Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 June 2011
Issue No. 1050
Egypt
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Safe and secure

A professional security agency has been hired to protect Egypt's historical mosques, Nevine El-Aref reports

One consequence of the revolution has been the looting of many of Egypt's historic mosques, especially those embellished with distinguished decorative elements. The robberies ruptured relations between the ministries of endowments and culture -- the latter was responsible for Egypt's heritage before the establishment of the Ministry of State for Antiquities -- over who is ultimately responsible for protecting the mosques.

To stop the squabbling and safeguard the mosques, Minister of Endowments Abdallah El-Husseini and Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass met early this week to discuss solutions.

Almost on cue, the ministers agreed on hiring a professional company to tighten security at all major mosques in Egypt. The first step aims at protecting 76 out of 128 historical mosques.

They also agreed to create a joint committee of top officials from both ministries that will meet monthly to provide solutions to problems that the ministries face while proceeding with their official work, as well as following up the handing over of these mosques from the Ministry of State for Antiquities to the Endowments after their restoration so that regular religious rituals could be reinstated properly.

The committee will also draw up plans required to restore the mosques. It will deal with inhabitants of Islamic houses -- the wekala and tekkiya -- according to their rental contract with the Ministry of Endowments. It will provide other places for them to live and work in order that they leave historical Islamic sites. Hawass said the ministry will change its existing contracts to ensure legality, and that the committee will work on saving and restoring monuments in poor condition.

"I believe that the Ministry of Endowments could finance some of the restoration projects for historical mosques," Hawass said. He added that since the ministry controls specific properties designated to certain mosques, any profits made by those properties would go to funding the upkeep of the mosques.

All of the restoration work carried out over the past 20 years on Islamic monuments was financed by the Ministry of State for Antiquities. The cost of this work, undertaken on monuments with both religious and secular functions in Cairo, Rosetta, Alexandria, Damietta and Taba, was LE1 billion.

During the meeting, the development of Al-Gamila Street, located parallel to Al-Muizz Street in historical Cairo, was also discussed. This will be a joint project between the ministries.

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