Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013

Ahram Weekly

Territorial trouble

The Ministry of Antiquities has asked the government to hand back the land on which the NDP and other government offices stood, reports Nevine El-Aref

Al-Ahram Weekly

On the second anniversary of Egypt’s January Revolution, the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) officially asked the government to return the land on which the building that housed the National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters and other governmental offices stood, to the ministry. The building itself was burnt down in the early days of the 2011 uprising.
According to documents held at the Egyptian Registry and the Egyptian Survey Authority, the land was part of the antiquities zone when the building was constructed in 1901. It was originally used as a dock for cargo vessels transporting antiquities down the river from Luxor, Aswan and the rest of Upper Egypt to the Egyptian Museum for restoration or display.
In 1887 a ceremony was held at the dock to welcome the royal mummies recovered by the then antiquities director, Gaston Maspero, from the secret cache in Luxor where they were hidden by priests during the New Kingdom.
Maps drawn up in 1911 and 1926 show the presence of a bookshop and cafeteria, while on the west of the site stood the museum workshops and storehouses.
After the 1952 Revolution the land was sequestrated by the government from the Egyptian Antiquities Authority, now the MSA, and was used by various ruling parties of the regime. The last incumbent was the NDP, which shared the large Nile-side premises with the National Council for Women, specialised national aganecies and the Arab Bank.
On the evening of 28 January 2011, the building was gutted by fire in the midst of fierce attacks by thugs and vandals during demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
 “In this condition the building is a time bomb close to the museum,” Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that the building posed a real threat to the museum and its priceless collection. The former NDP headquarters is considered unsafe and could collapse at any time.
All official documents approved that the area was MSA property and should be returned, Ibrahim said.
The minister suggests that once it has the land the whole area could be used as an open air museum showcasing some of the museum’s collection, which is now overstuffed in its internal display. It could also has a permanent hall for temporary exhibitions to attract more tourists to the museum.
He pointed out that not all of the burnt building would be demolished, but a small section could be conserved and kept in situ as part of the story of the 2011 revolution, serving a similar purpose to the Berlin Wall.
Ibrahim has sent a memo to Prime Minister Hisham Kandil asking for a speedy handover of the land but so far he has not received a reply.

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