Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Abu Simbel bicentenary

An exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the Abu Simbel Temples and their discoverer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt has opened at the Egyptian Museum

King Ramses II
King Ramses II

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Ambassador of Switzerland to Egypt Markus Leitner inaugurated an exhibition at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square entitled “Abu Simbel: 200 Years after Sheikh Ibrahim Burckhardt” on Sunday, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the awe-inspiring Abu Simbel Temples by Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, known as Sheikh Ibrahim Burckhardt, writes Nevine El-Aref

Sabah Abdel-Razek, director of the Egyptian Museum, said the exhibition displayed artefacts discovered at the sites sheikh Ibrahim had visited during his original trip to Nubia and the Abu Simbel Temples. Some of these artefacts had been stored in the museum’s storage galleries and were being put on show for the first time.

The exhibition will run to 20 June. Among the objects on show are two fragments of a wall painting from a rock-cut sanctuary in Wadi Al-Seboua dating to the region of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Two Arabic and Coptic scrolls attesting to the ordination of bishops in the 14th century CE are also on show.

The exhibition is organised by the Egyptian Museum, the Embassy of Switzerland in Cairo and the University of Basel in Switzerland, which helped select the items on display and provided the information on large colourful panels in the museum.

Burckhardt was born in 1784 in Lausanne and brought up in Basel in Switzerland. Following study in Germany, he was hired by an association exploring North Africa to embark on a travel mission in the region, joining a pilgrim caravan going from Cairo through the South Libyan Fezzan area to the city of Timbuktu in Mali.

Burckhardt studied Arabic and settled in 1809 in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Having immersed himself in the culture of the region, he became known as Sheikh Ibrahim.

In 1812, en route from Syria to Cairo he rediscovered the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Upon his arrival in Cairo and while waiting for a caravan to Fezzan, he decided to travel up the Nile. During his travels in Nubia he discovered the Abu Simbel Temples in 1813, then largely covered by sand.

Back in Cairo, he informed Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni about his discovery. Based on Burckhardt’s description, Belzoni then travelled to Abu Simbel, started to remove the sand, and entered the temples themselves exactly 200 years ago in 1817. Burckhardt died in Cairo in the same year and is buried in the Bab Al-Nasr Cemetery.

“2017 marks 200 years since Burckhardt’s death and since access was made to the Abu Simbel Temples. We are very proud to celebrate this important historical and cultural link between Switzerland and Egypt. The exhibition sends a positive message to the Swiss people and will encourage tourism to explore Egypt’s special history,” Leitner said at the opening of the exhibition.

In his address at the opening, El-Enany described the temples as the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. “The ministry is organising several events to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the temples’ discovery,” El-Enany said, adding that it would shortly be organising another celebration of the work of Belzoni with the Italian authorities.

In October, the ministry will organise a gala ceremony at the foot of the temples to coincide with the sun’s alignment on the face of the statue of Ramses II within the main temple.

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