Tuesday, December 18, 2012



IT was looted during rioting last year. It forms the backdrop of continuing rioting and bloodshed at Tahrir Square in the heart of the Egyptian capital.

After decades of neglect, it has been in the news spotlight around the world for more than a year, sharing headlines with insane calls by Islamic clerics with close ties to Egypt's repressive new regime to destroy "pagan idols" such as the Sphinx.

Shamed into action, authorities in Egypt have suddenly announced plans to renovate and modernize the dusty, badly lighted, and crumbling Egyptian Museum.

Following a brief inspection of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Sunday, Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim gave the go-ahead for a long-overdue initiative aimed at revamping the famous museum over the next two years.

Egyptian Museum Director Salwa Abdel-Rahman said the development project would be completed in three phases. The first phase will involve the development of Hall 32, home to a large collection of Old Kingdom artefacts unearthed at the Saqqara Necropolis; and Hall 37, which displays the funerary collection of Queen Hetepheres, mother of King Khufu, the builder of Egypt's Great Pyramid.

Abdel-Rahman says that displays in both halls will be revamped to provide visitors with a better view of the artefacts.

The museum's main dome will also undergo a thorough cleaning and its long-broken widows will be replaced. A new lighting system has already been installed to provide better lighting that will not harm the ancient objects on display.

Ibrahim told Ahram Online that financing for the project's first phase would be provided by the Association of Lovers of the Egyptian Museum and not from the ministry's budget. He added that the three phases of the planned development project would be carried out one after another until their final completion in 2015.

In the midst of the volatile crisis which has engulfed Egypt, however, it remains to be seen whether any of the plans will become reality ... or whether Egyptians will destroy their cultural heritage as has so often occurred during the course of the past 5,000 years.

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