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February 5, 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011 - ,, No comments

An Update on Egypt

Zahi Hawass argues today that the "Sphinx is sad"
More details are emerging from Egypt, and they are often conflicting. Some firsthand reports of the situation last weekend are emerging, as members of foreign archaeological teams return home. Lee Rosenbaum has been forwarded a firsthand account from a French archaeologist that describes looting last weekend.

Larry Rothfield notes that the report would suggest a much quicker response than the U.S. military was able to muster in Iraq:

It is notable that robbers began appearing very soon after the police abandoned their posts; that the military response at first was to make a show of force with a tank, but that that was inadequate to cow the looters; that the army did a good job protecting the Museum and magazines at Saqqara; and that the sites were secured on the third day after the start of looting. All in all, that is not a bad record. Let's remember that it took the US military six days to get around to arriving at the Iraq Museum to secure it, that almost nothing was ever done by the US military to protect Iraq's archaeological sites, and that as late as this fall, Iraq still had not reconstituted a functioning archaeological police, with only 50 out of 5,000 in place.
 Zahi Hawass is also providing regular updates on his blog. More after the jump.

Today he notes that he is monitoring the situation:

I have three major operation rooms, one in my Zamalek office in Cairo, one in Alexandria in Lower Egypt, and one in Upper Egypt; I receive updates every minute. I have received reports today concerning the monuments in Alexandria: six museums and seven antiquities sites. Mohamed Abdel Maksoud, General Director of Lower Egypt, is in charge of the operation room in Alexandria. There, two of the six museums, the Jewelry Museum and the Alexandria National Museum, were open to the public and the other four, including the Greco-Roman Museum, the Marine Museum, and the Mosaic Museum, are under development. All of the museums in Alexandria are safe and secure. We also have seven archaeological sites that were open to the public before 25 January 2011. All are completely secure: Qaitbey Fort, the Necropolis of Anfushi, Chatby Necropolis, Kom El-Shuqafa, Pompey’s Pillar, and the Roman amphitheater (or Kom el-Dikka) are all completely protected by Egyptian security forces and the army.

Last night, the operation room here in Zamalek received a message that people tried to attack the storage magazine of Tell el Fara’in, built in Desouk, Kafr el-Sheikh Governorate. Thank God that the people of the village and the security staff of the Ministry of Antiquities were able to catch two of the thieves, who were brought to the mayor’s house and turned over to the Tourist Police. This event proves to me that the forty-seven storage magazines that I built over the last nine years do protect the Egyptian monuments. Many of my foreign colleagues will remember that the old style storage rooms that protected antiquities were primitive. The site of Saqqara used to have those primitive magazines, and people would attempt to dig underneath them in order to steal objects. The new magazines, built all over Egypt, are completely secure with modern equipment and conservation rooms, and we started a database for all museums and magazines. It is easy to recognize the benefits of building these new storage magazines. They are really some of the most beautiful projects in Egypt, because for the first time we can see the benefits in every village and governorate from Aswan to the Sinai. I am very proud of that these storage magazines, all similar to one another, are proving to be so beneficial in this time of crisis.
I want to repeat that not one single thing has happened to any site in Luxor, Aswan, Dendera, Abydos, Beni Hasan, Tuna el- Gebel, Beni Suef, Fayoum, Amarna, or any sites in any of the governorates of Middle or Lower Egypt