Source: Ahram Online
Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 1 Feb 2012
Egypt’s first museum devoted exclusively to crocodiles was inaugurated on Tuesday by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim
Within the context of a plan by the Ministry of State for Antiquities to build museums at the country’s most significant archaeological sites, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim this week officially inaugurated Egypt’s first ever crocodile museum.
The museum is located on the doorstep of the Ptolemaic Kom Ombo temple on the banks of the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.
The museum displays 22 mummified crocodiles of various sizes out of forty to have been unearthed in Aswan. The crocodiles are arrayed on a sand hill inside a large glass showcase, allowing visitors to see how crocodiles passed their days in ancient Egypt.
A collection of crocodile coffins and wooden sarcophagi, along with crocodile foetuses and eggs, are also on display, in addition to stelae and statues depicting the crocodile-god Sobek, bearing a human body and the head of a crocodile. Replicas of Sobek’s original tombs and niches are also on display.
During the opening ceremony, Ibrahim said that most of the museum’s c
ollection had been stored in Kom Ombo except for two stelae and a statue of Sobek borrowed from the Luxor Museum. The most significant artefacts currently on display, he said, were the gold and ivory teeth and eyes that had been inserted into the dead crocodiles following mummification.
Abdel Hamid Maarouf, head of the ministry’s ancient Egypt department, noted that the crocodile museum was the third museum to be inaugurated in Egypt recently, after the Imhotep Museum at the Saqqara Necropolis and the Meneptah Museum on Luxor’s west bank.
Mohamed El-Biali, head of Aswan antiquities, explained that Sobek had been worshiped in ancient Upper Egypt, especially in Kom Ombo, where a great temple was built in his honour. Following a crocodile’s death, Maarouf explained, it was treated like a god, mummified and buried like a pharaoh, replete with funerary items.
A memorial plaque at the new museum, like the one at the newly-opened Suez National Museum, does not include the names of any ministers or officials, merely a dedication to the “revolution’s martyrs.”
CAIRO: A Canadian man has returned to Egypt an ancient alabaster vase that could date back four millennia to grant his father’s dying wish, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said on Tuesday.
Robert Christy delivered the antique vessel dating back to the Middle Kingdom (2030 BC to 1640 BC) to the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa, the council said in a statement.
His father, who had inherited the heirloom, had requested that he hand back the vase and that it go on show at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
“The vase measures 16 cm in height and is in good condition,” council Secretary General Zahi Hawass said. “It has been placed in the Egyptian museum and is being prepared for display.”
Hawass has made it his mission to retrieve Egypt’s widely scattered antiquities from around the world. –AFP
Up to 70 percent of British men and half of all Western European men are related to the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, geneticists in Switzerland said.
Scientists at Zurich-based DNA genealogy centre, iGENEA, reconstructed the DNA profile of the boy Pharaoh, who ascended the throne at the age of nine, his father Akhenaten and grandfather Amenhotep III, based on a film that was made for the Discovery Channel.
The results showed that King Tut belonged to a genetic profile group, known as haplogroup R1b1a2, to which more than 50 percent of all men in Western Europe belong, indicating that they share a common ancestor.
Among modern-day Egyptians this haplogroup contingent is below 1 percent, according to iGENEA.
“It was very interesting to discover that he belonged to a genetic group in Europe — there were many possible groups in Egypt that the DNA could have belonged to,” said Roman Scholz, director of the iGENEA Centre.
Around 70 percent of Spanish and 60 percent of French men also belong to the genetic group of the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
“We think the common ancestor lived in the Caucasus about 9,500 years ago,” Scholz told Reuters.
It is estimated that the earliest migration of haplogroup R1b1a2 into Europe began with the spread of agriculture in 7,000 BC, according to iGENEA.
However, the geneticists were not sure how Tutankhamun’s paternal lineage came to Egypt from its region of origin.
The centre is now using DNA testing to search for the closest living relatives of “King Tut”.
“The offer has only been publicised for three days but we have already seen a lot of interest,” Scholz told Reuters.
(Source: Reuters, Written by Alice Baghdjian, Edited by Paul Casciato)
Nineteen artifacts taken from the tomb of Tutankhamun will be returned to Egypt tomorrow after more than half a century at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The trove includes a miniature bronze dog and a sphinx-shaped bracelet ornament, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement on Saturday.
The move is the result of an agreement between the two institutions last year to return the objects to Egypt. At the time, then-antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said the objects would become part of the permanent King Tutnkhamun collection at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is under construction near the Giza pyramids and is scheduled to open next year.
The antiquities authority said the pieces were sent to New York in 1948 when the Metropolitan Museum closed its expedition house in Egypt.
The decision to repatriate the objects came after an extensive examination of the validity of their origin.
Director Thomas Campbell said on the museum website: “Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the government of Egypt.”
The British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, when it was common practice for archaeologists to keep some or all of their own findings.
Some of the pieces in this collection were handed down through a niece of Carter and his estate in Luxor, which he left entirely to the Metropolitan Museum.
King Tutankhamun is one of history’s most famous pharaohs because archaeologists found his tomb full of glittering wealth of the rich 18th Dynasty (1569-1315 BC).
This year, DNA tests and CT scans on Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy confirmed that the pharaoh died of a broken leg complicated by malaria at the age of 19.
(Source: The National/Associated Press, August 1 2011)
By Nevine El-Aref
Ahram Online, May 17 2011
American Egyptologists offered their assistance to the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities to help protect archaeological sites and museums in Egypt.
Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass met yesterday with a group of American Egyptologists led by Deborah Lehr, director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University to discuss ways of collaborating to protect Egypt’s heritage.
During the meeting, Hawass discussed with the American Egyptologists different ways of collaborating to protect all archeological sites and museums in Egypt, especially those that were subjected to break-ins.
The meeting came within an initiative launched by American Egyptologists from several archaeological institutes and universities in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution to act as mediators between the Egyptian and American governments in an attempt to help Egypt protect and safeguard its archaeological heritage.
The American Egyptologists mission also asked the American government to take all required procedures to prohibit the entrance of any stolen Egyptian artefacts to the United States.
Another means of cooperation would be to establish a fund to finance improvements in safeguarding certain archaeological sites, such as building walls around them and providing more trained security personnel. Among these sites would be the areas of Midoum in Beni Suef and Maria in Alexandria.
Ramadan Badri Hussein, the archaeological supervisor at the minister’s office, said the fund would also finance the establishment of a database for all the artefacts currently in storage.
The American Egyptologists also suggested a project to monitor every archaeological site in Egypt by providing satellite images that would locate any illegal excavations and put a stop to them.
The Egyptologists also promised to launch an international fundraising campaign to provide funding to spruce up the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation on Sira Lake at Fustat.
Egypt’s antiquities chief says looters escaped with 18 items at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the recent anti-government unrest.
(Source: Associated Press YouTube channel)
By Peter Der Manuelian (Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University), Newsweek
As Egypt transitions to democracy, Egyptians from all walks of life are stepping up to protect the country’s ancient heritage.
“There’s the Great Pyramid. Since you are new here, please go over to the entrance and try to bribe the guard to let you spend the night in the King’s Chamber.” This was my first encounter as a student Egyptologist with Zahi Hawass, 34 years ago. He wanted to test the loyalty of the pyramid police (fortunately, they showed not the slightest interest in my “offer”). Even back then, as a young antiquities inspector at Giza, Hawass had a concern for protecting Egypt’s monuments, a concern that only grew in the past decade with his meteoric rise as the most famous (some would say infamous) face of Egyptian archeology. What a whirlwind these last few months have been, as he, like many of us, was caught off guard by the Egyptian revolution. Hawass’s status and that of the ancient sites and monuments have swayed somewhat precariously since January; both could be metaphors for the tumultuous and uncertain birth of a new and, it’s hoped, democratic era for all Egyptians. If the culture of despair, fear, and inequality can truly be lifted, then the world might witness the vast potential of the Egyptian people.
How do Egyptologists view these events through the lens of Egypt’s millennia-old civilization? As the playing field has turned upside down, some of us might remember the admonitions of an ancient Egyptian sage named Ipuwer. Some of his phrases almost seem aimed at Hosni Mubarak himself: “We do not know what will happen throughout the land…Indeed, the laws of the council chamber are thrown out…See, things have been done which have not happened for a long time past; the king has been deposed by the rabble. You have deceived the whole populace. It seems that [your] heart prefers to ignore [the problems]. Have you done that which will make them happy? Have you given life to the people? They cover their faces in fear of the morning.”
Most Egyptians never lost their dignity and graciousness in the face of a crushing system that favored only the uppermost echelons and seemed to tighten its chokehold on basic aspirations with each passing year. Corruption, cronyism, surveillance, and wanton arrests under a 30-year-old emergency law cowed most segments of the population. The regime stifled open political debate, and economic opportunities were denied to all but the lucky and the well connected.
What role will Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage play in the post revolutionary era? When will tourism revive and economic recovery kick in? What about the calls for repatriation of Egypt’s cultural legacy, including Nefertiti’s bust in Berlin and other key masterpieces abroad? Many writers, both inside and outside the country, have hijacked these issues in light of the revolution to serve their own agendas, proving once again that archeology and politics can seldom be separated.
As I write this, the Egyptians themselves are mapping out what should change in the new regime regarding their policies toward antiquities. It has not been easy so far. In the space of a few short weeks, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) broke away from the Ministry of Culture to become its own ministry; then Mubarak was toppled, the police disappeared, and some sites, including the famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo, were looted. Hawass stepped down to protest the looting; the SCA temporarily lost its independent ministry status; and the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, could not choose a successor to fill the power vacuum. This created an unfortunate window of opportunity at some sites for armed criminals to overpower the unarmed guards and break into antiquities-storage magazines. SCA officials are still assessing the damage. In other cases, villagers have seized the opportunity to expand out onto antiquities sites with new construction, or even to establish new cemeteries right on top of ancient ones.
In late March, the new prime minister reinstated Hawass to head the Ministry of Antiquities. While Hawass has his detractors, it seems clear that few others could fill the post at this delicate time. What the public may not know about him is that, behind all the onscreen bluster, aggrandizing press releases, and saber-rattling at intransigent museum directors around the world, he has worked tirelessly for decades to secure the monuments, implement site-management plans, construct new provincial museums and storage magazines, modernize -collections-management systems, improve the standards of Egyptian scholarly publications, and provide health insurance, training, and employment opportunities for the next generation of Egyptian Egyptologists. In addition to standing up for Egypt’s cultural heritage and the recovery of stolen artifacts, Hawass and the SCA have also supported scores of foreign expeditions working all over the country. This is a delicate balancing act, for the national and international pressures of the job are immense. What’s more, they are often diametrically opposed to each other.
Hawass is, of course, not alone in promoting renewed Egyptian pride and awareness for the country’s ancient and distinguished history. One might see a manifestation of these collective efforts in the “human chain” of ordinary Egyptians who protected the Cairo museum during some of the most violent days and nights of the January revolution. While thefts, damage, and pilfering commanded the international headlines, there are true Egyptian heroes all up and down the Nile who in recent weeks have selflessly guarded the ancient sites, sometimes at great personal risk, in the absence of police protection. Their stories are the ones we should be reading; they deserve the gratitude of all who care for Egypt’s pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic heritage.
Egypt faces major challenges on all fronts as its nascent democracy gets underway. We will have to wait and see how it all plays out. But for those in the West, let us try to allay our fears for the antiquities sites. Egypt’s cultural heritage will not go the way of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, no matter how religious in flavor the new government might become. Egyptians are doing more, with their native expertise, to claim their heritage than ever before. I am optimistic that the pharaonic past will be in good hands under the next generation. But the challenge will lie in allowing that generation to flourish, without sabotage by the old guard, and with enough logistical, financial, and infrastructure support—and that’s where the world community can help.
Much will change, but much remains constant on the ancient front. Tombs and temples will still require care and conservation. Destructive elements—time, pollution, overpopulation, ignorance, vandalism, and the antiquities trade—are oblivious to political parties, constitutional reform, or multiparty elections. Our hope is for a gradual return to stability and protection for the vast open-air museum that is Egypt. The international community, for its part, might refrain from lecturing the Egyptians on what to do with their heritage, and instead offer assistance in those areas not already covered by native know-how. If we work together, it should be possible to safeguard the monuments and serve the needs of tourism at the same time.
By Carmen Farrell, Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 2011
Egypt may have no head of state and it’s unclear whether the democratic uprising of Jan. 25 will result in big changes. And there may be political unrest in neighbouring nations, but as a tourist, you’d never know it as you traipse from one amazing Egyptian site to another.
During my recent visit the streets of Cairo felt perfectly safe. While I didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to, such as dress immodestly (uncovered shoulders or knees) or make eye contact with men on the street unless they spoke to me first, I always felt safe by myself or with my children. Always, children and adults called out “Welcome!” with a smile.
I was in Cairo in late March during the first voting since the January demonstrations, which resulted in a 77-per-cent “yes” vote for further constitutional changes in September. For many, it was the first truly free vote they had made in their lives and they were excited about it.
The only ways a tourist is aware of political change are reduced crowds at tourist sites and the curbside kiosks selling “25th January” paraphernalia and Egyptian flags. Cairenes are gobbling them up, displaying them and proudly telling anyone who will listen about why they hope things will be better without Mubarak. The Egyptian media is extremely optimistic and anyone I talked to remains hopeful for democratic and lasting change.
Depending on whom you talk to, and where exactly you are, tourism at the moment is down 60 to 70 per cent. Egypt wants Westerners to know it’s “business as usual” for visitors. Obviously it’s a sentiment full of self-interest since tourism is No. 2 in the Egyptian economy, but there are innumerable benefits to visiting Egypt now.
Egypt is a country where the concept of tourism was invented 4,000 years ago and where tourism is a prestigious course of university study for those who work in the industry.
Think about it. It’s a 15-or-sohour trip to Egypt from Can-ada, never mind the price tag. So how many times do you think you might go to Egypt in your life? Once? Twice?
Visiting Egypt now is like going to Disney World at its slowest time of year. Consider the Egyptian Museum. Picture the 200,000 people that on a usual day parade through the Cairo building that’s about half the size of the Museum of Nature. Many of the museum’s 3,000-year-old papyri, pottery, stone carvings and jewelry are inside glass cabinets built in 1902 along with the rest of the museum, locked with pieces of twisted wire. The cabinets are not lit and most of the items are not at eye level, so they’re not exactly easy to see.
If you have to elbow your way past thousands of tourists, well, it’s just not very Canadian, is it? But now, instead of 200,000, just 50,000 to 80,000 come to see the museum most days.
There has never been a better time to see Egypt’s treasures.
There is no need to line up for hours in 30-degree heat to enter the magnificent, carved tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. Now, you can just walk in, take your time, and not have to shuffle along in a queue.
If, like me, you’d be travelling with your school-aged children and wondering if that is a responsible thing, know that Egyptians love kids. My children have never been so much the centre of attention, petted over and played with.
Egyptians take the safety of tourists seriously -more so than in Europe. I felt OK being in a shop with my son sitting at the door with a neighbouring shop owner who talked with him, gave him his chair to sit on and offered him a cold drink.
If you show up at a tourist destination with a guide (highly recommended since the English-language explanation of what you’re seeing adds immeasurably to the experience and getting a guide can be easily arranged at your hotel), the “tourist police” will take note of what your nationality is, where you’re staying, and, apparently, follow up with your hotel later to make sure you got back safely. Which seems a bit superfluous, really, since I never felt threatened, worried or unsafe anywhere in Egypt.
[...]So if you are wondering if you should go or not, go. It’s an amazing time to be there and see the sights and talk with Egyptians about what they think about their future. And there are some great deals out there.
By Roland Prime, Canvasguide, April 8, 2011
It was 25 January 2011 and the Egyptian Revolution began; to some completely unexpectedly, to others it was time. Living here in Cairo, little did I know that the events of that day would change the course of Egyptian history. This was the date of the first mass protest in the now famous Tahrir Square, or more correctly Midan Tahrir (Square of Liberation). Twice I had the privilege of visiting the square during important days of the protests.
Everyone knew something had to change; the oppression and hopelessness that existed was too great. I recall privately saying two years prior, that the only way I could see the country change its direction was through a mass uprising of all the peoples: little did I think I would actually experience it. We witnessed history. Egyptians can take much pride and their example encourages others throughout the Arab world.
I felt I needed to paint my own version of Midan Tahrir and all that it has come to symbolise. Looking at my painting, which I have titled Unity, on first glance the observer believes they are looking at Midan Tahrir, but then realises that they are looking into a scene that contains symbols and scenes of events that took place and are still taking place in the square.
Certain aspects of the square then become familiar: the huge advertising boards that bedeck the surrounding buildings but lack any advertisements, symbolising the sudden disappearance of wealth and disruption to business; the buildings adorned with the arrays of communication (satellites and mobile phones were turned off for a few days whilst the eaves dropping equipment from the state continued to function). Looking closely, a flight of pigeons are unaware of what unfolds around them – for the peace will soon be disturbed. The viewer also sees the famous Egyptian Museum at the head of the square protected by the army’s tanks, the burnt out remains of the National Democratic Party’s headquarters: both representations of their former selves. Behind them the transmission mast of the state controlled television is larger than life to emphasise the control and mistruths they transmitted. The lamp’s position in the picture is balanced by the image of the Mosque of Mohamed Ali in the Citadel representing the unity between Muslims and Christians. The lamp can be seen as the Christian symbol of the cross, and more so as the fusion of a lamp-post and a fanouus (Ramadan lamp) radiating the light of hope and unity.
The crowd is unified, together as one, with flags flying in mass celebration. At its head are a Muslim Imam and a Coptic priest in prayer together as one. They touch heads, an important part of an Eastern marriage ceremony, symbolises the Cross and the Qur’an together. The buildings are symbolic of both those that are on the square, such as the Hotel Cleopatra, and of the mass corrupt development seen across the whole city. As we turn the corner, we see in the distance the Citadel’s mosque, symbolising Islam, and observe the massive crowds reaching beyond Tahrir to the famous Talat Harb square. The viewer sees the people stopping for prayer, and the religious leaders together. Also, the funeral procession of The Martyrs is portrayed (over 600 people died in the Egyptian revolution). As I do not know how many from each religion died for the cause of their country, I chose to symbolise them with the unifying graphic of the Islamic Crescent embracing the Cross of Christianity, which has been featured on many flags during the revolution. In the foreground, the cameras of the State are watching and recording; the anti-climb barbwire prevents interference, making them untouchable.
By “bemused”, Trifter, April 5, 2011
I just recently came back from a 2 week break in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. I have to say I wasn’t expecting much but it was amazing! I paid less than £500 per person for 2 weeks at an all inclusive resort. Our resort was called the Hauza Beach Resort located in Nabq Bay.
We booked back in October 2010 before any shark attacks happened and before the revolution kicked off. When everything started happening I debated over cancelling and going elsewhere but decided that they would need all the tourism they could at the moment.
I was not wrong. When we arrived it was so quiet. The hotel was at about 30% capacity and it was mostly British people there. The Russians still have not started coming back so if you look at that in a positive light, then now would definitely be the time to go! I however, would not have been bothered if there had been Russian tourists there but some Brits do not get on with them very well.
The Hauza Beach resort was lovely. There were 2 private beaches with kind of lagoons which made for safe and excellent snorkeling. The variety of fish in the shallows was surprising and amazing. There were at least a hundred different types of fish just in the lagoons. There were sail fish, parrot fish of several kinds, little puffers, trevallies, butterfly fish, threadfins and needle fish to name just a few. For the braver snorkelers, you could jump off the jetty into the deep blue and see beautiful coral and even more stunning fish including the resident hump head wrasse called Boris. At about a meter long he does make you jump when he swims up to you for a better look! There is also a lifeguard on duty to keep an eye out for you.
The resort itself was lovely, with a set of ‘jungle pools’. These were a group of about 13 pools on different levels with slides and waterfalls. The main pool was also very pleasant. There were flamingos resident at the resort and also two giant tortoises.
The restaurant and food was very nice indeed which did surprise us somewhat. There were always fresh cakes and desserts on offer at every meal and all the meat and fish dishes were cooked right in front of you. The staff and people that we met in Sharm were genuinely friendly and worked very hard to make sure our experience was special.
We took a day trip to Cairo by air and have to say that it was worth every penny. If you go now, the Pyramids, Egyptian Museum and the Sphinx are very quiet. We had 5 people on our tour and only paid £125 each. We also had a three course meal in a floating TGI Fridays on the Nile!
Since the revolution, tourist numbers have fallen dramatically so the people of Egypt really need us tourists to start coming back. You can get great bargains at the moment and everywhere is lovely and quiet- no queuing for sun beds, food or anything in fact. You can get great deals over there too on your shopping as they really need to sell to start making some money back.
I would seriously recommend to anyone to visit Egypt as soon as you can to take full advantage of the lack of tourists but also to give the Egyptian economy a bit of a well needed boost.
By Ciaran Donnelly, Herald Scotland
A country in the throes of revolution isn’t the most obvious destination for a relaxing break, but what do you do if the holiday’s already bought and paid for? […] Back in Scotland, we had booked our Nile cruise and trip to Cairo two months before the trouble began and, as our departure date neared, our hopes of enjoying a relaxing holiday began to fade faster than a winter holiday tan.
The Foreign Office was advising against all travel to Egypt outside of Sharm El-Sheikh, the tourist-heavy Red Sea resort where sun, sand and safety would be all but guaranteed. We kicked ourselves that we hadn’t booked a five-star all-inclusive hotel there, and kept our fingers crossed that our potentially dangerous trip would be cancelled and a refund issued.
On February 24, four days before we were due to board the plane, the Foreign Office’s advice changed. […] So, just days later, my wife and I found ourselves on the first Egyptair flight out of London Heathrow for a month.
We landed in Luxor, on the Nile, where we boarded our huge floating hotel. And we couldn’t have been more welcomed. Since January the Egyptian tourist industry had not merely suffered; it had collapsed. At the time of our trip only 2% of all available holiday cruise places were occupied, according to the travel industry. Of the 350 cruise ships available, only 35 were taking holidaymakers, and even they were like ghost ships.
As we walked into our boat’s almost empty dining room for the first time, the maitre’s smiled and shouted: “Welcome to post-revolution Egypt! We are so pleased to see you.” And in all the towns we visited along the Nile, people greeted us with the same mix of excitement and relief. For more than a month these towns, totally dependent on tourists, hadn’t seen a single one.
Despite feeling welcome, we saw constant reminders that violence and fighting could break out at any time. Tanks sat on street corners and armed police stood at tourist sites. Anti-aircraft guns were all too visible. But speaking to the locals, it was clear that change had been needed. For 30 years, Mubarak’s regime had deprived its people of the freedom of assembly and organisation and in the worst cases had imprisoned tortured and killed dissidents.
In some ways now is the best time to visit this gateway into ancient civilisations. Historic sites such as the Valley of the Kings, the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, once overrun, are deserted; at no time in the last 30 years has Egypt, or at least its tourist attractions, been more peaceful.
When we visited the Valley of the Kings, our guide Osama Petro said to us: “In all my 20 years as a guide, I have never come here and seen less than 150 tourist buses. Today there are three. Where are all the tourists? Egypt is perfectly safe, and always has been for foreigners. Please tell everyone to come and see us.”
Bespoke Egypt holidays and Nile Cruises are available from Barrhead Travel (www.barrheadtravel.co.uk), Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.com) and Thomsons Holidays (www.thomson.co.uk).
It’s not for everyone, but if you can cope with a little uncertainty there is a wealth of good-value holidays in North Africa in countries that rely heavily on tourism.
By Michelle Baran, Travelweekly.com, March 15 2011
Michelle Baran is in Egypt for one week following the country’s 18-day revolution, which prompted the evacuation of hundreds of U.S. citizens out of the country last month.
The problem that Egypt faces in the aftermath of last month’s political uprising is one of perception and lack of information.
I myself didn’t know what to expect upon touching down in Cairo on Monday. Media reports of ongoing lawlessness and protest flare-ups as the country’s government restructures leaves one thinking that Cairo might still be unsafe, or at the very least unpleasant, for visitors.
But as I drove from Cairo International Airport through the center of town to the Four Seasons hotel, my local guide, Ahmed from Big Five Tours & Expeditions, pointed out the few, lingering signs that the country experienced an 18-day revolution last month that ultimately resulted in the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mobarak.
A couple of tanks were parked in front of the Egyptian Museum, for one. But perhaps most surprising was just how uneventful the now-famous Tahrir Square was. Aside from a handful of police officers stationed around the square, the one-time heart of the revolution was quiet, with people milling about like they would on any average work day.
Egypt-dispatch-NileRiverI may be reading into it too much, but Cairo feels a bit more optimistic than when I was last in this bustling city a year and a half ago. There are Egyptian flags hanging off of apartment buildings.
And as I stood out on my hotel room balcony overlooking the Nile River, the city had a celestial glow beneath the setting sun. Whereas in 2009 Cairo just seemed like an overcrowded, polluted metropolis, today it seemed to be basking in the glow of victory.
Perhaps Cairo seemed so serene because of the stressful buildup of coming here, the concerns of friends and family equally uncertain of what awaited me here. And who could blame them? One realizes the power of the photojournalist’s lens in situations such as this. The images of violent protests in Egypt were powerful, but they were only pointed in one direction, toward the action.
In preparing to head to a destination where the situation is uncertain, one wishes they could almost control the cameras on the ground remotely, have them pan around, show the whole panorama of events and non-events, to get a better sense of what is actually happening in the destination to better decide whether to go.
Big Five and other tour operators anxious to reignite their Egypt business have tried to combat international media reports focused on the political clashes and constitutional changes underfoot with personal testimonies from travelers who have visited Egypt since the revolution and can report on the tourist experience, using social media like Facebook to share their accounts.
Tomorrow I’ll spend more time in Cairo, to get a better sense of the situation on the ground, but for today, the city sleeps quietly, the silence only interrupted by the honking of Cairo’s notorious traffic and the daily prayers emitting from the city’s plentiful mosques.
By BEN HUBBARD Associated Press
Three of 18 pieces reported missing from the famed Egyptian Museum after it was looted at the height of the country’s political turmoil have been found, the country’s chief archaeologist said Wednesday.
The 18-day popular uprising, which forced Hosni Mubarak to resign as president last week, has struck a blow to Egypt’s tourism ministry, a key source of income.
However, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said the Egyptian Museum was the only major tourist site to suffer damage. Hawass said he hoped the museum could reopen Saturday, but has not checked with tourism or security authorities yet.
“God almighty saved the antiquities from this hell because God loves Egypt,” he told a news conference.
On Jan. 28, while thousands of street protesters called for Mubarak’s ouster from the downtown square outside, looters climbed a museum fire escape, broke windows on the roof and entered the museum by rope.
Hawass said the looters shattered 13 display cases, scattering about 70 objects on the ground. About 20 of those will be repaired, he said. Of the 18 missing objects, none were considered masterpieces, which include the gold funerary mask of Tutankhamun and other stunning items from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Hawass said three of the 18 missing objects were found in the museum, one underneath a display case and two in the courtyard. He said he believes the looters dropped them as they tried to escape.
The recovered items include a statue of a goddess who was holding a figurine of the 18th Dynasty King Tutankhamun.
The most important of the missing objects — a limestone statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten standing and holding an offering table — has not been found. Akhenaten is the so-called heretic king who tried to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt.
Hawass said police arrested a number of suspects in the robbery. “They were people looking for the gold and red mercury in the museum,” he said of the suspects. They also stole items from the gift shop.
he missing pieces are registered and would be difficult to sell, he said.
Hawass said the Egyptian Museum was the only one of the country’s 24 museums to suffer any loss. He said no damage had been done to Egypt’s famous temples in the southern cities of Luxor and Aswan, nor to the Great Pyramids in Giza.
Hawass, who makes frequent TV appearances in archaeology shows and often sports an “Indiana Jones”-style fedora, has faced some criticism since Mubarak’s ouster. Archaeology students protested and demanded his removal, calling him a “showman” who cares little about helping them find work in their field.
Hawass said Wednesday he had raised enough money to employ 500 new graduates and would continue to seek more money.