Obituary:Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Tawab (1916-2016) Dean of Islamic archaeology
The late Abdel-Rahman Mahmoud Ibrahim Abdel-Tawab was the father and dean of all Egyptian archaeologists who worked or are still working in Islamic Archaeology in Egypt and was also among the most important pioneers in Islamic archaeological field studies.
Abdel-Tawab was born in Monessah in Menoufia on 6 November 1916 and went to school in Cairo. He graduated from the Department of History at Fouad I University (now Cairo University) in 1941, receiving a diploma in Islamic Archaeology from the same university in 1944.
He started his career in the Saving Antiquities Administration on 27 July 1947, where he was appointed an inspector of antiquities and later became director of the Islamic Antiquities Sector, of the Documentation Centre, and of Archaeological Affairs at the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation. When he retired, he became a consultant to the chairman of the same organisation.
During his long career, Abdel-Tawab had an interest in all aspects of scientific and archaeological work. His scientific publications include "Our Water Buildings through the Ages" and "Sultan Qaytbay Al-Mahmoudy," a translation of a book by Ahmed Fakhry on the Al-Bagawat Cemetery. He also wrote many scientific papers which have been published in the records of the Saving Antiquities Committee, especially those about the antiquities of Giza, Minya and Assiut.
The French Institute in Cairo (IFAO) published his books on his discoveries and studies of tombstones at the Aswan Cemetery. He also participated in a French expedition in registering the palaces and houses of Cairo.
He excavated for 16 years at Aswan, Deir Abu Heness, Deir Abu Maqar, Menqabad, Bawit, Rosette, and Fustat. He also participated in excavations with foreign expeditions in Egypt, such as Swiss and French excavations in the region of Al-Qaliyah, with the American mission at Fustat, and with the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo expedition at Abu Mina and Saqqara.
Abdel-Tawab had many achievements in the restoration and conservation of Islamic antiquities to his credit, such as in the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo project to restore the Prince Methal School. He was also interested in Coptic antiquities in the Islamic period and established the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Sector at the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation. He founded the Islamic Antiquities Documentation Centre and the Archaeological Handicrafts Centre.
After the 1992 earthquake in Cairo, he was appointed the head of the emergency committee to investigate the condition of the country's Islamic antiquities in order to determine which urgently needed restoration and conservation. He participated in various archaeological meetings in Egypt and abroad, including in Morocco, Spain, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Niger, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
He was a member of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Permanent Committee at the Ministry of Culture and also founded the Department of Archaeology at the Faculty of Arts at Sohag University. He taught Islamic and Coptic Archaeology at the undergraduate and graduate levels and supervised MA and PhD dissertations at Cairo University, Minya University, Assiut University, and Ain Shams University in Egypt. He received major awards from prestigious institutions in Egypt and abroad, including the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the General Union of Arab Archaeologists, and many others.
On 7 July 2016, Abdel-Tawab passed away after a century of loving, studying, teaching, excavating, and restoring the Islamic and Coptic antiquities of Egypt. He will be greatly missed, but he will always be remembered, along with his many outstanding achievements.