Cairo's 'mother of Egyptian museums' set
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[June 18, 2019]
By Aidan Lewis
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt on Sunday launched
a revamp of the Egyptian Museum, promising to preserve and enhance the
storied site even as it loses its most famous collection.
Located in the heart of Cairo on Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum has
long been the foremost home for the country's bounteous collection of
But it will soon lose some of the treasure from King Tutankhamun's tomb
to the Grand Egyptian Museum, due to open next year next to the Giza
pyramids, while a collection of royal mummies is being transferred to
another new site in Cairo, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
The initial restructuring of the Egyptian Museum will include the
redisplay of several galleries near the entrance and the relocation of
the Tanis Royal Tombs to the space vacated by the Tutankhamun
Financed by 3.1 million euros of EU funding and backed by a consortium
of five European museums including the British Museum and the Louvre,
the project will also develop a long-term vision for the museum and,
officials hope, allow it to win a listing as a UNESCO world heritage
Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany repeated a promise that
new museums would not pose a threat, and that the Egyptian Museum, which
houses more than 150,000 objects, should get "all the support and
attention it deserves".
"The time has come to shed a new light on the museum's rich collection,
upgrade its physical structure and improve its research and programing
activities to reach the highest international standards," he told a
launch event in the museum's garden.
The apparently casual management and display of artefacts at the
Egyptian Museum surprises some visitors. In 2014 employees damaged King
Tutankhamun's golden burial mask by gluing its dislodged beard back on.
But it charms many others with its old-fashioned feel.
Some display cases date back to the mid-19th century when the
collections were displayed elsewhere in Cairo, and there are signs have
not been changed since the museum opened in 1902, museum director Sabah
Abdel Razek Saddik said.
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A general view of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in downtown
Cairo, Egypt July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo
For Egyptologists, the museum is the "mother" of Egyptian museums,
said Friederike Seyfried, director of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin,
which is also participating in the project.
"Nothing can be compared with the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir and this
will never change," she said.
"New-build museums will be beacons of modern achievements in
museology but the Egyptian museum at Tahrir reflects the history of
Tourism is a key sector in Egypt's economy and a major source of
foreign revenue. It has been gradually recovering from the political
turmoil and security problems that followed the "Arab Spring" civil
unrest of 2011.
Enany said he was aggrieved that Egypt had to confront the continued
loss of antiquities through looting and smuggling.
The government is currently battling to prevent the auction of an
18th Dynasty quartzite sculpture god Amen in the likeness of King
Tutankhamun scheduled for next month at Christie's in London.
"I'm deeply saddened to see every now and then some Egyptian
antiquities put on sale in the international market. We have
succeeded in the ministry in the last few years in repatriating
thousands of objects and will continue to do so," Enany said.
He appealed to foreign ambassadors and cultural attaches,
international organizations, and UNESCO "to join efforts to stop the
looting, selling and illicit trafficking of antiquities".
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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