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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Celebrating archaeologists - Heritage - Al-Ahram Weekly - Ahram Online

Celebrating archaeologists

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 18 Jan 2022

The 15th Annual Archaeologists Day took place at the Cairo Opera House this week where many figures were honoured and Egyptian heritage celebrated, reports Nevine El-Aref

The 15th Annual Archaeologists Day
The 15th Annual Archaeologists Day

After a year's hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, archaeologists from across Egypt met at the Cairo Opera House on Monday night for the 15th Annual Archaeologists Day.

The event brought together hundreds of archaeologists, ambassadors of foreign countries in Cairo, representatives of Egyptian and foreign universities, directors of archaeological institutes, ministry leaders, and prominent figures, all of whom attended the main auditorium at the Opera House in Cairo.

The stage became an ancient Egyptian temple for the day, with a twist as it was embellished with an imposing entrance and two statues of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. A modern stained-glass backdrop was also part of the decoration.

During the event's musical and dance performances, the backdrop changed to show tourist destinations such as the Giza Pyramids, Luxor, Alexandria, and Hurghada, as well as photographs of conservators cleaning and restoring temples to reveal their original beauty. Archaeologists were shown uncovering the secrets of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

This year, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the day's sponsor, focused on paying homage to pioneering archaeologists and restorers who spent their lives exploring, documenting, and preserving Egypt's heritage. A number of specialists were honoured along with workers who helped in excavation works.

A two-minute documentary highlighting the restoration work being carried out at ancient Egyptian temples in Luxor, Esna, and Dendara by Egyptian conservators was screened.

During a speech at the event, Khaled El-Enany, the minister of tourism and antiquities, congratulated Egypt's archaeologists and restorers, expressing his appreciation of their efforts to preserve the history and monuments of Egypt, part of the heritage of humanity as a whole.

Despite the fact that two years have passed since the last celebration because of the coronavirus pandemic, archaeological work has kept going, El-Enany said, adding that vigorous efforts had been made to continue with many archaeological projects and museums being opened and discoveries uncovered.

He said that archaeologists have played a major role in promoting Egypt abroad and drawing the world's attention through various discoveries and the inaugurations of important archaeological projects they have undertaken and are still carrying out.

He emphasised the interest of the state in the tourism and antiquities sector and the unprecedented support from the political leadership.

El-Enany described 2022 as an exceptional year because it marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of the golden boy king Tutankhamen as well as the 200th anniversary of the deciphering of ancient Egyptian writing and the emergence of Egyptology.

He reviewed the ministry's achievements over the last year, including discoveries and the inaugurations of archaeological projects and museums. What had taken place in Saqqara had had the largest share of all the year's archaeological discoveries, with the unveiling of secrets about the ancient Egyptian civilisation through the discovery of more than 100 coloured wooden coffins, he said.

In Luxor, a city called the "Rise of Aton" had been discovered dating back to the reign of Amenhotep lll, one of the top ten discoveries of 2021, El-Enany said.

A number of museums had been opened including the Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, and Royal Carriages Museums as well as two museums at Cairo Airport. The Djoser Pyramid and its southern tomb had been opened in Saqqara, along with the Elyahu Hanby Synagogue in Alexandria. The tomb of Ramses II had reopened after restoration, and three stations on the Path of the Holy Family in Egypt had been set up after development.

A first factory to make replicas had been opened, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) had received the royal mummies, the Al-Jeddawi Wekala had been opened in Esna, and the first phase of the project to restore the Al-Tanbagha Al-Mardani Mosque in Cairo had been completed.

There had also been high-profile projects to restore the Sphinx Avenue in Luxor and the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis, he said.

The ministry has also succeeded over the past two years in recovering 5,722 artifacts from foreign countries including the US, Italy, France, Canada, the UK, Belgium, Spain, the UAE, and others.


Underway: The ministry will soon inaugurate the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) on the Pyramids Plateau, El-Enany said, which will be a truly exceptional event.

Engineering work is 99 per cent complete, and the GEM has received and restored more than 55,000 artefacts. The heaviest pieces have been fixed in the atrium and on the grand staircase, and over 80 per cent of the Tutankhamen collection has been installed in dedicated galleries.

Work is also underway to open the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra and the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, in addition to completed projects that are ready to be opened, such as the Museum of Egypt's Capitals in the New Administrative Capital.

El-Enany also spoke about the ministry's approach to holding international celebrations, seeing these as greatly contributing to promoting tourism, especially the Golden Mummies Parade and the Luxor Sphinx Avenue celebrations.

"Both celebrations are part of a will to merge the activities of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and cooperate with the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Egyptian

Tourism Promotion Board," he said.

He went on to shed light on the legislation that has been recently enacted to further protect Egyptian antiquities, including the amendment of Antiquities Protection Law 117/1983 by criminalising the smuggling of antiquities and climbing on monuments.

A law has been passed to make the GEM a public authority reporting to the minister in charge of antiquities and another also establishing the NMEC as a public body affiliated to the minister.

Measures have been taken over the past two years to improve conditions for employees of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, with 9,215 employees being promoted to higher levels, the contractual forms of 4,247 contractors modified, and a wage for work clause introduced to put them on permanent financial grades.

A promotional incentive of five per cent of salary was approved for more than 2,600 employees of the supreme council among those not holding managerial or supervisory positions in July last year. An incentive bonus was approved for nearly 3,700 employees at the Supreme Council and the Nuba Archaeology Rescue Fund to the value of five per cent of salary and a raise of seven per cent for about 25,600 workers at the Council and the Nuba Fund.

Some 5,100 training programmes have been completed by employees at the ministry in coordination with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Central Agency for Organisation and Administration through the Human Resources Development Unit and the Training and Efficiency Unit, El-Enany said.

The training of 2,400 employees from the Supreme Council of Antiquities in specialised programmes in the field of antiquities and museums through the Central Training Unit has been completed.


Honoured: As part of the day, many distinguished individuals were honoured, among them Atef Moftah, general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum and the surrounding area, for his efforts in transferring the First Khufu Boat from the Giza Pyramid area to the Khufu Boat Museum at the Grand Egyptian Museum; Moemen Othman, head of the Museums Sector at the ministry and members of the Museum Scenario Committee for their efforts at museums across the country, especially in opening several museums over the past two years.

The honourees also included restorer Shamaa Abul-Abbas for her efforts in restoring the Esna Temple; archaeologist Ines Gaffar, deputy director of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation; Zakia Youssef Medhat Topozada, professor of Egyptian archaeology at Ain Shams University in Cairo, who wrote museum guides for the Kom Oshim and Beni Sweif museums; the late Mahmoud Abdel-Razek Awad, professor of Egyptian archaeology at Suez Canal University. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in Egyptian archaeology from the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University in 1958 and then joined the Egyptian Antiquities Department, rising to become head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector in 1981 and then head of the Museums Sector between 1990 and 1994. He participated in excavations at archaeological sites including Luxor, Saqqara, and the Sphinx.

They alao include Gamal Abdel-Rahim Ibrahim Hassan, professor of Islamic archaeology at the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, a member of the Scientific Publications Committee at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, a member of the board of the Union of Arab Archaeologists, a member of the Permanent Committee of Islamic Antiquities at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and a member of the Supreme Committee for the Museum Scenarios; Mokhtar Al-Kasabani, professor of Islamic archaeology at the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, who worked as an advisor to the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities from 2004 to 2011. He is a member of the Supreme Committee of Museums and the Screenplay Committee of the NMEC and has supervised many projects for the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Also honoured were Waad Abul-Ela, former head of the Projects Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities; Maha Mohamed Mustafa, former head of the Central Administration of Historical Museums. She held many positions, including director of the Royal Vehicles Museum and director of Covenants and Records at Historical Museums. She has been a member of several committees, such as the Museums Development Committee, the Committee for the Preparation of the Scenario for the Royal Vehicles Museum in the Citadel, the Prince Mohamed Ali Palace in Manial, the Helwan Corner, and the Royal Vehicles Museum in Boulaq; Mahmoud Hassan Mohammed al-Halouaji, former director-general of the Egyptian Museum. He was director of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities at the Egyptian Academy in Rome and studied the registration and documentation of museum collections in London. He also studied museum sciences in Vienna and the management and organisation of museum collections in the US; Mohamed Abdel-Badie, head of the Central Administration for the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. He began working at the Supreme Council of Antiquities in 1994, first as an inspector of antiquities, then director of the Permanent Committee of Egyptian Antiquities, and then head of the Central Administration of the Antiquities of Upper Egypt. He supervised the work of foreign excavations at archaeological sites in Fayoum, Saqqara, and Luxor and trained and supervised excavation schools in Giza, Saqqara, and Matariya; Abdel-Nasser Abdel-Azim, director of the Restoration of the Antiquities and Museums of Upper Egypt. He participated in many restoration projects, including those of the Avenue of Sphinxes, the Temple of Mut, the Temple of Luxor, the Temple of Todd, the Temple of Madamoud, the Temple of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens, the Temple of Merneptah, the tomb of Tutankhamun, the tomb of Seti l in the Valley of the Kings and tombs in Al-Qurna and Deir Al-Medina; Ahmed Mohamed Sheikh, a guard in the Beheira Antiquities area; the late Abdallah Al-Sayed Al-Adl, a guard at Tall Al-Rabe in Daqahliya; and Hisham Samir, assistant to the minister for antiquities projects.

The Zahi Hawass Award for the Best Archaeologist of the Year went to Afifi Rahim, head of team excavations at the Golden City of King Amenhotep III on the west bank in Luxor; and Atef Al-Dabbah, leader of the team working to develop the aqueduct at the Salaheddin Citadel in Cairo, the Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria, and the Mar Mina Monastery in Alexandria.

The Zahi Hawass Award for Best Restorer of the Year went to Ahmed Mohamed Ali Imam and the Egyptian-German team at the Temple of Khanum in Esna, owing to their efforts in restoring the colours and inscriptions of the temple.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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