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Message from Secty General for Antiquities in Egypt

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  • Kaupp, Ann
    Zahi Hawass, Secretary General for the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, released this statement about the situation in Egypt and its museums. The
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 1, 2011
      Zahi Hawass, Secretary General for the Supreme Council of Antiquities in

      Egypt, released this statement about the situation in Egypt and its museums.

      The Situation in Egyptian Antiquities Today

      On Friday, January 28, 2011, when the protest marches began in Cairo, I

      heard that a curfew had been

      issued that started at 6.00pm on Friday evening until 7.00am on Saturday

      morning. Unfortunately, on

      that day the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, was not well guarded. About a

      thousand people began to jump

      over the wall on the eastern side of the museum into the courtyard. On

      the western side of the museum,

      we recently finished something I was very proud of, a beautiful gift

      shop, restaurant and cafeteria. The

      people entered the gift shop and stole all the jewellery and escaped;

      they thought the shop was the

      museum, thank God! However, ten people entered the museum when they

      found the fire exit stairs

      located at the back of it.

      As every one knows, the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, is naturally lit and due

      to the architectural style of it,

      there are glass windows on its roof. The criminals broke the glass

      windows and used ropes to get inside,

      there is a distance of four metres from the ceiling to the ground of the

      museum. The ten people broke in

      when I was at home and, although I desperately wanted to go to the

      museum, I could not leave my house

      due to the curfew. In the morning, as soon as I woke up, I went directly

      there. When I arrived, I found

      out that, the night before, three tourist police officers had stayed

      there overnight because they were not

      able to get out before the curfew was put in place. These officers, and

      many young Egyptians who were

      also there, helped to stop more people from entering the museum.

      Thankfully, at 10.00pm on Friday

      night, the army arrived at the museum and gave additional security


      I found out that one criminal was still at the museum, too. When he had

      asked the people guarding the

      museum for water, they took his hands and tied him to the door that lead

      to the gift shop so that he could

      not escape! Luckily, the criminals who stole the jewellery from the gift

      shop did not know where the

      jewellery inside the museum is kept. They went into the Late Period

      gallery but, when they found no

      gold, they broke thirteen vitrines and threw the antiquities on the

      floor. Then the criminals went to the

      King Tutankhamun galleries. Thank God they opened only one case! The

      criminals found a statue of the

      king on a panther, broke it, and threw it on the floor. I am very

      thankful that all of the antiquities that

      were damaged in the museum can be restored, and the tourist police

      caught all of the criminals that broke

      into it. On Saturday, the army secured the museum again and guarded it

      from all sides. I left the museum

      at 3.00pm on Saturday, 29, 2011.

      What is really beautiful is that not all Egyptians were involved in the

      looting of the museum. A very

      small number of people tried to break, steal and rob. Sadly, one

      criminal voice is louder than one hundred

      voices of peace. The Egyptian people are calling for freedom, not

      destruction. When I left the museum

      on Saturday, I was met outside by many Egyptians, who asked if the

      museum was safe and what they

      could do to help. The people were happy to see an Egyptian official

      leave his home and come to Tahrir

      Square without fear; they loved that I came to the museum.

      The curfew started again on Saturday afternoon at 4.00pm, and I was

      receiving messages all night from

      my inspectors at Saqqara, Dahsur, and Mit Rahina. The magazines and

      stores of Abusir were opened, and

      I could not find anyone to protect the antiquities at the site. At this

      time I still do not know what has

      happened at Saqqara, but I expect to hear from the inspectors there

      soon. East of Qantara in the Sinai, we

      have a large store containing antiquities from the Port Said Museum.

      Sadly, a large group, armed with

      guns and a truck, entered the store, opened the boxes in the magazine

      and took the precious objects. Other

      groups attempted to enter the Coptic Museum, Royal Jewellery Museum,

      National Museum of

      Alexandria, and El Manial Museum. Luckily, the foresighted employees of

      the Royal Jewellery Museum

      moved all of the objects into the basement, and sealed it before leaving.

      My heart is broken and my blood is boiling. I feel that everything I

      have done in the last nine years has

      been destroyed in one day, but all the inspectors, young archaeologists,

      and administrators, are calling me

      from sites and museums all over Egypt to tell me that they will give

      their life to protect our antiquities.

      Many young Egyptians are in the streets trying to stop the criminals.

      Due to the circumstances, this

      behaviour is not surprising; criminals and people without a conscience

      will rob their own country. If the

      lights went off in New York City, or London, even if only for an hour,

      criminal behaviour will occur. I

      am very proud that Egyptians want to stop these criminals to protect

      Egypt and its heritage.

      At this time, the Internet has not been restored in Egypt. I had to fax

      this statement to my colleagues in

      Italy for it to be uploaded in London on my website.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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