Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Ancient Egypt in Japan

A touring ancient Egyptian exhibition has opened in Japan

Ancient Egypt in Japan
Ancient Egypt in Japan
Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Thursday, the Mori Arts Centre Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, was buzzing with visitors as Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty officially inaugurated the “Golden Pharaohs and the Pyramids: Treasures from the Egyptian Museum” exhibition, reports Nevine El-Aref.

It is the first ancient Egyptian exhibition to tour Japan after a three-year hiatus following the “Tutankhamun: Golden Age of the Pharaohs” touring exhibition in 2012. That exhibition was cut short and returned to Egypt before the end of the planned tour after some Egyptian archaeologists, in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution, filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Antiquities. The lawsuit sought to end the sending of touring exhibitions of ancient Egyptian artefacts abroad.

The present exhibition is to tour eight cities in Japan over a 25-month period. The cities are Tokyo, Matsuyama, Sendai, Kagoshima, Kyoto, Toyama, Fukuoka, and Shizuoka for 25 months.

“The exhibition is a very good opportunity to promote tourism and to encourage Japanese tourists to return to Egypt,” Eldamaty told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that the ministry has resumed sending exhibitions abroad as a way to raise funds to complete suspended antiquities projects, including restoration work and the construction of new museums.

 The minister said that the decline in tourism after the 2011 Revolution has depleted ministry funds, the budget of which is self-financing. Previous ministers had borrowed from the Finance Ministry to pay the salaries of ministry employees, leaving the ministry with debts it must repay, he added.

“Resuming the policy of sending antiquities exhibitions abroad is our only way to raise money towards preserving Egypt’s antiquities, to provide the required budget to complete postponed antiquities projects, and above all to attract more tourists to the country, which will revive tourism in Egypt,” Eldamaty said. He added that revenues from the exhibition are expected to reach $2 million.

Elham Salah, head of the museums sector at the ministry, told the Weekly that the exhibition highlights one of the most interesting eras in ancient Egyptian history: the period of the pyramid builders. Each artefact in the show displays the dazzling craftsmanship that characterised the period, Salah said, adding that it includes 120 artefacts carefully selected from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, including the King Khafre statues; a group of statues of servants, workers, and the makers of beer and bread; and a statue of a scribe.

Also on display is a kind of ancient game set and a statue of King Ne-user-Re. “The insurance value of the exhibition is some $138 million,” Salah said. The exhibition is accompanied by an Egyptian curator and restorer and all the necessary security procedures have been followed.

Professor Sakuji Yoshimura, president of Higashi Nippon International University in Japan and the exhibition’s supervisor, said that the show includes objects from the Old Kingdom, when the pyramids were built. The most important objects in the exhibition are statues, a golden mask and a signature of King Khufu, he said.

One of the highlights, the golden mask of King Amenemopet, is being shown in Japan for the first time in 21 years. A high-definition film of Tutankhamun’s mask, the first time the piece has been filmed outside of its display case, will also be shown.

The exhibition coincides with celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the exhibition’s sponsor, Tokyo Broadcasting System Television.

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