Thursday, September 1, 2016

Egypt CANNOT afford to search for ancient treasures and closes museams | World | News | Daily Express

Egypt CANNOT afford to search for ancient treasures as it closes historic museums

EGYPT cannot afford to search for ancient buried treasures because of its economic crisis, the antiquities minister says.


Tourism has suffered greatly since the revolution in 2011

Tourism, a mainstay of the economy, has been hit hard since the 2011 revolution that overthrew veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak, with many of Egypt's renowned historical sites, from the pyramids at Giza to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, suffering a decline in foreign visitors.

Egypt's antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani said: "We have over 20 museums that have been closed down since the January 25 Revolution and we do not have the resources to run them."

His ministry is meant to be self-sufficient and not supposed to receive funds from the state budget. 

In 2010 the ministry made 1.3 billion Egyptian pounds a year; in 2015 income was down to 275 million pounds.

Mr al-Anani said: "That's a little over 20 million pounds a month. I have to pay 80 million a month in salaries alone."

Anani says that without a revival in tourism none of his new projects, such as the introduction of year-long museums and heritage site passes or extending opening hours will have the desired effect.


The antiquities ministry's income is down a billion Egyptian pounds per year from 2013

Neither will reopening Pyramid Complex of Unas, built for Pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty in the mid 24th century B.C., which has been closed since 1998 for fear of overcrowding and which Anani reopened in May.

We have over 20 museums that have been closed down since the January 25 Revolution

Egypt's antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani

Still, Egypt plans to partially open the Grand Egyptian Museum, an ambitious planned museum of Ancient Egyptian artefacts that will be the world's largest archaeological museum, in 2017, said Anani, bringing forward the scheduled opening date by a year.

This is only possible because the $248 million needed came from a Japanese loan years ago.

Financial woes also affect excavation attempts, which have seen a steep decline since 2011, he said.

Other issues include a lack of international law experts at the ministry to help claim back Egyptian artefacts that were smuggled to other countries or claimed by the country's former colonial masters as well as the need to create a centralised database of antiquities to combat smuggling, efforts for which had stalled since the year 2000.


The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has also seen a drop in visitors

Before Mr al-Anani was appointed in March, his predecessor supported British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves's investigation of the hypothesis that a secret chamber, believed by some to be the lost burial site of Queen Nefertiti, may lie behind King Tutankhamun's tomb. 

Nefertiti died in the 14th century B.C. and is thought to be Tutankhamun's stepmother. Confirmation of her final resting place would be the most remarkable Egyptian archaeological find this century.

An analysis of radar scans done on the site last November has revealed the presence of two empty spaces behind two walls in King Tut's chamber.


Financial woes have stalled an ongoing search of King Tutankhamun's tomb

Former minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in Novemeber there was a 90 percent likelihood of "something behind the walls" and Reeves believes the mausoleum was originally occupied by Nefertiti and that she had lain undisturbed behind a partition wall.

The most minor of incisions in the wall could wreak damage to an inner chamber that may have been hermetically sealed for so many years, however.

Mr al-Anani said: "I did intend to open up the tomb but only if a second radar scan showed 100 percent that there were empty spaces which it did not."