Hunt goes on for stolen covers
Mystery still surrounds the disappearance of two antique covers made for Al-Kaaba Kiswa, Nevine El-Aref reports.
Meanwhile the remaining three embroidered covers which have been exhibited at the Khedive Tawfik Mausoleum in the Qubbat Afandina will be handed over to the Ministry of State for Antiquities(MSA) tomorrow.
Two of the five covers were stolen from the mausoleum in the eastern cemetery three months ago.
While the Qubbat Afandina and the mausoleum are regisered on the Egyptian antiquities list, the contents, which include the covers as well as copper and wooden items such as candelabras and cups, were not on the list but were entrusted to the care of the Ministry of Endowments (Awkaf).
Now the MSA will take over the care of the artefacts from the Ministry of Endowmentsand the Qubbat Afandina.
The covers are embroidered with calligraphy in gold and silver thread, and are similar to the many others that were sent over the years by the Egyptian monarchy to cover the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia. A new cover was presented every year, and was carried with great pomp at the head of a grand procession to embark on the voyage across the Red Sea.
Each piece consists of three decorated coloured strips embroidered in gold and silver depicting verses of the poem Al-Sira Al-Mohamadei (Biography of Prophet Mohamed)
MSA Minister of State Mohamed Ibrahim told Al-Ahram Weekly that although the pieces were not registered on the Egyptian antiquities list, the MSA had agreed to receive them following a request from minister of endowments, Mohamed El-Qousi. Ibrahim said the covers will be restored, documented and placed on the antiquities list before they go on display at the Tapestry Museum in Al-Muizz Street in Cairo's mediaeval district.
Ibrahim also assigned an archaeological committee led by Nabila Habib, head of the central administration unit for Islamic art, to inspect all the archaeological items under the supervision of the Ministry of Endowments, as well as review all the artefacts they have on display and compare them with the available documents.
The search continues for the two stolen covers, and no arrests have so far been made.
The Qubbat Afandina was built in 1894 by Khedive Abbas Helmi in a neo-Mamluk style in commemoration of his father Khedive Tawfik. It is listed as a genuine Islamic monument, but neither the Kiswa covers nor the other objects on display inside the building were not registered on the antiquities list.
Conservation architect Agnieszka Dobrowolska, who oversaw the restoration of the Qubbat and the items on display inside it, told the Weekly that the building was designed by Dimitri Fabeicius in the neo-Mamluk style.
"It is an important example of architectural design which combines traditional Islamic motifs appropriate for the purpose and location of the building with the modern design principles of the time it was built," Dobrowolska said.
The Qubbat Afandina conservation project began in 2004 and was completed in 2008. It was financed by the Ministry of Religious Endowments through the auspices of Prince Abbas Helmi, a direct descendant of Khedive Tawfik. The project was officially affiliated to the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, which provided administrative support and encouraged advice and interest that were of great value for the project. As a listed historical monument, restoration work was approved by the MSA's permanent committee and monitored by its experts in the field.
The restoration work was completed in five phases. The first involved documentation and assessment of the current condition of the building. The second was devoted to the construction of tan aerated trench around the building and conservation of the domed exterior section. The third was dedicated to the interior decoration as well as the consolidation of the walls and architectural elements.
The fourth phase was for the restoration of woodwork, metalwork and marble pavements, while the fifth phase was for the outer fa│řade of the mausoleum and its freestanding marble gate and the installation of the exterior and garden lighting.