Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Reporting the damage

As a fund-raising campaign to restore Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art gets underway, a report has been published on the damaged artefacts, writes Nevine El-Aref

Islamic Museum
Islamic Museum
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) has published an official report on the losses at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Cairo after its damage by a car bomb that exploded outside the neighbouring Cairo Security Directorate in the Bab Al-Khalq area of the capital.
The report said that 165 of the 1,471 artefacts that form the MIA collection had been damaged by the impact of the explosion. Among the damaged objects were 74 pieces that were completely destroyed, 26 that had been shattered, and 64 that can be restored.
MSA Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told the Weekly that some of the damaged objects could be restored, while other had been “turned into powder”. 54 of the 126 glass objects on display were broken, while ten of the 363 ceramic objects on display were destroyed, with 51 others being able to be restored.
Of the wooden items that had been on display, Ibrahim said that 18 of the 148 pieces had been lost while 116 were reparable. “MIA restorers have already started on the restoration of the Al-Set Roqaya mihrab (prayer niche),” he said, this having been associated with a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohamed.
Of the metal objects, Ibrahim said that 20 out of 231 of these had been damaged. A single precious stone out of the 155 that had been on display was broken. Six items of jewelry out of the 36 on display were damaged.  
Of the 11 weapons, 18 manuscripts, 63 textiles, 16 tapestries and 67 ivory artefacts that had been on display, all were in a good state of preservation. One coin dating back to the year 77 of the Higra had been lost, and the Museum’s curators were searching for it among the debris inside the galleries.
Several grants have been offered to Egypt to help restore the MIA, with the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), starting the initiative by giving $100,000 and calling on its member states to help in the campaign. USAID granted LE1 million, while actor Mohammed Sobhi gave LE50,000.
Sobhi called on Egyptian students to help restore the country’s heritage. If all students gave just one Egyptian pound, this could help restore the museum, he said. The MSA is setting up a bank account for donations, the number of which will be announced soon.   
A UNESCO expert delegation, part of a joint mission between UNESCO and the protection and conservation groups, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Committee of the Blue Shield, went on an inspection tour around the MIA last week
A full report is pending, but UNESCO representative Christian Manhart, head of the organisation’s museums section, said that the MIA “was an outstanding museum and to see it destroyed has been a great shock for us.” Manhart said the team would prepare proposals to be presented to potential donors, though he did not name who these might be.
Ibrahim said that the MIA could be restored “within two years” if the necessary LE100 million budget was found.
He told the Weekly that the MSA intended to establish a board having responsibility for all Egyptian museums under the umbrella of UNESCO. The board would follow up work carried out in all Egyptian museums and would help to provide them with the financial and technical support they needed for their development, restoration and safeguarding.
Ibrahim said that seven prominent international figures would sit on the board. He also said that the MSA was studying a proposal to better insure museum artefacts against fire, damage and robbery.
“How are we supposed to secure all our museums and historical buildings against bombings,” Ibrahim asked. “There’s no country in the world, no matter how advanced it is in technology, that could stop the damage from such terrorist attacks.”
Last August, as violent clashes took place across the country after the evacuation of Al-Nahda Square in Giza and in front of the Rabaa Al-Adawia mosque in Nasr City of supporters of ousted former president Mohammed Morsi, looters made away with more than 1,000 artefacts from the Malawi Museum, but most of these have now been returned.
Ibrahim said that the restoration of the Malawi Museum would be completed in six months’ time.

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