhammad Darwîsh, « Don du Kazakhstan de 4,5 millions de dollars pour restaurer la mosquée al-Zâhir Baybars », al-Akhbâr du 18 juin).
Le président du Conseil Suprême de la ville de Louqsor, Dr Samîr Farag, a annoncé l'inauguration en mars prochain du projet de développement global du temple de Karnak. Ce projet de dix-huit mois a coûté 85 millions de livres égyptiennes. Il englobe la création d'un nouvel îlot de bazars, d'une aire de stationnement pour les cars touristiques, d'un centre commercial pour attirer les touristes et d'un centre d'information qui retrace l'historique des travaux entrepris par le Centre Franco-Égyptien d'Études des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK) depuis 1828. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd,
« Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 19
février 2008).
- -
Lors d'une tournée d'inspection effectuée avant-hier soir dans Le Caire historique, le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé l'achèvement des travaux de réaménagement de la rue al-Mu'izz l-Dîn Allah al-Fâtimî. Il ne reste plus que transformer la rue en zone piétonne pour qu'elle devienne un musée à ciel ouvert, après la transformation du sabîl Muhammad 'Alî en un musée des Textiles. Le ministre a ajouté que la National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) se chargera de changer les enseignes des magasins, afin qu'elles puissent mieux s'harmoniser avec le caractère de la rue. En coopération avec une entreprise italienne, l'Egyptian Sound and Light Show Company (ESLSC) a assuré l'éclairage de 33 monuments situés dans cette rue. (al-Ahrâm du 22 février 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Fârûq Husnî : restauration de 163 monuments et création du premier musée des Textiles », al-Akhbâr du 22 février ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : La rue al-Mu'izz interdite à la circulation automobile », al-Ahrâr du 22 février ; Ingi Amr, « Le président Mubârak inaugure la rue al-Mu'izz sous peu », Le Progrès Égyptien du 22 février ; « Le ministre de la Culture inspecte la rue al-Mu'izz », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 12 avril).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a affirmé que les travaux de restauration de l'Église Suspendue seront achevés d'ici six mois et que l'équipe de restaurateurs russes reprendra ses travaux ce mois-ci. Lancé en 2002, ce projet dont il ne reste que 5 % a englobé la baisse du niveau des eaux souterraines, la restauration architecturale de l'église et la restauration minutieuse des icônes. 55 millions de livres égyptiennes ont été dépensées jusqu'à présent. (Intisâr Dardîr, « Dr Hawwâs : la restauration de l'Église Suspendue s'achève dans 6 mois », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 1er mars 2008).
Le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités a lancé la semaine dernière un projet de restauration des tombes de Pedubastis et Petosiris situées à al-Muzawwaqa dans l'oasis de Dâkhla. Ces deux hypogées d'époque romaine sont fermés depuis 1992. En prévision de leur réouverture à la visite, tout le secteur sera réaménagé. (« Restauration des tombes d'al-Muzawwaqa dans la Nouvelle Vallée », al-Wafd du 5 mars 2008. Voir également Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Projet de restauration des deux tombes d'al-Muzawwaqa dans la Nouvelle Vallée », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 4 mars ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Restauration de tombes pharaoniques dans la Nouvelle Vallée », al-Ahrâm du 4 mars ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : projet urgent de restauration de 2 tombes antiques dans la Nouvelle Vallée », al-Ahrâr du 4 mars ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Restauration des tombes archéologiques d'al-Muzawwaqa dans l'oasis de Dâkhla », al-Akhbâr du 4 mars).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a appelé à la nécessité de démonter le flyover d'al-Azhar, afin de dégager la rue al-Mu'izz et d'y diminuer les embouteillages. Le ministre a souligné que se sont les commerçants qui s'opposent à cette décision car ils utilisent l'espace situé sous le flyover pour entreposer leurs marchandises et garer leurs voitures. Husnî a affirmé que le démontage du flyover serivra les intérêts des commerçants en permettant aux touristes de flâner librement dans la rue, de faire du lèche-vitrine et d'acheter des produits. (« Fârûq Husnî appelle à hâter le démontage du flyover d'al-Azhar », al-Ahrâr du 11 mars 2008).
[ ] Par ailleurs, le ministre a annoncé l'inauguration de la rue al-Mu'izz en avril prochain à l'issue des travaux de réaménagement. Le ministère de la Culture a conclu un accord avec deux sociétés de nettoyage et a acheté les équipements nécessaires à la propreté de cette rue piétonne. Des véhicules électriques sont en cours de fabrication et seront mis à la disposition des personnes âgées ou malades dans l'incapacité de marcher. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Fârûq Husnî : l'Égypte est un pays culturel qui ne se distingue plus par le commerce, ni l'industrie ni l'agriculture », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 mars 2008).
La prolifération des pigeons et des chauves-souris qui nichent dans les zones archéologiques de Louqsor constitue un vrai casse-tête pour les archéologues et une grande menace pour les peintures et les parois des monuments exposés. Pour résoudre ce problème, d'aucuns proposent de protéger certains sites archéologiques par un système de répulsion électrique, alors que d'autres privilégient l'installation d'émetteurs ultrasons pour effrayer les volatiles. Rashîd Ash'ab, inspecteur du CSA à Louqsor, a affirmé que les dégâts causés notamment par les pigeons ont considérablement augmenté après la destruction des pigeonniers - grippe aviaire oblige. (Nasr al-Qûsî, « Les pigeons et les chauves-souris : un vrai casse-tête pour les archéologues à Louqsor », al-Badîl du 18 mars 2008. Voir également Ahmed Maged, "Sphinx in dire need of a bird-repellent", Daily News Egypt, May 29).
Le chercheur Bassâm al-Shammâ' a déclaré que la prolifération des oiseaux qui juchent sur la tête du Sphinx constitue un danger considérable qui menace la sécurité du colosse à court terme. Les excréments acides des nombreux oiseaux qui juchent continuellement sur la tête du Sphinx salissent et rongent la pierre calcaire. Al-Shammâ' a souligné que le côté Nord du colosse attire tout particulièrement les oiseaux qui nichent dans les nombreuses crevasses dues aux différents facteurs d'érosion. Contrairement au côté Sud fortement exposé aux rayons du soleil, le côté Nord nettement moins exposé sert de juchoirs aux oiseaux. Al-Shammâ' a affirmé que la solution consiste à installer un dispositif d'effarouchement qui permet de chasser les oiseaux. Par ailleurs, il a critiqué les procédés de lutte anti-volatile mis en place par les responsables du CSA dans les temples de Philae et d'Idfû. En effet, les grillages suspendus aux ouvertures des temples incitent les oiseaux à emprunter l'entrée principale des visiteurs. Une fois dedans, les volatiles sont piégés et ne peuvent plus en ressortir à cause de ces grillages. Ce qui les pousse à nicher à l'intérieur des monuments. Al-Shammâ' a dénoncé la présence de chauves-souris autour de l'église Saint-Serge au Vieux Caire, ainsi qu'à l'intérieur des temples de Dandara et de Madînat Hâbû où elles niches dans le creux profond des inscriptions hiéroglyphiques. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Les déjections des oiseaux menacent le Sphinx », al-Badîl du 8 mai).
Le Directeur général des Antiquités du Vieux-Caire et de Fustât, Muhammad Mahgûb, a confirmé la poursuite du projet de restauration du Dayr Saint-Georges situé dans le Vieux-Caire aux frais des religieux et sous la supervision du CSA. Le réseau d'éclairage à l'intérieur comme à l'extérieur du monastère sera amélioré. Un circuit d'alarme contre les incendies sera installé. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 18 mars 2008).
Le Conseil d'État a enfin approuvé le projet de loi visant à sauvegarder les manuscrits détenus par des particuliers. Cette nouvelle loi de 11 articles préconise de récompenser tout détenteur qui fait enregistrer son manuscrit et lui verser un pourcentage équitable des bénéfices réalisés par l'exposition de ce manuscrit en Égypte ou à l'étranger. Tout détenteur qui le souhaite pourrait vendre son manuscrit à l'État. Quant à ceux qui refusent de faire enregistrer leurs manuscrits, ils encourent une peine d'emprisonnement allant de 1 à 5 ans. Dans le cas d'un manuscrit rare, cette peine pourrait atteindre la réclusion criminelle à perpétuité. (« Nouvelle loi pour protéger la mémoire de la nation », al-Ahrâm du 20 mars 2008. Voir également Marie Ya'qûb, « Les manuscrits égyptiens sous la protection de la loi ! », al-Ahrâm du 25 mai).
[ ] Le président du Conseil d'administration de Dâr al-Kutub wa-l-wathâ'iq al-qawmiyya, Dr Sâbir 'Arab, a précisé que la nouvelle loi « contraint » tout détenteur de manuscrits -
simple particulier ou autorité officielle comme al-Azhar ou le ministère des Waqf•s - à l'enregistrer dans la base de données tenue par Dâr al-Kutub. Toutefois, cette loi « n'oblige » personne à céder ses manuscrits à Dâr al-Kutub. La loi « sanctionne » toute disparition, négligence, manque de restauration ou tentative d'exportation des manuscrits vers l'étranger. Mais en même temps, la loi « n'interdit pas aux particuliers » de vendre leurs propres manuscrits à l'intérieur de l'Égypte, « à condition » d'en avertir Dâr al-Kutub. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « La loi sur les manuscrits contraint tout détenteur à se faire enregistrer auprès de Dâr al-Kutub », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 16 mai).
Le Premier ministre, Ahmad Nazîf, et le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, inaugurent ce matin l'achèvement des travaux de restauration du temple de Dandara. Ces travaux dont le coût s'élève à près de 20 millions de livres égyptiennes, ont duré 3 ans. Ils ont englobé la sécurisation électronique du temple, le réaménagement de la zone environnante, l'installation d'un laboratoire de restauration et la construction de bâtiments de service : centre d'information, cafétéria, bazars touristiques, parking et poste de police. (Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Nazîf inaugure aujourd'hui le temple de Dandara », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 23 mars 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Nazîf inaugure aujourd'hui le temple de Dandara », al-Ahrâr du23 mars ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Le temple de Dandara accueille ses visiteurs à l'issue des travaux de restauration », al-Akhbâr du 23 mars).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a affirmé que 2008 est l'année des pyramides, avec la mise en place du plus grand projet pour sauver le Sphinx des eaux souterraines et pour évacuer la zone archéologique de Dahshûr de ses habitants. [] « En 1988, nous sommes parvenu à stopper l'expansion urbaine assidue sur les pyramides. J'ai à peine réussi à ériger une clôture autour de la pyramide transformée par la population en zoo », constate le Dr Hawwâs. Il a révélé que l'United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) avait proposé 2 millions d'euros pour financer les négociations en vue du transfert des habitants de la zone archéologique de Dahshûr. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Zâhî Hawwâs : 2008 est l'année de l'évacuation de la zone archéologique de Dahshûr », al-Badîl du 10 avril 2008. Voir également Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Nouvelle découverte archéologique à Dahshûr », al-Musawwar du 6 juin).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé que la Grèce a fait un don de deux millions d'euros pour financer les travaux de restauration entrepris actuellement dans le monastère de Sainte-Catherine. Cette annonce intervient lors de la Journée mondiale du patrimoine célébrée hier soir dans le musée Copte. (Intisâr Dardîr, « 2 millions d'euros pour restaurer le monastère de Sainte-Catherine », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 19 avril 2008. Voir également Hamâda al-Shawâdfî, « 21 millions de L.E. pour restaurer le monastère de Sainte-Catherine », al-Wafd du 24 mai ; Ayman Abû Zayd, « 21 millions de L.E. pour restaurer le monastère de Sainte-Catherine et le mont Moïse », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 26 mai).
A team of Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists will meet in Barcelona next week to come up with a plan for restoring those districts of Cairo built by the Khedive Ismâ'îl, who ruled Egypt from 1863 to 1879 and wanted to turn Cairo into another Paris. Yâsir Murâd, the Egyptian Ambassador to Spain, has said Spanish expertise will be used to help preserve historic buildings in downtown Cairo, which form a triangular area, with Midân al-Tahrîr as its apex and Opera and Ramses squares the other two corners. "The purpose is to make this district more attractive for tourists, without detracting from its historic value," he added. The triangle contains 421 beautiful buildings on 700 feddans of land, dating back to the second half of the 13th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. (Hassan Saadallah, "Spanish expertise for Cairo preservation", The Egyptian Gazette, April 27, 2008. Voir également Amal al-Gayyâr, « Projet égypto-espagnol pour ressusciter Le Caire khédival », al-Ahrâm du 24 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Projet égypto-espagnol pour ressusciter Le Caire khédival », al-Akhbâr du 27 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Projet égypto-espagnol pour ressusciter Le Caire khédival », al-Ahrâr du 27 avril ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Le maire de Madrid et des architectes espagnols contribuent à la sauvegarde du Caire khédival », al-Badîl du 28 avril).
Egyptian Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî has agreed to carry out an urgent, comprehensive project to save and restore the Temple of Isis in the village of Bahbît near Samannûd, Gharbiyya Governorate, 100 km northwest of Cairo. The two-year project will involve rebuilding the walls, which collapsed about 2,000 years ago due to a violent earthquake, as well as restoring ornaments and engravings on the walls. The builders will use the stone blocks from the original walls, that have gradually been buried by sand and earth over the centuries. An estimated 90 per cent of the original blocks are thought to be buried and will need digging up. The project will cost around LE10 million (about $1,9 million). As well as repairing the walls, builders are going to drain the groundwater from around the temple. (Hassan Saadallah, "Saving the Temple of Isis", The Egyptian Gazette, May 9, 2008).
Le directeur général des Antiquités du Sud du Caire, 'Abd al-Khâliq Mukhtâr, a annoncé que
l'American Research Center in Egypt
(ARCE) poursuivra les travaux de restauration de la mosquée Aslam al-Silihdâr située à al-Darb al-Ahmar. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 20 mai 2008).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a décidé l'érection de clôtures métalliques autour de toutes les zones de fouilles archéologiques dans les différents gouvernorats, afin de les protéger contre l'expansion urbaine. Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé que cette décision concerne en premier lieu la région archéologique de Kirkû à Hilwân, celle de Matariyya où la faculté d'Archéologie du Caire entreprend des fouilles et celle de Tell Atrîb située à Qalyûbiyya. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Des clôtures métalliques pour protéger les
sites archéologiques contre l'expansion
urbaine », al-Ahrâr du 21 mai 2008. Voir
é galement 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Clôtures
autour des sites archéologiques pour les préserver contre l'expansion urbaine », al-Akhbâr du 19 mai).
Le ministère de la Culture a commencé la mise en place d'un projet global de développement de la zone archéologique d'al-Lisht située au Sud de Dahshûr. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé que ce projet de 20 millions de livres égyptiennes durera près de deux années. Il englobe la délimitation de la zone archéologique, l'érection d'une clôture, la baisse du niveau des eaux souterraines et l'édification d'un certain nombre de bâtiments administratifs et de service afin de faciliter la visite touristique. Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a précisé que le projet consiste également à poser des panneaux signalétiques sur la route du canal al-Maryûtiyya, à construire un complexe touristique et à y entreprendre des fouilles archéologiques. (Ashraf Mufîd, « 20 millions de L.E. pour développer al-Lisht », al-Ahrâm du 20 mai 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : Projet urgent pour développer la capitale du Moyen Empire », al-Ahrâr du 20 mai).
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities launched a campaign in cooperation with some Arab, Asian and European states to restore the prominent antiquities that were taken illegally from said countries. Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zâhî Hawwâs said that the council will invite a number of Arab and foreign countries including Palestine, Iraq, Mexico, Italy and Greece to convene under the UNESCO in order to discuss this issue and define the most prominent antiquities. Egypt will submit a proposal for UNESCO to restore the Egyptian antiquities in other museums, Hawwâs added. ("Egypt leads international campaign to restore its antiquities in world museums", Egypt State Information Service, May 30, 2008).
The American University in Cairo (AUC) yesterday announced plans for a major renovation of its historical downtown buildings in Tahrîr Square following the move to its new campus in New Cairo. The renovations are scheduled to begin in September 2008 and will take one year to complete. The university's main historic building will continue to serve as a cultural centre in downtown Cairo. The university will use Ewart Hall and Oriental Hall to host public lectures, musical performances and other cultural events. Modifications to the "old palace" building will include a new branch of the AUC bookstore, along with a café and the Margo VEILLON Gallery for Contemporary Egyptian Art. ("AUC to keep historical building", The Egyptian Gazette, June 11, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'AUC déterminée à garder le bâtiment historique de Tahrîr », al-Ahrâr du 13 juin ; « Le président de l'AUC : Nous ne renoncerons pas aux bâtiments historiques de l'Université », al-Wafd du 18 juin ; Dînâ Sirâg al-Dîn, « Réaffectation du bâtiment de l'AUC en centre culturel », Uktubar du 22 juin ; Gihân Abû al-'ilâ, « L'AUC ne désertera pas la place Tahrîr », Sabâh al-Khayr du 24 juin).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé l'achèvement du projet d'éclairage de la citadelle de Salâh al-Dîn al-Ayyûbî dont le coût s'élève à 30 millions de livres égyptiennes. Des travaux sont en cours pour restaurer l'enceinte extérieure de la citadelle et élargir les espaces verts dans le secteur du puits de Joseph. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 24 juin 2008).
Manuscript Center
Créé en 2002 selon un décret présidentiel, le Manuscript Center (MsC) et des livres rares de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina présente un des fonds de manuscrits les plus prestigieux de l'Égypte. Provenant surtout de la bibliothèque municipale d'Alexandrie, ainsi que des dons différents, le MsC possède aujourd'hui plus de 100 000 manuscrits et livres rares. Il conduit entre autres la restauration, la reproduction numérique et l'analyse scientifique de milliers de manuscrits et de livres rares permettant de restituer au public et à la recherche des textes restés longtemps inaccessibles. Presque toute la collection rare de la Bibliotheca a fait l'objet d'un programme de conservation dans le laboratoire de restauration et de conservation des manuscrits et des livres rares du MsC. « Le laboratoire du MsC a été créé à l'origine pour la sauvegarde et la restauration des manuscrits et des livres rares des fonds de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Mais depuis un an seulement, le MsC accepte la restauration des fonds documentaires en dehors de la Bibliotheca. La première fois, on a accepté la restauration de 290 manuscrits de la Bibliothèque municipale de Tantâ. On l'a fait gratuitement », explique Shirîn al-Sâwî, chef du département de la restauration au MsC. Les techniciens du laboratoire réalisent actuellement la restauration de 102 livres rares de la collection de Dâr al-Athâr al•islâmiyya (la Maison des Antiquités islamiques) de Koweït. « Celui-ci est payé. C'est le premier travail commercial que fait le laboratoire. Certes, les extensions et les nouveaux appareils nous ont beaucoup aidés à augmenter le volume de travail exécuté par jour », souligne Sayyid Turkî, spécialiste de restauration au laboratoire.
Ce laboratoire de restauration vient d'être inauguré le mois dernier par la Première Dame d'Égypte, Suzanne Mubârak, après de
grands travaux de développement et
d'extension. Ces travaux ont fait du
laboratoire de restauration du MsC un des
plus modernes au monde. « Après ces
nouvelles extensions, notre laboratoire représente aujourd'hui le numéro un qui ne se trouve nulle part ailleurs en Égypte. Il a même passé le rang de celui de Dâr al•Wathâ'iq, et est devenu aussi un des plus actualisés au monde », annonce Shirîn al-Sâwî. Les travaux de développement ont été surtout accomplis à l'aide d'un don de l'Italie d'un million de dollars. « Le Centre Gum'a al-Mâgid de Doubaï, quant à lui, nous a offert un appareil automatique pour la restauration des livres rares. Celui-ci diminue les effets du dommage des pages détériorées des anciennes publications. La reliure des livres se fait dans une étape suivante », explique 'Âdil Basyûnî, chef du secteur de la restauration automatique.
Les techniciens du laboratoire ont recours aux méthodes scientifiques et techniques modernes utilisées en matière de préservation et de restauration des manuscrits. Ils collaborent parfois avec des institutions étrangères et internationales spécialisées dans ce domaine. « Notre laboratoire exerce également d'autres attributions. Citons la préparation des études et les travaux des méthodes de restauration et de conservation, ainsi que des manuscrits et des textes à restaurer », ajoute Husâm al-Dîb, chef du secteur des traitements chimiques des manuscrits. Le laboratoire du MsC a pu réaliser jusqu'aujourd'hui la restauration de plus de 500 manuscrits, 2 000 livres, 120 cartes qui sont tous des documents rares. Certes, la restitution éventuelle de manuscrits permettra à la Bibliotheca Alexandrina de retrouver son rayonnement. (Amira Samir, « Résurrection des textes détériorés », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 21 mai 2008).
É glise de la Sainte Vierge à Hârit Zuwayla
Fatimid Cairo, the other being Hârit al-Rûm. The great significance of this church lies in its being one of the places the Holy Family stayed in while in Egypt. It is documented by the Arab historian al-Maqrîzî that the church was built almost 270 years before the Arab invasion of Egypt. The area is named after the Zuwayla clan that lived in that area but originally came from Morocco at the time of the Fatimids. The Coptic historian Abû al-Makârim (1117-1204) describes the church when first built as "magnificently beautiful", especially during the great Coptic celebrations of Palm Sunday and the Holy Cross. In 1303 the church became the papal headquarters, with Pope John VIII being the first pope to establish the papal seat there. The church continued to be the papal headquarters until the papacy of Pope Meta'os IV (1660 -1675). Unfortunately the church suffered severely from attacks of fanatics ; in 1321 it was partially destroyed but was reconstructed. In 1559 the church was ordered closed by the Ottoman Sultan, but later renovated and reopened.
The church, near Port Sa'îd Street, lies almost 14 feet below street level and suffers from high groundwater levels. It contains many historically priceless icons. Several icons have been catalogued and restored, some as part of a project funded by the American Research Centre in Egypt between 1999 and 2003. Major work has been carried out by an American-Egyptian project under the direction of Shawqî Nakhla. This is concerned with the restoration of the main sanctuary of the church, and has received special attention from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), which has erected a special unit to help in the restoration and maintenance of the icons. The dome and walls have also been restored. As a result of the renovations, attention was focused on the church as a tourist attraction and it was placed on the 'open museum'map. In another attempt to increase awareness of the church's importance the renovations unit has installed descriptive cards on all the icons to give essential information in both Arabic and English.
During the renovation process a very important discovery was made in that the wood used to build the dome was actually recycled wood, probably used in the construction of the two previous domes. The wood had sections of designs and traces of colours used before. This discovery led to the renovation of the dome of the left sanctuary, which in turn led to the collection and reassembly of all the timber. Another significant discovery was that the artist who created the dome - most likely a 16th century Coptic artist - used the titles and names of Jesus all around the interior of the dome with plants and geometrical designs for decoration rather than the usual picture of Jesus known as the Pantocrator, found in all churches from the 18th century onwards. The designs used show the Coptic influence along with the Islamic designs rather than the Ottomon effect, which makes this dome in particular and the whole church in general a remarkably important historical and artistic monument. The team responsible for the renovations sent by the SCA was led by Sâmî Girgis As'ad, who was in charge of the renovations of the icons in the Zuwayla area, and Mirvat Rizq, the general supervisor of the group. (Sanaa'Farouk, "The Holy Virgin's Church at Hârit Zuwayla. Restoration Completed", Watanî, January 6, 2008. Voir également Sanaa Farouk, "Piping in a new restoration", Watanî, May 18).
- -
É g l i s e S u s p e n d u e
La Commission de la culture et de
l'information dépendant du Sénat a décidé d'effectuer une tournée d'inspection à l'Église Suspendue située dans le Vieux-Caire, afin d'évaluer l'état de négligence qui frappe ses bâtiments transformant certains secteurs en véritable décharge publique [sic]. Le président de cette Commission, Dr Fawzî Fahmî, a contacté hier le cabinet du secrétaire général du CSA, pour fixer une date à cette visite. Le député du parti al-Tagamu', 'Abd al-Rahmân Khayr, avait déposé une interpellation au sujet de l'arrêt des travaux de restauration de l'Église Suspendue engagés depuis 1981 et dont le coût s'élève à plusieurs millions de livres égyptiennes. Le député a demandé des éclaircissements sur les motifs du retard du projet son et lumière. Il a également critiqué la décision annoncée par le CSA d'installer une billetterie à l'entrée de l'Église dont l'accès est libre. (« L'Église Suspendue transformée en dépotoire ! », al-Wafd du 18 février 2008. Voir également Magdî Mustafa, « Une commission du Sénat inspecte les travaux de restauration de l'Église Suspendue », al-Dustûr du 18 février ; Muhammad Abû Zayd, « Une commission du Sénat visite l'Église Suspendue suite à l'arrêt de ses travaux de restauration », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 18 février ; 'Imâd Fu'âd, « Khayr appelle au sauvetage de l'Église Suspendue », al-Ahâlî du 20 février).
(c) Aymé Lebon
The Church of the Virgin Mary, known as the Hanging Church, is now almost ready for its expected reopening in February following a renovation project that began in 1999 and cost LE 55 million. The Hanging Church in Old Cairo earned its name from its construction thirteen metres above ground on the remains of two towers attached to the Roman fortress of Babylon. Built in the fifth century, it is the highest building in the area. The church served as the papal seat from the eleventh century when Pope Christodoulos moved it from Alexandria to Old Cairo, and continued as the papal seat for two centuries. Several popes who reigned during that period are buried beneath the church and have their portraits hanging in it. The original church design followed the Roman basilica style with four doors at the cardinal points, the main door being on the west side. The interior of the church is divided into four sections, three of which are covered with wooden domes and end in three long sanctuaries separated from the rest of the church by wood and ivory partitions acting as iconostasis. Each sanctuary has a wooden dome supported on four pillars surrounding the altar. Another small church was attached to the main church on its south east side, where the baptismal font was placed. This church was consecrated to St Mark.
The Hanging Church suffered severely from high levels of ground water that endangered the basic structure, as well as damage from the 1992 earthquake, which led the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to set forth with a huge renovation and reconstruction project for the entire church. According to 'Alî Hilâl, head of the Projects Sector at the Culture Ministry, the renovation work covered architectural, ornamental, marble, woodwork, and icons, as well as electric and lighting aspects. The underground water levels of both the church and the next-door Coptic Museum were contained. The project included repairing and fortifying the foundations, ceiling, floors and cracks in the walls that resulted from the 1992 earthquake, as well as the complete renovation of the bell tower.
Fârûq Sharaf, general manager of the restoration department of the Projects Sector at the Culture Ministry and director of the restoration project of the Hanging Church, told Watanî that all the inlaid wooden elements in the church have been restored. These include the church doors, the iconostases, the pulpits, as well as the columns carrying the altar domes, and the timber roofs. The marble works were all cleaned, restored, and completed where there were parts missing, and the marble columns were restored to the upright position since some of them had tilted over the years. A new project is being planned that will cover the renovation of the outer church walls and stairways, installing air conditioning units and a complete fire alarm system. The Hanging Church is renowned for its huge, priceless collection of icons and censers. The SCA has recruited the services of a group of Russian icon specialists who are painstakingly working on the renovation of all the icons and paintings in the church. This work is taking around 20 days, and will be completed by the first of February, ready for the reopening. (Mervat Ayad, "The Church of the Virgin Mary, or the Hanging Church", Watanî, January 27. Voir également Chaïmaa Abdel-Illah, « L'Église Suspendue recouvre son charme d'antan », Le Progrès Égyptien du 31
mai). - -
Time P past a l a can i s never be ' Â b regained, i d î n mused
PROUST. Indeed, it may be impossible to recapture times past in every detail but the spirit of those times can be encapsulated in a museum, particularly if it is housed in a historic building. And this is what is aimed for in one of Cairo's most ostentatious public buildings, the 'Âbidîn Palace. The curators, convinced that the conservation and restoration of Egypt's royal palaces are long overdue, have worked diligently to ensure that 'Âbidîn Palace is a place where visitors can cherish every moment of their sojourn, no matter how long or brief. The old Palace still holds many Egyptians enthralled. It evokes memories of an age long gone, a carousal of extravagant soirees and balls. It also awakens recollections of revolutions and groundbreaking social upheavals. Poignant landmarks in Egypt's history were played out in the grounds of palatial 'Âbidîn. The Egyptian authorities have been especially supportive of the effort to open a museum within the palace complex, says Hiba Nâyil Barakât, a project manager with The Centre for Documentation of Culture and Natural Heritage (CULNAT), an organisation affiliated with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology which is currently documenting Egypt's cultural and natural heritage. "There are six palaces in Egypt that we are particularly interested in and we thought it fitting to begin with 'Âbidîn Palace," Barakât told Al-Ahram Weekly. She was eager to show the splendid publication that documents their work at the palace and the treasures that are crammed within its walls. The palace itself was the creation of one of Egypt's most remarkable modern rulers, Khedive Ismâ'îl, who selected one of the country's most distinguished public servants, 'Alî Pasha Mubârak, appointed minister of public works, to head the project, in the hope - which eventually proved misplaced - it would be ready in time for the celebrations planned to mark the opening of the Suez Canal.
The White Salon is used today as waiting room for officialdelegations visiting the president.
" 'Âbidîn has made an immense contribution to the history of the country," explains Barakât. Construction began at a time when Egypt was a feudal, mainly agricultural, society, and spanned the period in which the khedive was determined to turn his country into a modern, industrial state. The palace reflects both the ambition and its inherent contradictions. Khedive Ismâ'îl initiated the construction of 'Âbidîn Palace in 1863 and it was officially inaugurated in 1874 amid much pomp and ceremony. However, it was in the years from 1922 to 1952 that the palace acquired what are now its most characteristic contents. This was 'Âbidîn's belle epoch, a period that witnessed highlights such as the wedding of the Shah of Iran Mohamed Reza Pahlavi and his beautiful bride Princess Fawziyya in 1939. "There are two things about a building : its use and its beauty," wrote Victor HUGO. "Its use belongs to its owner ; its beauty belongs to everyone." Since the July 1952 Revolution 'Âbidîn Palace has belonged to the Egyptian state. The fortunes of the palace, however, rose and waned. Like many of the other royal palaces there were rumours that it was looted in the aftermath of the Revolution. Today, foreign dignitaries are very occasionally housed there during their visits to Egypt, the last such being former Russian president Vladimir PUTIN. In its final days as a royal residence the official dining hall was favoured by the Queen Mother, Nâzlî, and the Royal Banquet Hall by her daughter-in-law Queen Farîda, King Fârûq's first wife. The royals, generally, preferred to live in some of their other palaces. King Fârûq had a penchant for Qasr al-Qubba. Receptions at 'Âbidîn were extremely well thought out, even down to the smallest details of the cuisine. This was because the King [Fârûq] often supervised everything himself. If there was an especially delicate or tricky ceremony ahead, he would have the whole thing run through the previous day, mused Prince Hasan Hasan in his classic autobiography In the House of Muhammad 'Alî.
The Byzantine Auditorium is one of the most elegant halls because of it decorations ; it has been harmoniously decorated with Coptic, Byzantine and Islamic adornments. The hall was called Byzantine due to the prominence of the Byzantine designs, which are presented in a unique sophisticated way. The hall has been used as afoyer where guests would gather before going into the main ballroom.
joined, a major departure from the strict Ottoman custom that they be separated. This break with tradition reflected the spirit of the time. Egypt was modernising fast and old ways were giving way to the new. Certain sections of the palace became associated with particular members of the royal family over the years though it seems that the Winter Garden was a favourite of nearly everyone. The Suez Canal Room was favoured by Khedive 'Abbâs Hilmî who used it as his throne room, attracted, perhaps, by its neo-baroque opulence. The palace has survived the tremendous political upheavals of a century and a half, as well as manmade and natural disasters, including the January 1952 Cairo Fire and the earthquake that shook Cairo in October 1992. In July 1891 a fire devastated the Haramlik and Royal Guards quarters of the palace. Subsequently razed, they were rebuilt at the then cost of LE172,000. There is no particular colour scheme to 'Âbidîn. The décor is varied, the palace replete with small wonders, treasures that combine to make the entire complex a feast for the eyes. Intended as a showcase of Ismâ'îl's predilection for 19th century architecture and design - visiting Paris in 1867 he had been given a tour by no less a personage than Baron HAUSSMANN, creator of the modern French capital - Egypt's rulers marshalled vast sums to finance the European-inspired palace. Ismâ'îl was no guardian of the past. The practical flourishes at 'Âbidîn were clearly inspired by French styles, as are the furniture, paintings, tapestries and decorative objects.
Porcelain-enamelled lanterns, Sèvres candelabras, bronze and crystal chandeliers, glass by Emile GALLÉ, priceless Hajj Jalili Tabriz carpets - the list goes on and on. Khedive Ismâ'îl's French pistachio porcelain Pillivuyt set, King Fu'âd's gilded porcelain and King Fârûq's cobalt blue tea and coffee services, all bearing the royal emblems of their owners, can be seen alongside German ormolu breakfast tables, Italian gilt-bronze mounted caskets, Aubusson sofas and mantle clocks galore. Indeed, the clocks are among the most striking contents of the palace, much of which was conceived to impress the Empress Eugenie. In Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal, the palace, alas, was not yet finished for her visit. Certain aspects of 'Âbidîn Palace were barely legible to Westerners. It is a weird and wonderful world. There are parlours and wings where princes and princesses, beys and pashas roamed freely. And then there are the corridors of power, miles of them.
In the main hall a life-size portrait of President Husnî Mubârak takes pride of place, a tacit reminder that this building was for decades a centre of political authority, while the walls are decorated with antique weapons, for soldiers, as well as courtiers, played a role in the palace's design and subsequent embellishment. The monarchs'retainers, their harems and hangers-on all had to be catered to and accommodated. 'Âbidîn manages to represent both the swan song of Egypt's monarchy and its zenith. If 'Âbidîn started out as a Westernised royal residence it was to develop in a very different way and can, in some ways, be viewed as the cardboard showpiece of an unreal empire. The main body of the building consists of a two-storey façade behind which are spacious halls embellished with paintings, sculptures and other treasures. Like many buildings of this sort it underwent constant renewal as new elements were added throughout the last decades of the 19th century. 'Âbidîn set an architectural trend, importing European styles into the heart of an oriental city. As such it can be seen as a trail blazing building and the new idioms it announced were quickly taken up in less grand domestic and public buildings.
The Belgian wing is a private wing established for the sojourn of
the Egyptian rulers'guests. It was so called since the King of
Belgium was the first king to stay in it. In this wing there is a
special bed, which is considered one of the rare antiquities in terms
of its adornments and handicrafts. It has been well furnished and
equipped to be used as residence of the president's guests.
'Âbidîn was never the favourite retreat of Egypt's rulers - indeed no one actually took up permanent residence in the building - but it remained their ceremonial base. 'Âbidîn embodied the change of direction of Egypt. The rulers of Egypt lived within European•inspired grandeur, huge, high ceiling, and richly decorated halls. It was conceived as a royal dwelling befitting a Western monarch, and in the 19th century, Europe's most triumphalist epoch. But, there is always plenty of catch-up time. Palaces can be read as an expression of the dreams and desires of a particular moment, and 'Âbidîn, the most eminent of Cairo's extant palaces, is no exception. As time went on it grew larger, grander, filled to the rafters with objects that run from miniature curiosities to full-blown ceremonial ostentation. The banqueting and audience halls were made to measure, perfectly fitting the inclinations of the age. These huge halls for feasting were new features in Egypt, in stark contrast with the architectural traditions of the Ottoman and
Mameluke periods. The use of different
structures also changed over the years.
Traditionally, dignitaries had not been
welcome in the Haramlik, an aspect of protocol that 'Âbidîn changed forever since, as Barakât points out. 'Âbidîn was the first royal palace to combine both the Salamlik and Haramlik, permitting women into the Salamlik, which until then was the exclusive domain of male reception halls.
Royal compounds have always been complex organisms, constantly mutating according to the demands of the time. Certainly some of the structures incorporated into the overall palace scheme appear designed to buttress the dignity of the newly acquired title assumed by the pro-Western Khedive Ismâ'îl. Since its inception successive rulers have altered the original structure, building apartments by the side of the original palace, barracks for the royal guards, stables, kitchens and bakehouses. 'Âbidîn was part of the warp and weft of Cairo's belle epoch and whatever its architectural failings it remains an evocative monument to that age. Its ornate interior marks it apart from other palaces in the country. Ironically, this brainchild of the Khedive Ismâ'îl, planned so that Egypt's new royal residence would match any in Europe and designed from the start to double as his working headquarters, occupies an ambiguous place in the iconography of contemporary Egypt. 'Âbidîn's hold on the Egyptian imagination remains strong, and wandering through the galleried rooms it is possible, in those vast silent spaces, to hear echoes of the tumultuous lives that once filled the palace.
The building, of course, contains many signposts indicating how Egypt would develop though reading them is a subtle, nuanced task. In summer 1882, and while the British troops were landing in Alexandria, Khedive Tawfîq fled to Ras al-Tîn Palace in Alexandria to be under the protection of the British.
Earlier, Ahmad 'Urâbî, leader of the 1881-82 Revolution, had challenged the Khedive and marched to 'Âbidîn Square with 3000 Egyptian soldiers to demand reform. After the nationalist Revolution was crushed at the hands of the British, the Khedive returned back to 'Âbidîn. "On 30 October 1882 in 'Âbidîn Square," notes Jacques BERQUE in his seminal work Egypt : Imperialism and Revolution "the British troops filed past, almost in their entirety - some 12,000 men. The Khedive watched the scene from a rostrum, with his new cabinet gathered around him. All saluted the flags as they passed. This went on until sunset." 'Urâbî was arrested and incarcerated in the vicinity of the building before being exiled to Ceylon. The palace is a symbol, irreducibly so, sufficiently important to the aura surrounding Egypt's ruling house that Khedive 'Abbâs Hilmî II, who reigned from 1892-1914, set up a committee to manage its affairs, comprising, among others, Tigrane Pasha, then minister of finance, and Shawqî Pasha, the Khedive's chamberlain. The committee appointed Ambrose BAUDRY (1838-1900) as royal architect in 1895.
The theatre includes hundreds of gold-plated seats and a lounge
with curtains that was used then as a private place for women only.
Today, the theatre is still functional, and Egyptian shows are
presented to entertain the palace's guests.
'Âbidîn was enlarged, beautified and spruced up. At its apogee, it encapsulated the royal splendour that was about to crumble. In the meantime, however, and especially after Egypt became a monarchy following World War I, 'Âbidîn Palace became the main seat of power from where King Fu'âd and his son Fârûq ruled the country. However, the "King Fu'âd, it must be admitted, was inadvertently the cause of the mishandling of the interior decoration at 'Âbidîn. He was informed that the Palace needed renovating, and a budget of two million pounds was set-aside for the purpose. As the King had neither the time nor any interest in these matters, he was advised to give the work to what he was told was a competent European decorator, who proceeded to push into distant corridors very nice pieces of already existing furniture and
replace them with contemporary replicas of period pieces. But the decorator's most ridiculous and offensive blunder is in the Byzantine Room, which he filled with art-deco reliefs," Prince Hasan Hasan noted. With the July 1952 Revolution, the new rulers were keen on disassociating themselves from monarchical extravagance. 'Âbidîn fell into temporary disuse. During the presidency of Gamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir, 'Âbidîn was deliberately left to decompose - not quite so literally, but metaphorically. It was a diabolical symbol of the ancien regime. Under Anwar al-Sâdât, its fortunes picked up albeit at a tortuously slow pace. The windowed fumoir that constituted the royal banquet hall came to life again when foreign dignitaries dropped by. And in the era of President Mubârak treasures were salvaged and CULTNAT picked up the pieces. (Heba Barakat, "Within these walls", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 12, 2008).
Wakalat al -Maghrabî
Rehabilitating Islamic Cairo is part of the cultural heritage mission successfully accomplished by Jan FIGEL, the European commissioner for culture, education, training and youth, who was in Cairo last week to inaugurate a number of EU-funded cultural projects. It is a long walk through the alleys of Khân al-Khalîlî and Gamâliyya to reach Wakalat al-Maghrabî. On a sunny day the area is buzzing with tourists and street vendors, and this was just another routine day, nothing unusual. On one of the narrow streets of Wakalat al-Maghrabî, however, a new mood had been growing. There, at 14 Wakalat al-Maghrabî, stands the house of Fârûq 'Abd al-'Âl, which has been rebuilt and rehabilitated by the RehabiMed project sponsored by the European Union. It was not only 'Abd al-'Âl's house that was in need of urgent renovation to prevent imminent collapse. Twenty workshops specialising in producing metalwork such as plates and other household items were also in a state of deterioration. All were renovated and rehabilitated by the project. Hadîl, Fârûq's youngest child, smilingly says, "I am not afraid anymore. The house was about to collapse, and I just couldn't study my lessons properly. Now, I feel safe." But she complains about the smoke coming out of the workshop chimneys, which hurts her lungs. "The roof was full of garbage. It was a living room for animals. Now, it is a clean place where I can play freely with my mates. My neighbours envy me." She laughs wickedly.
Wakalat Ahmad al-Khatîb, recently named al-Maghrabî, includes four small industrial and traditional crafts for metal turning, metal washing and painting, manufacturing brushes and hand decorated brass. The Wakala was constructed in the 18th century, and Ottoman architectural features are clearly visible. Shops and markets have always been a main feature of this relatively poor area, where urban development is slow. "The RehabiMed Project has been tailored to preserve the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean countries, and to develop and further enhance the working conditions of artisans, which is why Gamâliyya was chosen, a neighbourhood rich with many historical buildings in an advanced state of demolishment," engineer Muhammad Khalîfa, the project manager, said. "If more money were pumped into this project, the Wakala should be the one step towards the recovery of the neighbouring Wakalas," he added. "The cost of the whole project has amounted to 145,000 euros." Renovation work started in August 2007 and was completed last March. The RehabiMed project for the Wakala faced many problems, notably from the Ministry of Waqfs because the house is an old one. "There were also challenges pertaining to the nature of historical Cairo in general, such as the problem of ground water and unsuitable use of the historical and traditional buildings due to social and cultural unawareness," Khalîfa said.
After touring the area FIGEL said his impression of the project was positive. "I think it is good to combine restoration with rehabilitation. It is important not only to talk about cultural heritage, but also about people," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Rehabilitating the workshops means helping people to sustain their lives. It is important to give artisans the proper chance to work, live and earn money," he pointed out. The project is also being implemented in three other Mediterranean countries : Cyprus, Morocco and Tunisia. "I think we need more such inspirational projects," FIGEL says. "Now we have enough proof to believe that such a type of partnership and projects should be multiplied and disseminated throughout the Middle East." Discussing the importance of the participation of the local community in enhancing local development projects, he said : "our philosophy at the European Union is to give a hand to such cultural projects in developing countries, but then we expect that local governments take action and resume carrying out similar projects. I think it is important to motivate and mobilise the domestic potential, not only to expect external assistance, but rather to combine and unite local forces," he told the Weekly.
Asked to what extent he believed the EU•funded projects in Egypt had succeeded in conveying and applying the European mechanism of work, bearing in mind that there was still a massive need for foreign•funded developmental projects throughout Egypt, FIGEL replied : "Our philosophy is to teach the poor man how to catch a fish. It is the local authorities'responsibility to mobilise forces and resources together. However, I think that Egypt is one of the Middle Eastern countries that is keen on enhancing its local developmental mechanisms and authorities." After more than 50 years of involvement in development projects in the fields of economy and agriculture, the EU is now more into cultural dialogue and educational developmental plans. FIGEL finds this shift of policy "a sign of maturity". "It means that we care more about people, about their concerns, needs and ambitions," he says. He considers human and cultural development the first priority over economic development. "Of course, developing the economic infrastructure is very important, but what is central is humankind and human dignity. Infrastructural projects should help people to improve their status. People should not be just instruments in such industrial projects. It is the cultural development which makes people feel content," he adds. "We need to consider cultural development as a complex operation, where economy plays an important role."
FIGEL believes education is the core of any sound developmental scheme. "Educated people can easily be empowered to improve their status and participate in local developmental projects," he says. During his visit, FIGEL signed a financing agreement that will pump in the sum of 120 million euros, scheduled for three years, to enhance the governmental education sector and support Egypt's reform plans in the educational field. FIGEL also gave a speech at the closing session of the Regional TEMPUS Conference on improving the quality of higher education. (Rania Khallaf, "Neglected no longer", Al-Ahram Weekly, Mai 29, 2008)
Complexe Mawlawiyy a
(c) Sherif Sonbol
Looking up at the awe inspiring Mawlawiyya complex with its distinguished Ottoman architecture, and one cannot help wondering if restoring such a magnificent monument will bring back the Whirling Dervishes and their spellbinding performances in mediaeval Cairo ? Perhaps it is not out of the question. The Mawlawî complex with its museum, the monumental presence of the Sunqur al-Sa'dî madrasa (religious school), the Hasan Sadaqa Mausoleum and the Yashbak Palace, is of great historical significance, not only because it witnessed the end of the Mawlawî Sect but also for its unique presence in Egypt as the only "Sama'khâna", where the Mawlawî Dervishes performed their spectacular, trance-like rituals. The museum is in a very popular area near the Citadel, between two narrow thoroughfares of Manah al-Waqf Street and al-Siyûfiyya Street. This is where a sect of the Mawlawî order lived in Cairo from 1607 until 1945, and was one of the last built during the period of the Mawlawî confraternity. Its interior space and design are intimately linked with the cosmological symbolism represented by the sama' (listening) dance. As in other rare examples from this later period, the area assigned to the sama' function is circular. The circle according to the cosmological doctrines of the Islamic philosophers is the expressive synthesis of the cosmos. Over time the sama' dance has also been defined as a mystic•symbolical interpretation of the movements of the cosmos, according to the speculative elaboration of Mustafa Ya'qûb Dede and Mehmed Celebi Al-Ismail Rusuhi. Who were these dervishes ? When and why did they come to Egypt, and how did they come to practise their ritual performances in al•Sama'khâna ? The Mawlawî confraternity was founded in the 13th century in Konya, Turkey, based on the philosophy and teaching of the Persian Sufi poet Galâl al-Dîn al-Rûmî, whose popular title Mawlâna, or « our master », gave the order its name. The Mawlawî gained a special vitality along with the Ottoman expansion, spreading all over the Islamic world, with many centres connected with the mother establishment in Konya. In 1925 the Mawlawî order moved to Aleppo in Syria, then to Damascus, and in 1929 the order came to Cairo and settled in the area at the foot of the Citadel. The word sama' denotes the Sufi practice of listening to music and chanting to draw closer to God. The Mawlawî dervishes combined sama' with dancing.
The Sama'khâna, which forms part of the Mawlawî complex, has been restored and reopened through the combined efforts of professor of architecture Guiseppe FANFONI and the Italian-Egyptian Centre for Professional Training in the Field of Restoration and Archaeology. The Prince Sunqur al-Sa'dî madrasa is another part of the complex. Al-Sa'dî lived during the reign of Sultan al-Nâsir Muhammad Ibn Qalâwûn, a period of particular wealth for Egypt, and is known to have built several monumental buildings. However he considered the construction of this madrasa outside Cairo's city walls as the most important architectural work of his life. The magnificence of his palace presents architectural aspects similar to those of the Bashtak Palace in mediaeval Cairo, and is considered to be one of the most impressive Mamluk buildings in Cairo, even if it is reduced to ruins today. Despite its huge walls, the palace is somewhat hidden by the buildings that surround it. Its great façade is revealed as one enters through the courtyard of the complex. It is understood that this palace was built in several stages. In 1476, Yashbak enlarged the palace, adding a large and majestic monumental entrance with muqarnas, beautiful sculpted decorations. After his death the property was passed to Aqbardi.
The Mawlawî architectural complex developed in the area between the remains of the Sunqur al-Sa'dî madrasa and the Yashbak Palace, with the builders using suitable pre•existing monuments and adapting them to a new function. The Mawlawîs, inspired by the plan and architecture of the motherhouse in Konya, built a new wing on al-Siyûfiyya Street giving a direct entrance from the street to the complex. The area of the sama' is circular and has a horizontal axis on which are aligned the mihrab, where the sheikh stood during the ceremony, the point of entry of the dervishes, and the mausoleum where the previous sheikh was buried. As they entered, the dervishes who had completed their religious apprenticeship occupied the right side, symbolising the inner world, while those who had not yet completed their apprenticeship occupied the left side, symbolising the outer world. After a musical introduction, the dervishes moved in an anticlockwise direction around the perimeter of the sama' area, and when passing before the sheikh they made a sign of reverence. Then, as if by some inspired impulse, they began to turn in two orbits with the palm of one hand turned upwards and the other turned downwards, indicating the axis which links the absolute unity to the reality of the analytical existence. Later they might sit, pray, and begin all over again. The ceremony always ended with a prayer and a procession. The Dervish dance also happens to be the origin of another folkloric dance, which is very common in Egypt, the tannûra dance. Although very similar to the Mawlawî dance, the tannûra does not share the same beliefs and religious rituals, as it is only considered an entertainment. Twisting and turning, the multi-coloured dress of the dervish creates the illusion of a human kaleidoscope. These dancers wear a more colourful outfit and are mostly seen during a mulid, a festival held in Islamic Cairo and in cultural events worldwide. The layout of the Sama'khâna was geometrically developed in such a way that when one traces concentrically a circle whose diameter is equal to the radius of the Sama'khâna, one visualises one of the two orbits made by the dervishes during the ritual performance.
(c) Sherif Sonbol
The museum inside the complex exhibits photographs of the Mawlawîs, as well as some documents. Some showcases set up in this area exhibit archaeological findings of the remains of the madrasa. There are also two other showcases in the great iwân (vaulted room opening onto a covered court), one of which exhibits Rûmî's book, the Mensnevi, donated to the Italian Centre by the Turkish Ministry of Culture during the ceremony held in the Sama'khâna on 18 January 1998 to celebrate the completion of its restoration. The other shows a Mawlawî dress donated by the Istanbul Sama' Group during a sama' that
took place on 30 June 1998. 'Alî Taha,
director of the fine arts restoration
department in the Centre of Professional
Training for Restoration (CPTR), told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Sama'khâna was the last centre to remain active after the edict that closed the tikkiya (the dance hall) and the dissolution of the Dervishes'Turkish confraternities by ATATURK in 1925. In 1945, the Mawlawî group in Cairo was dissolved and the whole complex was abandoned. The building was occupied by an NGO and used as a hospice and outpatients department, which led to its decay with various parts literally falling to pieces.
During the late 1970s Carla Maria BURRI, the then head of the Italian Cultural Centre, expressed an interest in restoring the impressive complex and gave some attention to the site. In 1979, FANFONI organised a Cantiere-Scuola (a training school) for the recovery of the Mawlawî architectural complex, which is still functioning. The CPTR was then founded to carry out training activities for technicians and craftsmen who in 1984 began the restoration of the Sama'khâna in collaboration with the La Sapienza University in Rome and various Egyptian universities. "The state of conservation of the complex was very poor," Taha said. He explained that it was suffering seriously from environmental danger including air pollution, a high subsoil water level, a high level of humidity, leakage from communal pipes in the street, rising damp in the walls of the mausoleum - up to a level of eight metres - while the interior stucco has a surface deformation of salt up to four centimetres thick. The interior wooden covering, including the mihrâb, was in an advanced state of rot. Horizontal and vertical cracks have decorated most of the complex's walls, the support brackets of the border beams have been completely flattened, the floor of the gallery was bending and the drum of the dome had elliptical deformation while some of its decorative items were missing.
To rescue the complex, FANFONI invented a solution through the reintegration of the walls, made whole with slabs of reinforced concrete incorporated into the thickness of the wall and placed in the gaps left by the rotten wood. Buttresses which had lost their foundation rested on it. After eliminating the salt encrustation, the walls were consolidated by injection of lime and filler with a composition similar to that of the original mortar. Against the rising damp a particular epoxy-resin was injected in holes passing through the whole thickness of walls just under the level of the Sama'khâna's ground floor. Leaked water was pumped out and all the wooden beams were cleaned and restored. To return the dome to its original round shape, FANFONI made three rings on the outside, each consisting of six steel parts connected together with suitable braces and resting on the wooden ribs by means of special sliding devices. After impregnating the wood of the dome in order to recover some of its elasticity, work was carried out on the six braces of each ring, gradually tightening the reins of the dome by 20cm. This had the effect of raising the apex of the dome by 12cm. The internal layers of the dome were firmly attached to the ribs by binding the wooden laths with bundles of wire mesh fixed in place with mortar similar to that of the original. The external texture of wooden laths was restored. The paintings were cleaned and restored to their original condition.
Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said all the restoration had been carried out according to the latest and most scientific methods. "Every effort was made to ensure that all original architectural features were retained," he said. The beautiful restoration of the Sama'khâna has kept its spirit intact. It is still peaceful and serene, even though a building that loses its residents loses part of its spiritual core. (Nevine El-Aref, "Dancing like a Mawlawî", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 24 2008).
Palais de l'émir
BashtâkThe Culture Ministry has chosen Bashtâk Palace as a museum for the personal belongings and books of the late Egyptian author Nagîb Mahfûz and a centre for cultural activities. Among the Nobel laureate's possessions that the museum will exhibit is the Nile Pendant, the highest medal bestowed by Egypt's president. Muhammad Salmâwî, head of the Egyptian and Arab Writers League, will provide the museum with texts in Mahfûz's handwriting as well as recordings
of Dreams of the Rehabilitation Period,
extracts of dreams he narrated after he
survived an assassination attempt in 1994.
Bashtâk Palace was chosen for its location at the heart of Gamâliyya district, in Bayn al-Qasrayn Street, close to Mahfûz's birthplace and site of many of the scenes and incidents in his novels. The neighbourhood was central to his Cairo Trilogy : Palace Walk (Bayn al-Qasrayn), Palace of Desire (Qasr al-Shawq) and Sugar Street (al-Sukkâriya). The places Mahfûz mentioned in his novels and short stories will be regarded as tourist sites.
The palace has a historical architectural significance. It was built in 1334 during the Mamluk era by Prince Sayf al-Dîn Bashtâk al-Nâsîrî, an emir and son-in-law of al-Nâsir Muhammad b. Qalâwûûn. After the sultan's death, Bashtâk was arrested in Alexandria and in 1341 he was executed. He was buried in the Singer al-Gawlî cemetery. The palace is renowned for the richness of its decorations and for the large number of rooms it contains. It has three floors and three facets. The first looks onto al-Mu'izz Street, the second is onto Darb Kurmuz, and the third looks onto Bayt al-Qâdî alley. Wooden stairs at the entrance of the palace lead to a wooden door adorned with engravings about the history of the palace. The entrance leads to a courtyard with stables on the left, warehouses for food storage and rooms for servants. A staircase to the right leads to the second floor where the bedrooms and celebration halls are situated covered with rich marble. The third floor of the palace, which is rather dilapidated, was used only by the women of the palace and was where they watched parties and festivities from behind the curtains.
After the earthquake of October 1992, the palace underwent several restoration processes at a cost of LE50 million. Muhammad al-Rashîd, the technical supervisor of the Cairo historical project, says the Bashtâk Palace was badly damaged by the tenants who rented the east wing of the palace, and because of the nearby shops which almost hid the palace façade. The restoration work included injecting the palace walls to reinforce them, and isolating parts against moisture and treating the parts that were already damaged. The ground floor was provided with proper aeration to guarantee that water vapour does not condense on the walls. (Mervat Ayad, "Museum for Mahfûz", Watanî, May 4, 2008. Voir également « Réaffectation du palais Bashtâk en musée pour l'écrivain Nagîb Mahfûz », Akhbâr al-Adab du 20 janvier).
'Izbat Khayr Allah
A labyrinth of narrow, bumpy roads is the path that leads to Dabbaghâna Muhammad 'Alî, an ancient fortress dating as far back as 320 AD hidden in the heart of 'Izbat Khayr Allah, an unplanned community in Old Cairo. A year and a half ago, charity organization Khayr wa Baraka became involved with the living conditions of the 650,000 residents of 'Izbat Khayr Allah, and quickly realized how much improvements needed to be made to the community. Earlier this week, plans for the restoration of the area came together in a meeting between the different parties involved. Members of Khayr wa Baraka met with Zâhî Hawwâs, head of the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA), Khalîl Shaat from the governorate office and the head of the Old Cairo district. They gathered at the historical landmark to discuss plans for its renovation and restoration. "We invited them all to coordinate between governorate, the municipality, the Supreme Council of Antiquities so that we are all working in parallel to reduce the time it will take [to renovate the area]," said Nivîn al-Ibrâshî, the head of Khayr wa Baraka, the organization spearheading the project.
The plans for renovation are multi-faceted, al-Ibrâshî said. The restoration of the historical landmark is being carried out by the SCA, which will also build a visitors center outside the fortress alongside a garden. This decision to renovate the area is, according to al-Ibrâshî, "all part of an overall plan to develop the area in cooperation with the governorate to install sewage lines, and electricity." The installation of water and sewage lines, which has already began, is being undertaken by the governorate, while the cleaning and "greening" of the area will be taken care of by the Ministry of Environment, al-Ibrâshî said. Nivîn Skandar, who has been a member of Khayr wa Baraka for four years, said, "It's very important to us. When we do all this ; electricity, water -
life - foreigners can come and visit." (Marie-Helene Rousseau, "'Izbat Khayr Allah gets a facelift", Daily News Egypt, June 19, 2008).
Qubbat Afandînâ
Muhammad Tawfîq Pasha (Le Caire 1852 -1892)
The untimely death of Khedive Tawfîq, ruler of Egypt from 1879 to 1892, took the nation, not to mention the rest of the world, somewhat by surprise. An article in The New York Times dated Jan. 7, 1892, reads : "The death of the Khedive was entirely unexpected. It was stated this evening that he was in no apparent danger from the attack of influenza when suddenly the complications set in and developed with startling rapidity." Once news broke of the Khedive's critical condition, concerned citizens gathered at the gates of the Hilwân palace in which he lay dying. He was pronounced dead at 7:17 am on Jan. 7, 1892. [] Tawfîq was criticized at the time for his reluctance to support the nationalists in their stand against the European powers. Others, though, have been more forgiving, suggesting that he was a patriot, working against impossible odds for the sake of his people. His funeral took place the day after his death. The body was taken to the Eastern Cemetery of the City of the Dead, which contains the remains of several past rulers of Egypt, among them the descendents of the great 19th century ruler Muhammad 'Alî. He was laid to rest beneath a cenotaph of ebony inlaid with mother of pearl and bronze, close by the white marble tomb of Bamba Qadin, wife of Tushun Pasha.
While the area was a green and peaceful spot, Tawfîq's grieving family resolved to erect a mausoleum in his memory, enclosing his tomb and those nearby. They instructed the architect of the Khedival Palace, FABRICIUS Bay, to design something suitably grand, and he obliged with a splendid monument in the Neo-Mamluk style. In 1894 the stone structure was erected, complete with elaborate stucco decorations and a graceful dome, the interior decorated with intricate paintings and gold leaf.
Despite its sturdy construction, the building suffered from damage of various sorts, both natural and man-made, in the following century. Like many other once great mausoleums in the cemetery, it was in danger of being ruined. Thankfully, due to the intervention of Tawfîq's great-grandson, Prince 'Abbâs Hilmî III, the mausoleum has now been saved. At the prince's suggestion, a team of experts and craftsmen began work on a project to conserve the site in 2004, the results of which were unveiled at a recent ceremony. In atteance at the event were the project's director, conservation architect Agnieszka DOBROWOLSKA, and the prince himself. "The worst problem was with water, both rainwater and rising damp," DOBROWOLSKA told Daily News Egypt. "So repairs to the roof, the much-weathered dome, were the priority for protecting the building." "For the rising damp, we created an aerated trench around the building to allow it to 'breath'and evaporate excess water. This also stopped direct penetration of gardening water," she said.
The most difficult task from a practical point of view, says DOBROWOLSKA, concerned the marble floor, which was "seriously bulging and powdering." The slabs had to be recorded and removed, after which the 'fill'beneath was dug up and replaced with a non•porous alternative laid on a waterproof membrane. "The marble was re-installed as original. Only a few pieces needed to be replaced. To remove it and put it back exactly as it was needed a lot of thinking, planning and day-to-day supervision," she said. Once the main structural concerns were taken care of, the team could focus on the details and decorations. The facade was cleaned mechanically with marble powder and hand tools, while the decorative motif areas were cleaned manually. "The interior decoration was conserved," said DOBROWOLSKA, "which mostly amounted to cleaning. But we also had some flaking paint that had to be re•attached. No repainting was done, and I want to stress that. The amazing colours are all original !" The final touch was provided with the addition of lights inside and out, enhancing the mausoleum's appearance after dark. The dome can now be seen from some distance, glowing orange into the night. And as befits a national treasure, the Mausoleum of Tawfîq is open to the public, and DOBROWOLSKA said she had several tourists visit her while she was working there. The Supreme Council of Antiquities is considering issuing tickets for visitors, she says.
Technical considerations aside, DOBROWOLSKA says that a major challenge for her as project leader was to bring the work to a conclusion within budget. "Generally, the funds available were very limited. To keep control of costs and provide high-quality performance caused me some grey hair, I'm afraid," she said. The issue of funding was the responsibility of Prince Hilmî, and indeed, without him there would have been no funds and no project to begin with. Born in Egypt, the prince spent much of his life in England and France, but returned to his homeland some 14 years ago. His interest in the site is understandably personal. Not only are several members of his immediate family buried there, but a space has been reserved inside for his own final resting place. "This is a very important place for me personally," he told Daily News Egypt. "Several members of my family are here, including my grandfather and my great-grandfather Tawfîq. He was a very pious man, a family man and a gentle person. He came along at a very difficult time in Egypt's history." "My argument has always been that this is the last remaining royal mausoleum in good condition. The others have been spoilt, and so we must save this one," he said.
As the prince points out, the dangers to the site were not only natural. Robbers had done their bit to damage his family's and the nation's heritage. "It fell into disrepair and was broken into by thieves," he said. "They damaged the mausoleum and stole various things. Luckily, the police were able to retrieve 90 percent of the stolen items." Among the items taken, DOBROWOLSKA says, were furniture and decorations, but more recently, other items have been removed from the site. "In my time, two Qurans disappeared. But I was told that they were taken by the antiquities authorities to the Museum of Writing. I believe they should return to the site. But I'm afraid I have not enough influence to do that," she said.
And despite the grand opening, work on the site is not yet complete. The mausoleum gardens will need landscaping, and a number of movable items inside require conservation work. The two kiswas (traditional coverings of the Ka'ba in Mecca) were meticulously conserved. But a suite of furniture used at the opening of the Suez Canal and transferred from the 'Âbidîn Palace will require work on their torn fabrics and much besides. More pressing though, is the condition of another nearby royal mausoleum, in which Munîra Hamdî is buried, and which is older than the Mausoleum of Tawfîq. At the end of Tuesday's event, attendees, including the Governor of Cairo and the Minister for Religious Endowments, took a lightening tour of the place. Inside, they saw a richly painted ceiling of red and gold falling away in lumps and a great crack running up one wall. "It is on the verge of collapse," says DOBROWOLSKA, "probably because the roof was replaced with a reinforced concrete slab sometime in the past. We are trying with Prince 'Abbâs Hilmî to raise funds for its conservation, otherwise it will inevitably be lost." (David Stanford, "A mausoleum fit for a king", Daily News Egypt, May 18, 2008. Voir également Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Un million de L.E. pour ressusciter le mausolée du khédive Tawfîq », al-Musawwar du 23 mai ; Doaa Elhami, « Le charme discret de la monarchie », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 28 mai ; Samar Ali Ezzat, "A Mameluke microcosm", The Egyptian Gazette, May 29).
Patrimoine architectural des XIX e et XX e siècles
The newly-created Cairo governorate council of trustees launched a campaign this week to remove all advertising banners and posters from façades of old buildings in downtown Cairo. The council is also embarking on a maintenance project to bring back the luster of architectural gems scattered throughout the area. The 'Âbidîn district already began removing adverts and banners plastered on buildings in Qasr al-Nîl Street. Al-Gharb district will start removing the signs next week after giving residents four days notice to remove the signs themselves. "The campaign aims at preserving the architectural style of Cairo's old buildings [marred by] the ugly signs and advertisements," said Khâlid Mustafa, spokesman of Cairo governorate. Law 2003 for the year 2007 limits the height of buildings, specifies the appearance of the exterior, and details the materials to be used in the construction process. Cairo Governor 'Abd al-'Azîm Wazîr said that the governorate cooperates with civilian organizations to preserve the distinct architectural style of these buildings by repairing and repainting them, unifying the frontage appearance of the shops, specifying the location of air conditioners and bringing glamorous balconies and terraces. Signs and advertising banners will be replaced with a unified board at the entrance of each building.
The campaign targets Tahrîr Square, Gumhûriyya Street, Ramses Square, Opera Square, 'Âbidîn Square as well as al-Azhar Street, Salâh Sâlim Road, the Citadel and Port Said Street. The law states that shops should be located on the ground floor of buildings, which should not exceed 18 meters in height. If a building will be demolished and rebuilt, the new structure should be the same size as the old one because the streets are already narrow and cannot accommodate any expansions. According to the governor, there will be an agreement with two urban planning companies to create underground parking lots instead of having cars lined on up both sides of the already narrow streets. The buildings downtown boast distinct architectural styles from different epochs, many modeled after European style buildings. The Terry Building, for example, resembles the Lafayette Building in Paris Many of these buildings are now inhabited by businesses - doctors, lawyers, travel agencies, and many others - who now have to look for new ways to advertise their services. "We complied with the campaign because it comes from the governorate and we can't reject it, » said 'Abd al-Hamîd, a porter in the Sednawy building, "we removed the signs and advertisements and are now guiding people to the offices."
A similar renovation project took place in Heliopolis in 2005 in preparation of the centenary of the town, built in 1905 by Belgian industrialist and financier Baron-General Edouard Louis Joseph EMPAIN. A council of trustees will be formed in Ma'âdî to implement a similar restoration project to save old houses from being replaced by high rises and building blocks. (Tamim Elyan, "Downtown Cairo buildings get a facelift", Daily News Egypt, June 26, 2008. Voir également Manâr Khâtir, « Le plan de développement du Caire khédival commence à Qasr al-Nîl », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 21 mai).
[ ] Le gouvernorat du Caire, qui a entamé, il y a quelques semaines, son projet de nettoyage des toits des bâtiments du centre-ville, vient de lancer cette semaine une deuxième phase de son programme de restauration de ces immeubles qui racontent l'histoire de la capitale. Cette phase sera entreprise en coopération avec le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA). À la fois grâce à leur emplacement au cœur de la capitale et à leur valeur architecturale, les immeubles en question dont 80 % se trouvent au centre-ville et à Garden City sont estimés à 20 milliards de L.E. En effet, plusieurs projets de restauration et d'embellissement de ces immeubles ont été entrepris sans succès notoire. La différence, cette fois-ci, c'est que le gouvernorat a eu recours au CSA dépendant du ministère de la Culture. « Comment a-t-on jusqu'ici confié ce patrimoine au gouvernorat du Caire ? Le gouvernorat n'a fait que peindre et repeindre les façades de ces immeubles d'une couleur pâle qui en cache la beauté. Heureusement, l'État s'est rendu compte de la relation entre ce patrimoine et le CSA », lance Suhayr Hawwâs, urbaniste. C'est en effet ce même constat qui a amené le gouverneur du Caire, 'Abd al-'Azîm Wazîr, à prendre cette initiative. « Il a fini par reconnaître que les anciens travaux d'embellissement n'ont fait qu'effacer tout ce qui caractérisait ces immeubles », révèle Muhammad Sultân, l'adjoint du gouverneur pour la zone Ouest. Le projet suivra donc un plan étudié et sera réalisé sous la surveillance d'architectes spécialisés. Le plan consiste à établir un recensement informatisé de tous les immeubles à valeur historique. « Ce fichier renfermera toutes les informations concernant l'immeuble, c'est-à-dire la date de construction, le nombre d'étages et son état actuel. C'est comme si chaque immeuble allait avoir une carte d'identité. Cela nous permettra de préciser le budget qui nous sera alloué par le CSA », explique Sultân. Ce recensement devra commencer début juillet et s'achever deux mois plus tard. Le gouvernorat se chargera d'assurer les ouvriers et les équipements nécessaires, alors que le CSA assurera les architectes et les matériaux de restauration. Selon les estimations préliminaires, « le coût de ce projet que se partageront le gouvernorat et le ministère de la Culture pourrait atteindre 500 millions de livres égyptiennes », affirme Sultân.
L'autre phase du projet consiste à effectuer des travaux de rénovation au niveau des façades de manière à ressortir les ornements caractéristiques dont elles sont dotées. En outre, toute publicité défigurant les façades de ces bâtiments sera enlevée. Les rez-de•chaussée contenant également des statues et des colonnes de marbre seront également aménagés et repeints. L'état de délabrement où se trouvent la plupart des immeubles du centre-ville a pour cause principale le gel des loyers depuis les années Nâsir. Les loyers mensuels se situent entre 5, 10 ou 15 livres. « Ces quelques dizaines de livres collectées tous les mois par les propriétaires ne leur permettent plus d'assumer les travaux de maintenance nécessaires », explique Sultân. « Dans les années 1960 et 70, les loyers étaient suffisants pour effectuer les travaux de maintenance. Aujourd'hui, ce n'est plus le cas, ce qui a aggravé l'état de ces immeubles », ajoute Sultân. Les propriétaires ont beau revendiquer une hausse de loyers, ou à défaut, une loi obligeant les habitants à participer aux travaux nécessaires, mais sans résultat. Les gouvernements successifs ayant toujours estimé qu'une telle législation touchant à des millions d'habitants mettrait en danger la sécurité publique. La question des loyers est donc restée « intouchable », comme un « acquis » de la Révolution de 1952, tout comme la gratuité de l'enseignement ou le travail dans la fonction publique pour les diplômés.
La détérioration de l'état de ces bâtiments a amené les couches aisées à déserter le centre-ville pour des quartiers plus chic comme Héliopolis, Madînat Nasr, Muhandisîn ou plus récemment les nouvelles villes en dehors du Caire. Ceux qui ne trouvent pas les moyens de déménager se plaignent des conditions dans lesquelles ils vivent. « Cela ne les gêne pas d'entasser les toits avec des tas d'ordures et d'y élever des canards et des poules », se plaint Samîr Ishâq, en faisant référence à ses voisins. Il habite le même immeuble depuis les années 1960. Mais si les responsables présentent le nouveau projet comme « la solution » à ce problème. Or, certains urbanistes relativisent l'optimisme. « Une fois ce projet terminé, la négligence reprendra », lâche l'urbaniste Mîlâd Hannâ. Selon lui, il ne s'agit pas de lancer un projet et de négliger le travail suivi. « Si tout le monde est d'accord à considérer ces immeubles comme un patrimoine architectural et une richesse historique, leur restauration devra être un processus continu », ajoute-t-il. (Marianne Youssef, « Promesses de lifting », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 18 juin 2008).
Pyramide de Djoser
Un certain nombre d'archéologues et de restaurateurs spécialisés ont critiqué le projet en cours de restauration de la pyramide de Djoser. Ils ont déclaré que les opérations de restauration et de retrait des déblais accumulés sur la façade et les mastabas de la pyramide ont provoqué la chute de quelques pierres et entraîneront une érosion des blocs dans le futur. Selon le chercheur Nuhâ 'Abd al-Hafîz, le retrait de chaque mètre cube de déblais coûte 15 000 livres égyptiennes. L'entreprise en charge de ce projet avait déjà mis en place le projet de restauration de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie, où elle avait commis de nombreux dégâts. En outre, 'Abd al-Hafîz a précisé que les travaux en cours dans la pyramide de Djoser sont menés sans l'aval du Comité permanent et que des infractions graves y sont commises. Au point que l'architecte responsable du site avait refusé en juin dernier de poursuivre le travail. Mais après une suspension temporaire, le projet a repris avec un autre architecte. 'Abd al-Hafîz a noté qu'un élément faisant partie de la structure même de la pyramide a été traité comme s'il s'agissait d'un rajout. L'entreprise a également remplacé quelques pierres par d'autres blocs qui n'ont rien à voir avec les pierres d'origine et qui apparaissent comme de « vilains » rajouts dans le corps de la pyramide.
(c) Aymé Lebon
De son côté, le président de l'Administration centrale des antiquités du Caire et de Gîza et superviseur général du projet, 'Âtif Abû al-Dahab, a nié l'existence de toute infraction dans le processus de restauration. Il a déclaré que le projet de restauration est le fruit de près de quatre années d'étude. « Aucune intervention dans la charpente de la pyramide n'a lieu avant de recourir au consultant responsable du site », souligne-t•il. Toutefois, Abû al-Dahab a reconnu la chute de quelques blocs de la pyramide, en les qualifiant de « toutes petites pierres ». Selon lui, les opérations de nettoyage n'impliquent pas forcément le retrait des déblais. Enfin, Abû al-Dahab a affirmé que les nouveaux blocs rajoutés à la pyramide proviennent
d'anciennes carrières. Autrement dit, ces
nouveaux blocs sont identiques à ceux
d'origine.
[ ] Rappelant que le CSA avait annoncé en mars dernier le lancement du premier projet global visant à restaurer la pyramide de Djoser et la tombe Sud. Ce projet intervient à la suite de la chute de nombreux blocs de pierre des six mastabas, de la fissuration des plafonds, de l'effondrement partiel des couloirs des reines situés sous le puits funéraire de la pyramide, en plus de la dégradation des peintures à l'intérieur de la chambre funéraire et la tombe Sud. Ce projet, dont le coût s'élève à environ 25 millions de L.E., se déroule en trois phases. Il consiste à nettoyer et à désensabler les six mastabas de la pyramide, à fixer les anciens blocs détachés de la pyramide, à substituer les pierres défectueuses par d'autres blocs de même nature, en plus de la consolidation générale des corridors effondrés et déstabilisés de la pyramide et du plafond du puits. (Usâma Fârûq, « La restauration provoque la chute de quelques pierres de la pyramide de Djoser », Akhbâr al-Adab du 6 janvier 2008. Voir également 'Isâm 'Atiyya, « L'Unesco approuve les opérations de restauration de la pyramide de Djoser », Âkhir Sâ'a du 30 avril).
Wâdî al -Hîtân
Wâdî al-Hîtân (Whales Valley), its invaluable fossil remains of the earliest and now extinct sub-order of whales, the Archaeoceti, scattered among wind-eroded pillars of rock surrounded by sand dunes, cliffs and remnants of low shale hills and a limestone plateau of petrified sea-shells and corals. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and nominated as the first natural heritage site in Egypt in July 2005, Wâdî al-Hîtân is one of the most important sites in the world for demonstrating one of the iconic changes that make up the record of life on Earth : the evolution of the whales. Remains at the site vividly portray their form and mode of life during their transition from being land animals to taking on a marine existence. It exceeds the value of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of the fossil remains found there, as well as their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The site also accords with key principles stated in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study on fossil World Heritage Sites, and represents features currently absent from the World Heritage List. Following its nomination, a three-year-long site management project was implemented in Wâdî al-Hîtân in an attempt to protect it from urban encroachment or human destruction. The project includes a well-equipped visitors centre with an audio-visual theatre, an open-air fossil museum, a cafeteria and toilets, as well as a parking zone outside the protected area and a small barn for camels used by visitors in touring the site.
At the invitation of the Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Mâgid Georges, Mrs Suzanne Mubârak attended the inauguration of the site on Sunday and was given a tour of the unique natural landscape. Later, she was presented with a Ministry of Environment whale-shaped award by George and a copy of the Wâdî al-Hîtân nomination certificate by Minister of Higher Éducation and Scientific Research Hânî Hilâl. Mrs Mubârak is well known as a champion of the environment and has lent her support to several projects that cultivate awareness of Egypt's natural heritage and the Cairo environment. George said that in order to protect the site, visitors are guided along a prescribed trail either on foot or by camel, while many activities have been prohibited on the site. These include the destruction of geological formations, discharging pollutants, hunting and littering. He pointed out that Wâdî al-Hîtân is patrolled daily to catch illegal visitors, and twice a week a team monitors the condition of the fossils, photographing them and when necessary repairing damage. Members of neighbouring Bedouin tribes are trained as guards and tourist guides, and local people participate in the area's management. Motorcycle patrols and camel supply transport exist. A field outpost has been set up in excavated caves to provide protection from the extreme conditions. An open-air museum, two camping sites, camel tours and a Bedouin-style ecolodge supplied by private eco-tourism companies can also be found at the site.
(c) UNESCO/Véronique Dauge.
Wâdî al-Hîtân is the only site in the world where the skeletons of families of archaic whales can be seen in their original geological and geographical setting of the shallow nutrient-rich bay of a sea that dates back some 40 million years. The fossils and sediments from different periods and levels reveal many millions of years of life and are valuable indications of the palaeo-ecological conditions of Eocene vertebrate and invertebrate life and the evolution of these ancestors of modern whales. Remarkably, two species still had small hind limbs, feet and toes. The quality, abundance, concentration and state of preservation of these fossils are unequalled. Fossil remains of sea grasses and mangroves with clearly exposed vertical pneumatophores are also found, along with fennec foxes, mammals, African jackals, red foxes, Egyptian mongooses, African wildcats and dorcas gazelles. Nineteen species of reptile and 36 breeding birds have been recorded, mostly attracted by the lakes.
The desert hoopoe lark probably also finds a home in Wâdî al-Hîtân. The site contains a diverse Eocene marine fauna, including 25 genera of more than 14 families and four classes of vertebrates. They are not among the oldest whale fossils, but they cover a vital evolutionary period of some four million years when these mammals evolved from land to sea-going animals. The fossils, which range from young to old individuals in a large concentration of specimens, are so well preserved that even some of the stomach contents are intact. (Nevine El-Aref, "A tourist site for archaic whales", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 14, 2008. Voir également Muhammad 'Abd al-Maqsûd, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure après demain les célébrations internationales pour l'enregistrement de Wâdî al-Hîtân sur la liste du patrimoine mondial », al-Akhbâr du 8 février ; Mohamed Ismail, "Egypt's Wâdî al-Hîtân named World Heritage Site", The Egyptian Gazette, February 9 ; "Environment Minister : Whales'nature reserve to become a unique open museum", Egypt State Information Service, February 9 ; Rafik Baracat, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure aujourd'hui la Vallée des Baleines au Fayyûm », Progrès Dimanche du 10 février ; « Enregistrement aujourd'hui de la réserve de Wâdî al-Hîtân sur la liste de l'Unesco », al-Ahrâr du 10 février ; Muhammad 'Abd al-Maqsûd, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure aujourd'hui les célébrations pour l'enregistrement de Wâdî al-Hîtân sur la liste du patrimoine mondiale", al-Akhbâr du 10 février ; "Wâdî al-Hîtân natural reserve opened", The Egyptian Gazette, February 11 ; Nesrine Choucri, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure la Vallée des Baleines au Fayyûm », Le Progrès Égyptien du 11 février ; « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure la région de Wâdî al-Hitân », al-Ahrâm du 11 février ; Muna Yâsîn, « Suzanne Mubârak déclare Wâdî al-Hîtân première réserve naturelle internationale en Égypte », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 février ; Mâgda Mahmûd, « L'Unesco approuve le classement de Wâdî al-Hîtân comme réserve naturelle mondiale », al-Musawwar du 15 février ; « Wâdî al-Hîtân classée réserve naturelle internationale », al•'Arabî du 17 février ; Lilian Nabîl, « Wâdî al-Hîtân : musée ouvert depuis 40 millions d'années », Watanî du 17 février ; Hanân Badawî, « Levée du rideau sur le plus important musée du patrimoine naturel au monde », al-Usbû' du 23 février).
Temple de Dandara
[ ] The Prime Minister Ahmad Nazîf was then driven north along the West Bank of the Nile,
in the direction of Qinâ, to visit Dandara
Temple, a massive pile of awe-inspiring
ancient Egyptian and Graeco- Roman
architecture. Nazîf and a score of ministers and top governmental official gathered for the ceremonial reinauguration of the temple following three years of restoration. Over the ages, Dandara Temple, one of the best preserved in Egypt, was isolated in the parched desert. The only tourists who paid a visit were making a stop on the journey between Cairo and Luxor. More recently, it has been a destination from the Red Sea resort of Hurghada or a stop on a Nile cruise itinerary. A few years ago the temple was closed to visitors, and its cafeteria and gift shops were almost derelict. Now the SCA's site management policy to rescue Egypt's archaeological sites and make them more tourist-friendly has brought new life to Dandara. The temple has been resurrected not only as an ancient temple but a comprehensive tourist complex providing visitors with various cultural and entertainment facilities.
Husnî told the Weekly that one of the main goals of the development project was to reduce the number of visitors roaming around the temple chambers and corridors, as well as the time they spent inside the temple, by constructing a visitors'centre in the empty space in front of the monument, which should be an obligatory stop on any enthusiastic visitor's itinerary. It has a lecture hall and a cinema where a 15-minute documentary film gives an overview of the history of the temple and its important scenes and reliefs. As at all visitor centres there is a small bookshop and a counter selling souvenirs. In order to control the movement of tourists and to protect the temple reliefs, plans have been set in motion for tour guides to lecture their groups outside the temple in front of a three-dimensional plan of the corridors, the chambers and the sanctuary, and to show photographs of the most noteworthy scenes on the temple walls. The old wooden kiosks which sold souvenirs have all been demolished and replaced with a dozen smart new bazaars within the centre complex.
SCA Secretary-General Zâhî Hawwâs says the new visitor's path created at the complex is an attempt to guide tourists round the site in an orderly direction. The path starts at the temple's original entrance gate and goes right through to the other side, which overlooks the Nile. In collaboration with the governor of Qinâ, Hawwâs added, the garden neighbouring the temple was added to the site management plan, and a restoration laboratory has been built along with extra facilities and services. An open-air museum displaying objects and blocks discovered on the site has also been set up within the area, and new lighting and security systems have been installed. (Nevine El-Aref, "New dawn for Luxor temples", Al-Ahram Weekly, March 27, 2008).
Oasis de Dâ khla
Nécropole al-Muzawwaqa
Restorers and archaeologists have been working on the Roman necropolis to clean, consolidate and restore the tombs, which are embraced within a rocky, tabletop mound. The 300 tombs are gouged out of the rock, all unpainted tombs except for two. These, the tombs of Petosiris and Sadosiris, are certainly the most interesting, with walls vividly-painted with scenes combining ancient Egyptian and Roman deities at one time. The tombs were discovered in 1972 by Egyptian archaeologist Ahmad Fakhrî, who because of the paintings called them al-Muzawwaqa. [] As the only ones in al-Muzawwaqa that attracted much interest, the tombs of Petosiris and Sadosiris had badly deteriorated. The paintings had been damaged by the humidity caused by visitors'breath, and cracks were showing on its walls so that some parts of the paintings had even become detached from the base rock. Both tombs were closed in 1992 and several attempts were made to restore and consolidate them. Early this month the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) began a comprehensive project to rescue the tombs.
" Restoring and consolidating such fine paintings was not an easy task," said Gamâl Mahgûb, head of the central department of restoration and maintenance at the SCA. He explained that before starting any cleaning and restoration work a comprehensive survey of the painting condition and the plaster level that held it had to be made. He continued that sand and dust accumulated on the paintings had been brushed off, the walls had been consolidated and all the paintings had been re-attached to the original rock. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, told Al-Ahram Weekly that a site management plan was being put in place to ensure the preservation of the tombs and facilitate the visitors'path inside and outside. This would be implemented by covering the roads leading to the tombs with small pieces of rubble to prevent direct pressure on the original rock, installing cool lighting and making a path for tourists. A one-room visitor centre is now under construction so visitors can preview the paintings in a 15•minute documentary in order to reduce the time they spend inside the tombs. (Nevine El-Aref, "The eternity of the desert", Al-Ahram Weekly, March 20, 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « Restauration des tombes d'al-Muzawwaqa 16 ans après leur fermeture », al-Badîl du 5 mars).
-
-
IV - EXPOSITIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUESLe Caire
Musée Égyptien : Dressing like Gods
L'ambassadeur du Mexique au Caire, S.E.M. Jaime NUALART, a annoncé l'organisation d'une série d'activités culturelles et artistiques en Égypte, à l'occasion du cinquantenaire des relations diplomatiques entre les deux États. Lors d'une conférence de presse tenue hier,
M. NUALART a annoncé l'inauguration après
demain au Musée égyptien du Caire d'une
exposition intitulée Dressed like Gods.
Zapotec & Mixtec funerary urns and vessels from Oaxaca, Mexico 1200 BC - 1500 AD. Cette exposition est placée sous les auspices du ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, et du président du Conseil national pour la culture et les arts du Mexique, Sergio VELA. 58 pièces archéologiques seront exposées pour la première fois. Cette exposition se veut l'écho de celle organisée actuellement dans la capitale mexicaine sous le titre Isis y la Serpiente Emplumada Egipto faraónico/México prehispánico. Enfin, M. NUALART a annoncé l'intensification des activités au cours de la prochaine période, dans le cadre du renforcement de la coopération entre les deux pays. (al-Ahrâm du 20 janvier 2008. Voir également Ihab Shaarawy, "50 years of Egyptian-Mexican relations", The Egyptian Gazette, January 20 ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Année culturelle mexicaine en Égypte », al-Badîl du 13 février).
[ ] Dressing like Gods - an exhibition of Mexican sculptures currently on display at the Egyptian Museum - is a case in point. Walking into the gallery and meeting the myriad figurines sheltered behind glass is like creeping through an endangered Oaxaca kingdom of mini-gods, each so deftly sculpted and preserved a salutary glance is not enough to satisfy the eye. Indeed, their characters are so remarkably expressed through the artist's hand that the innocent act of viewing becomes tainted with voyeurism. Under the same roof of mummies, stuffed crocodiles and ancient Levantine jewelry, it might seem strange that an entourage of Mexican regalia is being displayed in a museum that, up until Jan. 22, had been dedicated solely to indigenous artifacts. But this is no transpacific invasion, rather a cultural diplomatic exchange worthy of its lofty title.
While artifacts pertaining to the ancient Egyptian God Isis sit in the museum of Mexico City, a collection of urns, jewelry and other Mesoamerican artifacts are on show at the Egyptian Museum. "This is the first time artifacts of any other culture and origins have been exhibited in the Cairo Museum." Mexican Ambassador Jaime NUALART told Daily News Egypt. "But it wasn't an easy process ; it took three years to arrange this project." But while Mr. NUALART spent most of the evening in the spotlight of several cameras all eager to capture the words of the man who brought a slice of pre-Hispanic Mexico to Egypt, I was taking a perfunctory history lesson from Joel GALINDO, who had played a prominent part in organizing the exhibition.
The Oaxaca region located on Mexico's pacific coast was home to, among other peoples, the Mixtecs - c.1220 -1525 and the Zapotecs, whose culture is said to go back more than 2,500 years. The Zapotecs - whose ancient city was the famous Monte Alba - were absorbed into the Mixtec state and eventually into the Aztec state, a peoples whose bloodthirsty reputation earned them a place in every childhood history book - I knew them as "The Awful Aztecs" whose victims could expect a rather "piecemeal" fate. Joel, with all the dramatic gestation of an enthralling history professor, explained that sun worship was the root cause of the pre-Hispanic South American tendency towards these heart-wrenching episodes. "According to their calculations, the sun's cycle was 52 years. These peoples were terrified that the sun would go out after 52 years. They also thought that the energy of blood would stop the sun from going out. This is why sacrifice and the removal of living human hearts were so important." Judging by an array of captivating yet equally disturbing anthropomorphic depictions - exaggerated ruffled headdresses, huge looped earrings and round staring eyes with thick lids - there can be no doubt these Mesoamericans took their theological symbolism pretty seriously.
Standing for a wider shot, I admired the human endeavor behind these magnificent empyrean relics. With this striking pantheon of treasures, the Egyptian museum's cultural exchange debut will certainly not go amiss. For more information about the Dressing like Gods exhibition, check the culture agenda on this page. (Micahela Singer, "Dressing like Gods : A pantheon of pacific treasures", Daily News Egypt, January 24. Voir également Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « La civilisation mexicaine au Musée Égyptien », al-Musawwar du 25 janvier ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Les antiquités mexicaines accueillies pour la première fois dans le Musée de Tahrîr », al-Ahrâr du 26 janvier ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Exposition archéologique mexicaine et nouvelle découverte dans le Fayyûm », Sabâh al-Khayr du 29 janvier ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Les vêtements des divinités mexicaines exposés au Musée Égyptien », al-Akhbâr du 6 février ; Nevine El-Aref, "Dressing like gods", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 7).
Musée Égyptien : Corroboree
Detail from the statue of Meri and Bebyt, Limestone, Saqqâra, Teti Cemetery, Dynasty 6 (Effy Alexakis)
Over the past year the Egyptian Museum in Tahrîr Square has hosted several archaeological exhibitions commemorating the anniversaries of excavation work carried out by foreign archaeological institutes and missions all over Egypt and highlighting their contribution to preserving the national archaeological heritage. Among these were the German, Polish, French and American institutes in Egypt. The most recent exhibition was inaugurated early last week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Australian Institute in Egypt. Entitled Corroboree, a name that refers to a traditional Aboriginal Australian gathering for the lively exchange of friendship and information, the exhibition contains 31 key objects carefully selected from Australian excavations at Saqqâra, Hilwân, Luxor and Dâkhla Oasis. Among the most significant objects put on display for the first time, is a collection of glass bottles, jugs and jewellery unearthed during excavations at the Asmant al-Kharâb site in Dâkhla Oasis. Asmant al-Kharâb is the site of ancient Kellis, a Roman village comprising the well•preserved remains of residential, religious and administrative buildings that were occupied from the late Ptolemaic period to the fourth century AD. The earliest structure found so far is the main temple of god Tutu, which was converted into a small church in the early fourth century. The early residential areas were to the north and northeast of the village, a fact indicating that the village was developed in a ribbon pattern rather than clustered around the temple. Other excavations at the site revealed that members of the pagan elite were mummified and buried in mud-brick mausoleums to the north and south of the village, while the less wealthy were buried in rock-cut tombs in the nearby plateau to the northwest. By the late third century, however, burial practices seem to have changed as a large cemetery containing 4,000 pit graves was found at the northeastern part of the village.
Head shaped bottle of a youth & two handled flagon with flutedbody, Pale green glass, Dâkhla, Ismant al-Kharâb, Roman Period (photo courtesy of the Australian mission)
According to Egyptologist Gillian BOWEN, the painted gladiator jug on show at the exhibition is one of the most spectacular pieces of the Late Roman period glassware ever found in Egypt. It is decorated in enamel technique with two scenes of combatant gladiators, one being encouraged to fight harder by a figure clad in a toga and wielding a stick. The gladiators can be identified as a retiarius (net thrower) and contra-retiarius by the equipment they use and their garments. "These are shown in such detail that there can be no doubt that the painter of the vessel had either seen gladiatorial combat or was
producing such items from pattern books as mementos for those who attended the games," BOWEN suggested. She asserted that, to date, there is only evidence for the performance of such combats in Alexandria, where a gladiatorial training school is known to have existed. "Therefore, we can assume that the jug was manufactured in the capital. But the circumstances surrounding its arrival at Kellis, 1,000km distant, can only be the subject of speculation," she said.
A bottle shaped like a child's head is another distinguished piece of glassware. Mould-made in two sections and joined together, the body of the bottle features a child's face with short curly hair, possibly a representation of either the Greek deity Dionysus, the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, or Eros the god of love and sexual desire. Three golden rings inlaid with precious stones are also on display. The first is a double ring inset with clear blue glass, the second with carnelian stone engraved with a detailed representation of a female head, and the third with a green stone engraved with a male head. Wine clay jars, bone labels, limestone seals and stelae from the Hilwân necropolis are also exhibited. Hilwân was the main necropolis of Egypt's capital, Memphis, and reflects the social classification of Egyptian society at the time when the Egyptian state was in the process of formation. The site was previously excavated during the 1940s and 1950s by Egyptologist Zakî Sa'd, who uncovered more than 10,000 tombs. In 1997, an Australian mission headed by Christiana KÖHLER re•excavated the previously discovered tombs and stumbled upon almost 6,000 objects and more than 150 new graves dating from between the First and Fourth dynasties. KÖHLER said that this re-excavation project aimed at excavating the tombs according to modern technology and scientific standards in an attempt to answer specific archaeological queries, such as the spatial distribution of tombs in the cemetery, the precise context, quantity and quality of grant goods, their exact chronology and typological development. "This will contribute to the better understanding of the burial customs and social structure of this period as well as identifying the economy and bio-archaeology of Memphis early inhabitants, their human remains, subsistence, health, pathology, diet and nutrition," KÖHLER said.
A cylinder grey steatite seal from Abydos engraved with the word serekh, the name of the god Horus used prior to the First Dynasty, is a significant object from Hilwân as it suggests that the inhabitants of proto-dynastic Memphis had administrative relations with the early rulers of Abydos. Such seals were used to keep the mud placed over knots of string or vessel necks in order to prevent any tampering of the contents. A bone commodity label from Hilwân is another interesting artefact on display, as it bears unusual inscription to the effect that it was once attached to a container filled with Setji oil that may have been inventoried under an official, whose name is also listed, during the year when the Maat bark festival was celebrated. "It is more usual to find royal names on commodity lists and not officials as is found on this label," KÖHLER said.
Several objects from the burial site of King Teti at Saqqâra are exhibited, and include a series of inscribed door wooden panels, gold and carnelian tassels, gold and lapis lazuli pendants and limestone stelae. The limestone statue of the king's acquaintance Meri and his wife Bebyt is of great interest, as Meri represented his wife of equal size to himself without observing the usual height difference between males and females. It is noticeable that as the Sixth Dynasty progressed, wives were more often shown on a smaller scale. A well-preserved and beautifully-decorated anthropoid wooden coffin of an unidentified male, with the mummy still inside, is another object of art from Teti's cemetery and was found in the vicinity of two other coffins. It is decorated and inscribed with funerary formulae in white paint on a dark background, while the mummy is heavily wrapped and then covered with a beaded overlay showing the facial features of the deceased wearing a collar, a winged scarab, the sky goddess and the four sons of Horus. The overlay was wrapped with bands to keep it in place. Egyptologist Nagîb Qanawâtî said it was interesting that, in another of the three coffins, the artist unusually tried to imitate the beaded work with his paintbrush. "The three coffins may belong to members of the same family," he suggested.
Qanawâtî described the exhibition as a celebration underlining the Australian involvement in the uncovering and study of one of the greatest civilisations of humankind, that of ancient Egypt. "In a relatively short period, Australian archaeologists have made a significant contribution to Egyptological researches through excavation, documentation and restoration work," he said. According to the exhibition's brochure, this anniversary not only allows a pause to reflect on the work carried out and achieved by Australian missions in the field of Egyptology and to highlight their collaboration with their Egyptian counterparts, but it also pays homage to those Australians who prior to the 1980s paved the ground for Australian archaeological missions. One of these was Sir Charles NICHOLSON, founder and later chancellor of the University of Sydney, who travelled through Egypt in 1856 and 1867 collecting ancient Egyptian artefacts, which he later donated to the University's Nicholson Museum. This collection formed the basis of the first public display of ancient Egyptian antiquities in Australia. The Australian ambassador to Egypt, Robert BOWKER, described the exhibition as an important cultural event highlighting the multi•dimensional nature of the bilateral relations between Egypt and Australia. "A relationship that is not only based on strong trade ties, especially in agricultural products, but on long-standing friendships and mutual understanding as well." (Nevine El-Aref, "Together in the spirit of ancient Egypt", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 21, 2008. Voir également Manal Abdul Aziz, "Exhibit
showcases 25 years of Australian
archaeology", The Egyptian Gazette,
February 6).
Musée Égyptien : Discovering Ancient
Egypt
The Czech Institute of Egyptology has been celebrating half a century of collaboration with their Egyptian counterparts in Egypt. Last week Nevine El-Aref joined dozens of Czech and Egyptian archaeologists and officials attending the function held to mark the institute's 50th anniversary in the Egyptian Museum garden, where the strains of classical music played by the Egyptian Philharmonic Orchestra filled the air. Among the guests gathered beside the white marble mausoleum of the French Director of Antiquities Auguste MARIETTE were the minister of culture, Fârûq Husnî, and the Czech president, Vààclav KLAUS, who inaugurated a special exhibition displaying 114 artefacts unearthed at the various archaeological sites excavated by Czech missions. KLAUS told the assembled guests he was happy to be able to take time in his busy schedule during his three-day official visit to Egypt to attend the event, which he described as "significant". The Czech president said the two nations shared a long•lasting friendship on all levels, whether political, economic, foreign relations or culture. "I am really very proud of all the
achievements attained by Czech archaeologists on the cultural level, as they helped their Egyptian colleagues to protect and preserve their archaeological heritage," KLAUS said. "They were able to unearth magnificent objects and restore enormous monuments."
For his part, Husnî described the ceremony as an event that embodied the "strong and real friendly relations" between Egypt and the Czech Republic. He mentioned in particular the "important field of the human history". "The collaboration had uncovered interesting scientific theories and great historical monuments," Husnî said. "All the research and results achieved by the Czech team would never have happened if the Czechs had not enjoyed the sustained support, generosity and unselfish help of Egyptian archaeologists who are our partners and friends," Czech institute director Miroslav VERNER said. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly that the celebration was only a brief pause in a continuous stream of learning about the Egyptian past and, consequently, also about the history of mankind and the search for our fundamental nature. Hawwâs said that over its 50 years of existence, the Czech Institute of Egyptology had demonstrated and continues to demonstrate through its current activities that it was exceptional in the sphere of the humanitarian sciences in at least two respects.
First and foremost, this uniqueness undoubtedly lies in the fact that its scientific and research activities are based on extremely difficult and, in this country, probably unique conditions of research in the field where the tempo and character of work can be gruelling. The second defining aspect lies in the significant position of Czech Egyptology in the global scientific context. In the past, Hawwâs said, the institute managed to survive under the difficult conditions of a society without freedom, and since 1989 it has been faced with the realities of a democratic state where obtaining financial support for science and research is a never ending battle. "The creation of the institute, approximately five decades ago, represented an important milestone in the development of Czech Egyptology, which attained a respected position both at home and internationally," VERNER said. He explained that they participated in the Nubian archaeological rescue mission and achieved excellent results during this campaign. They explored the Roman town of Tafa, a group of houses and two temples located about 45km to the south of Aswân on the west bank of the Nile. They also carried out a survey on the kiosk of Kertasi ; the Qitna necropolis, which contains more than 500 graves ; and Kalâbsha South.
The Czech institute won a highly respected professional position in Egypt. This respect was reflected in the offer to the institute to continue its work in Egypt after the completion of the Nubian salvage operation. The Egyptian government offered the Czechs the Abû Sîr necropolis, where they subsequently unearthed a number of important archaeological discoveries such as the intact tomb of Iufaa, overseer of palaces during the Fifth Dynasty. Restoration and documentation work was also completed. Today Abû Sîr is considered one of the most important Egyptian archaeological sites in Egypt and abroad. The Czechs also focussed their excavation work on the area surrounding Bahariyya Oasis, looking especially at the Black Desert and the undisturbed site of al-Hayz, 40km south of Bahariyya's capital, Bâwîtî. They conducted a thorough archaeological survey of al-Hayz using the modern method of geo-informatics. Following three short surveys, several monuments were identifies. These date back to various historical periods, but the most striking elements are from the prehistoric and the late Roman and early Christian periods.
In room 44 of the Egyptian Museum is the statue of the Fifth-Dynasty Pharaoh Raneferef, which welcomes visitors who flock to catch a glimpse of the beautiful artefacts in the "Discovering ancient Egypt" exhibition. Wafâ'al-Siddîq, director of the Egyptian Museum, told the Weekly that preparations for the event began in March. All the curators were assigned the task of exploring the basement and all the museum galleries to select items to be placed on display. The aim was to highlight Czech archaeological activity in Egypt over the past five decades, as well as the mutual cooperation with Egyptian archaeologists. "This cooperation means that it is one of the pillars of cultural exchange between the two countries," al-Siddîq said, adding that this was demonstrated not only through the exhibition, but also through an archaeological conference at the SCA premises in Zamâlik to introduce in detail the excavations and restoration carried out by Czech missions in Egypt. Al-Siddîq described the event as a celebration of the long and distinguished history of Czech activity in Egypt. She considers the exhibition an expression of appreciation of the countless Czech scientists and researchers who have worked closely with their Egyptian counterparts within the framework of the cooperation between the SCA and the Czech Institute of Egyptology.
This work covers a time span of more than 5,000 years, and some of the artefacts presented are true masterpieces of art. The objects discovered by missions during their long years of activity come from sites that extend from Abû Sîr and the Western Desert. "The exhibition is also a tribute to individuals whose contributions to the field have been truly invaluable to Egypt and Czech alike," al-Siddîq said. "After all, ancient Egypt's legacy is a gift not merely to modern Egypt, but to the entire world." She said the close cooperation and trust of all the institutions participating in bringing the exhibition to a successful opening had been truly exemplary. Among the objects on display are a fragment of a tablet of Egyptian blue depicting deities from the mortuary temple of Raneferef ; marble and wooden cult objects used in the ceremony of the opening of the mouth ; a collection of copper vessels and a washing set ; as well as a wooden statuette of a kneeling foreign prisoner ; a fragment of a royal decree ; and models of goose-shaped offerings plates. (Nevine El-Aref, "Discovering ancient Egypt", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 17, 2008. 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Le président tchèque inaugure une exposition au Musée Égyptien », al-Akhbâr du 2 avril ; Ashraf Mufîd, « Le président tchèque inaugure l'exposition Discovering Ancient Egypt », al-Ahrâm du 2 avril ; Saad Mahmoud, "Czech leader eyes close ties with Cairo", The Egyptian Gazette, April 2 ; « Le président tchèque inaugure l'exposition Discovering Ancient Egypt au Musée Égyptien », al-Akhbâr du 8 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Les découvertes archéologiques tchèques s'exposent au Musée Égyptien », al-Ahrâr du 9 avril).
[ ] L'exposition du Musée du Caire représente les résultats des trois grandes missions, dirigées par Miroslav VERNER, professeur d'égyptologie à la faculté de Lettres de l'Université de Charles à Prague, et qui opèrent dans trois emplacements différents de divers styles et époques, mais faisant toutes parties de la région d'Abû Sîr : la première traite le complexe funéraire royal des Ve et VIe dynasties, la deuxième s'occupe des tombes des hauts fonctionnaires de la même période et la troisième traite des puits funéraires dont l'histoire remonte à la Basse Époque, soit les XXVe et XXVIe dynasties ainsi que la XXVIIe, celle des souverains perses. Mais apparemment, la Ve dynastie occupe la place la plus importante pour les Tchèques, puisque plus de la moitié des pièces exposées au Musée du Caire proviennent de cette époque. « Nous avons sélectionné les plus intéressantes et les plus belles trouvailles dérivées d'Abû Sîr », commente Hana BENESOVSKA, organisatrice de l'exposition. Une statue en calcaire représentant le roi Rénéféref, de la Ve dynastie, est le chef-d'œuvre de l'exposition. Trouvée en état de fragments, cette statue a été reconstituée par les restaurateurs tchèques, un travail qui reflète l'habileté des membres de la mission opérant sur le site. Une telle restauration a restitué la splendeur de la statue royale aux traits naturels et a mis en relief la finesse des sculpteurs de la Ve dynastie « qui ont transmis avec compétence leurs connaissances anatomiques malgré la fragilité de la matière de sculpture », reprend l'organisatrice. Toutes ces caractéristiques distinguent cette statue des trois autres qui représentent le même roi au sein de l'exposition.
La salle 44 au rez-de-chaussée du musée égyptien renferme aussi 9 statues en bois, figurant des captifs dont les traits varient entre Asiatiques, Libyens et Nubiens. Ces statues représentent les prisonniers à genoux et les mains attachées aux côtés. « Elles faisaient partie du mobilier royal, symbolisant la lutte du roi contre le mal et le démon », explique BENESOVSKA. D'ailleurs, elles reflètent encore la domination du souverain égyptien sur les peuples des pays voisins. Il y a également des papyrus qui retracent l'organisation administrative et économique des travaux du complexe funéraire de cette période. Ceux-ci montrent les différentes offrandes. Selon le professeur Jaromir KREJCI, membre de la mission, ces archives semblent être les plus anciens documents administratifs rédigés sur papyrus découverts jusqu'à présent. À cette époque reculée, « tous les documents étaient plutôt gravés sur pierre, d'où vient l'originalité de ces archives exposées », reprend-t-il. Autres pièces inédites que renferme l'exposition tchèque : « Une plaque sur laquelle sont représentés des flacons renfermant les sept huiles sacrées protectrices des défunts dans l'au-delà », explique le professeur. Faites en albâtre, elles proviennent de la tombe d'Ini, fils du vizir Qar qui a été nommé juge au cours de la VIe dynastie. De ces flacons émanaient des odeurs qui apaisaient les divinités dévoreuses dans l'au-delà. Ceci dit, lorsqu'elles se rendaient compte que le défunt était coupable, elles dévoraient son cœur avant d'écouter sa défense. Quant à la Basse Époque, elle est représentée à l'exposition par les statuettes d'ouchebti en faïence bleue. Elles étaient découvertes dans le puits funéraire intact du prêtre Iufaa.
Les missions archéologiques tchèques ont commencé leurs travaux pendant les années 1950 du XXe siècle. À cette époque, le département d'égyptologie a été fondé par Frantisek LEXA au sein de la faculté de lettres de l'Université de Charles à Prague. Plus tard, celui-ci a fondé l'Institut tchèque d'égyptologie dont le bureau du Caire fut installé par ses successeurs Jaroslv CEMY et Zbynek ZABA. Ainsi, l'Institut tchèque d'égyptologie a pu participer officiellement à la campagne de sauvetage des monuments de la Nubie dirigée par l'Unesco à l'époque. Celui-ci a mené avec compétence les études géologiques, archéologiques, anthropologiques et ethnologiques de la Nubie. Le gouvernement égyptien a beaucoup apprécié cette documentation scientifique détaillée. Ensuite, l'Institut tchèque a orienté ses missions archéologiques vers la région d'Abû Sîr, dans les environs de Saqqâra. Plus tard, les Tchèques ont étendu leurs activités pour couvrir encore le village d'al-Hayz qui se situe au nord de l'oasis de Bahariyya. Cet emplacement comprend des monuments des périodes préhistorique et gréco-romaine.
En effet, l'Institut tchèque d'égyptologie a préféré célébrer ses cinquante ans de collaboration avec l'Égypte en organisant des expositions à plusieurs reprises dans différents endroits. Chacune de ces expositions aborde un thème principal à travers lequel sont expliquées les activités tchèques. Ainsi a été organisée la première exposition au Musée de la Nubie, traitant en fait les travaux documentaires des égyptologues tchèques, lors de la campagne de Nubie. « C'est logique d'installer une telle exposition sur le lieu du chantier », commente Hana BENESOVSKA. La deuxième présentation met en relief les travaux de fouilles, de restaurations et de préservation d'Abû Sîr. Cette exposition occupe actuellement la salle 44 au rez-de-chaussée du Musée Égyptien, puisque c'est le plus proche musée du site concerné. Quant à la troisième, celle-ci se tiendra plutôt au Musée de l'oasis de Bahariyya, la région qui renferme les sites archéologiques traités par les missions tchèques. (Doaa Elhami, « Une moisson d'or », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 23 avril).
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé l'organisation d'une exposition archéologique intitulée Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs dans huit villes européennes et américaines entre le 9 mars 2008 et le 31 décembre 2012. Cette exposition itinérante rapportera à l'Égypte 34 millions de dollars. Elle fait suite à la demande des Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI) aux États-Unis, du National Geographic Society (NGS) à Washington et de l'AEG de Los Angeles, qui souhaitent exposer 149 pièces appartenant au Musée Égyptien du Caire, parmi lesquelles figurent les 57 pièces ayant participé récemment à l'exposition Pharaon, homme, roi, dieu tenue au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Le pharaon doré se balade dans 8 villes européennes et américaines », al-Akhbâr du 6 mars 2008. Voir également "Tutankhamen to tour eight European, American cities", Egypt State Information Service, February 14).
" More than one million people have visited the Tutankhamun exhibition currently held in the British Museum in London," Head of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs 'Abd al•Ra'ûf al-Rîdî said Saturday 24/5/2008 in statements following his return from London where he attended a symposium organized by the British museum and the Supreme Council for Antiquities. Al-Rîdî further said that the exhibition has become a regular tourist attraction in London, adding that everyone is so excited about it. ("Tutankhamun exhibition in London attracts one million visitors", Egypt State Information Service, May 25, 2008. Voir également "1m people visit King Tut exhibit", The Egyptian Gazette, May 26).
Autriche
Museum für Völkerkunde :
Tutanchamun und die Welt der
PharaonenArtefacts of Tutankhamun's collection on display in Vienna. Photos courtesy of Sandro Vanini.
Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs
opened two weeks ago in Vienna, once again igniting the controversy about ancient Egypt's most famous Pharaoh, Tutankhamun. The exhibition has been drawing huge crowds to the Völkerkunde Museum to see what the organisers have billed as a unique exhibition of Egypt's treasures. Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs has sold 50,000 advance tickets since they were made available in December 2007, creating "more interest than any other exhibition we ever organised", Wilfried SEIPEL, the head of Vienna's Fine Arts Museum and one of the organisers, said. At least half a million visitors are expected to view the statues, funerary objects and gold jewellery on show from 15 March to 28 September. The exhibition displays 140 objects from Cairo's Egyptian Museum, many of which, the museum director Wafâ'al-Siddîq says, have never previously left the country. A travelling sister exhibition which has been touring Europe and the United States since 2004, organised by National Geographic, has drawn four million visitors to date. Adding to the hype is a show in Zurich opening on Saturday which recreates King Tut's tomb to its original scale. The show in Vienna takes a slightly different angle, with a broader overview of Egypt's more than 5,000 years of history, SEIPEL says.
Despite a ticket price of 18 euros per person ($27), steep by Viennese standards, organisers expect a packed house with visitors from all over Europe queuing to see King Tutankhamun's golden sandals and a canopic jar studded with precious stones that contained the stomach of Egypt's ruler. Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs, is the only European stop for the exhibition during its tour, which is jointly organised by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM). "Tutankhamun's magic still captures the hearts of people all over the world, even though more than 75 years have passed since the discovery of his amazing tomb," said Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA. Now, he said, the Golden King was visiting Vienna for the first time, and he was bringing with him all the great Pharaohs of Egypt. The exhibition will raise much-needed funds for the preservation of Egypt's monuments, and the construction and renovation of museums throughout the country. "I always say that Egyptian antiquities are the heritage of the world and that we are only their guardians," Hawwâs said, pointing out that Vienna, a city with its own remarkable cultural heritage, is a perfect place to begin this tour. "I know that all of Vienna will shine with the gold of Tutankhamun," he said.
Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs
features striking objects from some of the most important rulers in the period of ancient Egyptian history from the Fourth Dynasty to the beginning of the Late Period (about 2600•660 BC). "This exhibition will thrill anyone who has ever been fascinated with the ancient arts and culture of Egypt," SEIPEL said. "It is also a unique opportunity to enjoy a close up experience of the treasure trove from Tutankhamun's legendary tomb. The objects present an entirely new and unique insight into the world of this ancient Egyptian ruler." Looking at a variety of contexts, including temples and royal and private tombs, the exhibition focuses on the splendour of the Egyptian Pharaohs, their function in the earthly and divine worlds, and what kingship meant to the Egyptian people. More than 70 treasures from Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb and a similar number representing other Pharaohs and notables are on show, along with the latest scientific research about Tutankhamun.
" Egypt's ancient treasures are among the world's greatest cultural legacies," National Geographic Society Executive Vice-President Terry GARCIA said. "Even with the great wealth of research that already exists, new technologies continue to open up the past in ways never imagined. Visitors to this exhibit will not only see stunning artefacts spanning 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, but they will also learn more about the life and death of Tutankhamun through the recent CT scans conducted on his mummy." The exhibition is organised thematically, with the first six galleries presenting the life of the Pharaoh and his position in ancient Egypt. The objects on display represent some of the most powerful rulers of Egypt, such as the owner of the second pyramid of Gîza, Khafre ; the queen who became a Pharaoh, Hatshepsut ; and Psusennes I, whose magnificent golden death mask is on display. The first two galleries, "The Great Pharaohs", are dedicated to the major Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The next three, "Pharaoh's Family and Private Life", "Pharaoh's Court" and "Pharaoh's Religion", contain artefacts illustrating the royal family, life at court, and traditional and revolutionary ideology. The sixth gallery, "Pharaoh's Gold", shows where the gold came from, what it meant and how it was used.
Artefacts of Tutankhamun's collection on display in Vienna. Photos courtesy of Sandro Vanini.
Step by step, visitors come closer to the treasures of Tutankhamun and the world of the mysterious Pharaoh. Each of the four galleries devoted to the boy king corresponds to the four rooms of his nearly intact tomb, where the treasures were discovered by British explorer Howard CARTER in 1922. Legendary artefacts from the antechamber, the annex, the treasury and the burial chamber include Tutankhamun's golden sandals, jewellery, furniture, weaponry and statuary. The exhibition includes the largest image of King Tut ever found - a three•metre statue that originally may have stood at Tutankhamun's mortuary temple, and that still retains much of its original paint. There is also the canopic coffinette inlaid with gold and precious stones, one of the four that contained his mummified internal organs. The final gallery features CT scans of Tutankhamun's mummified body that were obtained as part of a landmark Egyptian research and conservation project, partially funded by National Geographic, to scan and investigate the ancient mummies of Egypt. The scans were captured through the use of a portable CT scanner donated by Siemens Medical Solutions, which allowed researchers to compile the first three-dimensional picture of Tutankhamun and discover more about his life and death. "Through this exhibition, adults and children will gain insight into the world of ancient Egypt, the lives of the pharaohs and what they meant to Egyptian society," said John NORMAN, president of Arts and Exhibitions International. "The boy king has been warmly welcomed in Vienna, and we look forward to sharing the wonders of Tutankhamun with all who visit."
Although the Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs exhibition is a proven success only two weeks after its opening in Vienna, as is its sister exhibition, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, now on display in London, the ongoing controversy surrounding the SCA's policy of sending archaeological treasures to travel abroad has been once again captured the headlines of the Egyptian press. Since the early 1970s, when the Tutankhamun exhibition set out on its first trip around Europe, the controversy has surfaced among Egyptologists and intellectuals on the one hand and the Ministry of Culture and the SCA on the other. The first group swings between supporters and detractors who consider that sending treasured Egyptian artefacts abroad is a deliberate threat to the country's unique archaeological collection, since they might easily be lost or damaged. Hawwâs's response is that such accusations are groundless, since all the objects sent abroad are shipped according to an international protocol signed between the SCA and the second party who will host the exhibition. According to this protocol, all the exhibitions consist of selected artefacts that are distinguished but not unique. The best security and safety measures are employed to safeguard the objects. Over the past five years, Hawwâs told Al-Ahram Weekly, the SCA has earned almost $350 million from 23 exhibitions sent abroad. This falls within the framework of the policy developed by the SCA to sending archaeological exhibitions abroad and at the same time give Egypt added worldwide publicity.
Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî stated that the money earned from these exhibitions went towards the restoration and preservation of Egypt's monuments as well as building new museums to protect its heritage. He added that the income had also provided a great opportunity to show the many faces of Egypt
- past, present and future. Hawwâs pointed out that Egypt was not alone in profiting from the travelling exhibitions ; so were the host countries and museums. Egypt will receive about $35 million for the Tutankhamun tour of the United Sates and England, which will share in the huge budget allocated to construct the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Pyramids of Gîza. He pointed out that the Tutankhamun exhibition had also visited Basel in Switzerland and Bonn in Germany, where it earned $6 million, before embarking on its two-year tour of four American states, from each of which it earned $9 million. "This money is not even a drop of water in the bucket of cash needed to build this museum," Hawwâs said. "It is costing billions of dollars."
'Imâd Maqlid, head of the financial department of the SCA, told the Weekly that so far 48 monuments in Cairo alone had been restored and reopened to the public. The total cost for these was LE170 million. Another 31 monuments were under restoration for an estimated LE68 million. Maqlid said that up to now the number of restored monuments in historic Cairo and al•Mu'izz Street had topped 94, with a budget of LE800 million. Ashraf al-'Ashmâwî, the SCA's legal consultant, said that according to its new policy, the SCA provided the travelling collection with the maximum safety, security and insurance. Money would also be made by selling official replicas in foreign museums during the period of exhibitions, he said. The new protocol fills the loopholes in the previous agreement so as to provide the maximum safety for objects. "For the first time it includes details concerning the wrapping of items according to international standards, while the transportation must be conducted through a large and well-known organisation known for its long experience in the field," al-'Ashmâwî told the Weekly. He added that, according to the new agreement, the exhibitors must provide the SCA with a weekly report about the number of tickets sold and the number of visitors in order to keep the SCA informed on exhibition revenues, which will be divided between the SCA and the exhibitors.
Prior to any object being packaged for shipment, exhibitors must submit to the SCA, at the exhibition venue, a primary insurance policy and reinsurance policies naming the SCA as the insured and covering the insured value of the objects with an amount determined by the SCA. The insurance policy will be to an amount sufficient to cover loss, partial or total damage, confiscation, theft or seizure of all or any part of the object due to force majeur, war, terrorism, any emergency or public disturbance, or accident, negligence, or sudden circumstances including, but not limited to, earthquakes and tornadoes. The primary insurance policy must be issued by an Egyptian insurance carrier approved by the SCA and reinsured by reinsurance companies of worldwide reputation. Such insurance policies will be valid and effectual for the period commencing with the packing of the objects for shipment to the location of the exhibition venue, until their return to Egypt, including final unpacking, checking and authentication of each object by the SCA upon their return. "In short, this is wall-to-wall insurance coverage," al-'Ashmâwî said. The insurance protects the SCA against any and all claims for bodily or physical injury of any associate connected in any way with the exhibition of the objects, of the type, nature and in the amounts as agreed in writing between the parties.
" Sending exhibitions abroad has been the SCA's policy for years. I did not invent it," Hawwâs told the Weekly. He said such exhibitions promoted Egypt's cultural face at a time when cultural tension between the Muslim-Arab world and the West was running high. Cultural diplomacy provides a free promotional campaign, attracting tourists as well as generating money for conservation. "The first exhibition, 'Quest for Immortality', was organised in 2002 during the tenure of my predecessor," Hawwâs continued. "Egypt made a $1 million from every state where the exhibition was held." (Nevine El-Aref, "Banking on King Tut", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 3, 2008. Voir également Mustafa 'Abdallah, « Inauguration aujourd'hui de l'exposition sur Toutankhamon à Vienne », al-Ahrâm du 9 mars ; "King Tut visits Austria", The Egyptian Gazette, March 9 ; "50.000 visitors for Tutankhamen Exhibition in Vienna", Egypt State Information Service, March 12 ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « L'exposition de Toutankhamon augmente le tourisme autrichien vers l'Égypte », al-Akhbâr du 13 mars ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Une exposition en Autriche pour promouvoir le tourisme et les antiquités égyptiennes », al-Ahrâr du 15 mars ; Ingi Amr, « Les trésors de Toutankhamon illuminent la capitale autrichienne, Vienne », Le Progrès Égyptien du 20 mars ; « Toutankhamon joue les prolongations en Autriche », al-Badîl du 22 mars ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Les nuits égyptiennes à Vienne », Akhbâr al-Adab du 30 mars).
Espagne
Matadero de Legazpi Madrid : Tesoros Sumergidos de Egipto
Les responsables du CSA ont annoncé le transfert de l'exposition des antiquités submergées vers la ville de Madrid au milieu du mois d'avril 2008. Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a déclaré que cette exposition rapportera à l'Égypte 900 mille euros. La tournée européenne de cette même exposition (Berlin, Paris et Bonn) a rapporté 4 millions d'euros jusqu'à présent. Outre la propagande médiatique et politique, ces bénéfices financeront les études de faisabilité pour la création du premier musée sous-marin en Alexandrie. Cette exposition regroupe 489 pièces antiques repêchées devant les côtes alexandrines par la mission de l'Institut européen d'archéologie sous-marine (IEASM) dirigée par Franck GODDIO. Les pièces exposées proviennent de plusieurs musées : 372 pièces entreposées dans les magasins de l'administration générale des antiquités submergées, 30 pièces appartiennent aux collections du musée archéologique de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina et 39 pièces appartiennent au Musée national d'Alexandrie. Le contrat d'assurance de ces pièces s'élève à près de 42 millions de dollars. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'exposition des antiquités égyptiennes en Espagne rapporte 900 mille euros », al-Ahrâr du 9 mars 2008. Voir également Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « L'exposition des antiquités submergées arrive en Espagne », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 2 avril ; « Madrid accueille la grande exposition Les trésors engloutis d'Égypte », Le Progrès Égyptien du 15 avril ; Amal al-Gayyâr, « Madrid réserve un accueil chaleureux aux pharaons dans l'exposition sur les antiquités submergées », al-Ahrâm du 15 avril ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Le roi d'Espagne inaugure l'exposition des trésors engloutis d'Égypte dans sa 4e station », al-Badîl du 16 avril).
" The ancient Egyptian Nile God Hapi extended its generosity and prosperity over Spain when it stepped into its capital." The heavy rain falling in Madrid after a long period of dry weather made such headlines in Spanish newspapers and television bulletins two days after King Juan Carlos and his wife, Queen Sofia, inaugurated the "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" exhibition at the Antiguo Matadero de Legazpi, Madrid's former municipal slaughterhouse now transformed into a cultural centre dedicated to contemporary creation. The transformation was part of Madrid City Council's strategic plan to build new, and improve current, cultural centres in partnership with private bodies, all seeking to convert a city centre plot of 1,500 square metres into an ambitious cultural centre housing the facilities of an expansive contemporary project. The Conde Duque Centre, La memoria and the Palacio de Comunicaciones, La Ciudad, are also key parts of the plan. The centre, with its 20th•century architecture, is located at the junction where the southeastern continuation of the Prado-Recoletos axis meets the future great Manzanares Avenue. It has helped stretch Madrid's centre outwards towards the river Manzanares, giving an artistic identity to south Madrid as well as the Arganzuela and Usera neighbourhoods. It is hoped that this unique and beautiful setting will become one of Madrid's cultural symbols, complete with new facilities and cultural activities for residents and a new icon to help promote the Madrid brand abroad.
Egypt's ambassador to Spain, Yâsir Murâd, said that over the summer Matadero Madrid would be the setting of the Spanish stop of the "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" touring exhibition, which displays 489 remarkable artefacts excavated from beneath the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The exhibition has already seen spectacular success in Germany and France with more than 1.5 million visitors. "From 16 April to 28 September, the Spanish people can take a virtual dive to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and explore the lost treasures of ancient Egypt," Murâd said, adding that the Matador centre was the most suitable place in Madrid to host such an exhibition since the height of its galleries meant they could house the three towering, red granite colossi of a Ptolemaic king and queen and the Nile deity, Hapi, each of which is five metres tall. "The aura of the Mediterranean Sea is everywhere apparent," Murâd told Al-Ahram Weekly. The ancient towns which lie submerged under the sea are resurrected in the Matadero. With waves echoing on the audio system and the sparkling black floor reflecting the seabed, audio-visual technology and visual effects are used to invoke the ambiance from which the antiquities were retrieved and the stages of the underwater excavation. "Visitors are taken on an imaginary voyage through time and space back to the Ptolemaic, Byzantine, Coptic and early Islamic eras, when those cities were the main commercial centres of Egypt," Murâd pointed out.
Visitors to the exhibition will discover that it not only shows an era of Egyptian history before 600 to 800 AD, when geomorphic changes caused the submergence Egypt's north coast and the loss of coastal towns and monuments. The walls are covered with decorative scenes and electronic screens featuring different stages of underwater exploration - interspersed with colourful, haphazard geometrical drawings and graffiti left by the former slaughterhouse workers such as "I am fed up", "I love Joseh", and names enclosed in hearts and circles. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were very impressed with the display. The queen, who has a special interest in history and archaeology, stopped for a long time before the black stone queen with inlaid eyes, the diorite statue of Isis, the granodiorite statue of a Roman priest bearing in his veiled hands an Osiris canopic jar, and the Naos of the Decades, a black granite shrine covered with figures and hieroglyphic texts relating to the ancient astronomical calendar. There, archaeologist Frank GODDIO, who was responsible for much of the underwater recovery, explained to the royal couple the story of the Naos. "The most spectacular find at [the drowned city of] Canopus was the missing main piece of the Naos of the Decades, the top of which has long been on display in the Louvre Museum. With the various pieces assembled, it can now be seen in almost complete form, » GODDIO said. Queen Sofia, like all women, was fascinated with the gold allure of the jewellery on display. She took a long time looking at the various showcases displaying gold earrings, rings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces, but the object that most captured her attention was a small pendant of a very fine gold cross ornamented with semi precious stones. During the royal tour King Carlos and Queen Sofia had their photographs taken with the Egyptian delegation led by legal consultant Mustafa 'Abd al-Mun'im. Queen Sopia also had a friendly chat with the delegates, saying that she had always loved Egypt and had spent part of her youth in Alexandria where she attended school when her parents were in exile in Egypt. "I consider myself half Egyptian," she said.
Pots and pans, knives, forks, bottles and plates are exhibited alongside navigational instruments, cannons, swords and guns from Napoleon's fleet, sunk by NELSON during the naval Battle of Abû Qîr in 1798. These objects are the result of almost two decades of underwater excavation beneath the Mediterranean. GODDIO and his team of French and Egyptian underwater archaeologists, with the support of the Hilti Foundation, explored the shallows off Alexandria's Eastern Harbour and Abû Qîr, retracing the last centuries of ancient Egypt during the Late Period and under the Ptolemies, through the Roman and Christian periods, the advent of Islam, and even the sunken French fleet. It was a dream, GODDIO told the Weekly, that began in 1992 when he first found proof that the remains of the ancient cities of Canopus and Herakleion, two Mediterranean cities contemporaneous with early Alexandria, lay under the waves at Abû Qîr still waiting to be explored. These remarkable finds point to the importance of three cities which, in antiquity, were among the most renowned centres for business, science, culture and religion. Here influences from Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome mingled with the age-old culture of the Pharaohs, from which emerged a new way of life that left an enduring mark on the religious and cultural landscape of Egypt. The touring exhibition marks the first occasion in which artefacts from the legendary lost cities of Herakleion and Canopus and from the submerged part of the port of Alexandria have been seen outside Egypt. The two cities disappeared when they were submerged by an earthquake or other natural disaster which caused the seabed to subside.
Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî told the Weekly that the 489 objects had been carefully selected from several Alexandrian sites. Thirty are on loan from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Museum, 39 from the Alexandrian National Museum, and 372 have been drawn from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) storehouse of the General Underwater Monuments Department. The exhibition has been insured for a total of $41,692,000, and the SCA is expected to receive 900,000 euros from the show, which will bring the whole revenue from the tour to four million euros, some of which will go towards financing the feasibility studies necessary to establish an underwater museum. Husnî described the exhibition as good promotion for Egypt and its history, which in its turn will be reflected in the number of tourists to Egypt. "It is really a priceless revenue to Egypt," Husnî concluded. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, said the exhibition was a good opportunity for all Europeans to admire an important time in Egyptian history. Among the objects on display is a customs stela from another sunken city, Herakleion, with inscriptions in hieroglyphics and Greek, a black granite sphinx representing Ptolemy XII, father of the famous Cleopatra VII, and head of the god Serapis. Detailed topographic maps showing the original location of Canopus and Herakleion are also on show, as well as others featuring the remains of palaces and temples still dormant on the seabed. Hawwâs said that in addition to the four million euros in revenue from the touring exhibition, the French government would offer the SCA the architectural design for the underwater museum planned for Alexandria. The exhibition's fifth stop will be Turin in Italy and then will make long journeys to Japan and America where it will tour several states.
Wafâ'al-Siddîq, director of the Egyptian Museum and secretary-general of the exhibition committee, said the exhibition had attracted the attention of the whole world. Since it began its tour of Europe, more tourists had come to Egypt and visited Alexandria to see face to face the city which for centuries had housed these objects off its coast. Two years before the exhibition started its tour comprehensive restoration work was carried out on the objects. Mansûr Burayk, head of the SCA's Luxor antiquities department, told the Weekly that the transportation of objects was carried out according to international security measures in order to insure a safe land trip from Bonn in Germany to Madrid. "This forced the truck drivers to keep their speed at no more than 80 km/h," he said. Murâd told the Weekly that the inauguration of the exhibition stood as testimony to the depth of Egypt's cultural, political ties and relations of friendship with Spain. He said the friendship and cooperation agreement signed last January between the two countries was the utmost bilateral collaboration between Spain and non-European countries. "Egypt is the third country to sign such an agreement with Spain after Morocco and Tunisia," Murâd said.
Muhammad 'Abd al-Bâsit, press attaché at the Egyptian Embassy, said that news about ancient Egypt always caught the headlines of newspapers and TV bulletins. Before the underwater exhibition the press more than once highlighted Hawwâs's statements about sending experts to Barcelona Museum to check the authenticity of its statue of Nefret, and his suggestion that it be removed and exhibited in the Debod temple in Madrid. The temple was offered by the Egyptian government to Spain in the 1960s in gratitude for Spain's efforts to help in the Nubia monuments salvage operation before the construction of the High Dam. Photographs of the exhibition decorated the corridors of Madrid's metro and bus stations. They also spread all over the shopping centres. Newspapers have also dedicated two and sometimes four pages to reviewing the exhibition and displaying photographs of its artefacts. (Nevine El-Aref, "Egypt's sunken treasure moors in Madrid", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 24. Voir également AFP, "'Egypt's Sunken Treasures' show comes to Madrid", Daily News Egypt, April 14 ; Amal al-Gayyâr, « Nos antiquités submergées éblouissent les Espagnols », al-Ahrâm du 17 avril).
L'exposition des antiquités submergées quittera Madrid pour s'installer à Rome où elle sera inaugurée vers la mi-septembre 2008. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Les antiquités submergées exposées pour la première fois en Italie », al-Ahrâr du 21 juin).
Expo Zaragoza 2008
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has approved the display of 12 Egyptian artifacts at the Expo Zaragoza 2008 due in Spain June 14 for three months. Minister of Industry and Trade Rashîd Muhammad Rashîd and the Egyptian Embassy in Madrid have asked the SCA to approve the display of the 12 antiques in the exhibition which will be inaugurated by the Spanish King and Queen. Expo Zaragoza is an International Exposition organized by the B.I.E., the French abbreviation for the International Expositions Bureau (Bureau International des Expositions). The Exposition has 140 pavilions. The Expo Zaragoza 2008 site will host 4,529 different shows in 13 different venues during the 93 days of the event. Added to this figure are more than 1,000 performances that comprise the participating countries'cultural programs. ("12 Egyptian artifacts on display at Expo Zaragoza 2008", Egypt State Information Service, April 24, 2008. Voir également « Les pièces du Musée Égyptien dans une exposition en Espagne », al-Ahrâm du 24 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Le roi d'Espagne inaugure une exposition archéologique égyptienne », al-Akhbâr du 24 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Les antiquités égyptiennes : invitées d'honneur dans une exposition espagnole », al-Ahrâr du 24 avril ; « Participation égyptienne à l'Expo Zaragoza en Espagne », al-Qâhira du 29 avril).
L'Expo Zaragoza 2008 a choisi pour thème « L'eau et le développement durable » : Alors que les Émirats arabes unis participent à l'Expo Zaragoza 2008 à travers huit documentaires illustrant les efforts déployés pour alimenter ses citoyens en eau potable et développer ses ressources hydrauliques, le gouvernement égyptien, lui, a préféré présenter une exposition archéologique sur l'aménagement des cours d'eau et des canaux, les nilomètres et autres procédés utilisés pour mesurer la crue du Nil à l'époque pharaonique ! [] Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a souligné que les pièces antiques sélectionnées traduisent l'intérêt accordé par les anciens Égyptiens au fleuve, à sa préservation et à son exploitation dans le processus de développement à travers l'installation de barrages, de canaux, ainsi que le caractère sacré du Nil dans la civilisation égyptienne. Une source du ministère du Commerce extérieur a affirmé que le gouvernement présentera un seul film documentaire sur les réalisations mises en place depuis la Révolution de juillet 1952, notamment le Haut barrage d'Aswân, le lac Nâsir et Tushka. Enfin, soulignons que près de 8 millions de visiteurs sont attendus à l'Expo Zaragoza 2008. (Muhammad Mandûr, « L'Égypte participe à l'Expo Zaragoza par une exposition archéologique », al-Badîl du
1er
mai. Voir également "Spain to showcase pharaohs antiquities", Egypt State Information Service, June 5).
É tat s-Unis
Atlanta Civic Center : Tutankhamun :
The Golden King and the Great
PharaohsAn exhibition featuring more than 130 treasures from the Egyptian tomb of King Tutankhamun and other ancient sites will begin a US tour with an opening November Atlanta. The Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University announced Wednesday it will open the exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center from November through May 22, 2009. The exhibit highlights more than 50 treasures from Tut's tomb and more than 70 artifacts representing other pharaohs and notables. "America has welcomed the golden king, and now he returns, bringing with him all the great pharaohs of Egypt," said Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, which will receive proceeds from the exhibit. "This exhibition will raise much-needed funds for the preservation of Egypt's monuments and the construction and renovation of museums throughout the country".
The exhibition, also to include the latest scientific research about King Tut, will contain artifacts from the 4th Dynasty into the Late Period (about 2600 BC to 660 BC). They come from sources including temples and royal tombs. Many have never before been seen in the US. Four galleries devoted to King Tut will correspond to the four rooms of his nearly intact tomb where the treasures were discovered by British explorer Howard CARTER in 1922. Legendary artifacts from the antechamber, the annex, the treasury and the burial chamber will include Tutankhamun's golden sandals, jewelry, furniture, weaponry and statuary, exhibit officials said. The exhibition also will include the largest image of King Tut ever found - a three-meter statue that originally may have stood at Tutankhamun's mortuary temple and retains much of its original paint. One of the four gold and precious-stone-inlaid coffinettes that contained his mummified internal organs also will be exhibited. The final gallery will feature CT scans of Tutankhamun that allowed researchers to compile the first three-dimensional picture of the pharaoh.
Tutankhamun : The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs is the second National Geographic exhibition dedicated to the treasures of King Tutankhamun and ancient Egyptian royalty. The first exhibition,
Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, was visited by nearly 4 million people during a four-city US tour from 2005 to 2007. ("Exhibit of Tutankhamun's treasures opens in Atlanta", Daily News Egypt, April 3, 2008).
France
Institut du Monde Arabe : Bonaparte et l'Égypte. Ombres et lumières
La Bataille des Pyramides par François Watteau.
[ ] L'un des plus importants projets que l'actuel président de l'Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), Dominique BAUDIS, a mis en route lors de sa présidence est cette énorme exposition intitulée Bonaparte et l'Égypte. BAUDIS avait demandé d'ajouter un sous-titre Ombres et lumières pour présenter les deux aspects obscur et lumineux de l'expédition de Napoléon BONAPARTE en Égypte. BAUDIS a voulu que cette exposition, qui ouvrira ses portes en octobre 2008, soit caractérisée par l'objectivité. Il a déclaré : « Bien que nous reconnaissions le côté positif de l'expédition de BONAPARTE, il n'en demeure pas moins que nous ne devions pas oublier qu'elle ne comportait pas uniquement des savants, mais également des militaires. L'impact de ces derniers sur l'Égypte était tout à fait différent de ceux qui ont publié la Description de l'Égypte ». (Mohamed Salmawy, « Dominique BAUDIS : Le bilan de l'expédition BONAPARTE est contrasté », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 26 février 2008).
Dominique BAUDIS poursuit : [] Nous aurons trois expositions qui ont été préparées avec l'Égypte : l'exposition Umm Kulthûm, puisque les objets les plus importants viendront du musée Umm Kulthûm du Caire. Une deuxième exposition des œuvres de peinture de Fârûq Husnî, et la troisième est BONAPARTE en Égypte. C'est la première fois qu'une exposition soit préparée conjointement et à part égale par des Égyptiens et des Français. Nous travaillons sur cette grande exposition depuis plus d'un an. J'en avais parlé avec le président CHIRAC et avec le président Mubârak. Nous insistons dans cet événement à avoir le regard égyptien et le regard français, pas simplement le regard des Français. Le comité scientifique qui organise l'exposition est partagé, la moitié du comité est française, et l'autre moitié égyptienne comme l'universitaire Nelly Hanna, le président de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ismâ'îl Sirâg al-Dîn, le rédacteur en chef d'Al-Ahram Hebdo, Muhammad Salmâwî, de même que des écrivains, des professeurs d'université, des historiens et des scientifiques égyptiens et français. C'est un événement important dans l'histoire des deux pays, l'Expédition de BONAPARTE. C'est un événement qui a ses ombres et ses lumières. Il y a eu des massacres, des incendies, des Égyptiens ont été tués. C'est une agression de la France contre l'Égypte, c'est certain. C'est aussi certain que cette rencontre des Égyptiens et des Français s'est faite dans la guerre et la violence et elle s'est faite aussi dans la reconnaissance mutuelle et le début d'une relation passionnelle très forte entre l'Égypte et la France. L'expédition est à la fois une agression militaire, mais aussi le début d'une grande aventure intellectuelle. (Dina Kabil, « L'Expédition de BONAPARTE a ses ombres et ses lumières », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 30 avril).
[ ] Fârûq Husnî a annoncé que des préparatifs sont en cours pour la tenue d'une exposition sur Napoléon BONAPARTE en Égypte, qui vise à présenter les bons comme les mauvais côtés. Le ministre a bien insisté sur la nécessité d'exposer les mauvais côtés avant les bons côtés. (al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 janvier).
Grimaldi Forum Monaco : Reines d'Égypte
Queen Ankhnes-meryre II & Son Pepy II (Dynasty VI) Credit : Brooklyn Museum
Mme
Suzanne Mubârak et le prince ALBERT II inaugureront à Monte-Carlo le 11 juillet prochain une exposition archéologique égyptienne intitulée Reines d'Égypte. L'ambassadeur d'Égypte à Paris, Nâsir Kâmil, a annoncé que la Principauté de Monaco organise cette exposition en collaboration avec le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités, afin d'illustrer la diversité culturelle et touristique en Égypte et promouvoir le tourisme. D'autres musées internationaux comme le Louvre ou le Metropolitan Museum of Art participent également à cette exposition, qui s'étend sur près de 4 000 m2 dans le cadre du Grimaldi Forum Monaco. (Ahmad Yûsuf, « Suzanne Mubârak inaugure à Monte-Carlo l'exposition Reines d'Égypte », al-Ahrâm du 13 mai 2008. Voir également "Mrs. Mubârak to open Egypt's queen exhibition in France", Egypt State Information Service, May 13).
Japon
Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art
Une exposition archéologique égyptienne sera inaugurée le 10 avril dans le Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art. C'est la neuvième station de cette exposition itinérante au Japon. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a annoncé le transfert de l'exposition égyptienne du Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, situé dans la ville japonaise de Sapporo où elle s'était tenue durant deux mois. La dixième et dernière station aura lieu du 25 juillet au 3 août 2008 prochain dans le musée de Toshima situé à Tokyo. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Transfert de l'exposition archéologique égyptienne vers la neuvième ville au Japon », al-Akhbâr du 30 mars 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Fârûq Husnî : l'exposition archéologique tenue au Japon a rapporté un million de livres égyptiennes à l'Égypte », al-Ahrâr du 30 mars).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a révélé que l'exposition archéologique égyptienne actuellement en tournée dans plusieurs villes japonaises rapportera à l'Égypte 1 million de livres égyptiennes. Cette exposition, qui regroupe 317 pièces remontant à différentes époques historiques, sera inaugurée le 17 février dans le Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, situé dans la ville japonaise de Sapporo. Après le musée de Miyazaki, Hokkaido constitue la huitième station de cette exposition, qui a débuté il y a deux ans. Outre les gains financiers, Hawwâs a souligné que le Japon offrira au Musée Égyptien du Caire des équipements de radiologie, en plus de quatre bourses de stage au Japon destinées au personnel du CSA. Le montant d'assurance versé par le gouvernement japonais s'élève à 25 millions de dollars. Cette exposition intervient après plus de 15 années d'absence et présente les découvertes archéologiques de la Waseda University, qui fouille en Égypte depuis plus de 40 ans. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'exposition archéologique égyptienne au Japon rapporte 1 million de
L.E. », al-Ahrâr du 12 février).
Dans le cadre de la coopération entre le CSA et la Waseda University, le Premier ministre, Dr Ahmad Nazîf, a approuvé la tenue au Japon d'une exposition archéologique égyptienne intitulée La vie éternelle entre 20 juin 2008 et 30 mai 2009. Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a déclaré que le directeur de l'Institute of Egyptology de la Waseda University, Dr Sakuji YOSHIMURA, avait demandé l'organisation dans six villes japonaises de cette exposition. Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a précisé qu'il s'agit de 76 pièces antiques provenant du Musée Égyptien, ainsi que 3 sarcophages découverts par la mission de la Waseda University sur le site de Dahshûr. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Les pharaons parcourent 6 villes japonaises durant un an », al-Akhbâr du 14 mai 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « 6 villes japonaises accueillent les sarcophages de Dahshûr », al-Ahrâr du 15 mai ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Les antiquités submergées exposées au Japon et aux USA », al-Badîl du 28 mai).
Mexique
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia : Isis y la Serpiente Emplumada Egipto faraónico/México prehispánico
The ancient civilisations of Egypt and prehistoric Mexico number among the world's earliest cultures, appearing in a similar way to those in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley of modern Pakistan, the Yellow River Valley in China and on the island of Crete in the Aegean Sea. All these civilisations had certain features in common. They built cities, palaces, and temples ; worshipped several deities, made pottery, used metals, domesticated crops and animals and formed complex social structures. All of them invented a form of writing and numeration. As for the ancient Egyptians and the Mexicans, who never met and lived centuries and thousands of miles apart, both worshipped feathered-serpent deities, built pyramids and developed a 365-day calendar. To show the similarity between these two ancient nations, two temporary exhibitions are currently on show in Egypt and Mexico. The dual exhibition is a first for both nations and comes as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of Egyptian-Mexican diplomatic relations. The coordinator of the ancient Egyptian exhibition at the National Museum of Mexico, Gina ULLOA, says Egypt and Mexico have huge cultural parallels in religion, astronomy, architecture and arts, and these deserve to be appreciated together. The earliest civilisation in Mexico to leave an established style of art were the Olmecs, whose sculptures echo Egypt's finest. Olmec artists carved large man-jaguar warriors not unlike Egyptian Sphinxes ; the seated statue of an Egyptian scribe shows stonework and attention to detail that parallels a seated stone sculpture of an Olmec lord. Shared traits also run to architecture, with Egyptians building pyramids as royal mausoleums for kings and queens while the Mayans and Aztecs followed suit with pyramids as places of sacrifice to the gods.
[ ] Meanwhile in Mexico City, treasures from ancient Egypt are now on display at the city's National Museum in a museum entitled Isis and the Feathered Serpent. The exhibition features 144 pieces carefully selected from the Luxor, Nubia, Karnak and Dandara museums. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), says Egypt will earn $1.6 billion as a fee for the exhibition at $800,000 for each city, and if the number of visitors exceeds 800,000 it will gain 25 per cent of the revenue of the exhibition. The first stop of this exhibition was opened in October in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, and this month it will move to Mexico City where it will stay until June.
The exhibition includes sculptures of Ramses II, of deities, painted sarcophagi, jewellery, bracelets, necklaces, and porticos from Nile temples. "From 3000 BC onward, Egyptians often portrayed their gods, including the goddess Isis, in art and sculpture as serpents with wings or feathers. The feathered serpent and the serpent alongside a deity signifies the duality of human existence, at once in touch with water and earth, the serpent, and the heavens, the feathers of a bird," ULLOA says. Egyptian sculptures at the exhibition, which were flown to Mexico from temples along the Nile and from museums in Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria show how Isis's son Horus was often represented with winged arms and accompanied by serpents. Cleopatra, the last Egyptian queen before the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, saw herself as Isis and wore a gold serpent in her headpiece. Mexicans are expected to flock to visit the exhibition as soon as it opens to the public, and the number of visitors could number several million during the five months it is on. (Nevine El-Aref, "Dressing like gods", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 7, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Hawwâs : L'exposition égyptienne au Mexique rapporte 1,6 millions de dollars à l'Égypte », al-Ahrâr du 12 janvier ; "Egyptian artifact exhibition in Mexico in March", Egypt State Information Service, January 12 ; « Fârûq Husnî inaugure aujourd'hui l'exposition égyptienne au Mexique », Le Progrès Égyptien du 28 février ; Reuters, « Le Mexique accueille une exposition archéologique de l'Égypte et d'Amérique latine », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 1er mars ; Abû Naddâra, « Isis l'égyptienne et la vipère mexicaine ! », al-Akhbâr du 2 mars ; Suha 'Alî Ragab, « Fârûq Husnî inaugure l'exposition archéologique égyptienne au Mexique », al-Qâhira du 4 mars ; Muna Ragab, « Isis et les secrets des découvertes archéologiques envahissent le cœur du peuple mexicain », al-Ahrâm du 4 mars ; Amira Samir, « Isis et le Serpent à plumes », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 12 mars ; Zâhî Hawwâs, « Les pharaons au Mexique pour la première fois ! », al-Ahrâm du 10 mai).
Suisse
Fondation Pierre Gianadda : Offrandes aux dieux d'Égypte
King Apries (589-570 B.C.) as a sphinx. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Prime Minister Ahmad Nazîf has approved that the exhibition « Gift for the Gods : Image from Egyptian Temples, » which has recently closed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art can move to the Foundation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland, on March 13 for four months. The Swiss side has offered 70,000 dollars to Egypt for holding the exhibition, according to Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî. They also offered necessary insurance documents against any losses, Minister Fârûq Husnî said Saturday. The exhibition, which opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 16, 2007, showcases some 70 superb statues and statuettes created in precious metals and copper alloys including bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) over more than two millennia. The exhibition brings masterpieces from around the world, including seven extremely rare inlaid and decorated large bronzes from the first half of the first millennium, the so-called Third Intermediate Period (1070 -664 B.C.), the apogee of Egyptian metalwork. ("Egypt participates in exhibition Gift for the Gods", Egypt State Information Service, March 2, 2008. Voir également 'Isâm 'Atiyya, « L'exposition Offrandes aux dieux », Âkhir Sâ'a du 2 avril).
Parallèlement à cette exposition
archéologique et en partenariat avec la
Médiathèque Valais-Martigny, la Fondation
Gianadda programme une exposition
photographique intitulée L'Égypte de
Monique JACOT. Une série de clichés
réalisés par cette photographe suisse - qui
a un goût prononcé pour le
détournement et les
expérimentations - lors d'un séjour de
six mois au pays des Pharaons. Sur la
centaine de photographies présentées, deux
clichés vont provoquer un incident
diplomatique regrettable :
Antiquities chief Zâhî Hawwâs threatened on Wednesday to withdraw archaeological items on show in Switzerland because of a parallel picture exhibition he deemed offensive to Egypt. Hawwâs, the charismatic and controversial head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told AFP he had sent a letter of protest to the Pierre GIANADDA Foundation in Martigny, Switzerland. Egypt has loaned the museum around 70 bronze, copper, gold and silver sculptures for the Gifts of the Gods : Images from Egyptian Temples antiquities exhibit which runs until June 8. Pictures "undermining Egypt and its civilization" by Swiss photographer Monique JACOT are on show alongside the Egyptian antiquities, Hawwâs said. Hawwâs has urged foundation official Leonard GIANADDA to pull down the pictures, including one showing a dead cow near the Nile, which Hawwâs claims is offensive to the country's image. "If this is not done, we will withdraw the Egyptian antiquities from the show," Hawwâs said, adding that he was confident that the GIANADDA foundation will heed his request.
Contacted by AFP, Leonard GIANADDA was unavailable for comment. The pro•government Egyptian daily Ruz al-Yûsuf reported on Tuesday that JACOT's pictures "portray the Nile as a swamp full of dead animals and waste." "Despite all the beautiful places she visited [Jacot] found nothing better than to display these pictures which are prejudicial to Egypt," the newspaper said. (AFP, "Hawwâs threatens to pull out of Swiss antiquities show", Daily News Egypt, March 20, 2008. Voir également AFP, "Egypt threatens to pull out of Swiss antiquities show", Middle East Times, March 19 ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « L'Ambassadrice d'Égypte en Suisse fait mine d'ignorer les photos préjudiciables et refuse de boycotter l'exposition », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 19 mars ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Hawwâs menace de ne plus envoyer d'exposition archéologique en Suisse », al-Ahrâr du 20 mars ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « L'Égypte menace d'annuler l'exposition archéologique organisée en Suisse », al-Akhbâr du 20 mars ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Hawwâs parvient à faire retirer les photos qui nuisent à l'Égypte », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 21 mars).
Cette affaire vaudra à Fârûq Husnî une interpellation virulente devant le Parlement. Quelques députés du PND et de l'opposition dénoncent le silence du ministre, accusé de sacrifier la réputation de l'Égypte pour ne pas déplaire à l'opinion internationale et risquer ainsi de gâcher sa candidature à la direction de l'Unesco. Désormais, toutes les déclarations et les décisions du ministre de la Culture sont interprétées en fonction de cette candidature : « Des députés dénoncent l'incurie de Husnî pour préserver sa candidature à l'Unesco », al-Ahrâr du 25 mai ; « Pourquoi le ministre de la Culture s'est-il tu devant l'affront essuyé par l'Égypte lors de l'exposition archéologique tenue en Suisse ? », al-Ahrâm du 25 mai ; Muhammad 'Abd al-Qâdir, « Fârûq Husnî feint d'ignorer l'offense suisse à l'Égypte à cause de l'Unesco », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 25 mai.
Toni-Areal : Tutanchamun Sein Grab
Und Die Schätze
La ville de Zurich accueille le 8 mars prochain une exposition de répliques modernes des trésors de Toutankhamon, ainsi qu'une reconstitution en trois dimensions de sa tombe. Cette exposition qui occupera la Toni-Areal jusqu'au 29 juin est intitulée : Toutankhamon. Sa tombe et ses trésors. (« Exposition à Zurich de répliques de la tombe de Toutankhamon », al-Ahrâm du 19 février 2008).
-
-
V - VOLS & RESTITUTIONS
D'ANTIQUITÉSLa Suisse et l'Égypte vont coopérer pour la lutte contre le vol et le trafic illicites de biens culturels. Les deux pays vont signer en avril un accord qui réglemente l'importation et la restitution de tels biens. À cet effet, le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, et le président suisse, Pascal COUCHEPIN, ont signé au Caire une déclaration d'intention allant dans ce sens. L'accord lui-même sera paraphé lors du prochain Salon du Livre de Genève en avril prochain. (« Accord égypto•suisse pour lutter contre le trafic de biens culturels », Le Progrès Égyptien du 17 janvier 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Husnî : Restitution de 100 pièces antiques volées », al-Akhbâr du 10 janvier ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Restitution des antiquités sorties illicitement d'Égypte », al-Ahrâm du 10 janvier).
Although prospecting for antiquities has been going on for several decades, recently monument trafficking in Egypt has been spreading like wildfire, with several big families in Upper Egypt in particular implicated in the illegal practice. Dreams of striking gold and finding that long-lost treasure have made those who prospect for monuments ready to sacrifice their lives for it. That distant dream has, however, claimed the lives of thousands of youth who die in tunnels they believe will lead them to a yet undiscovered Pharaonic era tomb. Four friends met a few days ago at a restaurant owned by one of them in Gîza when fortuneteller told them that a Pharaonic treasure was buried underneath one of their houses, in return for LE 5000. He said that the treasure was 11 meters beneath the bedroom. One of them, a contractor, didn't waste any time. He brought excavation tools in complete secrecy and asked his son to help him find the coveted treasure, until at nine meters deep, the hole collapsed and with it their dream and one of the friends, who died
in the accident. They were arrested after
failing to hide the corpse.
A related story stars Ahmad, who had taken to regularly visiting a female fortuneteller and dream interpreter in a village near his hometown. One day went to see her, all the while keeping his eyes closed lest his happy dream escape. When she told him that the dream meant there was a treasure under his house, he rushed back to his village of Kafr al-Wasâya in Itfîh, to tell his friend, who advised him to consult an archaeologist. Two hours later, Ahmad was in al-Salâm City recounting his dream to an alleged expert, who demanded LE 1,000 to view the location. At the house, she began reading strange words out of a strange book, then asked for LE 1,000 in return for her assistance in uncovering the treasure that she alleged was buried very deep and required the digging of a tunnel. Seeking the help of three workers, the two friends dug a 70-meter-long tunnel that was 20 meters deep, but they couldn't escape the curse of the Pharaohs and were buried under the house, which collapsed on their heads. The two friends and the fortuneteller were arrested
In Suhâg, Ahmad Sha'lân and Sayyid 'Ubayd sought the help of a Moroccan sheikh to find the treasure in Sha'lân's house. No sooner did the sheikh pinpoint the place, the two friends quickly started digging but they two died under the rubble, only for their corpses to be discovered by one of the neighbours.
Archaeologist Mahmûd al-Dardîrî told Daily News Egypt that the main reason behind the phenomenon of prospecting for monuments is the deteriorating economic conditions. Strangely, however, he said that many researchers seek the help of Moroccan sheikhs in their research due to their reputation in the field. Furthermore, those who prospect for antiquities think that Moroccan sheikhs are able to protect them from the jinn who guard the treasures, especially since explorers believe in the curse of the Pharaohs which will harm whoever touches their treasure. Professor of Pharaonic History at South Valley University Dr Midhat Shalabî told Daily News Egypt that those who search for monuments use underground metal detectors that can detect metals 30 meters deep. Prospecting is an old Egyptian industry dating back to the 19th dynasty in particular, he explained. Thieves were arrested on charges of stealing and violating the sanctity of tombs. But they only used to steal expensive metals because sculptures had no value at the time. Now all Pharaoh•related artifacts have become of great value hence the growth of the prospecting phenomenon.
A consultant at the National Research Council Dr. Ahmad Wahdân told Daily News Egypt that the number of stolen antiquity exceeded 15,000 in the last seven years. This prompted members of the People's Assembly to call for the establishment of an integrated independent agency at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to put an end to such crimes and return all the stolen artifacts. To this end, the Department of Retrieving Stolen Artifacts was established in 2003. The Head of the Egyptian Criminal Court, Justice Hishâm Mansûr even called for increasing the penalty for monument theft to make it punishable by death not merely by imprisonment or fines. The antiquities squad recently managed to abort an attempt to smuggle 20 Pharaonic statues, including one of the ancient Egyptian God of Evil. (Emad El-Sayed, "Dying for that ancient treasure", Daily News Egypt, June 6, 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a formé une commission technique et archéologique afin d'enquêter sur le vol de deux stèles antiques dans une tombe située à Tell Habwa 2 dans le Nord-Sinaï, suite à une dénonciation d'un gardien du site. Hawwâs a immédiatement contacté le directeur de la zone archéologique du Sinaï, Dr Muhammad 'Abd al-Samî'. Celui-ci a démenti catégoriquement les faits, précisant qu'il ne faudrait pas accorder du crédit au témoignage d'un gardien, qui ne travaille même pas sur le site en question. ('Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Commission d'enquête sur le vol de deux stèles archéologiques », al-Akhbâr du 5 juin 2008).
Le directeur de la zone archéologique de l'imâm al-Shâfi'î, Nabîl al-Buhayrî, a appelé à rattacher les tombes de la famille royale au Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA), afin de mieux préserver ce qui reste de leur contenu qui remonte à l'époque de Muhammad 'Alî. Al-Buhayrî a déploré le pillage de temps à autre du contenu des mausolées historiques rattachés au ministère des Waqf-s et situés dans la nécropole de l'imâm al-Shâfi'î. Ce fut déjà le cas des caveaux de Muhammad Sa'îd Pacha et de 'Abd al-'Azîz 'Izzat. En plus d'une tentative avortée en 2001 du vol d'une kiswa [étoffe de soie ornée de versets coraniques, de couleur noire, recouvrant la Ka'ba à La Mecque] du caveau du khédive Tawfîq. Al-Buhayrî a souligné que le contenu des mausolées et des caveaux de la famille royale n'est pas enregistré auprès du CSA. En cas de vol, les gardiens et les fonctionnaires du ministère des Waqf-s n'encourent qu'une simple sanction disciplinaire. Par ailleurs, le Dr Mugâbî Ibrâhîm, professeur d'archéologie islamique à l'Université de Tantâ, a appelé à rassembler tous les kiswas se trouvant dans les différents mausolées et tombes célèbres et les entreposer dans la mosquée al-Husayn ou bien dans le musée de Qasr al-Mugawharât à la Citadelle du Caire. (Muhammad Mandûr, « Des archéologues demande le rattachement des tombes historiques au CSA », al-Badîl du 15 juin 2008).
Le journaliste Walîd 'Urâbî s'étonne de « l'insolence inouïe d'une bande de pilleurs qui mettent en vente sur Internet des statues et des pièces pharaoniques, tout en sachant parfaitement qu'il s'agit d'un commerce illicite ». Plus stupéfiant encore, « ces trafiquants ne rechignent pas à préciser leurs numéros de téléphone et à livrer leurs adresses électroniques, afin d'établir le contact avec les acheteurs éventuels, au grand dam des policiers égyptiens en guerre contre ce genre de trafic ». Ensuite, le journaliste mentionne plusieurs annonces parues récemment sur Internet, parmi lesquelles :
-Un trafiquant cairote nommé Mustafa : « Nous disposons d'antiquités pharaoniques en or et en basalte. Totalement disposé pour expertise avant achat. Égyptiens s'abstenir, car ils ne sont pas sérieux. Acceptons toutes les conditions. Contact : 012 59 21 700 ».
-Un autre trafiquant sous le pseudonyme de « Le Colonisateur » : « Antiquités pharaoniques authentiques à vendre au plus offrant. Mobile : 012 41 87 337 ».
-Sous le pseudonyme « Le Dominant », un autre antiquaire annonce : « À vendre : antiquités égyptiennes, statues en basalte et en bois d'époque romaine. Égyptiens s'abstenir car ils ne sont pas sérieux. Mobile : 010 74 76 676 ».
-Une autre annonce précise : « À vendre une collection de pièces pharaoniques estimées à 40 millions de livres égyptiennes. Vente en Égypte ou à l'étranger. La marchandise, elle, se trouve encore en Égypte ». En plus, le trafiquant affiche une photo floue d'une des pièces à vendre.
-Sâmih, un autre trafiquant, annonce : « Une collection pharaonique à vendre dont 2 sarcophages antiques. Contact : 010 74 76 767 ». (Walîd 'Urâbî, « Scandale : des enchères privées pour vendre des antiquités pharaoniques sur Internet », al-Maydân du 7 janvier 2008).
Affaire Edward George Johnson
Vases dating from 3000 B.C. were stolen from Cairo museum and
allegedly sold by Army helicopter pilot Edward (Dutch) Johnson.
An American army helicopter pilot faces charges of selling stolen Egyptian antiquities dating to 3,000 BC, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Chief Warrant Officer Edward George JOHNSON was arrested Tuesday in Alabama on charges of transportation of stolen property and wire fraud, US Attorney Michael GARCIA said. An attack-and-scout helicopter pilot and commander, JOHNSON, 44, was stationed in Cairo in September 2002 when about 370 artifacts were stolen from a storage area at the Ma'âdî Museum in Cairo, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. The items, dating to 3,000 BC or earlier, had come from an archaeological site excavated in the 1920s and 1930s. JOHNSON allegedly contacted a Texas art dealer in January 2003 and offered to sell a collection of Egyptian antiquities, saying his grandfather acquired them while working in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s, prosecutors said. The dealer paid around $20,000 for the 80 pieces, which were later consigned to galleries and collectors in New York, London, Zurich, and Montreal, according to prosecutors.
The government said experts who examined photographs of the pieces, later determined the majority of the items JOHNSON sold had been stolen from the Egyptian museum. Prosecutors did not say how JOHNSON obtained the antiquities. JOHNSON could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Christine FREEMAN, did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. ("US army pilot accused of selling stolen antiquities", Daily News Egypt, February 7, 2008. Voir également Hanân al-Badrî, « Le pilote américain qui a fait le commerce de nos antiquités encourt une peine de 15 ans d'emprisonnement », Ruz al-Yûsuf du 9 février ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Des responsables égyptiens ont aidé le pilote américain dans le vol de milliers de pièces antiques », al-Ahrâr du 15 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « L'Égypte réclame la restitution de 80 pièces archéologiques volées par un pilote américain de l'entrepôt de la faculté de Lettres », al-Akhbâr du 15 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Super voleurs », al-Ahrâr du 22 avril).
Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî approved Saturday 9/2/2008 sending an Egyptian delegation from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to New York City to examine antiquities stolen by a US Army helicopter pilot. Chief Warrant Officer Edward George JOHNSON was arrested Tuesday in Alabama on charges of selling 370 Egyptian artifacts that were stolen from Cairo University excavation storehouse. In statements on Saturday, SCA Secretary General Zâhî Hawwâs said he received a few hours ago an official letter from Mark ANDREW, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security, in which ANDREW informed him that some Egyptians and Americans were involved in the case. The US official said they helped the pilot smuggle 80 pieces of antiquities. Hawwâs said a picture of the US pilot will be shown to the storekeeper at the Cairo University excavation storehouse in Ma'âdî, southern Cairo, from where the artifacts were stolen. According to US authorities, JOHNSON could not identify his accomplices, Hawwâs said. During a meeting with a US official in New York six months ago, Hawwâs asked for secrecy until evidence against the suspect was established. Hawwâs said he asked the US authorities to unveil circumstances surrounding the case now in order to identify other defendants. ("Egyptian delegation to travel to US to examine stolen antiquities", Egypt State Information Service, February
10. Voir également « Un pilote américain vend 270 pièces archéologiques égyptiennes volées », al-Ahrâm du 8 février ; Mushîra Musa, « Une délégation archéologique se rend à New York pour examiner les antiquités égyptiennes volées par le pilote américain », al-Ahrâm du 10 février ; Hassan Saadallah, "Archaeologists to NY for stolen artefacts", The Egyptian Gazette, February 10 ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Une délégation égyptienne se rend à New York pour examiner les antiquités volées par le pilote américain », al-Akhbâr du 10 février ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Certains Égyptiens sont impliqués dans le procès de trafic de pièces archéologiques vers les États-Unis », al-Ahrâr du 10 février ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Hawwâs témoigne devant un tribunal à New York dans le procès de vol de 80 pièces antiques », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 12 février ; « Hawwâs détermine le sort du pilote américain », Akhbâr al-Adab du 6 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'Égypte réclame la restitution des 80 pièces antiques volées par le pilote américain », al-Ahrâr du 13 mai).
Affaire Târiq al -
Suwaysî
La cour de cassation a confirmé les condamnations déjà prononcées dans l'affaire du grand procès archéologique dans lequel sont impliqués l'homme d'affaires et ex-membre du PND, Târiq al-Suwaysî, et 11 autres complices dont des douaniers et un policier. En voici le verdict définitif :
Ces condamnés se sont rendu coupables, entre 1998 et avril 2003, de contre-bandes de 280 pièces archéologiques, de détention d'armes et de stupéfiants, de pots-de-vin et de détournement de biens publics. Par ailleurs, le tribunal a innocenté 5 autres accusés : Ahmad Muhammad 'Alî, frère de Târiq al-Suwaysî, Muhammad Sayyid Hasan, 'Âtif Sulaymân, Târiq al-'Isharî et Mâhir Amîn. ('Alî Muhammad, « Confirmation de la condamnation de Târiq al-Suwaysî et de 5 accusés », al-Ahrâm du 18 avril 2008. Voir également « La cour de cassation confirme les verdicts dans le grand procès archéologique », al-Wafd du 18 avril ; Hanâ'Bakrî, « 13 ans de prison pour al-Suwaysî », al-Akhbâr du 18 avril ; « La cour de cassation confirme l'emprisonnement de Târiq al-Suwaysî », al-Dustûr du 18 avril ; « La cour de cassation confirme l'emprisonnement d'al-Suwaysî », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 18 avril ; Muhammad Abû al-Dahab, « La cour de cassation confirme le verdict dans le grand procès archéologique », al-Badîl du 18 avril).
Antiquités égyptiennes
Muhammad S., propriétaire d'un atelier de réparation d'appareils électroménagers situé dans la région d'Abû Qîr en Alexandrie, a entrepris des fouilles archéologiques sous son magasin, avec la complicité d'un ami, Husâm S., fonctionnaire à la Poste. Ils ont fait appel à un ouvrier, Sabrî Kh., âgé de 42 ans. Lors des travaux intensifs de creusement, ce dernier a été enseveli sous les décombres. Les deux complices ont alors nivelé le sol au-dessus du cadavre de l'ouvrier et placé un nouveau dallage, afin de mieux cacher leur forfait. (Amal 'Abd al-Karîm, « Un propriétaire d'un atelier de réparation d'appareils électroménagers et un fonctionnaire ensevelissent un ouvrier lors de fouilles clandestines à Abû Qîr », al-Dustûr du 3 janvier 2008).
Une deuxième audience s'est tenu hier dans la cour d'assises du Caire dans le procès de fouilles clandestines et de détérioration du temple de Shanhûr, situé dans le gouvernorat de Qinâ. Seize personnes comparaissent devant le tribunal, parmi lesquelles : l'accusé principal, Târiq Ahmad ; Butros Kâmil Habîb, diffuseur de produits pharmaceutiques à Hurghada ; Ibrâhîm Tawfîq 'Abdallah, photographe dans un hôtel ; 'Abd al-Gawwâd 'Abd al-Gawwâd, ouvrier agricole ; Abû al-Fadl Muhammad al-Sâdiq, fonctionnaire. Ces seize accusés avaient loué une maison contiguë à la zone archéologique du temple de Shanhûr. Durant quatre mois, ils ont effectué des fouilles illicites sous cette maison et sous le temple. Lorsqu'ils ont atteint le niveau des eaux souterraines, des lézardes sont apparues sur les murs de la maison et les parois du temple. (« Audience dans le procès de détérioration du temple de Shanhûr à Qinâ », al-Wafd du 6 janvier 2008).
Le tribunal du Nord du Caire a condamné hier 15 personnes à des peines allant de 3 à 7 ans d'emprisonnement et de 3 mille à 5 mille livres égyptiennes d'amende. Tous ces condamnés sont impliqués dans des fouilles archéologiques illicites entreprises début 2007 dans la zone du temple de Shanhûr, situé dans le gouvernorat de Qinâ. Dès l'annonce du verdict, des rixes ont éclaté entre les familles des condamnés et les policiers à l'intérieur même du tribunal. (« Condamnation des 15 accusés dans le procès de fouilles illicites », al-Ahrâm du 6 mars. Voir également Muhammad 'Azzâm, « Condamnation de 16 personnes pour vol archéologique du temple de Shanhûr », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 6 mars).
Le Parquet de Gîza a mis en examen deux escrocs qui tentaient de vendre trois statuettes pharaoniques en or massif (120 grammes). Dans leurs aveux, les accusés ont révélé avoir sculpté une statue pharaonique
(H. 50 cm) en cuivre recouvert d'une couche épaisse d'or. Ils avaient l'intention de la vendre à cinq millions de livres égyptiennes, en tant que pièces authentiques, au nigaud qui achèterait les trois statuettes ! (Muhyyî 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Échec d'une tentative de vente d'une fausse statuette pharaonique à 5 millions de L.E. », al-Akhbâr du 6 janvier 2008. Voir également 'Âdil 'Abd al-Latîf, « Ils utilisent de fausses statuettes pour escroquer leurs victimes », al-Badîl du 7 janvier).
La Brigade des moeurs a mis en examen Sayyid 'Abd al-Hamîd, un cafetier âgé de 47 ans, pour proxénétisme et détention de trois statuettes pharaoniques, suite à la perquisition de son domicile situé dans le quartier al-Sifiyya dans le gouvernorat du Fayyûm. La première statuette en basalte noir (48 cm) représente un roi et porte des inscriptions hiéroglyphiques sur le dos. La deuxième statuette en granit rose (50 cm) représente un roi assis sur son trône. Quant à la troisième statuette en calcaire (36 cm), elle représente une reine. (Ahmad 'Abdallah, « Saisie d'antiquités pharaoniques dans l'appartement d'une danseuse dans le Fayyûm », al-Ahrâr du 10 janvier 2008).
Pendant qu'ils irriguaient leur champ la nuit, deux agriculteurs ont découvert une momie enveloppée dans un drap et abandonnée au bord de l'autoroute Le Caire-Fayyûm. La panique s'est emparée des riverains, qui croyaient avoir affaire à un cadavre d'une personne assassinée. Il a fallu cinq jours pour que les policiers se rendent sur les lieux et embarquent cette momie, en même temps que celui qui l'avait découverte. L'expertise menée par trois experts du CSA révèle qu'il s'agit d'une momie pharaonique. De son côté, le directeur des antiquités du Fayyûm, Ahmad 'Abd al-'Âl, a nié que cette momie en bon état puisse provenir du Fayyûm, puisque les deux nécropoles royales de Hawwâra et d'al-Lâhûn sont envahies par les eaux souterraines. Il a également précisé que les pilleurs avaient arraché tous les bijoux, le masque et le sarcophage de la momie et n'ont laissé que le squelette. Dans un fax adressé au Parquet d'al-Nawras - qui détient actuellement la momie - le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a souligné l'extrême importance de celle-ci et la nécessité de la restituer au Musée Égyptien. Mais le Parquet ne s'est toujours pas prononcé sur une éventuelle restitution. (Rashâ Munîr, « Scandale : une momie royale abandonnée au bord de l'autoroute du Fayyûm », Sawt al-Umma du 14 janvier 2008).
La Police du Tourisme et des Antiquités a arrêté en Haute-Égypte 28 personnes qui effectuaient des fouilles illicites dans 11 sites archéologiques. 9 stèles archéologiques décorées d'inscriptions et de motifs floraux ont été saisies. À la Nouvelle Vallée, un gang de trafiquants archéologiques conduits par un avocat a été démantelé. (al-Akhbâr du 28 janvier 2008).
Les policiers d'Alexandrie ont déjoué une tentative de vente de pièces archéologiques dont la valeur est estimée à deux millions de livres égyptiennes. Le gang de receleurs, dirigé par un pêcheur, est composé de trois autres membres dont un radiologue au
C.H.U. d'Alexandrie, un fonctionnaire et un vendeur ambulant. Ce coup de filet a permis de saisir une statue pharaonique représentant un lion, une tête de statue en calcite, trois statuettes et trois colliers pharaoniques, deux scarabées, trois vases en forme de fleur de lotus et plusieurs pièces de monnaie d'époque romaine. (Nâsir Guwayda, « Arrestation d'un gang de trafiquants archéologiques », al-Ahrâm du 17 février 2008. Voir également Zaynab Yûsuf, « Saisie en Alexandrie de pièces pharaoniques mises en vente par un médecin et un pêcheur », al-Akhbâr du 17 février).
La Police du Tourisme et des Antiquités a mis en examen deux frères pour recel archéologique à Zaqâzîq. L'arrestation des deux trafiquants originaires d'Abû Za'bal a permis de saisir une statuette (80 cm) portant une couronne royale et des inscriptions hiéroglyphiques, sept scarabées (entre 4 et 10 cm), une statuette (7 cm) d'une femme surmontée d'un disque solaire, ainsi qu'un vase inscrit. (Sanâ''Inân, « Saisie d'une statuette royale et 10 autres pièces antiques à al-Sharqiyya », al-Akhbâr du 17 février 2008. Voir également Narmîn al-Shawâdfî, « Arrestation à al-Sharqiyya de deux frères en possession d'une série de pièces antiques », al-Ahrâm du 17 février).
Le Parquet de Qinâ a décidé la mise en examen de 12 personnes dont un fonctionnaire dans le gouvernorat d'Ismâ'îliyya pour fouilles illicites, faux et usages de faux et pots-de-vin. Les 12 accusés ont été arrêtés en flagrant délit de fouilles clandestines derrière le temple de Dandara. (Muhammad Hamdî, « 12 personnes arrêtées pour fouilles illicites », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 2 mars 2008).
La Police du Tourisme et des Antiquités a réussi à retrouver une stèle archéologique 4 heures seulement après sa disparition de la cour extérieure de la tombe de Nakhtmin située à Abû Sîr. C'est le directeur de l'inspectorat de Saqqâra, Usâma 'Abd al-Salâm al-Shîmî, qui avait donné l'alerte. Les policiers ont aussitôt ratissé les lieux. Finalement, la stèle a été retrouvée dans un sac dissimulé dans les champs avoisinants. Le coupable court toujours. (Ayman Fârûq, « Restitution d'une stèle archéologique volée dans une tombe pharaonique à Gîza », al-Ahrâm du 11 mars 2008. Voir également Muhammad Mandûr, « Vol d'une stèle antique à Saqqâra », al-Badîl du 6 mars).
Les enquêtes policières sur la mort de cinq personnes dont une femme charlatan lors de fouilles illicites dans le sous-sol d'une maison située à Itfîh ont révélé une surprise époustouflante. Parmi les victimes figure un jeune paralytique que le charlatan a utilisé pour apitoyer le djinn qui garde le trésor antique. Le propriétaire de la maison en cavale a convenu avec le charlatan de lui céder une part du butin en échange de ses bons services. En effet, 'Abd al-'Azîm Ahmad 'Abd al-'Azîm était persuadé de l'existence d'un trésor archéologique sous sa maison située à Kafr al-Wâsilîn à Itfîh. Il a fait appel à une femme charlatan renommée pour ses capacités à domestiquer les djinns et à les exploiter pour dévoiler les trésors enfouis. Celle-ci a demandé à son client de lui procurer trois ouvriers, ainsi qu'un paralytique, Shawqî Ragab Sayyid âgé de 22 ans, afin d'attendrir le djinn auquel les anciens Égyptiens avaient confié la garde de leurs trésors. Après avoir creusé un trou de douze mètres de profondeur, l'équipe a découvert deux corridors fermés par une porte. Dès que les ouvriers, le charlatan et le paralytique ont poussé l'une des portes des deux souterrains, un éboulement se produisit. Ils sont tous morts ensevelis sous les gravats. (Hanân Bakrî, « Un charlatan utilise un paralytique au cours de fouilles archéologiques », al-Ahrâm du 11 mars 2008. Voir également Suhayr Murâd, « Ils disparaissent au fond d'un souterrain à Itfîh », al-Akhbâr du 9 mars ; Sâmî 'Abd al-Râdî, « La défense civile retire les corps des 5 victimes du souterrain d'Itfîh », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 10 mars ; Muhammad Shûmân, « Le nombre de morts dans le souterrain d'Itfîh atteint 5 victimes », al-Ahrâm du 10 mars ; Suhayr Murâd, « Cinq cadavres remontés d'un souterrain à Itfîh », al-Akhbâr du 10 mars).
Police have arrested three would-be smugglers trying to sell intricately painted Pharaonic-era mummies for more than $5 million, a security source said on Wednesday. Tourist police in Fayyûm arrested the men on Tuesday as they sought to sell the four mummies and other looted artifacts on the international antiquities black market. The source said the mummies appeared to have been stolen from an illegal dig carried out by the men near Minyâ, 120 km south of Fayyûm, and are likely previously unknown to antiquities authorities. "One of the mummies is of a child, the other three are of men, all covered with linen and plaster," the source said, adding that another 10 small statues and a Pharaonic sarcophagus decorated with hieroglyphs were also seized. "These smugglers were arrested before they could sell the mummies to antiquities traders for LE 20 million ($5.3 million)," the source said. The tourist police in Fayyûm are now trying to work out exactly how old the artifacts are and who the mummies are. The smugglers face a minimum of three years in jail. (AFP, "Plot to smuggle mummies foiled by tourist police", Daily News Egypt, March 12, 2008. Voir également "Egypt thwarts smugglers seeking mummy millions", The Egyptian Gazette, March 13 ; Nâgî al-Girgâwî, « Saisie au Fayyûm d'une collection archéologique dont 4 momies, un sarcophage et 10 statuettes », al-Ahrâm du 13 mars ; Gamâl Husayn, « Échec d'une tentative de vente de 4 momies et de 10 statuettes antiques », al-Akhbâr du 13 mars ; « Arrestation de 3 personnes qui tentaient de vendre des pièces antiques », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 13 mars).
Trois gardiens du site archéologique d'al-Lisht à al-'Ayyât ont été assassinés hier dans des circonstances ambiguës. Ramadân Sayyid Ibrâhîm (57 ans), Ahmad 'Abd al-Ra'ûf 'Abd al-Fattâh (47 ans) et Kamâl al-Dîn 'Abd al-Ghanî (50 ans) ont été abattus à l'intérieur de leur guérite construite au-dessus de l'entrepôt archéologique d'al-Lisht. Le dernier cadavre gisait dans une position assise avec une balle dans la tête. À côté de leurs cadavres criblés de balles, les policiers ont trouvé leurs armes et un jeu de cartes. Selon l'examen de la scène du crime, un des gardiens aurait ouvert le feu sur ces deux camarades, avant de se donner la mort. Toutefois, le mobile du meurtre reste inconnu. Avant de rendre l'âme, l'une des victimes (Ramadân Sayyid) aurait confié aux policiers que son camarade Kamâl al-Dîn était à l'origine de cette tuerie.
Par ailleurs, la commission chargée par le CSA d'inventorier le contenu du magasin archéologique d'al-Lisht a affirmé qu'aucune pièce antique ne manque et n'a relevé aucune trace d'effraction de l'entrepôt. L'enquête poursuit son cours. (Suhayr Murâd, « Assassinat ambigu de 3 gardiens à al•'Ayyât », al-Akhbâr du 8 avril 2008. Voir également Muhammad Shûmân, « 3 gardiens assassinés par balles dans la zone archéologique d'al-'Ayyât », al-Ahrâm du 8 avril ; Muhyyi 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Un gardien ouvre le feu sur ses deux camarades avant de se suicider pour une raison inconnue », al-Akhbâr du 8 avril ; Sâmî 'Abd al-Râdî, « Des pilleurs archéologiques assomment 3 gardiens de 50 coups de feu », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 8 avril ; Yâsir 'Abd al-Hâdî, « Résolution de l'énigme du meurtre des 3 gardiens à al-'Ayyât », al-Badîl du 9 avril).
Les villageois d'al-Lisht contestent les résultats de l'enquête menée par le Parquet et les policiers du Sud de Gîza. Selon eux, il ne s'agit pas d'une querelle entre les gardiens qui s'est soldé par deux meurtres et un suicide. Les trois gardiens auraient été exécutés par des pilleurs qui tentaient de dévaliser l'entrepôt archéologique d'al-Lisht. Certains témoins parlent même d'une Jeep noire qui aurait fui précipitamment les lieux du crime immédiatement après le bruit de détonation des armes à feu. (Nâsir Abû Tâhûn, « Les villageois rejettent la version policière du meurtre d'al-'Ayyât », al-'Arabî du 20 avril. Voir également Sâmî 'Abd al-Râdî, « Résolution du mystère de l'assassinat des 3 gardiens dans la zone archéologique d'al-'Ayyât », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 9 avril).
Trois policiers ont perquisitionné sans mandat la chambre d'hôtel d'un trafiquant archéologique dans laquelle ils ont saisi une statue antique, avant de prendre la fuite. Les policiers ont ensuite tenté de vendre ce butin pour leur propre compte. La mésaventure se termine par une surprise : une commission d'inspecteurs du CSA chargés d'expertiser la pièce saisie a constaté qu'il s'agit d'une réplique et non d'une vraie statue archéologique. (Dusûqî 'Imâra, « Mise en examen de 3 policiers », al-Akhbâr du 28 avril 2008).
Le propriétaire d'un restaurant a trouvé la mort lors de fouilles clandestines sous une maison située à al-Saff. Arrivée à une profondeur de 9 mètres, la victime a été ensevelie sous les décombres. Quatre autres personnes l'assistaient dans ces fouilles illicites : un entrepreneur, un chauffeur et deux boulangers. (« Mort d'un fouilleur clandestin à al-Saff », al-Akhbâr du 25 mai 2008. Voir également « Un mort et 4 blessés suite à l'effondrement d'un tunnel », al-Ahrâm du 25 mai).
Les policiers de Qinâ ont mis en examen un gang de trafiquant dirigé par le directeur général du lycée Fâtima al-Zahrâ'en flagrant délit de fouilles illicites sous une maison située sur la rive Ouest. ('Abdallah Muhammad, « Fouilles archéologiques clandestines », al-Akhbâr du 26 mai 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a nié le vol de deux stèles archéologiques dans la zone de Qantara Sharq dans le Sinaï. Hawwâs a révélé avoir dépêché sur ce site une commission présidée par l'archéologue 'Âtif Abû al-Dahab, président de l'administration centrale des Antiquités égyptiennes. La commission regroupe également 'Atiyya Radwân, président de l'administration centrale des Antiquités de Haute-Égypte, Ahmad Fu'âd, président de l'administration centrale pour la sécurité, ainsi que deux officiers de la Police du Tourisme et des Antiquités. Après examen de toutes les stèles, la commission a démenti la disparition d'aucune pièce antique. (« En bref », Âkhir Sâ'a du 11 juin 2008. Voir également Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 10 juin).
Les pilleurs ont réussi à exhumer un portail pharaonique de 30 tonnes, des maisons d'époque romaine et des vestiges d'une église antique lors de fouilles clandestines dans un vignoble situé dans le village de Baqlâw à Naqâda. La police de Qinâ a arrêté ce gang dirigé par 'Abdu Habbâshî Muhammad, ex-gardien au commissariat de Naqâda, et son épouse, Su'âd Sabrî Muhammad, propriétaire du vignoble. (Huda Khalîl, « Des pilleurs découvrent un portail pharaonique de 30 tonnes à Qinâ », al-Dustûr du 15 juin 2008).
Antiquités islamiques et coptes
Thefts from Islamic monuments in the Darb al-Ahmar area have highlighted the problem of security at Cairo's historic mosques. Inlaid wooden panels from the minbars of Gânim al-Bahlawân and Altinbuga al-Maridani mosques have been stolen, and a marble relief from the Blue Mosque. Thieves were also caught red handed, attempting to make off with a magnificent ironwork grill window from the sabîl-kuttâb of Ruqayya Dûdû. Residents of Darb al-Ahmar suspect a professional local gang, which operates at night, between night and dawn prayers. Ahmad Hasan, who owns a perfume shop in the vicinity of several targeted mosques, said the minbar at al-Maridani was removed in three phases over 10 days, raising questions as to how seriously the authorities take their responsibility to guard historic sites. The theft of the minbar's right hand panel was discovered at the time of dawn prayer. A week passed before the left hand panel was removed, and a further two days before the thieves returned to remove the ivory inlaid hood of the minbar. At Gânim al-Bahlawân robbers removed the decorative elements of the minbar, leaving a plain wooden frame. At Ruqayya Dûdû sabîl•kuttâb they succeeded in dismantling the iron grill from a window only to be apprehended by local residents who alerted the police. The window is now being held by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) inspectorate, to be returned to its original location following restoration work. "It's a terrible loss," says Gamâl 'Abd al-Rahîm, professor of Islamic monuments at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology. The minbar of Gânim al-Bahlawân was among the most important in any of Cairo's monumental mosques.
'Abd al-Khâliq Mukhtâr, director of monuments in south Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the SCA was able to abort the theft of the window at the sabîl-kuttâb of Ruqayya Dûdû because the monument is under the complete supervision of the SCA, which provides a 24-hour security, while the mosques are under the control of the Ministry of Awqâf. "Securing archaeological sites is the responsibility of the authority to which the site is affiliated," he says. Quite how 24•hour security allowed the window to be dismantled in the first place remains a mystery. Yet 'Abd al-Khâliq insists the SCA secures its own site round the clock, while monuments such as mosques, under bilateral supervision, are guarded only until 4pm. 'Abd al-Khâliq says the SCA has repeatedly requested that the Ministry of Awqâf tighten security at mosques or else hand over responsibility to the SCA. "Currently the role of the SCA is to restore mosques and then hand them back to the Awqâf. The SCA then makes only periodic checks on the buildings'archaeological features."
Sheikh Kamâl 'Abd al-Nâsir, director of Awqâf in Cairo, argues that the SCA is shirking its responsibilities. "Why does the SCA refuse to admit responsibility for their own security shortcomings and seek, instead, to blame the mosque guards ?" he asks. 'Abd al-Nâsir points out that legally monuments and archaeological sites are all the responsibility of the SCA and not the Awqâf. Furthermore, he adds, the mosque of Gânim al-Bahlawân has been closed now for two years while restoration work is carried out under the supervision of the SCA and its contractors. "These accusations addressed to the Ministry of Awqâf are an attempt by the SCA to deny its responsibility for what happened."
Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, will hold a meeting next week with the head of the Awqâf to draw up a security plan for archaeological mosques. "Millions of pounds have been spent restoring these mosques which are then handed back to the Ministry of Awqâf," says Hawwâs. To tighten security, Hawwâs believes that the Ministry of Awqâf must provide the names of guards to both the SCA and security forces, and the SCA and Ministry of Awqâf need to cooperate more closely in an attempt to provide 24-hour security. "Securing and preserving Egypt's
Islamic monuments is not only the responsibility of the ministries of culture, Awqâf, interior, the SCA and the relevant governorate. It is the responsibility of all Egyptians who want to protect their heritage and their history," says Hawwâs. (Nevine El-Aref, "Unholy thefts", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 26, 2008).
La police du Caire a interpellé un gang de trafiquants composé de quatre personnes : un chômeur (21 ans), un chauffeur (28 ans) et un mécanicien (36 ans) originaires de Suhâg. Lors de la perquisition de leur véhicule, les policiers ont saisi deux armes à feu, quelques munitions, ainsi qu'un CD contenant des photos de pièces antiques volées qu'ils s'apprêtaient à revendre. (Hânî Rif'at, « Arrestation au Caire d'un gang de trafiquants », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 3 janvier 2008).
Les policiers d'Alexandrie ont arrêté 'Abd al-Halîm 'Abd al-Bârî, un récidiviste de 49 ans, en flagrant délit de fouilles illicites sous l'immeuble n°4 de la rue Sâmî Ra'ûf à Miami. Le coupable a été dénoncé par les habitants de cet immeuble. (al-Ahrâr du 6 janvier 2008).
Le Parquet d'al-Dakhîla en Alexandrie a mis en examen cinq personnes pour vol et recel de pièces archéologiques. Il s'agit d'Ahmad Fathî, ouvrier de 33 ans ; Mustafa Mahrân, fonctionnaire à la retraite ; Ahmad 'Alî, âgé de 31 ans ; Husnî Ibrâhîm, photographe de 61 ans et 'Isâm Zaydân, chômeur de 34 ans. Les accusés ont été pris en flagrant délit de vente de 27 manuscrits exceptionnels qui datent de l'époque copte. En outre, le
4e
accusé détenait deux films montrant des statues antiques et une grande collection de pièces de monnaie volées. Dans leurs aveux, les accusés ont révélé agir pour le compte de Galâl al-Faransâwî, un trafiquant archéologique résidant à Asyût. (al-Sayyid Sa'îd, « Un photographe, un fonctionnaire à la retraite et 2 ouvriers tentent de vendre 27 manuscrits coptes en Alexandrie », al-Wafd du 8 janvier 2008. Voir également Ahmad Sabrî, « Saisie de 27 manuscrits coptes rares avant leur vente en Alexandrie », al-Badîl du 8 janvier ; al-Sayyid Sa'îd, « Confiscation des manuscrits coptes saisis en Alexandrie », al-Wafd du 30 janvier ; Shawkat Sa'd, « 27 manuscrits antiques à vendre en Alexandrie », al-Ahrâr du 30 janvier).
Deux fonctionnaires du ministère de l'Intérieur ont kidnappé et séquestré Ahmad Muhammad 'Abd al-Hamîd, un étudiant de 22 ans, pour leur avoir soutiré une commission de 5 000 livres égyptiennes en échange de faciliter l'achat d'une statue antique. Après avoir failli à sa mission, l'intermédiaire a été séquestré dans un appartement à Shubrâ al-Khayma. Ses deux ravisseurs ont exigé de sa mère le versement d'une rançon de 5 000 L.E. (Muhammad 'Abdallah, « 2 fonctionnaires du ministère de l'Intérieur kidnappent un étudiant », al-Dustûr du 15 janvier 2008).
Lors du labourage de son champ, 'Abd al-'Âl Ahmad, agriculteur à 'Izbat al-Bardawîl dans le gouvernorat d'al-Buhayra, a découvert fortuitement une jarre contenant 4 Kg d'or pur. Il s'agit de 913 pièces de monnaie antique. L'exaltation irrépressible qui s'est emparée de lui a contrecarré son projet de dissimuler jalousement ce trésor. Très vite, la nouvelle fait le tour du village. Il ne tarde pas à recevoir la visite des policiers. Pour finir, cet agriculteur âgé de 63 ans a perdu et son trésor et son champ. Par ailleurs, le rapport d'expertise de l'inspectorat d'al-Buhayra a daté ces monnaies du VIIe siècle après J.-C., plus précisément sous le règne de l'empereur Hercule (610 - 640). Le directeur de la zone archéologique d'al-Buhayra, Muhammad 'Abd al-'Azîz, a confirmé le caractère exceptionnel de ces monnaies, jamais retrouvées en aussi grande quantité et qui servaient à payer les salaires des chefs de l'armée. À la demande du secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, la sécurité a été renforcée autour du champ. (Tâmir 'Abd al-Raûf, « Or Rubis Corail dans le champ de 'Abd al-'Âl ! », al-Ahrâm du 20 janvier 2008. Voir également "Egypt recovers Ptolemy artifact from US", Egypt State Information Service, January 18).
L'hebdomadaire progouvernemental Uktubar consacre un article sur la frénésie qui s'est emparée d'un grand nombre d'habitants à Nâhyâ, située dans la banlieue de Kirdâsa, qui fouillent activement sous leurs propres maisons à la recherche des trésors archéologiques. Ces fouilles anarchiques provoquent la fissuration, voire l'effondrement de plusieurs maisons. (Uktubar du 20 janvier 2008. Voir également Muhammad Shûmân, « Arrestation d'un gang de 3 personnes qui entreprend des fouilles illicites la nuit », al-Ahrâm du 13 avril).
Le Parquet du Vieux-Caire a arrêté Gamâl I., chômeur de 45 ans, pour fouilles clandestines sous sa maison située dans la région de Mârî Girgis. Pris en flagrant délit lors de la perquisition de son domicile, il a prétendu essayer de déboucher les canalisations d'égout ! (Târiq Sabrî, « Mis en examen du chômeur qui effectuait des fouilles illicites sous sa maison dans le Vieux-Caire », al-Dustûr du 24 janvier 2008).
Diyâ'al-Sa'îd, ouvrier âgé de 24 ans, a fait une chute mortelle dans un puits de 14 mètres de profondeur, au cours de fouilles clandestines effectuées sous une maison située à al-Saff. Afin de cacher leur forfait, le propriétaire de cette maison (boutiquier âgé de 29 ans), son ami (plombier de 43 ans) ainsi que les quatre autres ouvriers engagés sur cette fouille ont préféré abandonner le cadavre sous les déblais et prendre la poudre d'escampette. (« Un ouvrier trouve la mort au cours de fouilles clandestines », al-Dustûr du 29 janvier 2008. Voir également Samîr Dusûqî, « Révélations autour de la disparition d'un ouvrier à 'Ayna Shams », al-Ahrâr du 30 janvier ; Rashâd Kâmil, « L'ouvrier de 'Ayn Shams a trouvé la mort lors de fouilles illicites à al-Saff », al-Akhbâr du 30 janvier).
La police d'Alexandrie a mis en examen cinq personnes dont un photographe qui tentaient de vendre 27 manuscrits coptes et quelques pièces de monnaie qui remontent à deux cents ans. Il s'agit de Ahmad Fathî, ouvrier de 33 ans ; Mustafa Ahmad, fonctionnaire à la retraite de 64 ans ; Ahmad 'Alî, âgé de 31 ans ; Husnî Ibrâhîm, 61 ans et Mansûr Muhammad, ouvrier âgé de 34 ans. (al-Ahrâr du 30 janvier 2008. Voir également al-Sayyid Sa'îd, « Saisie en Alexandrie de manuscrits coptes », al-Wafd du 30 janvier).
Sayyid 'Alî, carrossier âgé de 30 ans ; 'Abd al-Nâsir Yûsuf, âgé de 68 ans et Tal'at Sulaymân ont été arrêtés dans un barrage routier à al-Bayâdiyya à proximité de Louqsor. Ils transportaient dans leur véhicule deux statues archéologiques représentant une divinité, qu'ils comptaient revendre à une somme colossale. Les policiers de Qinâ ont également saisi un CD décrivant la manière dont les deux pièces ont été exhumées ainsi que leur valeur historique. (« Saisie de 2 statuettes antiques dans un barrage routier à Qinâ », al-Ahrâr du 1er février 2008).
Les douaniers du port maritime de Nuwayba' ont réussi à intercepter 41 pièces archéologiques datant des époques mamlûke et ottomane
dissimulées à l'intérieur de 6 containers remplis de thé et de mobiliers. La Syrie était la destination finale de cette cargaison. ('Alî al-Shâfi'î, « La valeur des antiquités islamiques saisies à Nuwayba' est estimée à 25 millions de L.E. », al-Akhbâr du 11 février 2008. Voir également Usâma Fârûq, « Hawwâs : J'ai appris cette nouvelle par la presse car personne ne nous en a officiellement averti jusqu'à présent ! », Akhbâr al-Adab du 17 février ; Marwa Haytham, « Échec d'une tentative de vol de 41 pièces antiques », al-Ahrâm du 22 février).
Un charlatan qui sévit dans la région de Shubrâ al-Khayma a inventé une astuce originale pour soutirer l'argent de ses victimes en leur faisant croire en sa capacité de les guérir en entreprenant des fouilles archéologiques illicites sous leurs habitations afin d'extraire les antiquités qui provoquent la malédiction et la maladie. Cet escroc, Mâhir M. âgé de 41 ans a fini par tomber dans les filets des policiers avec ses deux complices Sabâh H., narcotrafiquante âgée de 35 ans et Muhammad H., un chômeur de 42 ans. (Muhammad 'Abdallah, « L'escroc de Shubrâ al-Khayma fait croire à ses victimes que les statues antiques enterrées sous leurs maisons sont la cause de leur maladie », al-Dustûr du 10 mars 2008. Voir également 'Abd al-Hakam al-Gindî, « Un charlatan fait croire à ses victimes la présence d'antiquités sous leurs maisons à al-Qalyûbiyya », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 mars).
à Itfîh dans le gouvernorat de Gîza. Sur les conseils d'un charlatan, le propriétaire de cette maison avait engagé 3 ouvriers pour creuser à une profondeur de 12 mètres. (Suhayr Murâd, « Retrait de 5 cadavres victimes des fouilles illicites à Itfîh », al-Akhbâr du 10 mars 2008. Voir également Khâlid Idrîs, « 4 fouilleurs illicites trouvent la mort suite à l'effondrement d'une maison », al-Wafd du 9 mars ; Muhammad Shûmân, « 5 morts à l'intérieur du tunnel d'Itfîh », al-Ahrâm du 10 mars).
Un propriétaire d'une maison située au 8 rue al-Zaghabî à 'Izbat Khayr Allah dans le Vieux-Caire a fait appel à neuf personnes pour l'aider à effectuer des fouilles clandestines sous sa maison. Les dix fouilleurs ont été arrêtés par la police. (Dusûqî 'Imâra, « Un propriétaire recourt à 9 personnes pour chercher des antiquités sous sa maison », al-Akhbâr du 21 mars 2008. Voir également « Le père et ses enfants dirigent un gang de fouilleurs clandestins dans le Vieux-Caire », al-Ahrâr du 21 mars).
Ahmad Yûnis Hâfiz, fonctionnaire au ministère des Waqf-s et membre du Parti national démocratique (PND) dans le district de Samstâ, est mort asphyxié hier au fond d'un trou de 15 m. où il menait des fouilles archéologiques clandestines depuis 7 mois. Il a entraîné avec lui dans la mort trois autres membres de sa famille : son frère Fâyiz, ainsi que ses deux cousins Hamâda Yûnis âgé de 20 ans et Gum'a 'Abdallah Muhammad, agriculteur âgé de 47 ans. Ils étaient assistés par deux autres complices secourus par les policiers : Yûnis Yahya Yûnis, enseignant de 30 ans et 'Isâm 'Abd al-Hakîm Hammâm, fonctionnaire de 41 ans. Parvenus à une profondeur de 15 m., les six fouilleurs ont été gênés dans leur progression par les eaux souterraines. En utilisant une pompe pour évacuer les eaux, quatre d'entre eux furent asphyxiés par les émanations des gaz d'échappement. Les deux survivants sont actuellement interrogés par la police. ('Umar al-Shaykh, « Un membre du PND trouve la mort lors de fouilles illicites », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 9 avril 2008. Voir également Muhsin 'Abd al-Karîm, « 4 personnes trouvent la mort lors de fouilles illicites à Banî Swayf », al-Wafd du 31 mars).
Les policiers de Gîza ont mis en examen un ouvrier âgé de 39 ans pour fouilles clandestines sous sa maison située à Kirdâsa. En creusant un trou de 10 mètres de profondeur dans l'une des pièces de sa maison, l'accusé a provoqué la fissuration d'une maison contiguë. (Khayrî Hasan, « Arrestation d'un ouvrier accusé de fouilles illégales », al-Akhbâr du 13 avril 2008).
Les policiers d'al-Sharqiyya ont mis en examen un épicier pour fouilles illicites. Un charlatan a fait croire à l'épicier la présence d'un trésor archéologique en or enterré sous sa maison située dans le village de Bahgât dans le district d'al-Zaqâzîq. Fort de cet espoir, l'épicier a creusé un grand trou de 15
m. de profondeur sur 3 m. de diamètre au milieu de sa maison. (« Arrestation d'un épicier pour fouilles clandestines », al-Akhbâr du 29 avril 2008).
Trois ouvriers du bâtiment, Târiq al-'Ashrî, 'Âdil Labîb et Fâdî Farah, ont été écroués pour fouilles illicites sous l'immeuble situé 7 rue Amîn Shawqî dans le quartier de 'Ayn Shams. Ce gang a été pris en flagrant délit. Lors d'une perquisition, les policiers ont découvert les outils utilisés ainsi qu'un grand trou (1,5 x 1,5 m.) dans le sol. (Samîr Dusûqî, « Gang de fouilleurs clandestins à 'Ayn Shams », al-Ahrâr du 9 mai 2008. Voir également Nawâl 'Alî, « 3 ouvriers fouillent à la recherche d'antiqutés à 'Ayn Shams », al-Badîl du 9 mai ; 'Âdil al-Mallâh, « Un plâtrier dirige un gang de fouilleurs illicites à 'Ayn Shams », al-Wafd du 10 mai).
L'administration des douanes a saisi une collection exceptionnelle de documents et de manuscrits d'époque ottomane dissimulés dans un colis à destination de l'Arabie Saoudite. Les pièces saisies ont été remises au Dâr al-Wathâ'iq al-Misriyya. Une enquête est ouverte pour déterminer le coupable. (« Saisie de manuscrits d'époque ottomane en route vers l'Arabie », al-Wafd du 23 mai 2008).
Muhammad Hasan, un jeune chômeur de 29 ans, a trouvé la mort au fond d'un trou de 9 mètres de profondeur, au cours de fouilles illicites menées dans la cave d'une maison située à al-Munîb. La police de Gîza a procédé à l'arrestation de ses quatre complices. (Târiq Sabrî, « Un jeune homme périt lors de fouilles illicites à al-Munîb », al-Dustûr du 25 mai 2008. Voir également Ahmad Shalabî, « Les rêves de richesse de Ahmad s'achèvent sous les décombres d'un tunnel », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 25 mai).
Sa'dallah 'Abdallah Zahrân, gardien dans la zone archéologique al-Qalâya rattachée aux Antiquités islamiques d'al-Buhayra, a été écroué pour trafic archéologique. La perquisition de son domicile a permis aux policiers d'al-Dilingât de saisir 39 pièces de monnaie qui remontent à l'époque byzantine. (Fâyza al-Ganbîhî, « Le gardien des antiquités est aussi le voleur », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 31 mai 2008).
Les douaniers du port de Nuwayba' ont saisi 363 pièces de monnaie d'époque ottomane dissimulées dans les bagages de Ahmad Salâma Salmân, un habitant d'al•'Arîsh qui s'apprêtait à embarquer pour la Jordanie. (Ayman Abû Zayd, « Saisie à Nuwayba' de 363 monnaies antiques », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 18 juin 2008).
Collection Henri Amîn 'Awad
An Egyptian court has ruled that the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) must pay LE5 million (about $935,000) in compensation to Henri Amîn 'Awad, a member of the Permanent Committee for Islamic and Coptic Antiquities, having found the SCA guilty of wrongfully disposing of the precious antiquities he donated to the Council. In 1974, 'Awad, one of Egypt's greatest collectors of antiquities, gave the SCA 50 gold, silver and bronze treasures, including 13 rare coins, dating back to Roman times. In 1998, 'Awad was shocked when he spotted these treasures being sold by an antiquities dealer called Nagan al-Khalîlî. He immediately filed a lawsuit against the SCA at the Council of the State - a judicial institution.
Despite the shock, in 2004 'Awad presented 232 more treasures, including surgical instruments dating back to early Islamic times, and some seals, kohl sticks and medical manuscripts, some of them dealing with herbal remedies, on the understanding that they would be find a home in the History of Medicine Museum. "The treasures I donated in 2004 are not being stored properly," 'Awad said. "The most important thing I ever donated to the Council was an ancient piece of cloth, woven by Egyptian Copts, which tells the story of the Prophet Muhammad's midnight journey to Jerusalem and his ascension to the seven heavens." ("Artefacts benefactor awarded $935,000 in damages", The Egyptian Gazette, June 11, 2008. Voir également Hiba Khalîfa, « Le CSA condamné à verser 5 millions de L.E. de dommages à un donateur », al-Qâhira du 3 juin).
Bonhams : relief sculpté en calcaire de la XXVI e dynastie
(c) AFP
La salle des ventes londoniennes Bonhams a retiré de son catalogue un fragment de relief sculpté datant de l'époque pharaonique après que l'Égypte eut reconnu l'objet, réalisant alors qu'il avait été volé, a annoncé mercredi le ministère égyptien de la Culture. Le ministre égyptien de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a déclaré dans un communiqué qu'il avait demandé à Bonhams de ne pas mettre en vente le relief jeudi, comme elle le prévoyait initialement, car il s'agissait d'une pièce dérobée. Il a précisé que les autorités égyptiennes ignoraient que l'objet, qui provient du site de Louxor, avait été volé avant de le repérer sur le catalogue de Bonhams. Un porte-parole de la salle des ventes a déclaré à l'AFP que la pièce, vieille de 2500 ans, avait été retirée de la vente à la suite de la plainte égyptienne. « Apparemment, l'acheteur l'avait acquis de bonne foi », a déclaré Julian RUP, porte-parole de Bonhams, ajoutant : « Nous avons travaillé en étroite collaboration avec la police. Soit le propriétaire actuel conservera (l'objet), soit il sera rapatrié, mais il ne sera pas vendu ». Bonhams a décrit cette pièce comme un fragment de relief sculpté en calcaire d'une trentaine de centimètres de large, constitué de six colonnes verticales et qui date de la XXVIe Dynastie. Il devait être vendu entre 6 000 et 8 000 dollars. Le catalogue présente cette pièce comme étant la propriété d'un Australien qui avait commencé dans les années 1940 à collectionner des antiquités alors qu'il travaillait dans la marine marchande, et précise qu'il l'avait transmise à son fils. (AFP, « Une pièce pharaonique volée chez Bonhams », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 7 mai 2008. Voir également "Egypt secures auction pullout for artefacts in London and Holland", Daily News Egypt, May 1 ; « Annulation de la vente aux enchères d'une pièce archéologique égyptienne à Londres », al-Qâhira du 6 mai ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Vente aux enchères des antiquités volées », al-Ahrâr du 11 mai).
The two ancient Egyptian objects were saved for the nation when the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) succeeded in halting their sale in London and Amsterdam respectively as part of its campaign to stamp out the trade in illegally smuggled artefacts. The first object, which was listed for sale at Bonhams auction hall in London, is an inscribed limestone relief that was chopped off the tomb wall of the 26th-Dynasty nobleman Mutirdis. The tomb was discovered in 1969 at 'Assâsîf on Luxor's west bank by German Egyptologist Jan ASSMAN, and the fragment was apparently still in its original place when the tomb was restored between 1973 and 1974. A photograph of the inscription still in situ was published in 1977 in Das Grab der Mutirdis. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, said the relief consisted of two parts : the upper one bore hieroglyphic text engraved in six columns and a cartouche of a 26th-Dynasty queen, Nocratice, who lived in the seventh BC, as well as the various titles and names of the tomb's owner. The lower part, which is still in the tomb, features the tomb's owner with a long wig in a position of worship. The relief appeared in Bonhams sale catalogue two weeks ago, and Hawwâs immediately wrote to the auction house requesting that the sale be stopped as the relief had been stolen and smuggled out of Egypt.
In the second case, a green 19th-Dynasty ushabti figure of a woman named Hener was removed from sale by auction with the help of Egypt's ambassador to Holland. The statuette was stolen from a Saqqâra storehouse and is now at the Leiden Museum waiting to be brought back to Egypt following an Amsterdam court verdict. (Nevine El-Aref, "Safe and coming home", Al-Ahram Weekly, May 29. Voir également Ashraf Mufîd, « L'Égypte suspend la vente d'une pièce antique à Bonhams », al-Ahrâm du 1er mai ; « Suspension à Londres de la vente aux enchères d'une pièce archéologique », al-Akhbâr du 1er mai ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Suspension à Londres de la vente aux enchères d'une pièce archéologique », al-Ahrâr du 1er mai).
[ ] The archaeologists also retrieved from London two human skulls dating back to Egypt's Greek-Roman era, the Council statement said. The remains were believed to have been taken by a British doctor during a visit to Egypt in 1988, it said. The man buried the skulls in his front garden in Manchester after his wife refused to allow him to bring them to a new house they bought earlier this year, the statement said. The garden's new owner found the skulls and informed police, who had them examined by Oxford University archaeologists. They were discovered to be more than 2,000 years old, and were subsequently handed over to the Egyptian Embassy in London, the statement added. (AP, "SCA retrieves a 2,500-year-old stone relief from London auction house", Daily News Egypt, June 30).
Christie's Inc
A 4000-year-old Egyptian alabaster container shaped like a duck and used for a funeral offering has been withdrawn from auction because it may be stolen property, Christie's auction house said on Monday. The Old Kingdom alabaster offering vessel dating from 2575-2134 BC was expected to sell for $20,000 to $30,000 before it was withdrawn from the sale, according to the Christie's online catalogue for its June 16 sale of antiquities in New York. "Upon receiving information which led us to believe that the object had possibly been improperly taken out of Egypt, we contacted the appropriate
U.S. authorities and withdrew the item from the sale," Christie's said in a statement. "We are pleased that the transparency of the public auction system has led to the possible identification of a stolen work of art and its return to its country of origin," it said, adding that the item would be returned as soon as possible.
The catalogue listing described the vessel as "composed of two halves, sculpted in the form of a trussed fowl." It said the item was used to contain offerings of food and drink which, according to ancient Egyptian burial practices, the deceased required for survival in the afterlife. "In richly appointed tombs the offerings were often stored in containers mirroring the contents inside," it said. The online catalog said the piece was part of a private collection in Israel and was acquired prior to 1975. A number of countries, including Italy and Greece, have been putting pressure on institutions like museums to return antiquities that may have been removed illegally. ("Stolen Egyptian artifact removed from NY auction", Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2008).
Cornelius VON PILGRIM, directeur de l'Institut suisse des recherches architecturales et archéologiques, commente la première visite effectuée en Égypte par le président de la Confédération suisse, Pascal COUCHEPIN :
« La visite de M. COUCHEPIN pour l'Égypte est venue suite à celle effectuée au Maroc où il a manifesté son intérêt à la culture et au patrimoine en général. Un tel intérêt s'est traduit en Égypte par sa rencontre avec le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, avec l'objectif primordial d'entamer les négociations en vue d'un accord sur l'importation et la restitution des biens culturels égyptiens en Suisse. D'ailleurs, M. COUCHEPIN a examiné sur site les travaux des archéologues membres de l'institut.
« Tout d'abord, la Suisse a mis un principe fondamental dans cette affaire. Il est indispensable de restituer toute œuvre volée à son pays d'origine. Mais les pièces qui sont sorties depuis longtemps font désormais partie du patrimoine suisse. Autre principe, les réglementations du retour des biens culturels égyptiens dépendent des lois des deux pays. Par ailleurs, Pascal COUCHEPIN et Fârûq Husnî ont signé une déclaration d'intention de lutte contre le vol et le trafic illicite de biens culturels. L'accord lui-même sera paraphé lors du prochain Salon du livre de Genève en avril. En même temps, les deux pays vont signer en avril un accord qui réglemente l'emprunt et la restitution de tels biens. L'importance c'est la sauvegarde et la protection de l'héritage culturel égyptien, voire humain.
« Dans un pays comme l'Égypte dont le sol est plein de monuments, il est difficile de contrôler la sortie illégitime des biens culturels. Alors tout d'abord, il faut améliorer l'état financier des gardiens des sites qui sont censés conserver des milliers de biens de valeur considérable, alors qu'ils sont très mal payés. Et ce, sans oublier tout le personnel travaillant dans le domaine des antiquités. En même temps, la quantité des monuments égyptiens a besoin de centaines de milliers de personnes bien sensibilisées pour aboutir à une telle protection. Vaut mieux alors éviter la sortie de tels biens culturels des frontières égyptiennes que de les restituer de l'étranger ». (Doaa Elhami, « 3 questions à Cornelius VON PILGRIM », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 16 janvier 2008).
Last year, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) succeeded in retrieving more than 5,000 stolen Egyptian antiquities and artefacts. But, there are still many more stolen a long time ago. This is why there was a recent ministerial decree to establish the National Committee for Retrieving Stolen Egyptian Antiquities. Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî says that the Committee will use diplomatic channels, sign international cooperation agreements and approach auctions and museums in a bid to get these antiquities back. SCA Secretary-General Zâhî Hawwâs explains that the Committee comprises representatives of a number of ministries and agencies, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Interior and Justice, as well as the Public Prosecution and National Security Agency. The legal adviser to the SCA and two well-known antiquities specialists will also be Committee members. Hawwâs stresses that the committee will work with international organizations concerned with protecting human heritage. Meanwhile, the SCA recently announced that it will focus its efforts on retrieving four important antiquities : the Head of Nefertiti (in the Berlin Museum) ; the Rosetta Stone (in the British Museum) ; the Zodiac of Dandara (in the Louvre Museum) ; and the Statue of Ankhaf, the engineer who built Khafre's Pyramid (in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts).
Ibrâhîm 'Abd al-Magîd, Director of the Retrieved Antiquities Department at the SCA, describes the decision to establish the National Committee as an important step in retrieving stolen Egyptian antiquities. He adds that his Department has succeeded in retrieving thousands of antiquities from Arab countries like Jordan and Tunisia, as well as other countries. 'Abd al-Magîd says that one of the important antiquities, the Department is currently working on retrieving, is a mask that was found in Saqqâra in 1954 by the Egyptian archaeologist Muhammad Ghunaym. It went on display in Japan in the 1960s, but then disappeared. It's currently displayed in Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) in the US. Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, the University Museum at Southern Illinois University in the United States agreed to return a statue of a cat dating from the Ptolemaic era that had been illegally smuggled out of the country.
Ahmad al-Zayyât, a professor of Islamic Antiquities at the provincial Tantâ University and a member of the Permanent Committee for Retrieving Islamic Antiquities, says that the newly established National Committee will trawl worldwide auctions on the Internet for Egyptian antiquities that may have been stolen. They will check whether any antiquities they find are on the list of missing antiquities and then try to discover how these pieces left the country and when they were found. Al-Zayyât says that the Committee should focus on bringing back home antiquities like the Rosetta Stone and the Chin of the Sphinx (also in the British Museum). He adds that many pieces left Egypt at a time when there were laws allowing for such trade. In 1983, a law for protecting these antiquities came into effect, prohibit trading in them. "That's why we'll be concentrating on diplomatic rather than legal channels," he explains. "The Committee can invite the missions of countries, where missing antiquities are currently found to send missions to work in Egypt, in return for giving us back these antiquities." (Hassan Saadallah, "Hoping for their homecoming", The Egyptian Gazette, February 21, 2008).
Allemagne
L'Allemagne vient de restituer à l'Égypte deux récipients pour l'eau et le café qui remontent à l'époque ottomane. Volées au siècle dernier, ces deux pièces ont parcouru plusieurs pays européens, avant de finir en Allemagne qui, volontairement, à contacter le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, pour les lui restituer. Les responsables égyptiens ont salué l'attitude de l'Allemagne dans cette affaire et ont invité tous les pays civilisés à faire de même. (al-Ahrâr du 8 janvier 2008).
L'ex-secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Gâballah 'Alî Gâballah, a déclaré que la restitution du buste de Néfertiti, exposé au Das Alte Museum, est une chose impossible, dans la mesure où ce buste est sorti d'Égypte d'une façon légale à 100 %. Il a précisé que se gargariser de déclarations sur une éventuelle restitution vise uniquement à en obtenir un prêt au forcing. Dr Gâballah pense que même le prêt par l'Allemagne de ce buste reste une hypothèse tout à fait improbable. [] De son côté, le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a affirmé la poursuite des tentatives visant à emprunter ce buste durant trois mois, lors de l'inauguration du Grand Musée Égyptien prévue en 2001. (Muhammad Mandûr, « L'ex-secrétaire général du CSA : la restitution par l'Allemagne du buste de Néfertiti est une chose impossible », al-Badîl du 21 juin 2008).
É tats -Unis
The University Museum at Southern
Illinois University in Carbondale[ ] In the last few weeks, the University Museum at Southern Illinois University in the United States agreed to return a statue of a cat dating from the Ptolemaic era that had been illegally smuggled out of the country. In an ironic twist to the story the location of the cat only came about because the museum's current director Dona BACHMAN, sent a letter to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) asking for approval to exhibit the artefact as part of the museum's collection, and requesting more details about the object and the archaeological site where it was originally found. It was then that Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, Director General of the SCA, spotted that the cat was on a list of items stolen from Egypt. The museum was then persuaded to hand over the piece to the Egyptian Embassy in New York for its transfer by diplomatic baggage to the safety of the SCA's Department for the Return of Stolen Antiquities. The department and its director Dr Ahmad Mustafa have recovered over 5,000 stolen items since 2002 from institutions and private individuals all over the world. (Nigel J. HETHERINGTON, "SCA accidentally gets back stolen antiquities", Daily News Egypt, February 8, 2008).
Two small statues of the Egyptian goddess Bast will return home soon, 11 years after they were smuggled to the United States, Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî said yesterday. The Cairnton Dell University Museum, which bought the statues from a private collector in Paris in 1996, has returned them to Egypt's Consul in New York, who will fly them back home, Husnî said. The statues, which take the shape of cats, were stolen and smuggled from a storehouse in Egypt by unidentified persons, Husnî said. The statues, partly damaged by smugglers to conceal their identity, were acquired by the Cairnton Dell University Museum, which authenticated and kept them on display until Cairo demanded their return, Husnî said. (Hassan Saadallah, "Cairo retrieves 2 statues of goddess Bast", The Egyptian Gazette, January 18. Voir également « L'Égypte récupère une pièce antique de New York », al-Akhbâr du 18 janvier ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Les États-Unis restituent à l'Égypte deux statuettes d'époque ptolémaïque », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 18 janvier ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Zâhî Hawwâs : L'Égypte récupère une pièce archéologique exceptionnelle des États-Unis », al-Ahrâr du 18 janvier ; « L'Égypte récupère une pièce archéologique en bronze », al-Wafd du 19 janvier).
Suisse
Le ministre de la Culture, Fârûq Husnî, a accueilli le président de la Confédération suisse, Pascal COUCHEPIN, pour sa première visite officielle en Égypte. En avril 2008, les deux États signeront un accord de principe sur la restitution de toutes les pièces antiques sorties illégalement d'Égypte et qui se trouvent actuellement en Suisse. (al-Ahrâm du 10 janvier 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé l'intention des autorités suisses de restituer, au cours des prochains mois, une pièce archéologique importante sortie illégalement d'Égypte. Il s'agit de l'œil gauche d'une statue d'Amenhotep III. Cette annonce est intervenue au cours de la conférence de presse organisée hier par le ministre de la Culture et le président de la Confédération suisse. Volée du temple d'Amenhotep III à Louqsor, cette pièce fait partie des collections du Musée des Antiquités de Bâle. (al-Akhbâr du 10 janvier. Voir également "Egypt to restore eye of Amenhotep III", Egypt State Information Service, January 10 ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'Égypte récupère l'œil d'Amenhotep III de la Suisse », al-Ahrâr du 11 janvier ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Un musée suisse refuse de restituer une pièce antique volée à l'Égypte », al-Ahrâr du 17 mai).
-
-
VI - RECHERCHES & DÉCOUVERTES
Many of you may have questioned why, suddenly around this time of the year, a flurry of archaeological discoveries appears in the press and on television. Well, forget your conspiracy theories ; there is a reason and it's due to the almost unique way in which archaeology is practised in Egypt. Egyptology and Egyptian archaeology are still overwhelming dominated by foreigners - the subject itself is a product of a colonial era. However, this is changing. Encouraged by leading Egyptian archaeologists the youth of Egypt are beginning to engage with the study of their past in increasing numbers. We steer away from the subject of the glut of new discoveries somewhat, yet an understanding of the present situation is needed. Within the boundaries of Egypt, the body assigned the legal responsibility for the protection of antiquities, the oversight of archaeological excavations and the management of heritage sites (defined as anything over 100 years old), is the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). The SCA is a department within the Ministry of Culture, headed by a Secretary General, a position now occupied by Dr Zâhî Hawwâs. At this point, it would be useful to consider a brief potted history of the SCA. The Supreme Council was formed during the colonial era in 1858, when it was originally called the Service des Antiquités, at which time it was run mainly by the French, and had control of all archaeological excavations in the country. After partial Egyptian independence in 1922, the service was increasingly brought under the control of Egyptian government officials and was finally renamed the Egyptian Antiquities Organization in 1971.
However, legislative development regarding antiquities protection in Egypt was considered inadequate until 1951 when Law 215 was passed. This was the first piece of legislation that attempted to cover all aspects of antiquities protection, yet it contained many loopholes and was superseded in 1983 by Law 117. Only then did Egypt have the legislative powers to fully protect its heritage. The main points of Law 117 are : The SCA was made the legal guardian of antiquities ; "antiquity" was defined as any object movable or immovable over 100 years old, or objects or sites selected by prime ministerial decree and therefore public property ; the trade in antiquities was prohibited ; the exportation of cultural property from Egypt was banned. In addition to the recording, management and preservation of heritage sites, the SCA's main role in relation to these sites is to approve all excavation concessions and clear personnel for work in Egypt, while stipulating the conditions under which foreign missions carry archaeological work in Egypt. And this is where an understanding of the practice of archaeology in Egypt is needed.
There are currently somewhere in the region of 300 concessions (licences to carry out archaeological work in Egypt) in place. These include the dominant players in Egyptology -
the English, Germans and French - but also include teams from as far afield as Japan and Brazil. This number is boosted by a growing number of teams from within the SCA. These missions'work is supervised and approved by the Director General of the SCA, and each team is allocated a supervisor who ensures that rules and regulations are being adhered to.
If we go back to the colonial era, a lot of archaeology around the world was carried out by gentlemen scholars, those who had a disposable income and time enough to spend the winter in Egypt and the Levant. Many were even recommended by their doctors to winter in the Middle East for the sake of the health benefits of the climate. They mainly spent the harsher winter months - say from October to March - here in Egypt, returning home to show off their discoveries and possibly write up their finds. Even when the discipline of archaeology became more scientific, the winter season was firmly established in the schedule of institutes and universities. And the pattern continues to this day. Like migrating birds, the hordes of Egyptologists descend on Egypt late in the autumn and retreat again in early spring. Some, however, do stay on until April or May, and it has been known for some hardy souls to work through the summer. During these final few weeks in the spring, most dig directors then are busy packing up their sites and writing up reports to deposit with the SCA before they leave the country. Hence, new discoveries made in the preceding months suddenly appear on our screens and in our newspapers - as if they had all just been discovered this month. (Nigel J. HETHERINGTON, "Why a flood of new archaeological discoveries ?", Daily News Egypt, March 21, 2008).
Mu'tamida Bakr 'Abd al-Rahmân, directrice des antiquités d'al-Qalyûbiyya, a annoncé que 20 mille livres égyptiennes ont été débloquées pour entreprendre l'an prochain des fouilles et des sondages sur le terrain appartenant à la Banque Misr situé dans la région d'Atrîb. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd,
1er
« Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du janvier 2008).
Le directeur général des Comités permanents, Magdî al-Ghandûr, a annoncé que la mission de l'American University in Cairo (AUC) poursuivra jusqu'en mars prochain ses travaux archéologiques au Nord de l'oasis de Khârga. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd,
1er
« Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du janvier 2008).
La mission du Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Cairo
(PCMA) poursuivra fin mars 2008 ses travaux de fouilles, de relevés topographiques et de restauration des textiles découverts dans la région de Naqlûn située au Fayyûm. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 1er janvier 2008).
Une étude récente menée par Jacqueline M. CAMPBELL, égyptologue de l'University of Manchester, démontre que - longtemps avant les Grecs - les anciens Égyptiens avaient déjà élaboré une pharmacopée avancée, qui apparaît à travers l'analyse des restes des graines et des plantes trouvées dans les tombes égyptiennes et mentionnées dans les papyrus. (Khâlid Mubârak, « Les anciens Égyptiens étaient des pionniers dans la pharmacopée », al-Ahrâm du 5 janvier 2008).
[ ] But now we can go back into the past and imagine what happened when the Egyptians moved obelisks thousands of years ago. I have talked a great deal with a man from Seattle named Nathan whose dream is to find the obelisks that must have fallen into the Nile while they were being moved by boat in the time of the Pharaohs. We are going to mount an expédition to search for these missing obelisks. They may still be under the water, and it is even possible that statues cut from the quarries at Gabal al-Silsila could be there as well. We even know that the 19th•century Egyptologist Gaston MASPERO moved two small obelisks from Drâ' Abû al-Nagâ on the west bank of Luxor, but that the boat sank near a small village to the north of Karnak Temple. We are going to save these obelisks. (Zâhî Hawwâs, "Dig days : Egypt's top 10 : obelisks", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 10, 2008).
A workshop for the manufacture of stone arms, believed to be more than 500,000 years old, was unearthed in the Bahariyya Oasis. The find was made by a Czech team, who also discovered two-faced stone tools and triangular blades, the oldest discovery of its kind in Egypt. The same expédition discovered a large residential area dating back to the Roman era. Next to the area, tombs were found used separately for the burial of the royals and the commoners. (Hassan Saadallah, "Pre-historic workshop found", The Egyptian Gazette, January 18, 2008).
Head of the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT) said that CULTNAT cooperated with UNESCO and al-Azhar to document 434 astronomy manuscripts and research. He added that the project aims to document the Arab and Islamic civilization in the filed of astronomy. The project also tackled works of astronomy scientists including al-Hamazanî, al-Birûnî, Ibn Yûnis, al-Sufî, Buzgânî and others. CULTNAT issued a book on the astronomy science and its theoretical and practical aspects. The book discussed the invention of various instruments used in the observation operations including sundial, water watch, Astrolabe, Compass and the Pendulum, which was discovered by the Egyptian scientist Ibn Yûnis. ("CULTNAT, UNESCO cooperate to document archaeological manuscripts", Egypt State Information Service, January 19, 2008).
Le ministre égyptien de la culture, Fârûq Husnî, a été accueilli aujourd'hui à Madrid par son homologue espagnol, Cesar Antonio MOLINA. Celui-ci a révélé l'intention de son pays de fonder prochainement au Caire un Centre pour les études égyptologiques. Ce Centre aura pour mission de coordonner les activités déployées par les différentes équipes de fouilleurs et de restaurateurs espagnols en Égypte. (Muhammad 'Abd al-Bâsit, « L'Espagne compte créer prochainement un institut d'égyptologie au Caire », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 19 janvier 2008. Voir également « Création au Caire du premier Centre espagnol pour les études égyptologiques », al-Qâhira du 22 janvier ; Nigel J. HETHERINGTON, "SCA accidentally gets back stolen antiquities", Daily News Egypt, February 8).
Le directeur général des Comités permanents, Magdî al-Ghandûr, a annoncé que le Comité permanent a approuvé la poursuite des travaux de la mission de
l'American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) dans le monastère Blanc à Suhâg. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 5 février 2008).
La mission archéologique du Northern Arizona University (NAU) poursuit ses travaux de relevés des peintures et des graffitis dans la région de la Vallée des Rois et de la rive Ouest de Louqsor. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 5 février 2008).
Le Superviseur général des antiquités d'Alexandrie, Ahmad 'Abd al-Fattâh, a annoncé qu'une mission archéologique grecque entreprendra à la fin de l'été des relevés et des fouilles archéologiques dans la zone des jardins de Shallâlât à la recherche du quartier royal antique. C'est bien la première fois qu'une mission étrangère obtienne un permis de fouilles dans cette zone. (« À la recherche du quartier royal sous les jardins de Shallâlât en Alexandrie », Uktubar du 24 février 2008).
Le directeur des antiquités d'Alexandrie, Dr Ibrâhîm Darwîsh, a lancé un cri d'alarme à propos de la poursuite dangereuse des travaux de remblayage des côtes dans le Port Est d'Alexandrie. Ces opérations de terrassement ne vont pas de pair avec notre demande à l'Unesco de déclarer le Port Est réserve naturelle. Ces déclarations ont été prononcées lors d'un séminaire organisé par la faculté de Lettres d'Alexandrie autour des antiquités submergées. Ce séminaire a été dirigé par le Dr 'Izzat Qâdûs, professeur d'Archéologie à la Faculté. Dr Darwîsh a ajouté que ce remblayage aurait pour conséquence la modification des courants marins et la destruction des antiquités submergées. « En tant qu'archéologues, nous ne sommes nullement opposés à la protection des côtes. Nous sommes juste opposés à la façon de s'y prendre. Car comment peut-on consacrer plusieurs millions de livres égyptiennes à la création d'un musée sous-marin au milieu d'un tel chaos ? » s'est demandé Dr Darwîsh. (Uktubar du 24 février 2008).
Les habitants du village al-Far'uniyya à Ashmûn dans le gouvernorat de Munûfiyya ont probablement réalisé une importante découverte archéologique lors de la construction d'une mosquée. À une profondeur de 3 mètres, les habitants ont mis au jour un bloc de pierre carrée (1,5 x 1,5 m) décoré dans chacun des 4 angles d'une tête de cobra, en plus de 8 autres grands blocs dont certains mesurent 2 mètres, alignés soigneusement sur un lit de sable. Derrière ces pierres, les habitants ont découvert ce qui semble être l'entrée d'une tombe pharaonique. (« Découverte archéologique fortuite à Munûfiyya », al-Ahrâr du 4 mars 2008. Voir également Hassan Saadallah, "Ancient tomb unearthed by chance", The Egyptian Gazette, March 14 ; Khâlid al-Shâmî, « Découvertes archéologiques à la pelle à Munûfiyya qui n'attendent que Zâhî Hawwâs », al-Karâma du 14 avril).
Les relevés archéologiques entrepris sous le lac Maryût ont révélé l'existence de vestiges d'installations côtières pour l'accueil des navires commerciaux et l'entreposage des marchandises. Le superviseur de ce projet, Dr 'Imâd Khalîl, a annoncé la mise au jour de fours de potiers et de quelques pressoirs à vin qui remontent à l'époque romaine. (Husâm 'Abd al-Qâdir, « Découvertes archéologiques dans le lac Maryût », Uktubar du 9 mars 2008).
L'Institut français d'archéologie orientale (Ifao) poursuit jusqu'à fin mars 2008 les fouilles archéologiques, les relevés et l'étude des peintures coptes dans la région Abû Darag située à 19 km au sud de 'Ayn al-Sukhna. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 11 mars 2008).
Le CSA entreprend actuellement des relevés archéologiques au nord-ouest de l'enceinte de Montou, le nettoyage des vestiges mis au jour, ainsi que des relevés géophysiques du secteur. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 11 mars 2008).
Son Éminence Dr 'Alî Gum'a, Grand Muftî de la République
À l'initiative du Grand Muftî, Dr 'Alî Gum'a, un protocole de coopération a été signé mercredi dernier entre Dâr al-Iftâ'et Dâr al-Kutub (Bibliothèque Nationale) en vertu duquel toutes les archives de Dâr al-Iftâ'depuis sa création en 1885 jusqu'à aujourd'hui seront remises à Dâr al-Kutub. Ces archives regroupent plus de 150 mille fatwa-s, en plus des verdicts de condamnation à mort ratifiés par le Muftî. Le président de l'administration centrale de Dâr al-Kutub, Dr Rif'at Hilâl, a souligné que grâce à cette initiative, ces archives numérisées seront mises à la disposition des chercheurs dans les domaines des études religieuses, sociologiques et politiques. Le Dr Hilâl a invité les autres institutions de l'État à faire de même et à confier leurs archives à Dâr al-Kutub afin qu'elles soient protégées, restaurées et mises à la disposition de la communauté scientifique. (« Dâr al-Iftâ'offre ses archives à la Bibliothèque Nationale », Akhbâr al-Adab du 16 mars 2008. Voir également « Protocole de coopération entre Dâr al-Iftâ'et Dâr al-Kutub », al-Wafd du 12 mars ; Salwa 'Abd al-Halîm, « Numérisation des manuscrits de Dâr al-Iftâ'», al-Badîl du 13 mars ; « Les manuscrits de Dâr al-'Iftâ'passent à Dâr al-Kutub », Sabâh al-Khayr du 18 mars).
Le directeur de l'inspectorat de Daqahliyya, Nagîb Nûr, a annoncé qu'une mission archéologique russe a commencé à travailler à Tell Timyi al-Amdîd. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 18 mars 2008).
Le Directeur général des Antiquités du Sud-Sinaï, Târiq al-Naggâr, a annoncé l'achèvement bientôt du projet de restauration et d'étude des peintures rupestres de Gabal al-Nâqûs et de Wâdî al-Tûr. Ces travaux sont entrepris par une mission du Service des Antiquités islamiques du Koweït, sous la présidence du shaykha Hisa al-Sabbâh, directrice générale du musée national du Koweït. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 18 mars 2008).
[ ] Underwater excavations ongoing since
the 1980s have covered several hectares round the rocks at the foot of the Qâytbây Fort and revealed a wealth of granite masonry, sphinxes, statues - some of them colossal - and other artefacts. The rocks are being studied and analysed in a joint European-Egyptian project aiming at preparing a historic and scientific database of the site's history. A comprehensive atlas of the site, complete with background information on how the Pharos was built and how it collapsed, is planned for next year. Watanî spoke to Ahmad Shu'ayb, professor of restoration at Cairo University and head of the Egyptian side of Medistone, the joint project with the European Union. Medistone aims at protecting three monumental sites from the Greco-Roman eras in Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco. According to Dr Shu'ayb, Alexandria is experiencing a historic and monumental cultural regeneration and the Pharos was chosen by the EU as an antiquity that linked North Africa to Europe. The joint project, Dr Shu'ayb added, would take three years of study and research which will include analysing the rocks that were used to build the Pharos, such as rose granite and limestone that were brought from Aswân, and the white marble that was brought from abroad. Dr Shu'ayb said the French expédition affiliated to the Alexandria's studies centre had registered the sunken antiquities, especially the pieces representing parts of the Pharos. The sunken objects were registered in cooperation with the sunken antiquities department of the Supreme Council of Antiquities after the accumulated salts had been removed. (Mervat Ayad, "Beacon of light", Watanî, March 23, 2008).
Le directeur de l'inspectorat de Daqahliyya, Nagîb Nûr, a annoncé qu'une mission archéologique polonaise a commencé à travailler à Tell Ghazâla et une autre mission britannique à Tell al-Balâmûn. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 25 mars 2008).
La mission de l'Institut suisse de recherches architecturales et archéologiques de l'ancienne Égypte
installe une clôture métallique autour de la région de Nag' al-Kârmilâ à Aswân, afin de la protéger contre l'expansion urbaine et agricole avant d'y entreprendre des relevés archéologiques. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 25 mars 2008).
An Egyptian-US team of archaeologists has unearthed a pre-historic tomb in the southern Egyptian city of Idfû. The expédition found inside the tomb three preserved mummies in good condition. "The mummies were found lying in different positions," said Zâhî Hawwâs, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. He added that clay pots and bones of animals had been found next to the mummy. Rare statues were also discovered, added the official. (Hassan Saadallah, "Pre-historic tomb found", The Egyptian Gazette, March 28, 2008).
Le directeur général de l'administration des missions et des fouilles archéologiques, 'Abd al-Rahmân al-'Âydî, a commencé le 6 avril des travaux de fouilles dans la région d'al-Lâhûn située dans le Fayyûm. Al-'Âydî est assisté par sept archéologues, restaurateurs et dessinateurs égyptiens. Une somme de 20 mille livres égyptiennes a été allouée à cette mission. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 8 avril 2008).
Le directeur général des Comités permanents a annoncé que la mission du Martin-Luther-Universität poursuivra ses relevés archéologiques et géologiques, la collecte et l'analyse des tessons de céramique découverts au Nord du désert Occidental à Marsa Matrûh. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 8 avril 2008).
Le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a annoncé la découverte par une mission égyptienne de vestiges d'un temple grec lors des travaux de restauration entrepris sur le site de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie. Cette découverte confirme l'adoption par les Grecques du culte de la triade Isis, Osiris et Horus. (« Mise au jour d'un temple grec dans le secteur de la colonne de Pompée en Alexandrie », al-Akhbâr du 13 avril 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Découverte en Alexandrie d'un temple vieux de 2500 ans », al-Ahrâr du 13 avril ; Hassan Saadallah, "Find shows Greeks worshipped Pharaonic deities",
The Egyptian Gazette, April 13).
Le directeur de l'Administration des études et de la documentation archéologique, Muhammad Hasan, a annoncé la découverte d'une citerne d'époque mamluke sur le site de Kom al-Nâdûra en Alexandrie. Une étude historique et archéologique de cette nouvelle citerne est en cours. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 22 avril 2008).
Le Doyen de la faculté d'Archéologie du Caire, Dr 'Alâ'al-Dîn 'Abd al-Muhsin Shâhîn, s'est rendu la semaine dernière en Pologne, afin de signer une convention de coopération scientifique avec la Wroclaw University dans le domaine des fouilles archéologiques. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 22 avril 2008).
Une mission archéologique égyptienne a découvert une nouvelle forteresse militaire érigée par le sultan Qusuwa al-Ghûrî dans la région de Sahl al-Tîna dans le Nord-Sinaï. Cette découverte intervient seulement deux semaines après la mise au jour d'une autre forteresse dans la région de Qantara Sharq située à Ismâ'îliyya. Érigée sur une superficie d'un kilomètre carré, cette forteresse, unique en son genre en Égypte, ressemble à celle de la ville d'Alep en Syrie. Elle regroupe une garnison militaire et des ateliers de fabrication de verre. (« Mise au jour dans le Sinaï d'une forteresse du sultan al-Ghûrî », al-Qâhira du 22 avril 2008. Voir également Mushîra Musa, « Découverte d'une forteresse de Qunsuwa al-Ghûrî à Sahl al-Tîna dans le Sinaï », al-Ahrâm du 14 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Découverte à Ismâ'îliyya et dans le Sinaï de vestiges militaires importants qui datent de l'époque mamlûke », al-Ahrâr du 18 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Découverte de la 2e forteresse du sultan al-Ghûrî dans le Sinaï », al-Akhbâr du 18 avril).
A senior Egyptologist has denied that female circumcision also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), was known in ancient Egypt. According to Zâhî Hawwâs, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, no manuscripts or inscriptions had been found to confirm that the practice was familiar in ancient Egypt. ("FGM unknown to Pharaohs", The Egyptian Gazette, April 24, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « L'excision n'est pas une pratique pharaonique », al-Ahrâr du 23 avril).
Archaeologists have revealed plans to uncover the 2000 year-old tomb of ancient Egypt's most famous lovers, Cleopatra and the Roman General Mark Antony later this year. Zâhî Hawwâs, the Chairman of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, announced a proposal to test the theory that the couple were buried together. Hawwâs said that the remains of the legendary Egyptian queen and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, were inside a temple called Tabusiris Magna, 30 kilometres from the port city of Alexandria. ("Plans to uncover Cleopatra tomb", The Egyptian Gazette, April 26, 2008).
Bien qu'il ait réussi à engendrer 6 filles, Akhenaton n'était pas le plus « viril » des pharaons. Telles sont les conclusions d'une théorie récente basée sur la morphologie féminine et la tête oblongue d'Akhenaton. Lors d'une communication présentée à l'University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Irwin BRAVERMAN du Yale University affirme que l'androgynie de l'époux de Néfertiti est due à une mutation génétique qui pousse l'organisme à convertir des hormones mâles en hormones femelles.
Selon BRAVERMAN, la tête allongée d'Akhenaton est due à une atrophie osseuse survenue dès la petite enfance. Il a souligné que « l'apparence androgyne de ce pharaon se reflétait à travers une morphologie féminine avec des hanches exagérément larges et des gros seins. Toutefois, il était viril et fécond dans la mesure où il a réussi à engendrer une demi-douzaine de filles ». L'étude menée par BRAVERMAN s'est basée sur les statues et les représentations connues de ce pharaon. (« Akhenaton le plus viril des pharaons ! », al-Wafd du 5 mai 2008).
Akhenaten and Family Under the Aten Credit : Andreas F. Voegelin
[ ] Egyptologist and archaeologist Donald B. REDFORD said he supports BRAVERMAN's belief that Akhenaten had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder marked by lengthened features, including fingers and the face. Visiting clinics that treat those with the condition has strengthened that conviction, "but this is very subjective, I must admit," said REDFORD, a professor of classic and ancient Mediterranean studies at Penn State University. Others have theorized Akhenaten and his lineage had Froehlich's Syndrome, which causes feminine fat distribution but also sterility. That doesn't fit Akhenaten, who had at least six daughters, BRAVERMAN said. Klinefelter Syndrome, a genetic condition that can also cause gynecomastia, or male breast enlargement, has also been suggested, but BRAVERMAN said he suspects familial gynecomastia, a hereditary condition that leads to the overproduction of estrogen. The Yale doctor said determining whether he is right can easily be done if Egyptologists can confirm which mummy is Akhenaten's and if Egyptian government officials agree to DNA analysis. BRAVERMAN hopes his theory will lead them to do just that. "I'm hoping that after we have this conference and I bring this up, maybe the Egyptologists who work on these things all the time, maybe they will be stimulated to look," he said. Previous conferences have examined the deaths of Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Florence Nightingale and others. (Alex DOMINGUEZ, "Was Akhenaten and androgynous Pharaoh ?", Daily News Egypt, May 2).
Le directeur général des Comités permanents, Magdî al-Ghandûr, a annoncé que la mission de l'Universität Potsdam poursuivra jusqu'en mai 2008 ses travaux de fouilles et de restauration archéologiques à Tell Bastâ. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 6 mai 2008).
Le directeur général de l'administration des missions et des fouilles archéologiques, 'Abd al-Rahmân al-'Âydî, a annoncé que le Comité permanent a approuvé la demande présentée par Dr Fârûq Gum'a, chef de la mission archéologique de l'Universität Tübingen. Celle-ci poursuivra ses travaux dans la nécropole d'al-Kom al-Ahmar jusqu'au 15 mai 2008. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 6 mai 2008).
Spain and Egypt will start a project later this year to investigate the 19th century sinking of a ship that some believe contained the mummy of a Fourth Dynasty pharaoh, news agency MENA said. MENA cited Egyptian Ambassador to Spain Yâsir Murâd as saying the countries would first hold consultations and compare historical records, and attempt to establish the location of the shipwreck. [] A ship carrying ancient artifacts from Egypt to Britain that sank off the Spanish coast in the first half of the 19th century is believed by some Egyptologists to have contained Khafre's mummy. ("Spain, Egypt to investigate 19th century shipwreck" Daily News Egypt, May 23, 2008).
The Memory of the Arab World Project's second executive committee meeting and the Conference on the Digitization of Arab Heritage are due to be held from May 26- 28, 2008 in Damascus. The three-day event is co-organized by Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the sponsor of the Memory of the Arab World project ; General Commission for the Festival of Damascus ; Tarim Center for Architecture and Heritage in Syria and Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT), a Bibliotheca Alexandria affiliate. An Egyptian high-level delegation headed by Senior Advisor to MCIT Minister Dr Huda Baraka and CULTNAT Director Dr Fathî Sâlih are taking part in the event. The Conference on the Digitization of Arab Heritage aims to discuss digitization issues, highlight Arab efforts and initiatives in this domain, promote the role of libraries in the documentation of literary heritage and emphasize the role of information technology in this field. ("Egypt sponsors Digitization of Arab Heritage Conference in Syria", Daily News Egypt, May 25, 2008).
Une mission archéologique de l'Universidad del Valle de México (UVM) poursuivra jusqu'au 15 avril 2008 ses travaux de documentation, de photographie et de relevé épigraphique dans la tombe TT39 située à Louqsor. La mission assurera également la restauration et la consolidation architecturale de cette tombe. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 27 mai 2008).
Pour plus d'information, voir (http://www.uvmnet.edu/investigacion/episte me/numero4•05/colaboracion/a preliminary.asp).
Egyptians archaeologists had unearthed the relics of a wine brewer near St. Catherine in southern Sinai. The brewer is composed of two parts, one of them includes a square basin made of local stones, according to Zâhî Hawwâs, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Preliminary studies have shows that the area was famous for wine breweries due to its abundant gardens. (Hassan Saadallah, "Ancient brewer found in Sinai", The Egyptian Gazette, June 2, 2008. Voir également Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Découverte d'un pressoir à vin dans le Sud-Sinaï », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 2 juin).
Some of the images found on ancient Egyptian papyri and tombs reflect the variety of musical instruments used at the time, attesting to the developed state art had reached during the Pharaonic age. 'Abd al-Halîm Nûr al-Dîn, professor of archaeology and former director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, spoke of Israeli attempts to claim that those instruments are part of the Jewish heritage which began to take shape in ancient Egypt when the Jewish people emerged as a distinct community. Nûr al-Dîn, who had given a lecture last month on the subject at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, pointed out that in spite of the fact that some Pharaonic documents prove that music was present at royal ceremonies, funeral processions and other events, no musical notes were found to translate that music into melodies. [] The songs of the harpist were some of the most famous mainstream songs in ancient Egypt where experts'interpretations vary - some argue the songs were cynical about the afterlife while others view them as simply established after a phase of doubt. Images on tombs indicate there were national songs performed upon the return of victorious armies from battles in remote lands. There is also evidence that workers and peasants had their own songs that helped relieve their strenuous tasks. "A lot take for granted that the ancient Egyptians, the first to have invented letters and writing, were also capable of noting down their melodies," said Nûr al-Dîn. "But no discoveries were made to support that assumption," he said. "Most probably the songs and tunes must have been handed down from generation to generation orally as many memorized them, but we have to remember that written musical notes are a completely new invention."
" Now researchers are trying to discover what ancient Egyptian music exactly sounded like," he added. But how can this task be achieved ? "In cooperation with musicians, researchers will try to establish a concept of how the music sounded through the hieroglyphic texts and the movements expressed in the images. Archaeologists will interpret the texts to the musical experts who will attempt to reach a conclusion. I understand this isn't a easy job, but musicians have got their own methods to identify any type of music through certain indications other than notes," he explained. Some argue that the attention directed at ancient Egyptian music is politically motivated, since the topic of Jewish moves to claim the invention of the Egyptian musical instruments usually takes center stage in similar seminars. However, Nûr al-Dîn strongly denies that claim. "This isn't true going because many of the images showing these instruments belong to early dynasties that predate the presence of Jews in Egypt. We will have to stress that time and again to stop this theft." (Ahmed Maged, "The Pharaohs are alive, with the sound of music", Daily News Egypt, June 3, 2008).
An Egyptian archaeological team has discovered two castles, the first at Tell Habwa on the ancient road of Horus War Road, which dates back to the Pharaohs era, Dynasties 18 and 19. The second castle dated back to the Persian era. Zâhî Hawwâs Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the new discoveries are located 30 km east to the Suez Canal. ("Discovery of two Pharaonic and Persian castles east to Suez Canal", Egypt State Information Service, June 06, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Découverte de deux forteresses pharaonique et perse à Suez », al-Ahrâr du 3 juin).
La mission de l'University of Kraków poursuit ses travaux de fouilles dans la zone archéologique de Tell al-Farkha située dans le gouvernorat de Mansûra. (Lû'ay Mahmûd Sa'ïd, « Musées et Antiquités », al-Qâhira du 10 juin 2008)
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has announced a project to retrieve the basalt casket containing statues of the Pharaonic King Menkaure, which sank off the Spanish coast in 1837. "The project will involve using a water robot, while Franck GODDIO, who helped retrieve many monuments from the seabed in Abû Qîr Bay off the coastal city of Alexandria in 1990s, will also take part," Zâhî Hawwâs, the SCA Secretary-General, said. "The team will also include the discoverer of the Titanic, Robert BALLARD." The project will kick off by the end of this year, in cooperation with the Spanish Government, in a bid to locate Piaters, a ship that sank near the Spanish city of Cortegana. It was carrying a casket that contained treasures belonging to the Pharaoh from Malta to Spain, on its way to the British Museum for scientific analysis, only one year after the British Colonel Richard William HOWARD has discovered the mummy of the king in the Small Pyramid at Gîza. (Hassan Saadallah, "Water robot to prospect for Menkaure", The Egyptian Gazette, June 23, 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « À la recherche du sarcophage de Chéphren dans les eaux espagnoles », al-Akhbâr du 23 mai ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Le découvreur du Titanic recherche le sarcophage de Chéphren », al-Ahrâr du 24 mai ; Ashraf Mufîd, « À la recherche du sarcophage de Chéphren devant les côtes espagnoles », al-Ahrâm du 25 mai).
(c) 2008 Agence France-Presse
Syrian archaeologists have unearthed a hieroglyph close to Damascus, which dates back to the pharaonic period around 1,300 years BC, the official SANA news agency reported on Saturday. "The antiquities department has discovered a hieroglyph on the outskirts of Damascus, 25 kilometres east (of the capital), engraved into a basalt stone slab (measuring) 70 by 50 cm," SANA said. "This type of slab was quite widespread during the era of the Pharaohs, who used it to mark a special occasion," department head Mahmûd Hammûd said, adding text on the stone dated back to the reign of Pharaoh Rameses II, between 1,290 and 1,224 years BC. The slab shows the leg of the king and behind it, the foot of the Egyptian god Amon. Amon's name figures in the text below the engraving although the date is illegible. A similar engraving, which dates from the same period, was discovered several years ago in al-Kiswa region near the capital and is on display at the Damascus national museum. (AFP, "Syria unearths 2,300-year-old pharaonic engraving", Middle East Times, June 28, 2008).
Archaeologists have uncovered ancient wooden coffins in what appears to be a royal burial ground near the necropolis of Abydos in southern Egypt, the state-run MENA news agency reported on Saturday. The agency said that the discovery, made by a team from the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, could be dated back to the Old Kingdom - the golden age of pyramid building in ancient times. The team "has found what could be a royal complex of 13 tombs of different shapes and sizes that could have belonged to high officials from that period or people who contributed to building these tombs," MENA said. The agency said that human bones were found inside the coffins, although it did not specify how many coffins were discovered. Objects made out of ivory similar to pieces used for playing chess were also found. MENA said only one other similar board game has been found in Egypt and that was among the fabled treasures of the legendary boy king Tutankhamun. (AFP, "Ancient royal burial ground found in Egypt : report", Middle East Times, July 05, 2008).
Un accord inédit a été conclu entre le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, et le président du Hellenic Institute for Ancient and Medieval Alexandrian Studies (HIAMAS), l'archéologue Harry Tzalas. En vertu de cet accord, le HIAMAS entreprendra des relevés archéologiques sur la côte Est d'Alexandrie, à partir de la région al-Silsila en face de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina jusqu'à Sîdî Bishr, en passant par la région de Sporting. Ces travaux importants débuteront en juin prochain dans ce secteur qui n'a jamais été exploré depuis 1933. Les relevés seront effectués à une distance d'environ un kilomètre des côtes et sur une profondeur variant entre 6 et 20 mètres sous le niveau de la mer. (Muhammad Abû Dhikrî, « La mission archéologique grecque entreprend des relevés sur les côtes Est d'Alexandrie », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 3 mai 2008).
Lors de la dernière réunion du Comité permanent, le secrétaire général du CSA, Dr Zâhî Hawwâs, a approuvé le lancement des travaux de relevés archéologiques sur la côte Nord, tout le long du bras Ouest du lac Maryût, entre Sîdî Krîr et la ville al-Hamâm située au Nord. Ces relevés seront entrepris grâce à la coopération entre l'Université d'Alexandrie et l'University of Southampton. L'ex-président du département d'archéologie d'Alexandrie, Dr 'Izzat Qâdûs, et l'archéologue 'Adlî Rushdî sont chargés de la supervision de ces travaux et de la coordination avec la partie britannique. (Muhammad Abû Dhikrî, « Relevés archéologiques de la côte Nord d'Alexandrie », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 2 mai 2008).
Taposiris Magna
An Egyptian-Dominican Republic archaeological team working at Taposiris Magna, an area of archaeological importance west of Alexandria and site of a temple dedicated to the prosperity god Osiris, as well as a number of Graeco-Roman catacombs, have stumbled upon several Ptolemaic objects that date back to the reign of the famous Queen Cleopatra. The team was searching the site in the hope of locating the tomb of Cleopatra VII and her lover Mark Anthony. Excavation work started early last year in the area, as it was believed that the tragic couple had dug their tomb in an area some distance from Alexandria in order to be out of reach of their enemies. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the head of the archaeological mission, said that what fuelled the belief was that early historians were able to describe the tomb of Alexander the Great but made no mention of a name or a description of a tomb either for Cleopatra or Mark Anthony.
Clockwise from top left : Ramses II's relief ; bronze statue of
Aphrodite ; the wine basins ; coins ; Cleopatra's head ; wine factory ;
Seti I's relief. Photos courtesy of the SCA.
The team unearthed an alabaster head of Cleopatra and a mask thought to be of Mark Anthony, as well as an alabaster statue of the goddess Aphrodite and a headless basalt statue of a royal Ptolemaic figure. Inside the temple a number of 50-metre deep tunnels and corridors have been found leading to the temple's foundation stones, revealing that it was built during the reign of Ptolemy II (281•246 BC). With them were found 20 bronze coins dating from the reign of Cleopatra. But if the team members had set their hearts on making that special discovery, they were disappointed. "We have found nothing that indicates the presence of Cleopatra's or Anthony's tomb," Hawwâs said. The classical Taposiris Magna, now called Abû Sîr, was known in the Pharaonic era as Po-Osiris, which means the place of the god Osiris. Under the Graeco-Romans this was shortened to Posiris. It was believed to be where Isis buried the 14th part of Osiris's corpse after he had been killed and his body scattered by his evil brother Set. Further excavation is now on hold until November. (Nevine El-Aref, "One for the road", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 5, 2008. Voir également "Archaeologists discover statues of Cleopatra, Aphrodite", Middle East Times, May 26 ; AFP, "Archaeologists discover statues of Cleopatra, Aphrodite", Daily News Egypt, May 27 ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Aphrodite et une tête de Cléopâtre en Alexandrie », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 27 mai ; Amira Samir, « Sur les traces d'une reine fabuleuse », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 4 juin ; « Découverte d'une tête en albâtre de Cléopâtre près d'Alexandrie », Watanî du 8 juin ; Riyâd Tawfîq, « Cléopâtre apparaît sur la côte Nord ! », al-Ahrâm du 17 juin ; Marwa Mourad, « La reine légendaire Cléopâtre ressurgit à l'ouest d'Alexandrie », Le Progrès Égyptien du 19 juin).
Archaeological
Management Policies
Marine archaeologists around the Mediterranean are joining forces to revive and protect underwater monuments that highlight the historic achievements of their respective cultures. The Underwater Archaeology Department (UAD) of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, based in Alexandria, is participating in an ambitious two-year project aimed at reviving several underwater archaeological sites around the Mediterranean. Their goal is to sustain the bio-cultural diversity of the ancient sea's costal cities. The project is called Archaeomap, short for "Archaeological Management Policies," and is sponsored by UNESCO, the European Union and Sicily Region, a Palermo-based Italian cultural organization. Among the sites being examined by the project is the site of the Alexandria Lighthouse, the ruins of which are hidden beneath Qâytbây Fort. Also featured are sites belonging to France, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Lebanon and Malta.
As 'Alâ'Mahrûs, the director of UAD, told Daily News Egypt that Archaeomap aims to examine some of the most important sub•aquatic archaeological sites and determine how to raise their public profile, protect their fabric and encourage their continued study. "The kick-off meeting was held in the Italian city of Palermo, whose underwater archaeology administration suggested the idea of the project," said Mahrûs. "The second meeting came last December in
Barcelona, Spain and the next meeting is scheduled to take place in November 2008 at the Alexandria Library." "The sites have already been selected and at every meeting we discuss their re-launch from archaeological, architectural, scientific and socio-economic perspectives," he added. "By the time the scheduled two-year meetings come to an end we will reach decisions with regard to what should be done."
Among the issues being considered is the damage caused by growing human populations in coastal zones and the pressure of beach tourism. This, it is argued, can lead to the deterioration of natural habitats and damage to the material fabric of sites themselves. Archaeological attractions can themselves add to the touristic value of any location, but such developments must be well managed to avoid the potential negative consequences. Citing a case close to home, Mahrûs said that the revival of the Alexandria Library had helped to promote and develop the city, but the proximity of other ancient sites to the city's touristic and other activities is cause for concern. "The influx of visitors has increased and more hotels and resorts have been built," he said. "Unfortunately, sewerage water as well as the waste of boats continue to be dumped in the Eastern Port on which the site [of the Qâytbây Fort] is located. It is also a target for fisherman's nets and boatmen's picnic business." "Some of the sites under consideration by Archaeomap have been declared archaeological protectorates by UNESCO and other international organizations, but regrettably not the site of the remains of the Alexandria Lighthouse," said Mahrûs. "Our main concern since the event's inception is to work hard to convince these international organizations that we really care that this particular site becomes an international archaeological protectorate. Once we take this step we would be able to receive the necessary funding for any archaeological plan on this site," he said.
The marine archaeologist said it is still too early to tell what recommendations the project will finally make regarding the lighthouse. "The project has just launched and we can't decide until the end of 2009," he said. "Besides the fort, there are a lot of sunken antiquities around the area. We could set up an underwater museum that would be constructed with glass tubes. Also the entrance of the lighthouse could be reconstructed and made accessible to the public." As for recent calls for the re-building of the lighthouse according to original designs, Mahrûs is sceptical. "If we were to rebuild the lighthouse, what should we do with it ? We can't just have a building without a purpose. I can't think of any, but a lot is bound to unfold before we take a final decision." (Ahmed Maged, "New project aims to revive sub-aquatic monuments", Daily News Egypt, May 7, 2008)
Reconstruction du
Phare antiqu e
A tour guide is calling for rebuilding the Lighthouse of Alexandria, once identified as the Seven Wonders of the World and was severely damaged following a series of earthquakes that hit the Alexandrian coast over the past centuries. Bassâm al-Shammâ' is appealing to the concerned authorities and the people of Egypt to start a campaign to restore an ancient landmark. "If we speak of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, we should shed the light on the Seven Wonders of the World, two of which were built by Egyptians," noted al-Shammâ'. "True the ancient tower was set up by the ancient Greeks who ruled Egypt at that time, but why didn't they build it in Greece ? This was simply because Egypt was the only country with the required expertise capable of constructing such an edifice," argued al-Shammâ'. However, al-Shammâ' added that it is not known that a lot of other lighthouses were built by Egyptian artisans, namely the lighthouse in Abû Sîr in west of Alexandria - a large part of which still stands today. He explained that the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the only wonder that continued to have a practical purpose until it collapsed. Al-Shammâ' added that to reconstruct the tower that was said to have been 130 meters high, Egyptians would be earning back their reputation as qualified builders. "'Pharology,' a science devoted to building lighthouses, borrowed its name from 'Pharos'the island where the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood," he said. [] Al-Shammâ' told Daily News Egypt that a new lighthouse is bound to become Alexandria's new cultural emblem and place the costal city on the tourist map. He suggested that it could also serve as a fortification, watchtower and a ship guide. He recommended setting up a special institute within its premises that specializes in teaching the science of building lighthouses.
According to Amwâg, an Alexandria-based magazine, Dr 'Umar al-Hadîdî was the first to suggest in 1978 rebuilding the ancient wonder to Dr Fu'âd Hilmî, then governor of Alexandria, who welcomed the idea and started promoting it in international media. But after 32 Egyptian and international companies rivaled to take on the project, it was canceled when Hilmî was replaced as governor by Muhammad 'Abd al-Salâm al-Mahgûb. Al-Mahgûb, according to Amwâg, pressed ahead with the project, but the companies that were competing for the project had different agendas with commercial interests, with some suggesting building a glass or steel tower with laser beams to serve as a shopping mall at the same time. Launching the project wouldn't require a lot of research because luckily, the work has already been done. Al-Shammâ' explained that many ancient documents (in writing and pictures) provide a comprehensive description of the lighthouse. "The original location of the ancient landmark is well-known, which isn't the case in other examples such as the tombs of Alexander the Great or Cleopatra. Also the lighthouse is featured in several ancient artworks such as The Well of Wonders, a fresco by Nicolas SCHIEL that dates back to 1669, as well as another fresco at the Saint Mark Cathedral in Venice, which was made to show the arrival of the first Gospel-carrying saint in Alexandria in the 13th century." "In addition to giving a pictorial description of the site and building, the fresco also indicates that it operated between the 13th and 17th centuries, which refutes allegations that Qâytbây, the reputed Mamluk, whose fort continues to stand in the lighthouse's place, didn't demolish the lighthouse to construct his fort."
The lighthouse was also mentioned in the texts of Greek and Arab globetrotters such as STRABOS, Ibn 'Arabî and others, all of which show, along with the frescos and paintings, that the lighthouse was refurbished several times after the earthquakes started taking their toll on it. "We have to examine all of them so that we can decide how it should be reconstructed. It was great to rebuild the Bibliotheca Alexandrina but I regret that the new design isn't in line with the city's character and doesn't reflect its glorious past. If a new lighthouse is built, it should match the world's expectations." "It's about time for the Egyptians who revived the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to breathe life into their ancient lighthouse," said al-Shammâ'. (Ahmed Maged, "Lighthouse of Alexandria due for restoration, says expert", Daily News Egypt, April 20, 2008).
Pyramides
Le savant français Joseph DAVIDOVITS qui occupe le poste de directeur de l'Institut Géopolymère vient de soumettre une nouvelle théorie par laquelle il assure que les pyramides ont été construites avec de la boue. La théorie suppose que la boue et d'autres éléments ont été pris du limon du Nil et ont été placés ensemble dans des moules de pierre hermétiques. Ensuite, ils ont été chauffés jusqu'à 900 degrés centigrades, ce qui a eu pour résultat l'interaction de ces éléments et leur formation en pierres qui ressemblent à celles qui sont produites par les volcans qui datent depuis des millions d'années. Joseph DAVIDOVITS certifie que les pierres avec lesquelles les pyramides ont été construites ont été fabriquées, à la base, d'une poussière de calcaire de chaux, de boue et d'eau. L'analyse des échantillons ayant prouvé la présence d'une grande quantité d'eau dans ces pierres qui ne se trouve pas dans les pierres naturelles. Il convient de souligner aussi la symétrie de la composition intérieure des pierres ce qui prouve qu'il est absolument impensable que ces pierres aient été transportées et taillées de cette manière. La possibilité la plus logique est qu'ils auraient versé la boue dans des moules qui auraient donné ces formes symétriques aux pierres tout comme on verse aujourd'hui les objets en plastique dans des moules qui donnent à toutes les pièces des formes similaires et égales.
Il a ajouté qu'il a eu recours au microscope électronique pour analyser des échantillons de pierres des pyramides. Le résultat se rapprochait énormément de cette théorie. En outre, ont apparu clairement des boules de quartz résultant du réchauffement de la boue assurant que dans la nature ce genre de pierres était introuvable. DAVIDOVITS poursuit aussi que les analyses ont prouvé la présence de bulles d'air dans les échantillons prélevés des pyramides, ces bulles ayant été formées au moment du versement des pierres de boue à cause de la chaleur et de l'évaporation de l'eau. Il assure que ces bulles ne se trouvent pas dans les pierres naturelles, ce qui constitue une nouvelle évidence que ces pierres fabriquées à partir de boue de calcaire de chaux ne dépassent pas les 4 700 ans. Il explique aussi que les pharaons ont ramené la poussière de calcaire de chaux qui se trouve en grande quantité dans leur région et l'ont mêlée au sable en lui ajoutant l'eau du Nil. Ensuite, ils ont mis le feu à ce mélange jusqu'à atteindre 900 degrés centigrades, ce qui l'a rendu aussi solide que l'acier en lui donnant les formes de rocs naturels.
DAVIDOVITS ajoute que la nouvelle idée n'a pas demandé de grands efforts puisque les ouvriers n'ont pas roulé ces grosses pierres. Ils ont seulement fabriqué les moules où la boue serait versée, l'ont transportée et l'ont montée dans des récipients, chaque ouvrier portant un récipient contenant un peu de boue. Une fois le moule rempli, ils allumeraient un feu, la pierre serait formée sans être déplacée et de cette manière ils garantiraient que les pierres soient parfaitement imbriquées les unes dans les
autres. Cette méthode a aidé à la
préservation des pyramides des milliers
d'années.
En réponse à ces théories, le célèbre archéologue Dr Zâhî Hawwâs déclare qu'il existe plusieurs théories scientifiques et non scientifiques au sujet des pyramides d'Égypte qui ont suscité l'étonnement non seulement des chercheurs et penseurs, mais aussi des gens ordinaires. [] Il a terminé en ajoutant que ces théories n'étaient que du « baragouinage » dont l'objectif était d'atteindre la célébrité. (Hassan Saadallah, « Le mystère des pyramides occupe encore les ingénieurs du XXIe siècle », Le Progrès Égyptien du 25 juin 2008. Voir également 'Isâm 'Umrân, « Dr Hawwâs rejette la théorie française concernant l'utilisation de moules dans la construction des pyramides », al-Gumhûriyya du 14 juin).
The theory proposed by DAVIDOVITS encountered strong criticism from native Egyptologists because it contradicts all they believed in. The theory implies that no large gangs would have been needed to haul blocks and no huge and unwieldy ramps would have been used to transport the blocks up the side of the pyramid. No chiselling or carving with soft bronze tools would have been required to embellish their surfaces and new blocks could have been cast in place, on top of and pressed against the old blocks. Proof-of-concept experiments using similar compounds were carried out at DAVIDOVITS's Geopolymer Institute in Northern France. It was found that a crew of ten, working with simple hand tools, could build a structure of fourteen 1,3 to 4,5 tonne blocks in a couple of days. According to DAVIDOVITS, the architects possessed at least two concrete formulas : one for the large structural blocks and another for the white casing stones. He argues earlier pyramids, brick structures, and stone vases were built using similar techniques.
But Zâhî Hawwâs, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), fully disagrees. "The pyramids are made from solid blocks of quarried limestone. To suggest otherwise is idiotic and insulting," Egypt's top archaeologist affirms. "It was limestone, it's been studied before by hundreds of chemists. They are made from solid blocks of quarried limestone. We don't know the origin of these samples. We certainly never gave permission for anyone to take samples," he said.
Mark LEHNER, a leading Egyptologist, looks with caution at the new theory. "All studies of the stone have shown they are made mostly from limestone but also from basalt and granite mined in the region." "Where did these samples used by DAVIDOVITS come from is the first important question," he said. "How did the French take samples for their tests without getting Egypt's permission ?"
'Abd al-Halîm Nûr al-Dîn, a professor of civilisation at the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University, says the pharaohs were known for their skill in carving stones and transporting them from the quarries to the site of the construction. "One clear evidence is the unfinished Obelisk in Aswân, some 1202 km south of Cairo, which shows how the pharaohs used to carve their Granite." He added that there were many quarries surrounding the pyramid whose stones resemble the stones used in the pyramid. "So how could any one claim that the stones were made of mud and water," he argues. "Besides, they say that the examination of the stones showed that there are air bubbles which also prove that the theory pyramid blocks were made of mud is incorrect." According to Prof. Nûr al-Dîn, limestone is the substance, which the stones had been formed from eons ago by the evaporation of seawater. "It is quite natural to find small bubbles or even shells inside the stones." (Hassan Saadallah, "Pyramid theory causes a stir", The Egyptian Gazette, June 18. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Hawwâs : La théorie sur l'utilisation de la boue dans la construction des pyramides relève de la fabulation », al-Ahrâr du 14 juin).
A new study by Italian researchers has determined that two of the Pyramids of Gîza in Egypt were conceived as a single project. According to a report in Discovery News, it is widely believed that the Pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre and grandson Menkaure built their pyramids on the edge of a desert plateau at Gîza between 2600 and 2450 BC. But according to Giulio MAGLI of the mathematics department at Milan's Polytechnic University, astronomical alignments and the landscape indicate that the two main pyramids, those identified with the tombs of Khufu and Khafre, were not built in different stages. On the contrary, they were planned as a single grand project. "Khufu was the mind behind the project. He conceived both pyramids to have strong symbolic meaning. He wanted to state forever that his soul had joined the sun god," MAGLI told Discovery News. The study suggested that Khufu planned the construction of two pyramids, exactly as his father, Snefru, did in Dahshûr. Only later Khafre claim for himself the slightly smaller pyramid. According to MAGLI, Khufu imagined himself as the "son of the sun god," who was thus destined for eternal life. "What better way to prove this relationship than making the sun, himself, talk about it," said MAGLI.
This particular fact is seen during the summer, when observers standing by the Sphinx can see a spectacular sunset between the two pyramids. "The sun setting between the two pyramids forms an ideal, giant replica of the hieroglyph Akhet," MAGLI said. [] "The name of the Great Pyramid is Akhet Khufu, meaning the horizon of Khufu," MAGLI said.
According to inscriptions found in tombs dated some two hundreds years later, the name of the great pyramid was a precise description of the hieroglyph at the site. And, according to MAGLI, that hieroglyph "could occur only if the second pyramid existed as well."
Juan Antonio BELMONTE, a scientist at the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands and the author of a study on the orientation of ancient Egyptian temples, agrees with MAGLI. "I agree with 80 per cent of the study. Some points are weak, but most of the reasoning is fine. It is indeed my idea that both pyramids were imagined as a single common gigantic project," BELMONTE told Discovery News. ("Two pyramids one project
- study", The Egyptian Gazette, February 28, 2008).
Une équipe d'archéologues égyptiens entreprendra en mai prochain une nouvelle exploration robotique destinée à révéler les secrets de la pyramide de Chéops. Cette tentative intervient après l'échec d'une précédente exploration menée il y a cinq ans par un robot américain. Cette fois-ci, les responsables du CSA n'ont rien dévoilé sur la nature du nouveau robot qui sera utilisé par une équipe 100 % égyptienne, sans recourir à aucun expert étranger. L'on peut s'attendre à ce que cette nouvelle exploration soulève de fortes oppositions dans le milieu archéologique qui avait reproché à la précédente exploration de transformer la Grande pyramide en un champ d'expérimentation et de la traiter comme un morceau de gruyère. (Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Robot égyptien pour percer les secrets de la Grande pyramide », al-Ahrâr du 26 avril 2008).
Pyramide de Djoser
Sunrise at Saqqâra, and all is well on the necropolis. It is, as usual, silent, peaceful and still out here in the desert. Last Tuesday, however, the serenity and divinity were broken by the arrival of an American-Japanese scientific mission to carry out a laser scanning survey of Djoser's Step Pyramid. At the footsteps of the pyramid were gathered dozens of people, from scientists to technicians, archaeologists and restorers to workmen, all there to witness the first ever endeavour to document, in detail, the present condition of the great and distinctive monument using a high-tech laser device in an attempt to create a virtual three•dimensional model of Egypt's oldest pyramid complex. Carried on the backs of three professional climbers as they grappled to descend all four faces of the pyramid's six gigantic steps, the Zoser Scanner, a device created specially for the purpose, records data at the exceedingly fast rate of 40,000 points per second using infrared signals to gather coordinates and elevations of thousands of points on the monument. "It is an archaeological salvage project," Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî told Al-Ahram Weekly. He explained that such a project would not only provide a detailed map of the Step Pyramid but would also create a virtual three•dimensional model of it, which in its turn will be a valuable reference for architects, restorers and archaeologists involved in the restoration of the pyramid and for the continual monitoring of its condition. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), says the project falls within the framework of the commitment made by the Ministry of Culture and the SCA to protect and preserve Egypt's cultural and archaeological heritage. He points out that the survey is being conducted in collaboration with a Japanese mission headed by Kosuke SATO of Osaka University and an American mission led by Mark LEHNER, director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA). This project intends on completing the archaeological documentation of the Step Pyramid in order to better understand its various stages of construction. A variety of laser scanners will be used, including the Zoser Scanner, which was custom designed to scan the pyramid by Develo Solutions of Osaka, Japan.
Step Pyramid complex. Although his seminal work was indisputably considered the foundational study on pyramids, his theories were based on his schematic plans and sections, which are not facsimiles of the actual state of the monument. In contrast to the scanned images produced by the ground fixed laser scanner in the previous season, SATO continued, the Japanese mission improved several aspects for laser scanning the Step Pyramid in order more evenly to dense point cold data, eliminating shadows created by obstacles between the laser scanner and the target as much as possible and providing a density of point clouds finer than 5mm mesh. SATO said that he did not arrive haphazardly at the invention of a special device, but that it was an urge because the normal fixed laser scanner produced uneven point cloud data which were needlessly very dense at closer ranges, while less dense at a distance. "The developed scanner maintains a constant distance between the scanner and the pyramid," he said.
To avoid having an unscanned area, Yukinori KAWAE from the AERA explained, the mission applied a multiple scanner system that simultaneously produced laser beams, even behind small protuberances. With this method, while surveyors scan and move at a constant speed, accurate information for the position and the attitude of the scanners can be gained. The laser scanning survey of the Step Pyramid will take four weeks to complete, and next year the second phase for the pyramid's internal structure will start. (Nevine El-Aref, "Mapping Djoser's Step Pyramid", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 19, 2008. Voir également "A documentary film of Djoser Pyramid to be a reference to all archaeologists", Egypt State Information Service, June 10 ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Enregistrement 3D de la pyramide de Saqqâra », al-Akhbâr du 10 juin ; Mushîra Musa, « Équipements japonais modernes pour sauver la pyramide de Djoser », al-Ahrâm du 10 juin ; Sayyid al-Shûra, « Équipements laser japonais pour examiner la pyramide de Saqqâra », al-Wafd du 10 juin ; « Enregistrement 3D de la pyramide de Djoser », al-Badîl du 11 juin ; "Japan's newest technology meets Egypt's oldest civilisation", The Egyptian Gazette, June 13 ; « Equipement laser spécial pour enregistrer la pyramide de Djoser », Akhbâr al-Adab du 15 juin ; « Documentation électronique de la pyramide de Djoser », Le Progrès Égyptien du 19 juin ; Amânî 'Abd al-Hamîd, « Les rayons laser dévoilent les secrets de Djoser », al-Musawwar du 27 juin).
Pyramide n°29 de
Lep siusEgyptian workers examine the Saqqâra Serapeum on June 5, 2008.
The tunnel has been closed to the public for repairs for the past ten
years. The team also discovered a new part of the ceremonial road
that ancient Egyptian priests used to carry the bulls'bodies from a
mummification chamber to the Serapeum, where the animals where
interred. (c) Nasser Nasser/AP
The area around the pyramid of King Teti I in the Saqqâra necropolis, 35km south of Gîza, has been brimming with activity as an Egyptian archaeological mission led by Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), excavated a Ptolemaic section of an avenue of sphinxes, known to Egyptologists as an Anubieion. That the avenue existed was known among Egyptologists from the study of Greek manuscripts and documents unearthed beside the Serapeum, the huge catacombs of the Apis bulls. It was described as a road along which the funeral procession of the Apis bull would pass on its way from the Anubis temples, which Egyptologists suggest were at the beginning of the Anubiun and from where a priest wearing the mask of Anubis would lead to the mummy of the bull to the Serapeum, where it would be buried. Hawwâs pointed out that part of the avenue was uncovered by French archaeologist Auguste MARIETTE in 1850. The western end of this section led to the Serapeum and the eastern end ran towards the Anubis temples, and was thus given the name Anubieion by the Greeks. During these recent excavations, Hawwâs continued, another section of the road dating to the Ptolemaic era had been found. On the east it runs towards the green valley on a lower level of the archaeological site, and extends until it reaches the Anubiun gate. A limestone relief of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205-180 BC) has been unearthed there, which means that the newly discovered section of the avenue may be the southern edge of the Anubis temple.
Neighbouring the avenue, the mission discovered a superstructure of an unidentified pyramid. Archaeologist Karl Richard LEPSIUS mentioned this pyramid in his scientific documents, giving it the number 29. Hawwâs told Al-Ahram Weekly that the pyramid was long covered by sand and no Egyptologist had succeeded in locating it again until recent excavation work was being carried out beside the pyramid of Teti I, founder of the Sixth Dynasty (2374 -2354 BC). The entrance of the pyramid and its walls and burial chamber have also been discovered. Some Egyptologists believe that the newly discovered pyramid goes back to the Old Kingdom, while others say it dates from the Middle Kingdom. Inside the burial chamber was a white limestone block, which may be the northern wall of the burial chamber. Also found was the lid of the sarcophagus and a pit used to install the box of the canopic jars, which held the mummy's internal organs. Although there is no cartouche that could lead archaeologists to the owner of the pyramid, Hawwâs believes that it belonged to King Menkaw-Hur of the Fifth Dynasty. (Nevine El-Aref, "Rights of passage", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 5, 2008).
On June 5, 2008, a worker dusts off a large slab of granite that was
part of a sarcophagus found in the burial chamber of a recently
rediscovered pyramid. (c) Nasser Nasser/AP
Escaping from millennia of desert sands, the famous "headless" pyramid at Saqqâra, near Cairo, has finally been attributed to the pharaoh Mankauhor, who ruled Egypt 4,400 years ago. "We had to move a mountain of sand, but we're sure that this pyramid is a pyramid from the Fifth Dynasty, and the only missing pyramid (from that period) is of a king called Menkauhor," Egypt antiquities chief Zâhî Hawwâs told journalists. On the vast plateau of the Saqqâra necropolis, German archaeologist Karl LEPSIUS first named the enigmatic pyramid Number 29 in his 1842 list of pyramids but since then its attribution has been a source of controversy. Hawwâs and a team of young Egyptian archaeologists spent a year and a half excavating the tunnels beneath what remains of the pyramid. Hawwâs said the original structure's stones were taken for buildings in Cairo. Digging revealed the pyramid's lower infrastructure, made from giant stone blocks, and the remains of the royal burial chamber but only the lid from the royal sarcophagus itself. The pyramid is believed to have been 45 meters high, barely a fifth of the height of the pyramid of Cheops, the biggest of the three great pyramids at Gîza.
While some believed the pyramid to be Menkauhor's, who ruled for eight years from 2389 to 2381 BC, others insisted it was more recent. "There can no longer be any doubt, even if there's no inscription, everything points to this being a monument from the Fifth Dynasty, and that Menkauhor was buried there," Hawwâs said. He said a more recent construction would have had a far more complex death chamber and a different kind of stone would have been used for the burial chamber. "Saqqâra is still a more or less undiscovered site, and when I say that only 30 percent of Pharaonic Egypt has been discovered, this is the main place I'm thinking of," said Hawwâs. (AFP, "Egypt's 'headless' pyramid finally finds its pharaoh", Daily News Egypt, June 5. Voir également "Headless Pyramid attributed to Menkauhor", The Egyptian Gazette, June 6 ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Lors d'une tournée autour de la pyramide n° 29, Hawwâs : des pyramides restent encore à découvrir », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 6 juin ; « Redécouvete de la pyramide n° 29 », Akhbâr al-Adab du 8 juin ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Nouvelles découvertes : pyramide n° 29 », Sabâh al-Khayr du 10 juin ; Alain NAVARRO, « La pyramide tronquée a retrouvé son pharaon », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 11 juin).
Tombe de Wadj -Mes
A handout picture released by Egypt's Supreme Council of
Antiquities (SCA) on June 26, 2008, shows a painted block
discovered in the 19th dynasty ancient Egyptian tomb of Wadj-Mes,
an overseer of guards during the reign of Ramesses II, discovered
during routine excavations carried out by an archaeological mission
from Cairo University near the pyramid of Unas at Saqqâra.
Egyptian archaeologists had discovered six coloured wooden sarcophagi dating back to the sixth Dynasty and were meant to honour some chief priests and senior government officials, Minister of Culture Fârûq Husnî announced yesterday. The archaeologists found the coffins near the Step Pyramid of King Unas in Saqqâra, said the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Zâhî Hawwâs. The sarcophagi, which did not contain mummies, were made of wood and not limestone as preferred by Ancient Egypt's upper class. Figures covering the wooden coffins depict the chief priests and the officials immersed in daily rituals - playing games, slaughtering animals and presenting offerings to the dead, Hawwâs said. The archaeological mission from Cairo University also discovered the tomb of Wadj-Mes, an overseer of guards during the reign of Ramses II, Hawwâs said. The mission found also a painted block dating back to the 19th Dynasty during routine excavations near the Pyramid of Unas in Saqqâra, he added. (Hassan Saadallah, "6 sarcophagi unearthed in Saqqâra", The Egyptian Gazette, June 27, 2008. Voir également AFP, "Egyptian archaeologists find ancient painted coffins", Daily News Egypt, June 26 ; "Egypt archaeologists find ancient painted coffins", Middle East Times, June 26 ; "Egypt's late period wooden coffins unearthed", Egypt State Information Service, June 27 ; « Découverte à Saqqâra de sarcophages en bois », al-Wafd du 27 juin ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Mise au jour de sarcophages pharaoniques décorés à Saqqâra », al-Ahrâm du 27 juin ; Ahmad Khidr, « La mission archéologique de l'Université du Caire découvre des sarcophages dans la région de Saqqâra », al-Dustûr du 28 juin).
Researchers have discovered six new species of ancient bats in Egypt that date back to the Eocene epoch, 56 million to 34 million years ago. The experts behind the find say that they made this discovery while analyzing 33 fossils, including teeth and jawbones, which had been unearthed over a period of decades in Fayyûm. "It is (a) surprising diversity of new forms - we didn't expect to find nearly as many new kinds of bats as we found in the sample," National Geographic quoted Gregg
F. GUNNELL, a palaeontologist at the University of Michigan who led the study. The researcher revealed that the new species were quite similar to some of the present-day microbats, which use sonar waves to navigate and hunt in a process called echolocation. Among the newly discovered species was a previously unknown "giant" version of the microbat family, which makes it perhaps the largest of the echolocating species yet found. "They are all pretty primitive members of modern groups, which is a little bit odd. Generally in (this period in the fossil record), you tend to (find) archaic bats but nothing very modern but these animals are all members of living families," GUNNELL said.
An artist's rendering depicts a new species of ancient bat recently
identified from Egyptian fossils. Illustration by Bonnie Miljour.
He further said that the similarity across species was an indication that the modern•day bats evolved on the African continent rather than in the Northern Hemisphere, as many researchers theorize. "In a sense, Africa is sort of a crucible for the evolution of the modern bats," GUNNELL said. The names of the new species will be revealed in an article in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology. ("Scientists find 6 ancient bat species in Egypt", Daily News Egypt, March 7, 2008. Voir également "6 ancient bat species found", The Egyptian Gazette, March 8).
Kom K
At the site, known as Z-Basin, on the north shore of Lake Qârûn, an archaeological and geological team from University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) stumbled upon what is believed to be the most complete Neolithic settlement ever found in Fayyûm. This discovery was made when the team was surveying the site to study fluctuations in the lake level, which caused artefacts to be either covered with metres of sediment or dramatically displaced by erosion. This site was previously excavated in 1925 by Gertund CATON-THOMPSON, who found several Neolithic remains. This time the magnetic survey revealed that the settlement was much larger than expected and that the area excavated by THOMPSON was only a fraction of the site. "I cannot stress enough how important this is," mission director Willeke WENDRICH says. According to WENDRICH, the Fayyûm Neolithic had so far been considered as one period but this view may have to change. "Our first result of study gives us reason to believe that they might be dated to different periods within the Neolithic," he says. Careful excavation and analysis of the area will be carried out in the upcoming archaeological season in an attempt to enormously augment the knowledge of such an interesting site.
(c) 2007 Grepal
In order to understand the layout of the Qarit al-Rusâs Roman village, on the northeastern side of Lake Qârûn, without excavating it, the mission carried a magnetic survey. The map shows clear wall lines and streets in an orthogonal pattern typical of the Graeco-Roman period. The village has well•preserved Roman remains of decorated limestone blocks and traces of mud-brick walls which show up in two robber trenches. Early studies, WENDRICH says, show clearly that the site was covered by the waters of Lake Qârûn at an unknown time for an unknown period, as not only the surface is completely levelled but potsherds and limestone flakes are covered with a thick layer of calcium carbonate, which is usually indicative of a stand of 30-40cm deep water.
The mission's work extended to Karânîs at the northern edge of the Fayyûm depression where remains of a Graeco-Roman city can be seen. The team implemented the first phase of a feasibility study for a site management project in Karânîs, going on to photograph all the standing walls and covering approximately 40 per cent of the site. "This documentation is vital for understanding the conservation needs and the deterioration of the mud brick," Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Secretary-General Zâhî Hawwâs says. Hawwâs says that when a team from the University of Michigan excavated the site between 1928 and 1934 they found the houses in excellent condition with many organic remains having survived through the ages. However the site was not backfilled, and WENDRICH points to damage to the buildings caused by rainfall and wind erosion. "A virtual reality model of Karânîs has been produced at UCLA which will be used to study the site and to illustrate the present preservation," he says.
This aerial photo shows the newly discovered UCLA-RUG site (Kom K) and the grain pits discovered in 1920 (K Pit). Both contain 7000-year-old grain, the earliest evidence ever discovered ofagricultural activity in Egypt. (c) 2008 UC Regents
An assessment made at the site focussed on determining its exact boundaries by comparing satellite photographs with the results of a magnetic survey in the southwest and northeast of the town, as well as the cemetery at the north side of the Cairo-Fayyûm road. Excavation made at the southwest area revealed a poorly-built industrial neighbourhood at the edge of the Graeco-Roman village. Excavations in the area uncovered remains of an ancient creek or pond. At that moment it had not been established whether this fresh water source co-existed with the town or was a much earlier phenomenon. The main purpose of the magnetic survey was to better understand the archaeological and zoo-archaeological remains at Karânîs in a well-excavated context, as well as understanding the life and economic activities of the people who lived at Karânîs inhabitants at times.
Karânîs was an important town in the Graeco-Roman era when the Fayyûm depression was developed for agriculture to help feed the Ptolemaic, and later the Roman, armies. The main economic purpose of the town seems to have been the production of olive oil. Large parts of two sandstone temples devoted to Sobek, Isis, Serapis and Jupiter are preserved. Most of the structures, however, are of mud brick and have suffered dramatically over time. Not only are they damaged by erosion from the desert wind, but they have also been mined on an industrial scale so the bricks could be rehydrated and used as fertile soil. A number of archaeological teams have worked at the site, most notably that of the University of Michigan in the 1920s and 1930s.
Neolithic barley. These 7000-year-old spikelets of hulled six-row barley were uncovered at the earliest agricultural settlement ever found in Egypt. (c) 2008 UC Regents
The importance of the site is defined by the large amount of textual material (papyrus and ostraca) that have been unearthed, which remain until today a vital source of information. A small site museum shows some of the finds from the area. Karânîs is now within the concession of the UCLA-RUG Fayyûm Project. (Nevine El-Aref, "New stone age in Fayyûm", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 7, 2008. Voir également Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Mise au jour d'une ville antique dans le Fayyûm », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 30 janvier ; Mushîra Musa, « Découverte à Kom 'Ûshîm d'une ville antique qui date de l'éocène », al-Ahrâm du 30 janvier ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Mise au jour dans le Fayyûm d'une ville qui date de 7 000 ans », al-Akhbâr du 30 janvier ; "Ancient city unearthed in Fayyûm", The Egyptian Gazette, January 31 ; « La mission américaine met au jour une ville antique dans le Fayyûm », Akhbâr al-Adab du 3 février ; AFP, "Ruins of 7,000-year-old city found in Fayyûm", Daily News Egypt, February 3 ; « Découverte dans le Fayyûm d'une ville qui remonte à l'éocène », al-Qâhira du 5 février).
Dayr al -Banât
(c) Sergej Ivanov/Centre for Egyptological Studies at RussianAcademy of Sciences.
Dayr al-Banât necropolis, which lies in the southern Fayyûm, comprises a series of rock•hewn tombs dating from the Graeco-Roman period through to early Christian times. To the north is a well-preserved ruin of a mediaeval monastery with a fired brick church at its centre, a mud brick residential area and a refectory where the monks would have communal meals. Between 1980 and 1995 the necropolis was the site of major excavations by the Egyptian Antiquities Authority, now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). A collection of intact Roman burials were discovered along with disturbed Coptic graves containing bones and skulls. The necropolis was then neglected until 2002 when a joint Russian-American mission was given permission to conduct excavations and an anthropological survey. Early studies of the necropolis revealed that the northwestern section had been subjected to widespread clandestine digging throughout the 1970s. The anthropological survey of unearthed skulls revealed that the majority of females died by the age of 30 with only 1.5 per cent reaching the age of 50. While males also had a high mortality rate between 18 and 30 far more survived into there 40s. In the last six years several burials with mummies were found as well as a collection of cartonage wooden sarcophagi, arm rings, clay vessels and remains of linen.
Graeco-Roman mummies, painted wooden sarcophagi, jewellery
and papyri unearthed in Dayr al-Banât necropolis in Fayyûm
This year the mission located and studied 154 rectangular shaped tombs with rounded corners partly dug in compact sand and partly cut in rock. Their depth ranged from
1.5 and 1.7 m and each contained an unpainted wooden sarcophagus with an anthropoid mask on the lid and a cartonage inside covering the head, shoulders and feet of the mummy. In one of the graves an intact mummy of a young lady was found while four Ptolemaic graves, which appeared to have been looted, contained the lids of painted coffins along with mummies with their feet torn off. "Despite these mummies being footless they are very well preserved and wearing gilded masks," says Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA. The eastern side of the necropolis, the site of Graeco-Roman burials, contained three more mummies, this time wrapped with eight layers of linen and tied with ropes. These corpses, explained Hawwâs, were mummified using much cheaper materials than in the first type of burial. Tombs often overlapped with their neighbours, and were sometimes reused for burials so that in some cases several corpses can be found in the same plot. Jewellery, including rings, necklaces and bracelets, were found along with caps made of wool and fragments of textiles bearing a painted anchor crossed by a key. "All finds were cleaned, conserved and placed in the Kom Ûshîm storage," reports Hawwâs.
Painted mask discovered on a mummy reveals the artistry of cartonnage. (c) Sergej Ivanov/Centre for Egyptological Studies atRussian Academy of Sciences.
Galina BELOVA, director of the mission, said that the two mummies of young ladies will be x rayed to facilitate the reconstruction of their faces. The coffins, she said, were cleaned of salt, sand and treated against insect damage. Ceramic and faience vessels have been consolidated and covered with protective layers. (Nevine El-Aref, "Footless, if not quite fancy free", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 24, 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Mise au jour de momies grecques dans le Fayyûm », al-Akhbâr du 21 janvier ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Découverte dans le Fayyûm d'une série de momies gréco-romaines », al-Ahrâm du 21 janvier ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Mise au jour de momies, de sarcophages et de bijoux dans le Fayyûm », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 21 janvier ; « Découverte de momies d'époque gréco-romaine », al-Wafd du 21 janvier ; Hassan Saadallah, "Well-kept mummies found", The Egyptian Gazette, January 21 ; "Mummies from Graeco Roman period in Fayyûm", Egypt State Information Service, January 21 ; Muhammad Mandûr, « Reconstitution faciale des momies », al-Badîl du 24 janvier ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Exposition archéologique mexicaine et nouvelle découverte dans le Fayyûm », Sabâh al-Khayr du 29 janvier ; "Dog mummies found in Fayyûm", The Egyptian Gazette, February 2 ; Nigel J. HETHERINGTON, "SCA accidentally gets back stolen antiquities", Daily News Egypt, February 8).
Ihnâsyâ al -Madîna
A handout picture released on February 21, 2008 by Egypt's
Supreme Council of Antiquities shows the site where three stone
doors were discovered by a group of Spanish archaeologists.
AFP PHOTO/SCA
Three false doors inscribed with religious texts, two offering tables and a collection of clay vessels are the latest finds at the Ihnâsyâ al-Madîna cemetery, lying on the west bank of the Nile almost 15km west of the Upper Egyptian city of Banî Swayf. Archaeologists now believe that parts of the necropolis were deliberately set on fire at some point in its history. The site of Ihnâsyâ al-Madîna, which is perched on a hill, incorporates a number of cemeteries and temples spanning from the late First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom through to the Roman period. From this city came the rulers of the Ninth and Tenth dynasties, and here too was the cult centre of the ram-headed local god of fertility, Herishef, for whom the Middle Kingdom rulers built a temple in the centre of the city which was enlarged during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II of the New Kingdom. This temple was first excavated in 1891 by NAVILLE and D'HULST, who found only Ramesside remains, but in 1904 it was re•excavated by PETRIE who found a superb gold statue of Herishef.
Excavations at Ihnâsyâ al-Madîna were conducted during the 1960s and 1970s by several Spanish missions, but in 1984 a mission from the Archaeological National Museum of Madrid concentrated its work on the necropolis dated to the First Intermediate Period (2195-2066 BC), where a series of tombs with vaulted ceilings were uncovered. One revealed an example of one of the earliest-known versions of the Coffin Texts incorporating revised extracts from the earlier Pyramid Texts. These tombs were built of limestone and mud brick and lined up in 'streets of the dead'. Some of them were very jumbled but still contained inscribed false doors, stelae, offering tables, and ceramic and clay vessels. The most important discovery in the necropolis was made in 2000 when the tomb of a high official named Wadjt-Hetep was found, its painted walls featuring the funerary feast.
Various objects have been found over successive years, and during this year's archaeological season the mission found three limestone false doors inscribed with religious texts, two offering tables and a collection of pottery. They also came across an archaeological level dating from much earlier than the First Intermediate Period with fragments of Maydûm bowls embedded in its sandy deposit. These Maydûm bowls have relatively tall and distinctly concave sides made of fine marl fabric, and were known as early as the First Dynasty. Early examples have the maximum diameter at the shoulder of the bowl ; in the Fourth Dynasty the maximum diameter is situated at the rim ; and during the Sixth Dynasty the rim diameter was greater than the shoulder diameter. "The discovery of these fragments may indicate that there was activity at the site in the earlier Fifth Dynasty and before," says Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). He says a detailed analysis of the occurrence of such forms within the stratigraphic sequence of the site is necessary before this can be confirmed.
Excavation work extended to the eastern side of the necropolis, revealing five burials with vaulted chambers. Among them was a well•preserved burial still containing a body, which was covered by a protective layer of plaster. Related to these burials were four deposits of pottery, mainly jars, and an offering table displaced from its original position. Two further individual tombs were found, one containing osseous bovine remains. Carmen PEREZ-DIE, director of the Spanish Mission, said that studies of the pottery previously found on the site had made it possible to draw a complete profile of the newly-found vessels. They are all about 40 pieces of different types, at least seven not known before. Among them are some remarkably large vessels, probably used for storage, to which the dating of its material can be limited to the Late First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom. PEREZ-DIE said ceramic material including some finds made in situ were unearthed, with a remarkable discovery of the so-called hes -vase, which is very well known from depictions in offering scenes and from other sites and other periods. "For Ihnâsyâ this is the first time to have such a find, and the comparison with similar forms from other sites will probably give more clues," PEREZ-DIE stated.
She said the team had tried to study the First Intermediate Period and the early Middle Kingdom necropolis as well as make an interpretation of data collected in regard to a great fire that appears to have razed the necropolis in antiquity. This research involved defining possible traces of fire and smoke on both the stone tombs and the mud-brick walls. Team members carried out an experiment on the mud bricks by subjecting them to a fire test in a specially-constructed, wood-fired "oven". "We have been able to determine that there were individual, localised fires ; some of the stone tombs were burned as well as some of the individuals who have been found," PEREZ-DIE concluded. "We can presume that these fires broke out intentionally and caused the destruction of the necropolis." (Nevine El-Aref, "Birthplace of kings", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 28, 2008. Voir également Mushîra Mûsa, « Découvertes archéologiques à Banî Swayf », al-Ahrâm du 23 février ; « Nouvelle découverte archéologique à Banî Swayf », al-Ahrâr du 22 février ; « Découverte de 3 fausses portes vieilles de 4 000 ans », al-Wafd du 22 février ; "3 ancient doors found in Banî Swayf", The Egyptian Gazette, February 23 ; "Deceptive gates discovered in Banî Swayf", Egypt State Information Service, February 23 ; 'Isâm 'Umrân, « Découverte archéologique importante à Banî Swayf », al-Gumhûriyya du 23 février ; Buthayna Zakâriyyâ, « Découverte de tombes
qui remontent à la PPI », al-Akhbâr du 4
mars).
- -
Tell al -Amarna
A team led by a Cardiff University archaeologist has reconstructed a 3,000•year-old glass furnace, showing that Ancient Egyptian glassmaking methods were much more advanced than previously thought. Dr Paul NICHOLSON, of the University's School of History and Archaeology, is leader of an Egypt Exploration Society team working on the earliest fully excavated glassmaking site in the world. The site, at Amarna, on the banks of the Nile, dates back to the reign of Akhanaten, just a few years before the rule of Tutankhamun. It was previously thought that the Ancient Egyptians may have imported their glass from the Near East at around this time. However, the excavation team believes the evidence from Amarna shows they were making it themselves, possibly in a single stage operation. Dr NICHOLSON and his colleague Dr Caroline JACKSON of Sheffield University demonstrated this was possible, using local sand to produce a glass ingot from their own experimental reconstruction of a furnace near the site.
The team have also discovered that the glassworks was part of an industrial complex, which involved a number of other high temperature manufacturing processes. The site also contained a potter's workshop and facilities for making blue pigment and faience
- a material used in amulets and architectural inlays. The site was near one of the main temples at Amarna and may have been used to produce materials in state buildings. Dr NICHOLSON, who has been working at Amarna since 1983, said : "It has been argued that the Egyptians imported their glass and worked it into the artefacts that have been discovered from this time. I believe there is now enough evidence to show that skilled craftsmen could make their own glass and were probably involved in a range of other manufacturing industries as well." Dr NICHOLSON has now written a book detailing the discoveries made at Amarna. Entitled Brilliant Things for Akhenaten, it is published by the Egypt Exploration Society (London) and available through Oxbow Books in the UK and The David Brown Book Company in the USA. ("Ancient Egyptian Glassmaking Recreated", Daily News Egypt, January 11, 2008).
New evidence of a sick, deprived population working under harsh conditions contradicts earlier images of wealth and abundance from the art records of the ancient Egyptian city of Tell al-Amarna, a study has found. [] Studies on the remains of ordinary ancient Egyptians in a cemetery in Tell al-Amarna showed that many of them suffered from anemia, fractured bones, stunted growth and high juvenile mortality rates, according to professors Barry KEMP and Gerome ROSE, who led the research. ROSE, a professor of anthropology in the University of Arkansas in the United States, said adults buried in the cemetery were probably brought there from other parts of Egypt. "This means that we have a period of deprivation in Egypt prior to the Amarna phase," he told an audience of archaeologists and Egyptologists in Cairo Thursday evening. "So maybe things were not so good for the average Egyptian and maybe Akhenaten said we have to change to make things better," he said.
KEMP, director of the Amarna Project, which seeks in part to increase public knowledge of Tell al-Amarna and surrounding region, said little attention has been given to the cemeteries of ordinary ancient Egyptians. "A very large number of ordinary cemeteries have been excavated but just for the objects and very little attention has been paid for the human remain," he told Reuters. "The idea of treating the human remains to study the overall health of the population is relatively new." Paintings in the tombs of the nobles show an abundance of offerings, but the remains of ordinary people tell a different story.
Houses of poorer people, excavated in 2005: Here they not only
lived but labored in the tiny spaces on a range of crafts, including
making small glass and glazed objects, melting down scrap bronze,
and making stone implements. (Courtesy Barry J. Kemp).
ROSE display pictures showing spinal injuries among teenagers, probably because of accidents during construction work to build the city. The study showed that anemia ran at 74 per cent among children and teenagers, and at 44 per cent among adults, ROSE said. The average height of men was 159 cm (5 feet and 2 inches) and 153 cm among women. "Adults heights are used as a proxy for overall standard of living," he said. "Short statures reflect a diet deficient in protein People were not growing to their full potential." KEMP said he believed further excavations in Tell al-Amarna would "firm up" the conclusions of his team. "We are seeing a more realistic picture of what life was like," he told Reuters. "It has nothing to do with the intentions of Akhenaten, which may have been good and paternal toward his people." (Reuters, "Life was tough for ancient Egyptians", The Egyptian Gazette, March 30, 2008. Voir également « Les pauvres dans l'Égypte ancienne souffraient d'anémie et de fractures de la colonne vertébrale », al-Qâhira du 1er avril).
Aerial photograph of the Workmen's Village site, towards the south-east. Note the faint lines of the ancient roadways in theforeground
« Divagations britanniques », tels sont les mots utilisés par le Dr Zâhî Hawwâs pour qualifier l'article intitulé « Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city » publié le 25 janvier par la BBC News. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7 209472.stm]. Hormis quelques informations historiques incontestables, Hawwâs a affirmé que toutes les idées exprimées dans cet article émanent de non-spécialistes. S'appuyant sur de récentes études scientifiques, la BBC a souligné les conditions affreuses vécues par les anciens Égyptiens (malnutrition, mort prématurée, esclavage, etc.), notamment à Tell al-Amarna dont les travaux de construction ont duré 15 ans. L'analyse médicale des ossements découverts dans cette ville - conçue à l'origine pour accueillir 50 mille habitants, mais abandonnée peu après la mort d'Akhenaton - révèle une face cachée noire et tragique, qui contraste avec l'idéologie solaire véhiculée par Akhenaton. Pendant que les peintures murales des tombes des dignitaires d'alors exhibent des tables d'offrandes qui regorgent d'aliments, les analyses osseuses des habitants ordinaires démontrent, elles, que la nourriture n'était pas disponible et, à coup sûr, de mauvaise qualité. Ce qui tend à prouver que les habitants de Tell al-Amarna ne recevaient pas de soins. (Mushîra Musa, « L'édification de Tell al-Amarna par des esclaves est une divagation britannique ! », al-Ahrâm du 28 janvier. Voir également "Hawwâs chides anti-Akhenaten statements", Egypt State Information Service, January 28).
Temple de Karnak
months of excavations at the front of the temple, Egyptian archaeologists have stumbled upon several important discoveries that are leading them to reconsider the history and plan of the temples. The discoveries have included a Ptolemaic ceremonial bath, a private ramp for the 25th•Dynasty Pharaoh Taharqa, a large number of bronze coins, an ancient dock and the remains of a wall that once protected the temples of Karnak from the rising Nile flood. These discoveries came within the framework of the Karnak Development Project, which is aimed at protecting the temple from progressive infringements as well as restoring its monuments and removing all building encroachment from in front of the temple. It will also allow excavations to uncover the ancient harbour and canal that once connected the temple to the Nile. According to an old map, the ancient Egyptians used this canal to gain access to the west bank of the river in a position corresponding to Hatshepsut's Dayr al-Baharî Temple, which was built on the same axis.
The area of the so-called "madrasa" (religious school) 50 metres to the southwest of the first pylon has the appearance of an important archaeological zone. No less than three Egyptologists and two restorers are on site, along with 10 workmen who are removing with buckets the remaining sand of what was a massive sandstone embankment wall built some 3,000 years ago to reinforce the bank of the river, which has since moved. This is the first evidence that the Nile once ran alongside the temple. The embankment is directed northwest/southeast, and thus far the excavations have revealed that it has been preserved at a height of more than 3.5 m for a length of nearly 15 m. It continues to the south under the road and to the north underneath a mosque. This portion is connected to the landing quay preserved in front of the first pylon. The wall has generally been interpreted as the eastern limit of a huge lake dug in front of the sanctuary and linked to the river by a channel.
" It is a very important discovery that changes the landscape of the whole of Luxor city," says Mansûr Burayk, general supervisor of antiquities in Luxor. It also changes previously-held theories about the settlement of Luxor and the construction of the temple itself. Burayk told Al-Ahram Weekly that the discovery of the embankment had changed the thinking about the features of the temple's ancient façade. Previous theories, based on depictions found in several 18th•Dynasty private tombs such as that of a top government official named Neferhotep, were based on the view that Karnak Temple was linked to the Nile by a canal through a rectangular pool dug in front of the temple. Burayk says this theory was supported by the uncovering in the 1970s of a small part of this embankment, which was assumed to be the back wall of the pool. This theory held until December 2007, when Egyptian excavators found another part of the same wall several metres away from the first. "It is even too far off to be part of the enclosed basin," Burayk says.
A stelae bearing the name of King Taharqa ; the obelisk of
Tuthmoses I at the eight pylons ; restoration work at the Chapel of
Osiris Neb-Ankh.
Archaeologists now believe that the pool depicted in ancient drawings was backfilled in antiquity and that the temple was expanded on top of it, built out to the edge of where the Nile flowed 3,000 years ago. The new theory has been backed by tests of the sediment at the base of the embankment wall, which show alternating levels of silt and sand that suggest running water once flowed there. Based on cartouches and other inscriptions found on the wall, experts believe that construction began in the 22nd Dynasty and was completed by the middle of the fourth century BC. Burayk explained that a number of fragments of ceramic material from the 25th and 26th dynasties found in the foundations helped to date the construction. Some repairs to the higher part of the wall (the two upper levels) were certainly added at the end of the 30th Dynasty or during the Ptolemaic period. Consisting of segments of slightly differing orientations, it presents a sloped western face against which staircases were arranged. "These gave access to the water during the Nile's low period," Burayk says.
During the Ptolemaic era the zone to the west of this wall gradually silted up. An earthwork dating from the end of the Ptolemaic or the very beginning of the Roman period brought completion to the transformation of the trench. When no longer flooded, this zone became a viable and practical place to build. Thus the wall lost its original function. Its higher part, still visible, was integrated into the new installations, influencing their orientation. The construction zone covered the whole excavated surface, which extends for more than 2,000 sq. metres. It seems that the zone was linked to ruins found in front of the first pylon. Several mud-and red-brick buildings have been found here. The thickness of the walls is variable, indicating various chambers or storerooms. On the eastern side were kilns or cisterns. A number of Ptolemaic clay pots and pans were unearthed during excavations, among them a large jar containing 360 bronze coins dating from the Ptolemaic and Byzantine eras. Early studies on these coins have revealed that they were a local currency circulated only in Egypt and that they were stamped with images of the gods Amun, Zeus and Isis.
One of the most important discoveries in the area was the remains of a great circular Ptolemaic bath with an intricate mosaic tiled floor and seating for 16 people, with some seats flanked by dolphin statuettes. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said the bath could be linked to some ancient brick structures located some 100 metres away and excavated by Jean LAUFFRAY in the 1970s. Hawwâs told the Weekly that recent excavations confirmed the presence of Ptolemaic and Roman installations in front of the first pylon, especially at the north end. The remains of the installation show that it was composed of quite remarkable elements, including a circular building containing a semi-circular row of seats with back stands. The seats were built of fired brick and coated with a thick layer of plaster. The depth of each one was 66 cm, and a circular piece of granite was placed on the foot. These seats were placed in a radiating pattern around a circular construction. A water tank, in very good condition, has been found on the west side of the seats and beyond the embankment. Also made of fired bricks and plastered on the inside, it measures 2.5x2m and is well preserved to a depth of 1.44m. On the west side of the floor is a step ending with circular slab of granite used for cleaning. Hawwâs said that a dense canal system had been observed that was used for the drainage of wastewater. The main drain runs from east to west and then turns towards the south. After a bend, the channel is divided into two branches : the first, 0.46 metres wide and covered with fired brick, runs over the embankment to the west for a length of 2.70 metres. The second, equally well preserved, runs for 6.75 metres in a south-westerly direction. A part of the second drain crosses the embankment for a length of 2.86 metres, and was cut into the surface of the embankment for a width of 0.2m and a depth of 0.28m.
To the north, a fired pipe consisting of a set of tiny cylinders fitted together runs from the water tank towards the east for 3.90 metres. The edge of the channel was protected by fired brick walls, which suggests the pipes may have carried hot water to the seats. Hawwâs revealed that according to the preliminary investigations of the ceramics, the bath dated from the second century BC.
Egyptologist Târiq al-'Awadî, director of the Abû Sîr archaeological site, said archaeologists had also found a giant ramp leading up to the temple complex and inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Taharqa, who ruled in the late seventh century BC. The ramp probably served as the ruler's personal dock area, extending directly into the Nile to allow the Pharaoh to transfer directly from his boat to the temple. This raises the prospect that parts of ancient boats may still be buried in the old riverbed, including pieces of the gigantic ceremonial barges known to have carried images of the gods during religious processions. (Nevine El-Aref, "How Pharaoh sailed to Karnak", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 10, 2008. Voir également Muhsin Gûd, « Achèvement du plus grand projet de civilisation pour développer le temple de Karnak », Akhbâr al-Yawm du 12 janvier).
Mosquée Abû al -Haggâg al -Uqsurî
It took a fire last June at the Imâm Abû al-Haggâg Luqsory mosque and shrine, built on top of the open courtyard of Ramesses II in the Luxor Temple, for the Supreme Council of Antiquities to launch a renovation project which, apart from repairing the damage from the fire, yielded some surprising finds. During restoration work the restorers came upon the remains of a Coptic church and some rare pharaonic inscriptions, the most remarkable of which were engravings picturing the erection of the two obelisks built by Ramesses II outside the Luxor Temple itself.
The Haggâg mosque, which is situated in the northern eastern part of the Luxor Temple, was built during the middle Fatimid era in the 10th century and is very similar in its design to other Fatimid mosques, although it was given some additions during the Ayyubid era some 100 years later. The entrance to the mosque, which is 12 metres high, is covered in marble and ceramic cladding. Adjoined to it is a shrine where Haggâg's body is laid. The 14-metre-high minaret rests on a base built of mud brick and wood on four granite pillars.
Early on during the renovation and cleaning of the mosque's walls it was declared that engravings had been found, as well as pillars pertaining to the Ramesses II courtyard at the north-eastern part of the temple. The surprise, however, came with revelations as work went on that a Coptic church, built during the Roman era, had been discovered underneath the mosque. According to Muhammad 'Âsim, head of Upper Egypt Antiquities, a mihrâb (niche) was found underneath one of the courtyard's pillars beside two other pillars, on top of which were crowns sculptured in the Corinthian style. Mansûr Burayk, General Manager of Luxor Antiquities, said remains of another church had been discovered at the temple but had been demolished in 1954 in order to preserve the pharaonic temple. That church had then been no longer used for prayers.
Until the new findings were made, the reading of the inscriptions left by Ramesses II on the eastern part of the courtyard were incomplete. The newly-found inscriptions, which vary from bas-reliefs to vertical hieroglyphics and were hidden behind the mosque walls, comprise very rare passages and scenes. The scene of Ramesses II presenting the two obelisks to Amun Ra temple is among the most important. One of the two obelisks still stands outside Luxor Temple, while the other was presented by Egypt in the 19th century to France, where it stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Also found were engravings relating to battles fought by Ramesses II, as well as one of an elephant, which indicates that Egyptian life in Ramesses II's era was influenced by Nubian culture. (Sanaa'Farouk, "Findings underneath Haggâg mosque in Luxor Temple", Watanî, March 23, 2008).
Temple d'Amenhotep
IIIA detail picture shows the face on a 3.62 meter statue of ancient
Pharaonic queen Tiy, which was discovered at the site of the
Colossi of Memnon on March 22. (c) AFP -Khaled Desouki.
Egyptian and European archaeologists on Saturday announced they had discovered a giant statue of an ancient Pharaonic queen on the spectacular south Egypt site of the Colossi of Memnon. The statue represents Queen Tiy, the wife of 18th dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and stands 3.62 meters high. It was discovered around the site of the massive Colossi of Memnon twin statues that command the road to Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings. Two sphinx representing Tiy and Amenhotep III as well as 10 statues in black granite of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, who protected the pharaohs, we also found by the archaeologists and presented to reporters and senior officials. Culture Minister Fârûq Husnî hailed the discovery as a "formidable" enterprise and told reporters he expected the statues to be erected for public view next year. They will be joined by two 15-meter-high statues, excavated in recent years, which will be placed 100 meters behind the Colossi of Memnon as part of an "open air museum." "Once these new colossi and the other new discoveries are put in place this site will become one of the most important open air museums of the Pharaonic period," the head of the archaeological team Hourig SOUROUZIAN said. (AFP, "Statue of Pharaonic queen discovered in Luxor", Daily News Egypt, March 23, 2008. Voir également AFP, "Statue of Pharaonic queen discovered in south Egypt", Middle East Times, March 22 ; "New find in Luxor", The Egyptian Gazette, March 22 ; Huda Khalîl, « Le Premier ministre inspecte aujourd'hui une découverte archéologique importante à l'Ouest de Louqsor », al-Dustûr du 22 mars ; "Big statue of Amenhotep III discovered in Luxor", Egypt State Information Service, March 22 ; « Découverte d'une statue fragmentaire d'Amenhotep III et de deux statues de la reine Tiy », al-Wafd du 23 mars ; "Statue of Pharaonic queen discovered", The Egyptian Gazette, March 24 ; AFP, « Le sensationnel fait loi », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 26 mars ; Gamâl Nâfi', « La mission conjointe égypto•allemande exhume 33 statues à Louqsor », al-Ahrâm du 28 mars ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Mise au jour d'une statue colossale d'Amenhotep III sur la rive Ouest de Louqsor », al-Ahrâr du 28 mars).
Towering like sentries above the necropolis of Ancient Thebes in southern Egypt, the world•famous Colossi of Memnon will see their number double from two to four from next year. The painstaking work of 12 archaeologists and hundreds of workers is about to redefine the way visitors see and understand this mysterious site that has cast its spell over travellers for more than 2,000 years. "It will be sensational, that's for sure !" Hourig SOUROUZIAN, the project's enthusiastic director, enthused to AFP. Next year two giant statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III will begin to rise again, just a hundred metres behind his two existing colossi that mark the entrance to the temple. Another two statues, still half-buried, will also be returned to their former upright position in the years to come. [] Rises in the water level of the River Nile, pillaging of the stone by other pharaohs and a 27 BC earthquake all took their toll of the temple at Kom al-Hîtân whose builders meant it to last a million years. But when what is left of the site began to suffer 10 years ago because of encroachment from irrigation works in neighbouring fields, renowned Armenian archaeologist SOUROUZIAN decided to save it.
She worked with her husband Rainer STADELMANN, former director of the German Archaeological Institute who was responsible for creating the site's first photogrammetric pictures. Emergency measures were set in place at the site and enforced by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. In 1998 and 2004, the Luxor temple was listed as one of the world's 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund, an international NGO based in New York, and funding was provided to help save it. French Egyptologist Alain FOUQUET created the Association of the Friends of the Colossi of Memnon, which was generously funded by Monique HENNESSY from the famous cognac family. Ursula Lewenton's Forderverein Memnon also made an important contribution. "From this moment onwards, everything became possible," SOUROUZIAN said. Annual excavations on the site began to bear fruit under the labours of an international team of experts and 250 Egyptian workers.
The team discovered pieces of four giant Amenhotep statues, two sphinxes, 84 statues of the war goddess Sekhmet depicted as a lioness, and a stele whose 150 fragments were spread across a site which has to be constantly drained. It is planned that five years from now the statues of Sekhmet the lion-headed goddess will stand again. The tenth annual dig, which ends this month, has already unearthed a 3,62-metre-tall statue of Tiya, Amenhotep's wife. "She has an extraordinary beauty," SOUROUZIAN said. When the two 15-metre red quartz colossi of Amenhotep become upright again in 2009 Tiya's statue will once again stand next to those of her spouse. The two other giant statues that have been uncovered are not yet ready to reclaim their place alongside the others, however. They are made of alabaster and extremely rare because of the material's fragility.
Unlike other neighbouring funerary temples such as the Ramesseum, dedicated to Ramses II, and Ramses III's temple at Madinât Hâbû, "we will be able to admire the temple's content, not only its skeleton," said SOUROUZIAN. But it is right to try restoring such a site to its former splendour ? For SOUROUZIAN there is no question about it. "We didn't invent anything. We just put something
that was about to disappear forever back in its original place. A living temple lay here, not just the colossi." (Alain NAVARRO, "Colossi of Memnon to be reunited with their twins", Daily News Egypt, April 17. Voir également "Egypt's twins to be reunited", The Egyptian Gazette, April 18).
Vallée des Rois
Pour la première fois, une mission archéologique égyptienne procède à des travaux de fouilles dans la Vallée des rois. 63 tombes ont été découvertes au cours de deux siècles toutes par des missions étrangères. « C'est pour cette raison que j'ai constitué la première équipe d'archéologues égyptiens », souligne Zâhî Hawwâs, secrétaire général du Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA) et directeur de la mission égyptienne de la Vallée des Rois. Après une étude approfondie de la vallée et la publication d'un ouvrage sur la région, l'Indiana Jones égyptien a découvert qu'il reste encore beaucoup à révéler dans cet endroit riche. Il y a tant de mystères à résoudre, « ceux d'Amenothep Ier, dont on présume que la tombe se trouve soit à Dayr al-Baharî, soit à Dirâ' Abû al-Nagâ, Thoutmosis II, dont on n'est pas encore certain où se trouve la tombe ? La tombe 55 est celle d'Akhenaton ou non ? », explique Hawwâs qui assure qu'il y a beaucoup à découvrir. « 12 tombes de reines des XVIIIe et XIXe dynasties n'ont pas été encore révélées », a-t-il repris.
La mission égyptienne a déjà commencé les fouilles dans les deux côtés nord et sud de la Vallée, des graffitis ont été trouvés ainsi que les vestiges des huttes appartenant aux ouvriers qui ont participé au creusement des tombes. La mission opère de même dans la tombe de Séthi 1er. Il est connu que dans cette sépulture se trouve une allée de près de 100 m, les Égyptiens commencent à creuser, restaurer et fouiller dans cette allée et ont découvert une nouvelle structure de la tombe. Que ce soit des étrangers ou des Égyptiens, cette région ne cesse de dévoiler de nouveaux secrets, et chaque jour elle assure au monde entier qu'elle recèle encore des trésors inestimables. (Hala Fares, « Les descendants des pharaons s'activent », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 2 avril 2008. Voir également 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « À la recherche de 18 tombes royales dans la Vallée des Rois », al-Akhbâr du 25 mars ; "The first excavation team was formed", Egypt State Information Service, March 25 ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Les petits-fils des pharaons à la recherche des tombes de leurs ancêtres en Haute-Égypte », al-Ahrâr du 4 avril).
KV63
It was quite by chance that I turned on the TV last summer and found myself watching the most gratifying coverage of an excavation I have ever seen. The subject of the documentary was an intact chamber at the bottom of a shaft not far from the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. No fewer than seven coffins were discovered - two of them apparently intact - along with 29 large storage jars. Since the step-by-step coverage of the excavation may not be screened again - and even if it is, people may not have a chance to see it - I shall describe the events that led up to the official opening of the large sealed coffin in an ongoing and enormously challenging project.
Dr. Otto Schaden standing outside doorway to KV63. (c) Heather Alexander.
Otto SCHADEN, an American Egyptologist who has cleared and re-investigated several known tombs in the western Valley of the Kings over a period of 30 years, made this remarkable discovery back in February 2006. The chamber with its contents lay about five metres underground and, while the storage jars in the foreground seemed to be sealed and intact, most of the coffins to the rear of the chamber were badly damaged - apart, that is, from one large one, and one small, that appeared to be intact. What happened during the rest of the archaeological season, right through to the opening of the intact coffin, was filmed down to the last detail. How was this possible ? How did a whole year's filming take place when, according to the antiquities law, the Egyptian inspector who accompanies each mission is committed to writing a monthly report on the work procedures, the mission's commitment to the regulations, and progress of work ? Anyone who has excavated in Egypt well knows that no discoveries can be announced, let alone screened, without the authorisation of the SCA secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zâhî Hawwâs. Well, actually, he featured briefly at the beginning of the documentary, when he is seen walking up the Valley of the Kings towards the shaft, and at the end when he says a few words about the significance of the discovery. But it is what happened in between that counts. Here is the all-inclusive archaeological drama as recorded and screened to the world's public last summer.
When Otto SCHADEN first entered the shaft and saw the objects in the unadorned chamber underground, he realised the potential importance of the discovery. Might the large intact coffin hold a body, and if so, might it be royal ? In the earlier days of archaeological exploration, up to the mid-20th century, the storage jars in the foreground would have been rapidly removed, and also the damaged coffins, in order to give access to the one or two that might hold a body and provide vital clues. In this age of modern archaeology, however, before the coffin could be reached and examined, the storage jars had to be removed and their contents fully recorded. SCHADEN recruited specialists to help with this work. Ken ARMSTRONG, an expert in ancient human remains was the first to be drafted, and the film opens as he and SCHADEN enter the tomb. They comment about the musty smell, note that there is hard black resin on some of the coffins, and also that the wood on most has been seriously damaged by termites. They would be difficult to examine, let alone remove. The two confer, and mention is made of the need to work quickly because of the approach of summer. SCHADEN talks of rain and the possibility of flash floods, and stresses that so long as the tomb remains open the coffins are in danger.
KV63 Tomb interior depicting coffins and storage jars
Archaeologist Heather ALEXANDER was the next to be recruited to join the mission. She supervised the removal of the storage jars -
a difficult and time-consuming task. Each had to be carefully wrapped prior to being lifted up the very narrow vertical shaft to ground level, and since each jar weighed up to 50kg handling them was a technical challenge. SCHADEN set up a lab in one of the chambers of a nearby empty tomb, and while the jars were being placed there questions naturally arose as to what they might contain. Perhaps there were texts that would identify the owners of the coffins. Hopefully there would be. Would there be evidence that might link the owners, or at least one owner of a coffin, to the nearby tomb of Tutankhamun ? Salima IKRAM, a specialist in mummification rituals, was given the task of opening the jars. Each was sealed with a heavy layer of plaster and mud. "The most exciting thing is to open something that has been sealed for over 3,000 years," IKRAM said to the camera before commencing her task. "Each time one opens a jar one is making a discovery, and it is rare to have that kind of experience for an archaeologist today." Rare for an archaeologist to be sure, but rarer still for a camera to be rolling and us to be witnessing all that was going on.
With the camera focussed on her gloved hands, and under the watchful and anxious eyes of SCHADEN, IKRAM chipped away at the plaster of the first vessel. As she took hold of it she shouted, "Hurry up, I can't hold" It was far heavier than she had expected. Then she peered into the jar, and "look at that, look at that ! Oh oh wooooohh !" She pulled out a succession of objects. The carved woodenhead of a cobra Her beaming face Otto's gratified grin : "We'll keep it !" he says. Laughter. IKRAM emptied the jars at the rate of five a day. A fragment with an inscription was found, then a second. SCHADEN takes them away for study. The text is in hieratic and reads, "Made during the fifth year of the reign of the Pharaoh." But the key word, the Pharaoh's name, is missing. Other material, including miniature bowls, however, suggest the 18th Dynasty - the era of Amarna and Tutankhamun. Work on the contents of the storage jars continues, especially the search for the illusive inscription that might explain the burial and reveal its owner. Some of them are found to contain inscribed seals made of mud, and IKRAM explains to the camera : "Whenever the priests who were in charge of the Valley of the Kings closed something up they would put their stamp on it." The seals she found were those of the necropolis, the best piece of dating evidence. Unfortunately, the inscriptions were too small to read easily.
The next scene filmed is of a man peering into a microscope ; then a spotlight on a portable computer - a jar to the left, a ladder to the right. Then the rough wall of the chamber containing the coffins, and a shot of Earl ERTMAN, another scholar, handling the tiny seal fragments trying to make head or tail of them. IKRAM delving into yet another jar to extract its contents. SCHADEN hovering anxiously. One begins to sense something. Frustration ? Anticipation ? Tension builds. And we, the viewers, are right there in the very heart of the action. With my eyes glued to the TV, thoughts ran through my mind. How was it that this discovery could be filmed in such minute detail without it being generally known ? Archaeological teams who work in Egypt have to abide by the rules and regulations of the SCA, the formal and complex procedures. How was this film shot without the visible presence of an SCA inspector ? Simply, all those involved were sworn to secrecy. And the secret was kept until the official opening of the large coffin by Zâhî Hawwâs. It took weeks before the team uncovered evidence that pointed to a particular Pharaoh and still the members of the mission remained tight-lipped as to whom they thought it could be. They knew they would be in big trouble if they made any premature announcements that there was some small indication of a possible link with Tutankhamun.
Nâdya Luqma, Egypt's top conservation expert, was called in to supervise the removal of the damaged coffins. She said that she "left everything in Cairo to come here because this is very important, very unique." Seated in front of one of the disintegrated coffins, she commented : "It is a challenge. The wood is so brittle that it must be reinforced before any attempt is made to lift them." The camera followed Luqma as she filled tiny holes with cotton wool and a solvent, explaining that it "bonds the pieces of wood together as it dries". We watch her at work, a close-up of her hands as they tear small pieces of cotton and insert them with needle or spatula into tiny cavities in the wood. With assistants on hand working under her guidance, this process took nearly a month to complete. The team was getting anxious. Impatient. Egyptologist Edwin BROCK spots damaged inscriptions on the rear wall of the chamber. The camera moves in, hoping that he can identify them. He shakes his head. "We will just have to wait and see, won't we ?" he says.
Finally, SCHADEN shared his and his team's observations with SCA Inspector Mansûr Burayk, who endorsed their findings. He inspected seals that have been found in some of the jars, accedes that there is evidence on at least one of them of the Aten, the sun•disk, which is clear indication that the burials date to the era of Akhenaten, the Amarna period and the parents of Tutankhamun. There is an intense debate beneath a makeshift tent, and it is decided that the time is ripe to make an official announcement to the SCA, and, once the last of the damaged coffins in the chamber is removed, get to the sealed coffins and see what they hold. Inspector Burayk is visibly on hand during this stage of the operation, and he is as anxious as everyone else to see if there were any inscriptions on the coffins. However, it is a painfully slow process to consolidate and then remove the broken coffins, and wait patiently is what they did. But eventually the day came when all of them had been removed from the chamber and the two intact coffins to the rear were accessible.
There is nothing quite like the opening of a sealed coffin to stimulate adrenaline, and this is a photo opportunity of the first order for the charismatic Zâhî Hawwâs, the guardian of the monuments of Egypt, who so courts the spotlight. Wherever he goes high ranking officials and the press photographers go with him, and here was no exception. Foreign missions sometimes accuse him of creating so much bureaucratic red tape that he hinders their activities, but he responds, "I safeguard our monuments, our heritage." And so Zâhî Hawwâs is filmed marching towards the shaft in the Valley of the Kings followed by his entourage and the press. He descends the ladder to the tiny chamber -
and scrambling after him, in close succession, come officials, reporters, photographers, and some who always manage, on such occasions, to squeeze their way to the front ranks. We get a shot of Burayk trying to control the mass of "hangers on", and of conservationist Luqma trying to push a photographer away from the coffin, fearing it might be damaged. And then the next moment she places her hand over her mouth and her eyes shut in an expression of total frustration. The scene is one of chaos, utter chaos. By the time Hawwâs had taken his position beside the large coffin and turned round, the chamber is chock-a-block full, and to his horror Hawwâs realises that Otto SCHADEN is not beside him. After three exhausting months of work the discoverer of the tomb had been unable to follow the scramble into the tomb ! A close up of Hawwâs sweating profusely, his usual poise gone, yelling that he would dismiss everyone from the tomb if there was not some sort of order. He said, "I repeat this to you, in English and in Arabic." And then, "Dr SCHADEN, please come in make way for Dr SCHADEN."
Coffin F is one of three from KV63 that shows faces with eyesshaped similarly to Nefertiti's.
(c) Heather Alexander/Amenmesse Project.
Finally the stage is set for the grand opening. The small coffin proves to be a disappointment. It contains nothing of interest. The lid of the large coffin is now carefully prepared for raising and lifting to safety. SCHADEN and Hawwâs lean forward to shine their torches inside. There is a close up of their faces peering anxious moments then the camera focuses on the image of the face of a woman on a wooden inner coffin and the sound of Luqma's voice saying, "the princess." But who is she ? What could have been a spellbinding moment in the history of archaeology was suddenly less than that. Although the face on the coffin is beautifully carved, and in fairly good condition, there is no indication of for whom it was made. Nor are any of the funerary objects particularly noteworthy in the light of what had been expected. The mummy, moreover, is missing. No body, no proof.
Yet the filming continues. Hawwâs is on site. And so he does the best he can in such circumstances. He opines that the coffin must belong to the mother of Tutankhamun. "I feel from the way the eye is drawn, and the nose and the lips - I can feel from the art style that the face is similar to that of King Tut," he says. And then, "this could be the face of Tutankhamun's mother Kia. Does what is now known as Tomb KV63 hold the key to Tutankhamun's lost family ? Only further study will show. Conclusive proof is needed but there remains a mystery. As the 2007/2008 archaeological season begins, we hear that SCHADEN will receive clearance of his papers by the SCA by January 2008, and then work can re-commence in the royal valley.
Postscript
When I returned to Egypt and started to write up the documentary drama on the discovery of KV63, I learned that the programme had attracted a total of 407,000 viewers in one record-breaking time slot on Discovery Channel Canada, followed by 314,000 viewers in another. Also, that Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, had changed his opinion on the significance of the discovery three times during the excavation. In his first announcement he speculated that "the tomb" contained the bodies of important officials. A month later, on 3 March 2006, he admitted that he had been mistaken, and said that the structure was not a tomb at all, but a "storage chamber" containing burial and embalming equipment - in other words it was a chamber for carrying out mummification. Finally came the declaration, as filmed in the documentary, that KV63 was indeed a tomb, a royal tomb, and that it was for King Tutankhamun's mother Queen Kiya. The puzzle is that it is not known with any certainty who was King Tutankhamun's mother ; there are no inscriptions within the tomb, nor tomb artefacts that give specific evidence for whom the chamber was made ; and there was no mummy in any of the seven coffins ! (Jill Kamil, "Screen rites", Al-Ahram Weekly, January 17, 2008).
Tombe de Séthi 1er (KV17)
() Another important discovery has been made at the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor. Egyptian excavators cleaning the corridor of Pharaoh Seti I's tomb unearthed a quartzite ushabti figure and the cartouche of Pharaoh Seti I, the second ruler of the 19th Dynasty. Hawwâs said the team that made the discovery was the first Egyptian mission ever to work in the Valley of the Kings, where excavations were monopolised by foreigners for two centuries. He further stated that a number of clay vessels were also unearthed, along with fragments of the tomb's wall paintings that may have become dislodged and fallen off after its discovery. During the process to clean the corridor the length of the corridor was measured and found to be 136 metres, not the 100 metres recorded in the original report of the tomb's discoverer, Giovanni Battista BELZONI. Târiq al-'Awadî, deputy field director of the mission, told the Weekly that geological studies revealed the corridor was not carved inside the tomb as one single piece but was formed of separate parts, each with its own architectural features as if it were a gate leading towards the afterlife. Al•'Awadî added that tools used by the famous 19th-century tomb robber 'Abd al-Rasûl and his family were found in the dust. Among these were a tea caddy, cigarette packets and a manasha (a cane with a horse's tail for flies). "These objects have been collected and cleaned so they can be put on display at Bayt al-Qurna in Qurna," al-'Awadî said. (Nevine El-Aref, "Some drowned, some buried", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 17, 2008. Voir également « Nouvelle découverte archéologique dans la Vallée des Rois », al-Wafd du 11 avril ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Découverte d'une statuette vieille de 3 300 ans sur la rive Ouest de Louqsor », al-Ahrâr du 11 avril ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Mise au jour d'un ouchebti et d'un cartouche de Séthi 1er », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 11 avril).
Dirâ' Abû al -Nagâ
Tombe de Djéhouty (TT 11)
Plan des tombes de Djehuty et de Hery réalisé par Juan Ivars y Carlos Cabrera durant la campagne 2003.
Spanish excavators working at the tomb of Djehuty, overseer of works in Thebes during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, have chanced upon a surprising discovery. While they were excavating the floor of the open courtyard of the tomb, a well-preserved 11th Dynasty burial was uncovered, including the remains of a large wooden sarcophagus that was painted red and decorated with inscription along its sides mentioning the name of the deceased, Iker, and invocations to the goddess Hathor, mistress of the skies. In the sand surrounding the sarcophagus, five clay vessels were also unearthed, together with five wooden arrows, three of which still bore their original feathers. "We don't know yet if any funerary objects are likely to be discovered, since the sarcophagus is blocking access to the inner part of the small recess used as a burial chamber," Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that removing the sarcophagus may be the only way to gain access to the burial site.
A rare, well-preserved burial chamber and coffin adorned with drawings of the entombed presenting offerings to the goddess of the heavens, Hathor (bottom). Bows and arrows, some with theirfeathers still intact (top), lay near the mummy - suggesting that when alive, he was once a mercenary in the service of the king. Photographs courtesy Jose Galán.
José M. GALÀN, head of the Spanish mission, said the sarcophagus was now being restored and consolidated, as it had served as a base for termites. He said that the sarcophagus and burial site were very important finds because of their early date and because there was little information about the First Intermediate Period in Thebes. The discovery would enable archaeologists to understand the period and its remains in the area better, he said. (Nevine El-Aref, "New discovery in Thebes", Al-Ahram Weekly, February 21, 2008. Voir également al-Ahrâr du 14 février ; Mushîra Musa, « Une mission archéologique espagnole exhume un sarcophage en bois de la XIe dynastie », al-Ahrâm du 14 février ; « Découverte d'une tombe antique exceptionnelle à Louqsor », al-Ahrâr du 14 février ; « Mise au jour d'un sarcophage vieux de 4 000 ans », al-Akhbâr du 14 février ; Hassan Saadallah, "Sarcophagus found in Luxor", The Egyptian Gazette du 14 février).
Tell Idfû
" Ancient Egyptian administration is mainly known from texts, but the full understanding of the institutions involved and their role with towns and cities has been so far difficult to grasp because of the lack of archaeological evidence with which textual data needs to be combined," says Nadine MOLLER, assistant professor at the Oriental Institute of Chicago University and head of the archaeological mission in Tell Idfû. At Tell Idfû, MOLLER says, the mission has uncovered what is considered to be a downtown centre, a community located half way between the modern city of Aswân and Luxor. Tell Idfû was also a rare example where almost 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history are still preserved in the stratigraphy of a single mound. Last year the mission revealed details of a seven silos and an older columned hall, which was an administration centre. "These monuments were found at the core of the ancient community as grain was a form of currency at that time, while the silos functioned as a sort of bank as well as a food source," MOLLER said, adding that the size of both the silos and administration buildings shows that the community was apparently a prosperous urban centre. "Grain, which was usually barley or emmer wheat, was used as food and medium of exchange. One form of payment was the monthly ration of grain," MOLLER said.
Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), says the grain bins the mission found this year are in a large silo courtyard dating back to the 17th Dynasty (1630-1520 BC) and containing at least seven round mud-brick silos measuring 5.5x6.5 metres in diameter, making them the largest example so far discovered within a town centre. The team
also uncovered an earlier building phase for the hall, one that predates the silos. In that phase, Hawwâs said, a mud-brick building with 16 wooden columns stood on the site. "The pottery and seal impressions found in the hall are dated to the early 13th Dynasty, while the layout of the building shows that it may perhaps have been part of a governor's palace, which was a typical feature of provincial towns," Hawwâs said.
MOLLER told Al-Ahram Weekly that there was no exact parallel for such a columned hall being part of the administrative buildings. The columned hall was the place where the scribes would possibly do the accounting, the opening and sealing of the containers, and receive letters. "The ostraca or inscribed pottery shards found have lists of commodities written on them," she said, adding that the team also found seal impressions that were used for different types of objects. Some were seals for papyrus documents, while others were for wooden boxes and baskets. "The seals were like scarabs, showing ornamental patterns such as spirals and a mix of hieroglyphic symbols such as ankhs," Hawwâs said. Patterns belonging to different officials were also found, providing much evidence of the administrative activities that once took place there such as accounting and the opening and sealing boxes, ceramic jars and other commodities.
The period when the administrative centre was in use is the time in history when Egypt lost its political unity and a small kingdom developed in Thebes, which controlled most of Upper Egypt. During this period one can see an increase in connections between the provincial elite, such as the family of the governor, to the royal family at Thebes who were keen on strengthening bonds through marriage or by awarding important offices to these people. "It is exactly at this period when Idfû seems to have been very prosperous which can now be confirmed further by archaeological discoveries such as this silo-court, a symbol of the wealth of the town," MOLLER said. (Nevine El-Aref, "When grain was currency", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 19, 2008. Voir également "Ancient Egyptian administrative building, silos unearthed in Idfû", Egypt State Information Service, June 18 ; « Découverte d'antiquités pharaoniques qui remontent à 3 500 ans », al-Ahrâr du 18 juin ; « Mise au jour d'un bâtiment administratif et de silos antiques à Tell Idfû », al-Wafd du 18 juin).
À l'opposé des autres instituts archéologiques, l'Institut suisse de recherches architecturales et archéologiques au Caire a décidé, depuis quelques années, de concentrer ses activités uniquement sur deux régions : la ville d'Aswân et l'île d'Éléphantine. « Notre institut n'est pas aussi grand que les autres pour élargir nos travaux sur plusieurs emplacements historiques. Et bien que l'institut traite uniquement de deux régions, nos travaux sont immenses », commente Cornelius VON PILGRIM, directeur de l'institut. Les égyptologues suisses ont établi un nouveau projet archéologique à long terme, en coopération avec le Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA), couvrant en fait toute la ville d'Aswân. Ceci tout en continuant leurs travaux de fouilles, de restauration et de reconstitution à l'île d'Éléphantine qui avaient déjà commencé en 1969. Selon le directeur, les travaux de l'institut demeurent tout au long de l'année, sans la moindre interruption pendant la saison chaude. Une telle continuité leur donne la chance de recueillir d'importantes informations non seulement sur le plan archéologique mais encore sur le plan historique et démographique, sans oublier l'évolution urbaine et topographique au fil des années. Selon VON PILGRIM, le projet de recherche archéologique dans la ville d'Aswân serait le premier en son genre dans toute l'Égypte. Il s'agit de la reconstitution des vestiges archéologiques qui composent Syene, l'ancienne ville d'Aswân, d'après la carte établie par les savants de l'Expédition française. Autre importance, c'est la découverte des anciennes carrières de granit utilisées dans la construction des obélisques, temples, stèles, et colonnes pharaoniques. « À travers tous ces renseignements, nous avons inscrit plusieurs détails de l'ancienne carte de la ville d'Aswân ainsi que sa topographie et l'écoulement du fleuve. Mais il en reste beaucoup à ajouter », assure VON PILGRIM. Quant à l'île d'Éléphantine, les activités de l'institut suisse varient entre relevés, fouilles, restauration, reconstitution et conservation.
Les premiers pas de l'institut ont eu lieu en 1969 sous forme d'une collaboration entre celui-ci et le Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Kairo (DAIK). À cette époque, tous les deux ont mis au jour une ville du Nouvel Empire ainsi qu'un temple dédié à la divinité Khnoum, annexé de quelques petits temples gréco-romains. Mais vers les débuts des années 1980, l'institut a installé une mission archéologique autonome qui a révélé 250 blocs d'un temple osirien. Ces blocs étaient exploités durant l'époque copte comme « fondations d'une église qui s'est écroulée au fil du temps et dont nous n'avons trouvé que le sol », explique VON PILGRIM. Les membres de la mission n'avaient qu'à enlever cette fine couche pour découvrir les blocs en question. Selon lui, ceux-ci sont en bon état et conservent encore de claires scènes gravées accompagnées d'inscriptions. Ainsi, la reconstitution du temple d'Osiris sera la première préoccupation de la mission pendant les prochaines années. Les deux projets qui intéressent l'institut sont tellement majeurs que le directeur ne pense pas commencer du travail sur de nouveaux sites, surtout que ces projets enrichissent au fur et à mesure l'histoire voire la connaissance de la civilisation égyptienne. (Doaa Elhami, « Les yeux braqués sur le Sud », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 16 janvier 2008).
Fouilles fluviales
Quartzite ushabti figure ; some of the artefacts that were for long on
the Nile bed.
It is surely in the quiet and relaxing city of Aswân that the Nile is at its most beautiful. The river flows through an amber desert, past granite rocks and round emerald islands smothered in palm groves and tropical plants. This peaceful scene, however, was disturbed last week by archaeologists shouting and yelling at one another from their moored yacht while they carried out the delicate task of hoisting a decorative object from the bed of the river where it had lain for more than 2,500 years. It was one of several newly•found artefacts that sank beneath the ripples of the shifting Nile off the shore beside the Old Cataract Hotel, across the river from the legendary Elephantine Island where relics remain of stone temples dating from various eras in the history of ancient Egypt, along with the Roman Nilometre. "Look what our young Egyptian archaeologist-divers have found on the Nile bed," Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly. "The Nile is revealing its secrets. The four•month-long underwater survey is finally yielding its fruits." Forty metres beneath the surface the divers discovered a complete portico of the temple of Khnum ; two huge, unidentified columns ; and four pollards from the Coptic era. Hawwâs said these pieces would remain on the river bed, as they were too heavy to be lifted out the water. Early studies show that the pollards may be part of a Christian church that may have once been located in the area but for unknown reasons was demolished or destroyed. Several 26th•Dynasty decorative pieces, along with Roman amphora and a collection of clay vessels, have been also found and removed from the Nile bed so they can be restored and placed on display.
Some of the artefacts that were for long on the Nile bed.
Hawwâs said the idea of searching for monuments at the Nile bed came to him some years ago when he noticed the importance of the Nile and how it was the life vein for the ancient Egyptians, especially during the pyramid-building era when huge blocks and statues were transported to the construction sites. Aswân, city of granite and home to four large granite quarries, was the hub of sculptures and sculpting through the long span of Egypt's history. During the Old Kingdom, the ancient Egyptians cut blocks for the Gîza Pyramids. In the New Kingdom, obelisks, chapels and statues were transported down the Nile to be installed in temples in Luxor, especially the Karnak and Luxor temples. "Ancient Egyptians are like all human beings : they can be accurate or imprecise," Hawwâs commented. "Therefore we can expect that when these items were transported along the Nile they suffered accidents, which may have meant they sank and disappeared under the water to lie on the river bed. Now it is our turn to explore the area and unearth Egypt's sunken treasure, not only in the Mediterranean but in the Nile as well."
Hawwâs relates that during the last century several accidents took place that led to the loss of certain objects, such as the two small obelisks found by the French archaeologist Auguste MARIETTE in Dirâ' Abû al-Nagâ on Luxor's West Bank, which fell into the water while being carried over to the east bank. The obelisks were known to have fallen only 10 metres from Karnak Temple. During the upcoming archaeological season, which will start in early September, Egyptian archaeologist-divers will start surveying the part of the Nile that lies between Aswân and Luxor, which of course holds a number of obelisks and life size statues. (Nevine El-Aref, "Some drowned, some buried", Al-Ahram Weekly, April 17, 2008. Voir également Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Zâhî Hawwâs : Découverte d'un temple sous le Nil à Aswân », al-Ahrâr du 4 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Mise au jour de vestiges d'un temple et d'une église sous les eaux d'Aswân », al-Akhbâr du 4 avril ; « À la recherche des monuments submergés sous le Nil », al-Qâhira du 8 avril ; Kâmiliyâ 'Atrîs, « Les trésors du Nil », Sabâh al-Khayr du 15 avril).
Nord -Sinaï
Qantara Est
[ ] In North Sinai, meanwhile, another Egyptian team led by Muhammad 'Abd al-Maqsûd, head of the Lower Egypt Antiquities Department, found the remains of the largest fortified city of the New Kingdom so far discovered on Horus military road in Qantara East in north Sinai. The excavation leading to the discovery came within the framework of an archaeological project led by the SCA since 1986 to excavate the Horus military road that once connected Egypt to Palestine. Inside the city, remains have been found of a mud-brick fort dating back to the reign of Ramses II. The fort measures 500 by 250 metres and has military towers four metres tall and 20 metres thick. 'Abd al-Maqsûd said that early studies carried out revealed that the fort was the centre of military control from the New Kingdom to Ptolemaic times. A relief of Tuthmosis II has been also unearthed, implying that this Pharaoh also built a military edifice on the Horus road, which has not yet been found.
Also on the Horus road, a New Kingdom temple has been found built on the ruins of an 18th-Dynasty fort. Among the remains was a number of reliefs of Ramses II and Seti I, a stela bearing the names of several deities, and a number of storehouses. 'Abd al-Maqsûd said the new discovery affirmed what was engraved on the walls of Karnak Temple in Luxor, especially in the well-known relief of Seti I which describes the section of the ancient Horus military road that linked Qantara East to what is now Rafah. (Nevine El-Aref, "One for the road", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 5, 2008. Voir également AFP, "Archaeologists discover ancient army headquarters", Daily News Egypt, May 29 ; Hala Fares, « Les gardiens de l'Est », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 4 juin).
Sud -Sinaï
Hammâm Pharaon
Le Sinaï continue à révéler encore ses secrets archéologiques. Une mission égyptienne sous la direction de Fahmî 'Abd al-'Azîz, directeur des antiquités de Râs Sidr, dans la partie sud de la péninsule, vient de mettre au jour une cave antique dans la région de Hammâm Pharaon (le bain de pharaon). Suite à la découverte, il s'est avéré que cette cave était utilisée autrefois comme abri pour les chrétiens fuyant la persécution des Romains aux IVe et Ve siècles. « La cave découverte par une équipe composée d'archéologues égyptiens se trouve précisément à 50 kilomètres de la ville touristique de Râs Sidr », précise Farag Fadda, chef du département des antiquités islamiques et coptes au Conseil Suprême des Antiquités (CSA). Il s'agit en fait d'une grotte dont les côtés sont irréguliers et dont la surface est de 3,6 x 2 mètres. Le plus admirable est que cette grotte donne directement sur le Golfe de Suez. « La cave est presque fermée. L'équipe des archéologues égyptiens y a découvert un certain nombre d'arches sur lesquelles se trouvent des écritures et quelques inscriptions dans les deux langues copte et grecque et qui sont en bon état. Ces inscriptions sont d'une couleur rouge sur une couche de terre cuite blanche », explique Târiq al-Naggâr, directeur général des antiquités du Sud-Sinaï. Le plafond de la cave n'est pas lui aussi régulier. Il renferme à son tour des arches et des voûtes naturelles qui ressemblent un peu à des coupoles.
Cette découverte a été précédée, il y a quatre ans, par une autre un peu semblable. En effet, une première cave a été mise au jour dans cette même région, ce qui assure l'idée que le site était largement utilisé par les chrétiens qui fuyaient la persécution romaine. « L'équipe d'archéologues, sous la direction de Fahmî 'Abd al-'Azîz, continue toujours les travaux de nettoyage de la cave découverte tout en préservant les inscriptions et les écritures qui décorent les arches de ses murs. En outre, les travaux de fouilles continuent aussi dans la région à la recherche d'autres caves datant de l'époque romaine ou peut-être avant ou après cette période », a indiqué Zâhî Hawwâs, secrétaire général du CSA. (Amira Samir, « Les refuges de la foi », Al-Ahram Hebdo du 26 mars 2008. Voir également « Mise au jour d'une grotte antique dans le Sud-Sinaï », al-Wafd du 10 mars ; Taha 'Abd al-Rahmân, « Découverte d'une grotte antique dans le Sinaï », al-Ahrâr du 10 mars ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Découverte dans le Sinaï d'une grotte utilisée par les chrétiens pour fuir la persécution romaine », al-Ahrâm du 10 mars ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Découverte dans le Sinaï d'une grotte utilisée par les chrétiens persécutés des IVe et Ve siècles », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 10 mars).
Sayl al-Tuffâha
Archaeologists from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) carrying out a routine archaeological survey at Sayl al-Tuffâha area, west of Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, have chanced upon two gold Byzantine coins bearing the head of Emperor Valens (364•378 AD). A number of grotto caves and fragments of clay and glass have already been found in the area. Zâhî Hawwâs, secretary-general of the SCA, described this discovery as unique because it is the first time that objects linked to that emperor have been found in Egypt. "Coins of Valens were previously found in Lebanon and Syria," Hawwâs said, adding that remnants of walls along with fragments of clay, glass and porcelain dating to the same era were also unearthed. On the obverse side is an image of Emperor Valens wearing his official attire and an ornate crown decorated with two rows of pearls surrounding a gold cross. The reverse shows the emperor in military attire, holding in his left hand a staff with a cross and in his right a ball surmounted by a winged angel. Târiq al-Naggâr, head of Coptic and Islamic monuments in Sinai, said both coins were minted in Antioch (now Antakya in southern Turkey). He said further excavations were expected to uncover other objects that could help explain more about the history of Sinai, especially during the Byzantine era. (Nevine El-Aref, "Heads or tails ?", Al-Ahram Weekly, May 15, 2008. Voir également Reuters, "Coins dating to Roman Emperor Valens unearthed", The Egyptian Gazette, April 14 ; « Découverte dans le Sinaï de 2 monnaies datant du règne de l'empereur byzantin Valens », al-Wafd du 14 avril ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Découverte inédite de 2 monnaies de l'empereur byzantin Valens », al-Akhbâr du 14 avril ; Fathiyya al-Dakhâkhnî, « Découverte de 2 monnaies en or de l'empereur byzantin Valens », al-Masrî al-Yawm du 14 avril).
[ ] The third discovery was made during routine excavation in the area of Sayl al-Tuffâha, west of Saint Catherine's Monastery in South Sinai, where an SCA team discovered the well-preserved remains of a limestone wine factory dating to the Byzantine era (sixth century AD). Farag Fadda, head of the SCA's Islamic and Coptic Department, says the factory consists of two parts. The first is a square basin with a pump at one end ; the bottom of the basin is covered with plaster, and some sections still bear traces of red colour. The northern wall of this basin is decorated with a cross-shaped pattern inside a circle, under which is a clay pump. "This type of pump was used to make the wine flow after treading the raisins and dates," Hawwâs said. Fadda says the second part of the factory is a circle-shaped basin that looks like a well with a hole. On two sides were limestone slabs, which may have been used by the factory workers to stand on. Târiq al-Naggâr, head of South Sinai Antiquities, said the area connecting the clay pump to the second basin had a hole in order to place the jars used to hold the wine. Early studies have shown that the area of Sayl al-Tuffâha was an industrial region for the production of wine, as there were many vines and date palms. (Nevine El-Aref, "One for the road", Al-Ahram Weekly, June 5. Voir également AFP, "Roman emperor's treasure found in Sinai", Daily News Egypt, April 14 ; "Discovering wine press from Byzantine era in south of Sinai", Egypt State Information Service, June 2 ; 'Alâ''Abd al-Hâdî, « Mise au jour d'un pressoir à vin d'époque byzantine dans le Sud-Sinaï », al-Akhbâr du 2 juin ; Mushîra Mûsa, « Découverte d'un pressoir à vin d'époque byzantine dans le Sinaï », al-Ahrâm du 2 juin).
Wâdî al -Gawâsîs
Non loin de la ville côtière de la mer Rouge à Safâgâ, à quelques 25 Km au sud, s'étale Wâdî al-Gawâsîs, l'un des plus importants sites maritimes qui ne cesse de livrer au fur et à mesure de précieux secrets. Connue par l'aridité de son climat tout au long de l'année sauf pour quelques mois, cette zone est soumise depuis 7 ans à des fouilles archéologiques opérées par une mission américano-italienne dirigée par Rodolfo FATTOVICH et Kathryn BARD. Cette zone comprend « l'un des plus anciens ports pharaoniques dont la date remonte à l'Ancien Empire, d'après les anciens documents », souligne Rodolfo FATTOVICH, professeur d'archéologie à l'Universita'degli Studi di Napoli 'L'Orientale'. Information affirmée par la mission qui avait trouvé lors des fouilles une grande collection de céramiques et de poteries datant de cette époque. En plus, presque toutes les trouvailles archéologiques prouvent l'importance de ce port et indiquent son utilisation pendant des expéditions maritimes destinées aux pays de Pount. Ces expéditions avaient eu lieu pendant la période du Moyen Empire et surtout lors du règne du roi Amenemhat III. Il s'agit en fait de la présence de sept galeries creusées dans l'agglomération qui se trouve auprès de la côte de la mer Rouge. Seules deux de celles-ci ont été mises au jour au cours de la dernière saison de fouilles. Les fonctions de ces galeries variaient entre dépôts, ateliers ou étaient utilisées comme des abris pour les membres des expéditions. La mission a de même découvert plusieurs éléments de navigation et des équipements nécessaires à l'expédition maritime. Citons à titre d'exemple : des cordes, des rames, des planches de bois, sans oublier les seaux d'argile, ainsi que quelques boîtes sur lesquelles sont inscrites par exemple « les merveilles des pays de Pount ».
En effet, les cordes étaient utilisées dans la navigation à cet âge lointain. « Les cordes sont tellement bien conservées qu'elles paraissent neuves et fabriquées de nos jours », explique FATTOVICH. Pour les planches de bois, étant dérivées de Coptos dans la vallée du Nil, celles-ci servaient à monter les bateaux sur place, à Wâdî al-Gawâsîs. « Nous espérons mettre au jour les ateliers de fabrication de ces bateaux, lors des prochaines saisons », commente l'archéologue Chiara ZAZZARA, membre de la mission.
Autre découverte si précieuse, les débris du bois ont été trouvés au seuil des galeries. « Les rames étaient nettoyées pour être réutilisées de nouveau dans les expéditions ultérieures. D'ailleurs, l'opération de nettoyage était effectuée à cet emplacement pour se servir de la lumière du soleil de la journée », explique-t-elle. Concernant les seaux d'argile, ceux-ci ont été trouvés en grande quantité. Ces seaux assuraient en principe les fermetures des productions alimentaires certes, mais donnent plutôt des informations administratives à l'instar de l'aménagement du stockage des éléments nécessaires pour l'expédition, notamment l'alimentation. Quant aux boîtes, celles-ci servaient à préserver les productions exportées de Pount. Citons à titre d'exemple : l'encens, et les productions exotiques, ainsi que les pierres précieuses et le bois foncé. L'Égypte empruntait encore les animaux et leur cuir.
Les galeries servaient autant de dépôts et d'ateliers pour les membres des expéditions, que d'abris aux navigateurs. « Ceux-ci y fabriquaient le pain et conservaient encore les aliments nécessaires pour les quatre mois, la durée de l'expédition », explique l'archéologue. D'ailleurs, la mission a trouvé des assiettes en argile d'une seule mesure afin de garantir l'égalité des portions de nourriture destinée à chaque membre de l'expédition. « C'est un autre argument qu'on vivait dans ces galeries », commente ZAZZARA. D'autre part, la mission a découvert plusieurs stèles, dont la date remonte au Moyen Empire, certes mais, dont les règnes des souverains varient. Notons une stèle de l'époque de Sésostris III, deux autres du règne d'Amenemhat III dont l'une est découverte lors de la dernière saison et une quatrième appartenant à l'époque d'Amenemhat IV. Il paraît que les expéditions aux pays de Pount étaient une sorte de tradition que les souverains du Moyen Empire cherchaient à entamer et enregistrer sur les stèles pendant leur règne. Par ailleurs, l'expédition a trouvé d'autres stèles gravées de présentations d'offrandes, prières, salutations et de remerciements destinés aux différentes divinités. La plus distinguée est celle du dieu Min, divinité maritime. Celui-ci ayant « sécurisé les membres de l'expédition durant toute l'excursion maritime, a été remercié sur cette stèle lors de leur rentrée », explique ZAZZARA.
En outre, la mission, toujours en quête de l'ancienne baie du site et dont la limite est encore inconnue, a inauguré deux nouvelles grandes phases de fouilles. À cet égard, une grande surprise les attendait avant même d'entamer leurs excavations. C'est la révélation d'une grande quantité de jarres. Peut-être, celles-ci servaient à conserver l'eau dont on avait besoin pendant l'occupation du site puisque « l'unique source d'eau découverte jusqu'à maintenant est située à une distance de 10 km du site », reprend le professeur. D'autre part, la mission était préoccupée cette saison par la consolidation des galeries qui risquent la destruction à cause des fissures. Pour FATTOVICH, il est difficile de continuer les fouilles avant de les restaurer. Les dangers ne s'arrêtent pas là. Une autre menace est apparue et dont les effets sont plus graves. Ce sont les investissements touristiques. Beaucoup d'hommes d'affaires cherchent à exploiter la côte de la mer Rouge
touristiquement, à bâtir des hôtels, voire des villages touristiques. « Wâdî al-Gawâsîs est un site ouvert et vaste sur la côte de la mer Rouge. C'est impossible de le fermer. Mais j'espère que les autorités prennent toutes les dispositions pour protéger un tel site archéologique de telle importance majeure », conclut Rodolfo FATTOVICH.
Wâdî al-Gawâsîs a été découverte vers les années 1976 et 1977 par le professeur 'Abd al-Mun'im Sayyid, de l'Université d'Alexandrie. À cette époque, le professeur Sayyid a prouvé que Wâdî al-Gawâsîs était le port d'où les bateaux partaient pour les pays de Pount durant le Moyen Empire, surtout pendant le règne de Sésostris Ier. Quant à la mission italo-américaine, celle-ci n'a décidé d'y entamer ses fouilles qu'en 1999. Avant cette année, le professeur Rod