Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Uproar after scholar bans excavation of Egyptian mummies - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Uproar after scholar bans excavation of Egyptian mummies

As Egypt carries out intensive excavation works, leading to major discoveries in recent months, an Egyptian Al-Azhar scholar stirred a heated debate after stating that displaying mummies is against Islam.

al-monitor A worker disinfects the Royal Mummies Hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square amid the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23, 2020.  Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images.

Jan 26, 2021

Egyptian scholar Ahmed Karima recently sparked heated controversy after he banned the excavation of tombs of ancient Egyptians at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive its vital tourism industry from the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Karima, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, said the exhumation of graves is prohibited under Islamic teachings. "Extracting the bodies of the ancient Pharaohs and putting them on display in return for dollars from visitors is forbidden," Karima said in televised statements Jan. 19 on state-run television.

Karima said digging up the graves violates the dignity of the dead and the Islamic religion forbids their desecration. "Bodies of the dead cannot be exhumed unless for the purpose of scientific search," the scholar said.

"The grave is a blessing from God to house the human being after his demise," he added.

Karima said Islam calls for honoring the human being after death. "Museums can exhibit the treasures of the Pharaohs, talk about [their civilization] and about the mummification, but without displaying their dead bodies."

Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, declined a request by Al-Monitor for comment.

Renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass lashed out at Karima, saying his religious views apply to tomb robbers, not archaeologists. "We do not excavate the graves of Muslims, Christians or Jews," Hawass said in Jan. 20 statements to Egypt's Sada al-Balad channel. He said archaeologists and the Ministry of Antiquities are working to revive the greatness of the Pharaohs and their civilization.

"The opinion of Sheikh Karima can be applied to thieves who tamper with graves and destroy mummies, but archaeologists work to immortalize these people, as they restore their coffins, graves and mummies, because the presence of these coffins inside the wells exposes them to decomposition and fragmentation," Hawass said.

Hawass, a former minister of state for antiquities, said Karima's statements were only meant for publicity and fame. He added that putting the ancient mummies on public display was not humiliation of the ancestors.

"The mummies will be exhibited at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in a civilized way, with a detailed explanation of each mummy and the historical era in which it lived," he said.

Liberal columnist and TV host Khaled Montaser, who is known for his Reformist views, was also critical of Karima's religious view. He said Karima's opinion was negative propaganda before the planned inauguration of the Egyptian Grand Museum.

The museum, one of the largest in the world, is set to be opened later this year and will showcase nearly 60,000 artifacts, with 5,000 relics from Tutankhamun's collection, including 2,000 artifacts that will be displayed for the first time.

The Egyptian government is pinning high hopes on the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza Pyramids, to boost the recovery of the tourism industry, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said Jan. 4 that the number of tourists to Egypt dropped to 3.5 million in 2020 from 13.1 million in 2019. Revenues of the tourism sector also plunged last year to $4 billion, with nearly a 70% drop due to the virus outbreak.

A key source of foreign currency, the tourism industry accounts for up to 15% of Egypt's national output. In an effort to revive the vital industry, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait on Jan. 6 allocated 6.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($400.7 million) to support the tourism, culture and aviation sectors during the pandemic. Maait said 3.2 billion pounds ($203.5 million) were allocated to the tourism and cultural sectors and 3.1 billion pounds ($197.1 million) to the aviation sector to help them withstand the repercussions of the pandemic.

The Egyptian government has carried out extensive digging operations in recent years, resulting in a string of archaeological discoveries, reviving hopes that the findings can boost the recovery of the tourism industry.

The debate about public display of ancient mummies dates back decades. In 1980, then-President Anwar Sadat ordered the Royal Mummy Room at the Egyptian Museum closed, saying that the display of the remains violated religious concepts and desecrated the dead. The ban remained in place for seven years before the ancient royal mummies were put back on display again in 1987. Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists in 1981.

Hajjaji Ibrahim, archaeology professor at Tanta University, agrees with Karima that the practice of exhibiting the ancient mummies of the Pharaohs must stop.

"There is nothing in traditions or Islamic teachings that allow the public display of the dead bodies to visitors," Ibrahim told Al-Monitor by phone. "We can exhume the tombs for the purpose of scientific research and put the bodies back [in] the graves."

Ibrahim continued, "All the dead and their graves have dignity, and this must be respected. This applies to all, whether Islamic, Christian, Greco-Roman or ancient Egyptian."

Ibrahim disputed the argument that archaeologists were working to celebrate ancient Egyptian civilization. "The achievements of the Pharaohs can be exhibited, but not their dead bodies," he said.

He wondered, "Would those who support the public display of the royal mummies at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization agree to have their bodies exhibited after their death?"

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Today is the third anniversary of King Rameses II at Grand Egyptian Museum - EgyptToday

Today is the third anniversary of King Rameses II at Grand Egyptian Museum


Mon, 25 Jan 2021 - 09:19 GMT

File: The statue of Rameses II.

File: The statue of Rameses II.


CAIRO - 25 January 2021:On January 25, 2018 the statue of Rameses II was moved to its permanent location in the Grand Hall of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM).
Egypt's Grand Egyptian Museum construction work is about 97% complete.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to one civilization and the whole world awaits its scheduled opening this year.
When it opens, it will contain more than 50 000 artefacts including the full collection of King Tutankhamun presented all together for the first time in history to the public.
The GEM project is the focus of attention for the Egyptian government, which removes any obstacles that may affect its completion. 
When the museum complex opens, the world will see wonders that can only be found in this great cultural edifice.
The striking museum facade was made with Egyptian materials and saved more than $ 180 million costing 10% of the original estimated cost.
Egypt's Grand Egyptian Museum(GEM) is ensuring the safety of all employees and providing them with support when dealing with the global pandemic.
A booklet has been issued by the museum entitled 'We Have Never Stopped: In the Face of Corona' to document all the precautionary measures that have been taken since March 2020. 
The contents cover museum directives on how to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic that will also serve as a strong foundation for workers dealing with future outbreaks.
These guidelines have allowed the museum to achieve a balance between the health and safety of the staff while sustaining continued work essential for the project's success.
The work has been never stopped as all strive to complete this great institution, which is the dream of every lover of the Egyptian civilisation and its heritage.
In the framework of continuous communication and cooperation a joint proposal between the Egyptian Embassy in Japan (under the direction of Ambassador Ayman Kamel) and Grand Egyptian Museum Project (under the direction of Major General Atef Moftah, the General Supervisor of the GEM Project and Surrounding Area) was undertaken.
They proposed an idea to promote GEM before the official opening by creating a symbol of friendship which will be sponsored and marketed by the Egyptian Embassy in Japan through magazines as an innovative way of encouraging people in Japan to visit Egypt and GEM.
 The idea was presented to the museum's Board of Directors and was made supported from initial process steps to the promotional plan, final design and approval.
The General Supervisor of GEM prepared the design of the friendship symbol, a shape that merge a symbol shared by both Egyptian and Japanese civilisations, the sun disk with the unique facade of GEM'.
Following endorsement of the design by the board, the promotional plan was put into action.
It was agreed that Egypt International Station magazine, headquartered in Japan under the direction of editor-in-chief Mr. Abdel-Rahman Yunus, would implement the promotional campaign.
The magazine participated in a competition in which 475 magazines from all over Japan took part.  
The Egyptian-Japanese Symbol of Friendship won first prize for its distinguished design and the associated promotional campaign.
A triumph as this is one of the most important prizes awarded by the Japan Tourism Authority.
 Moftah received on behalf of the Grand Egyptian Museum's Conservation Centre two ISO certificates: a certificate of accreditation of international standards for environmental management systems (ISO 14001: 2015) and certification of the international standard specifications for the quality management systems (ISO90
The certificates were presented by Engineer Mohamed Habib, General Manager of OSS Middle East and Dr. Tarek Rizk, consultant of OSS Middle East and witnessed by Dr. Hussein Kamal, General Director of the GEM Conservation Center, Dr. Eissa Zidan, Director of Executive Affairs of GEM Conservation and Transportation, and Dr. Elshimaa Eid, Head of Health and Safety at GEM. 
These two certifications are in addition to the ISO certificate for occupational safety and health (ISO45001: 2018) which the museum had obtained last September.
GEM has obtained three ISO certificates in less than 60 days, the first time a museum obtains these three certificates at both the regional and international level. 
These achievements serve as confirmation to the constant efforts of the Grand Egyptian Museum to apply all international scientific standards, such as quality assurance, planning, performance evaluation, as well as achieving environmental sustainability.
Obtaining these ISO certificates shows the positive impact the museum has in the area and it is hope this will continue to be reflected in local and international tourism, as GEM leads the way in occupational health and safety, environmental sustainability and quality control, mechanisms specially designed to measure and ensure visitors' satisfaction.
It is worth noting that the museum had issued a booklet entitled 'We Have Never Stopped Facing Corona' to document all actions taken in this unprecedented global pandemic. 
Egypt's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities previously announced that the Grand Egyptian Museum will be inaugurated on June,2020.



The display vitrines for the King Tutankhamun galleries are 100% completed and are currently undergoing testing.
He added that 90% of the artefacts for the Grand Staircase have been installed, and the control systems and surveillance cameras are also being finalised.
Regarding the implementation of the cable-car idea, Moftah stated that a study is currently being undertaken to connect the beginning of the Fayoum Road with the museum.
The cable-car is not intended to extend to the top of the Giza Plateau pyramids. It is expected that the cable-car will transport tourists from the GEM's hotel area to the bottom of the Giza Plateau, running parallel to the Fayoum Road and on the other side of Al-Masaken sub-district where there will be access terminals for the new entrance and exit.
He stressed that the idea came after the State's vision of establishing the largest museum in the world on an area of 3800 acres.
The museum's overall area includes the 117 acres of the Giza Plateau and the area that links the GEM to the Giza Pyramids, where the Armed Forces Shooting Club once stood, bringing the total area of the museum to 3800 acres.
On the relationship between the GEM and the Fayoum Road, the General stated that the Fayoum Road will be developed and linked to the museum through tourist walking trails.
Furthermore, there is currently a study being conducted to provide a direct link between Cairo Airport and hotels that will be developed within the museum area, located between Fayoum Road and the GEM.
Visitors will be able to move freely within the museum area, from the GEM to the Giza Plateau, in a variety of ways, either on foot, golf-buggy or cable-car.
Moftah also commented on the recent discovery in Saqqara, saying: "I requested that the Saqqara Cache be added to the artefacts scheduled for display in the GEM, as well as the Asasif Cache, both will join the museum's exhibition programme. We will prepare two exhibition halls of the GEM to be called the 'Hidden Hall' to hold the coffins. The GEM has two museum exhibition halls with a total area of 2500 square meters, in addition to three halls measuring 600 square meters for temporary displays and exhibitions of both ancient and modern art".

The Grand Egyptian Museum will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to ancient Egyptian culture.

This is one of a kind museum is tailor made to preserve and exhibits Egypt precious national heritage with state-of-the-art conservation laboratories, along with educational facilities, temporary exhibition halls, a children's museum, a conference centre, restaurants, cafes, shops and large gardens for everyone to enjoy.

GEM will house over 5000 artifacts of Egypt's most famous king Tutankhamun, from his royal tomb, many never seen in public before. The Main Galleries show material from the Prehistoric to the Roman periods, while our entrance areas focus on Kingship and Power.


All GEM exhibitions will be contextualised for the visitor, with stories, texts, digital interactives and media displays.

The cherry on top that Grand Egyptian Museum will contain the first ever hanging obelisk on show at the entrance of the museum.

GEM's Executive Affairs for Restoration and Transportation of Antiquities Eissa Zidan previously said that the restoration and construction of the world's first hanging obelisk was completed and placed in front of the main facade of the museum, the bottom of the obelisk will contain the cartridges of King Ramses II.

Zidan added that the aim of the obelisk design made by Major General Atef Moftah, is to make GEM's visitor able see the cartridge from below.

The design allows the visitor to enter the obelisk base to see the archaeological base below it and by looking at the top of the obelisk, cartridges of King Ramesses II can be seen.

Zidan further explained that the design of the obelisk is unique in the world, where the obelisk will be hung on four columns, taking into account the loads and vibrations on the body of the obelisk. The hanging obelisk will be the first artefact to receive the visitor outside the lobby of the museum.

GEM's Executive Affairs for Restoration and Transportation of Antiquities confirmed the completion of the obelisk restoration work, including mechanical and chemical cleaning, and strengthening of cracks in it, pointing out that the reassembling the obelisk is currently being completed.

He added that the word (Egypt) will be engraved in all languages of the world on the the columns and on the sides of the base bearing the obelisk, so that this design becomes a mix between the Egyptian genius in the past, present and future.

The inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum is one of the main events that Egypt and the whole world is waiting for in 2020.


More than 49,603 artifacts were moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum so far.

One of the most important transferred artifacts were the statues of King Ramses II, Sekhmet and Seti, in addition to a huge pink-granite portray of Ramses VI, and another distinguished set of statues that express the mastery of ancient Egyptian art.

Also a statue of King Khafra made of alabaster and a statue of the priest Kay made of colored limestone, depicting the priest sitting on a seat with a half backrest, beside his left foot is a small statue of his wife and a sarcophagus of king Senusert I was transferred to GEM.

On October 19, 2019 ministry of antiquities announced the discovery of the largest cache in the cemetery of El-Assasif by the Egyptian archaeological mission. A total of 30 coffins spanning back to the 22nd Pharaonic Dynasty were discovered and placed in a warehouse to protect them from thievery.

The 30 archaeological coffins have been transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum.

The cache was buried one meter from the surface of the ground. The first row consisted of 18 coffins and the second consisted of 12 coffins for men, women, and 3 children.

For the first time GEM will display Tutankhmaum treasures in one place. The total number of antiquities belonging to King Tutankhamen is 5398. Among king Tut's artefacts that was transferred is his coffin.

The transferred coffin is one of the three coffins of Tutankhmaum, portraying the golden king as God Osiris. The coffin was discovered in King Tut's burial chamber in 1922. The outer ark is made of gilded wood.

The hands are clipped with gold foil, crossed across the chest, while holding royal decals inlaid with blue and red glass beads. It is 223.5 cm in length, 86.8 cm in diameter, while its height is 105.5 cm. The ark contains silver handles on both sides that were used to move the lid.

Minister of Antiquities announced that 50000 artifacts will be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum.

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60K bees help Dutch artist in creating statue of Nefertiti - EgyptToday

60K bees help Dutch artist in creating statue of Nefertiti


Sun, 24 Jan 2021 - 01:58 GMT

Nefertiti head bust made of honeycomb and              beeswax - Press photo

Nefertiti head bust made of honeycomb and beeswax - Press photo

CAIRO – 24 January 2021: Passion for the ancient Egyptian civilization is still taking the world by storm. Recently, a Dutch artist used 60,000 bees, along with their beeswax and honeycomb, to recreate the bust of Nefertiti.


My Modern Met website stated that Nefertiti is one of the most famous figures in ancient Egypt, along with the pharaoh Akhenaten, who lead an era of tumultuous religious unrest.


Dutch artist Tomás-Libertine spent two years building the "new queen", beginning with building a 3D model of the original bust before being provided assistance from the 60,000 bees that brought the piece back to life.


The two-year process took place along several phases, and was shown at Kunst Hal in Rotterdam in the summer of 2019 as a live installation. During this time, visitors had the opportunity to observe the bee building process for the museum's artwork.

Queen Nefertiti head bust made of honeycomb & beeswax - Press photo


The bee colony occupied the empty frame and added honeycomb and beeswax, slowly giving the statue its shape.

The bees colony occupying the empty frame - Press photo

In 2020, the open-air bust was completed in Slovakia and was exhibited as part of the Melancholia Solo exhibition of Tomás Libertine at the Rademakers Gallery in Amsterdam.

The final head bust exhibited - Press photo 

Libertine says natural beeswax is one of the most durable natural materials, and this statue will "easily last for thousands of years" if kept in a suitable environment. 

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Online lecture: The economy of building the pyramids

Lecture from Dr. Claire Malleson, Director of Archaeological Science
The Egypt Exploration Society will be offering a free online lecture this week from Dr. Claire Malleson, AERA's Director of Archaeological Science.

The economy of "building" the pyramids:
When people ask "how were the pyramids built?" they are usually thinking about the engineering of the construction, not about the phenomenal level of careful planning and logistics that had to be in place in order for the project to even begin to be possible. One critically important aspect that is rarely considered is the provision of food – bread, meat, beer, fish – to the teams involved. This talk will present current research on evidence for the logistics of providing to the "workers" at Giza in the 3rd Millennium BC.

This lecture will be offered twice, but will not be recorded. To register, visit the EES website & book your spot now:

Dr. Claire Malleson is the Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the American University of Beirut and Director of Archaeological Science for Ancient Egypt Research Associates. She specializes in the study of ancient Egyptian plant remains and agriculture.
We wish to thank our friends at the Egypt Exploration Society for hosting this lecture!
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