Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A dream come true

The long-awaited Sohag National Museum was finally inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi this week, reports Nevine El-Aref 

Sohag National Museum

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi officially inaugurated the Sohag National Museum on Sunday, the first in this Upper Egyptian city and a landmark celebrating the ancient Egyptian era and the distinguished history of Sohag as a pilgrimage city of the pharaohs. 

“The Sohag National Museum is not just a regional museum that the Ministry of Antiquities is opening in an Upper Egyptian province, but it is part of the country’s strategy to give attention and care to the Upper Egyptian governorates and to develop their resources,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly before the opening. 

He added that the completion of the museum was a dream come true and the result of a promise by the ministry to Sohag and its inhabitants.

El-Enany was particularly grateful that President Al-Sisi had accepted his invitation to inaugurate the museum. It was “a message of peace from Upper Egypt to the world highlighting Egypt’s efforts in fighting terrorism through its unique civilisation. The institution sends out messages of peace and the need to pay more attention to culture,” he said.

Sohag National Museum

“When I visited Sohag in mid-2016, few people believed I would hold to my promise and open the long-awaited museum in 2018 as the work had stopped in 2016. It was a real challenge to do so,” El-Enany added. “But the passion and enthusiasm of the ministry’s employees and the attention that the ministry has received from the country’s political leaders have been tremendous, making this dream come true.”

 He said the new museum was one of the ministry’s projects to protect Egypt’s heritage and continue its archaeological and antiquities projects. The project cost some LE72 million, and most of the new museum’s furnishings were made in Egypt, including the showcases and marble floors.

To celebrate the opening, the museum will welcome visitors for free in August, after which tickets will be LE60 for foreigners, LE30 for foreign students, LE10 for Egyptians, LE5 for Egyptian students, and free for Egyptian pensioners and state-school students. The latter will also have free access to archaeological sites all over Egypt. 

 “I would like to see the museum extending a hand of hope to Sohag and its distinguished archaeological sites encouraging tourists to pay a visit to its monuments,” El-Enany told the Weekly.

The Sohag National Museum does not only display the history of Egypt as a country, but also reveals the history of the ancient cities of Sohag, Abydos and Akhmim, sites that were the origins of Egypt’s ancient civilisation.

Sohag has rich archaeological sites from the early period up to the Ptolemaic, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic periods. But although the governorate contains many distinguished monuments and historical landmarks, it is seldom visited.

Sohag National Museum

Elham Salah, head of the Museum Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, told the Weekly that the aim of the museum was not only to reflect the unique history of the governorate from pre-history to modern times, but also to highlight Egyptian identity through the changes that have taken place in Upper Egypt.

The exhibition scenario focuses on six influential aspects of Egyptian life through the ages: kingship, the family, cooking and cuisine, faith and religion, employment, industry and textiles and handicrafts. 

The museum displays a collection of 945 artefacts, most of them unearthed in different sites near Sohag and the rest having been carefully selected from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo’s Bab Al-Khalq neighbourhood, the Textiles Museum in Al-Muizz Street in Historic Cairo and the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo. 

Among the most important artefacts on display are the colossal head of king Ramses II discovered in Akhmim in 2007 inside a private tomb, an inscribed lintel from Abydos in Upper Egypt, and an alter from the nearby White Monastery. An ancient Egyptian decree from 342 BCE, older than the famous Rosetta Stone, is also among the exhibited objects. It was discovered in 1999 in Sohag. 

“The concept of the new museum is no longer dependent on placing artefacts next to each other to illustrate ancient Egyptian civilisation,” Salah said. “Instead, the Ministry of Antiquities is adopting a new philosophy in order to turn the country’s regional museums into more educational, cultural and productive institutions.” 

Sohag National Museum

She added that the aim was to provide a broader educational service to visitors and raise archaeological awareness and belonging to Egypt by showing visitors how their ancestors built such a great civilisation through scenes of daily life and culture.

Egypt’s regional museums have sometimes not fulfilled their true potential because they have often displayed objects without a thematic storyline, she pointed out, resulting in less than a fair share of visitors.

“Every regional museum should reflect the city or town in which it is located,” Salah said, explaining that in the Sohag Museum, for example, the exhibition design provided clear information about the history of Sohag, Abydos and Akhmim, as well as the role played by local rulers in building Egyptian civilisation.

Sohag was the town where the kings of the early dynasties lived, and this explained the selection of kingship as the first topic in the new museum. The focal object here is a colossus of the pharaoh Ramses II because he was one of the most influential rulers in Egyptian history and had a temple in Abydos. 

Sohag National Museum

Sohag is well-known for its distinguished textiles and its industry, Salah said, and the new museum has allocated a hall to the city’s textiles. The focal object is a linen wrapping on which the name of the Sixth-Dynasty Pharaoh Pepi I is written. The hall exhibits textiles from different periods, including ancient Egyptian, Roman, Coptic and Islamic. Sohag’s folkloric traditions are also shown through a collection of women’s and men’s clothing.

To create a more attractive and informative experience for visitors, labels and graphics explaining the displays are featured in the different halls of the museum.

It is also friendly to the disabled, and the visitor route is provided with ramps to facilitate circulation. The disabled can also access the different levels by lift. 

An educational programme for students and school pupils will soon be available, and the museum will help facilitate school history classes and university lectures as needed. “History teachers in schools can deliver their classes in the museum to make them more attractive to pupils,” Salah said, adding that it also has a library and lecture hall where workshops on handicrafts will be held.

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