February 1, 2014

Associated Press' Mariam Rizk reports on UNESCO's shock at Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

Mariam Rizk for the Associated Press reported yesterday from a news conference that "UNESCO team 'shocked' at Egypt Islamic Museum Loss":
CAIRO (AP) — UNESCO pledged Friday to help restore a renowned museum dedicated to Islamic history in Cairo that was devastated by a bomb last week, with officials expressing "shock" at the scale of the damage. [...] Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said that 164 of the 1,471 items on display were damaged, of which 90 could be reassembled or restored. Most of the 74 irreparably damaged items were glass and porcelain, smashed to powder. On a tour of the building on Friday, shattered glass littered the floor while fragments and steel slabs from the broken windows lay all over. 
"It was an outstanding museum and to see it now, inside at least, totally destroyed is a big shock for us," Christian Manhart, head of UNESCO's museums sections, said at a news conference. The U.N. cultural agency had already set aside emergency funds of $100,000 on the same day of the blast and said further technical and financial help would follow after detailed reports were filed. Ibrahim said the American government would provide 1 million Egyptian pounds (about $150,000) while a well-known actor, Mohammed Sobhy, said he was giving 50,000 pounds (around $7,200).
Ibrahim said Egypt's National Library and Archives in the same building with the museum was also damaged. In addition, the blast smashed windows and caused other damage to historic mosques in the neighborhood. [...] Friday's visit to the museum was by a joint mission involving UNESCO and two protection and conservation groups, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Committee of the Blue Shield. Manhart said the team will also prepare documents and figures to be presented to potential donors, which he was not authorized to name immediately. [...] Three years of unrest has devastated Egypt's economy, including the vital tourism industry, and the security vacuum has taken a heavy toll on the country's monuments. In one of the worst incidents, looters made away with more than 1,000 artifacts from a museum in the southern city of Malawi as violent clashes roiled the country in August. Ibrahim said Friday that the restoration of the Malawi Museum will be done in six months.
Other museums have also been hit, including the famed Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square that holds Pharaonic antiquities including the treasures of King Tut. During the 2011 uprising would-be looters damaged mummies and other artifacts before being caught by army soldiers. Some items stolen from museums or archaeological sites have been recovered. The ministry said Friday that 935 stolen Pharaonic artifacts were found in a house in Cairo's twin city of Giza. The pieces included masks, pots, and statues. Security forces said they also confiscated guns and ammunition.
Here's a link to Lynda Albertson's post on the initial reports of damage to the Museum of Islamic Art. 

On January 24, the UNESCO World Heritage website had reported "Director-General Condemns Destruction to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, Egypt":
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today expressed grave concern about the damage to Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art, following the reported explosion of a car near the Police Security Directorate, which is located at Port Said Street in Cairo, in front of the main entrance of the Museum. “I firmly condemn this attack and the destruction it has caused to the world-renowned Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, which hosts thousands of invaluable artefacts,” said Irina Bokova. “This raises the danger of irreversible damage to the history and identity of the Egyptian people.” 
The Director-General applauded the Ministry of State for Antiquities, as well as representatives from civil society in Cairo, for their immediate action and efforts to rescue damaged artefacts and take first measures for their conservation. “In the spirit of solidarity, I appeal today to all Member States to support action to rehabilitate the Museum, the galleries and displays,” concluded Irina Bokova. “I pledge today that I will mobilise all of UNESCO’s experience and expertise to rebuilding the Museum and restoring the damage – this is as essential for the people of Egypt as it is for women and men across the world,” declared the Director-General. “This heritage is part of the universal story of humanity, shared by all and we must all do everything to safeguard it.”

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