Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, March 21, 2011

I understand that the international cultural mission, led by UNESCO, will start work in Cairo tomorrow morning (Tuesday) and that the team has three members: Christian Manhart (Chief of museum section of UNESCO); France Desmarais (ICOM general secretariat); and Ossama Abdel Meguid (ICOM EC and CIPEG).  That sounds like a strong team to me.

Ahrahm has been critical of this mission, so I have been doing some digging.   There doesn't seem to be a published agenda for the mission, but I understand that the team's priorities are likely to include the following:

  • to meet the new ministers (antiquities and culture);
  • to visit and take care for the Egyptian Museum;
  • to visit other nearby museums and sites, if there is need / opportunity;
  • to get the official ministry / SCA cooperation for the compilation of a "red list" of stolen antiquities
  • to discuss an action plan and determine needs for the future activities to follow.
That to me seems very sensible. The priority is to meet the new Minister of Culture - and of Antiquities if there is one - to build a relationship.  Some of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Egypt, including the Memphite Necropolis which includes Giza, Saqqara, Dashur and Abusir and it's part of the rationale of UNESCO to monitor any threats to World Heritage Sites.  It also make sense to include the status of the Egyptian Museum, with a focus on compiling a detailed "red list" to help retrieve missing items.  Although we are focusing on the latest theft from the museum, Andie Byrnes reminded me ten days ago that bracelets from the important Tanis collection are still missing.  Hopefully, the latest thefts can be a springboard to re-invigorate the campaign for the return of all antiquities stolen from Egypt.  It is good to see ICOM and  CIPEG involved for that reason.  It's also worth remembering how much help the earlier ICOM mission was in bringing clarity to the reporting of site status, to the benefit of all concerned, including to Egypt.

The Ahram article isn't surprising.  There are still people in Egypt who don't want transparency of abuses during the Mubarak era and many of all political persuasions who view any external involvement with suspicion.  Ahram is also not regarded by the Tahrir protestors as an unbiased newspaper even now.  Hopefully, however, a positive mission will establish a strong partnership between the Egyptian regime and international cultural organisations.

(PS This post had more than it's fair share of typos!  Hopefully I have now got most of them!)


Dr. Nicole Hansen said...

One major typo you missed: regime. If what they are here for is to cooperate with the regime, then as far as I am concerned they should get on the next plane out of Egypt, as UNESCO support of the regime is one of the reasons things are as bad as they are now. Where was UNESCO when the bulldozers ran roughshod over the tombs in Gurna? Standing aside quietly with the regime because what was more important was putting money in the pockets of the contractors and steel and concrete magnates who were building a new village for the Gurnawis.

gordon davies said...
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Kate Phizackerley said...

All members of the present board of UNESCO should be dismissed especially those who have been on the board while 70% of Luxor was being demolished.With a new government I hope the destruction is investigated with a great deal of commitment - [moderated comment, originally lefy by Gordon Davies]

Anonymous said...

I do not like to be a discordant voice here but i view the demolition of the houses at Gurna and the subsequent access for inspection and possible subsequent conservation (if they are not already totally ruined)
as a very positive development and one of the best things that Hawass has done during his tenure. These tombs are absolutely priceless and should be preserved at all costs.Daveh

Tuấn Trần Minh said...


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