Thursday, May 30, 2013



ANCIENT Egyptian artefacts are deteriorating rapidly in Cairo's central museum due to poor conditions, lack of resources and political chaos ... experts advise Egyptians to protect antiquities before damage is irreparable.

The Egyptian Museum, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, pictured above during the Egyptian Revolution, displays the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. Despite its vast wealth, worsening conditions at the museum are having a detrimental impact on the ancient artefacts it seeks to protect.

"Look at the Fayoum portraits, and the mummies exhibited, they are falling apart before our own eyes. They need restoration, but regretfully we don't have enough money to do anything," said Wafaa Habib, director of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the museum.

His remarks were made to AL AHRAM newspaper.

Although the museum galleries are high-ceilinged and spacious, the interior decoration and standards of hygiene are poor. The diffused glass panels on the ceiling and the first floor windows are covered in dirt, and the lighting is dim.

Visitor signs are printed on A4 paper and carelessly taped to the tatty, half-painted walls. Despite the presence of cleaning staff, staircases and display cabinets are covered with dust. Labels and information signs are insignificant and often blank.

"The exhibition of King Tutankhamun has travelled around the world, yet the museum provides no information, there must be some factual information somewhere," said a museum curator, who preferred to remain anonymous due to fears of any political repercussions.

Consequently, visitors must hire a guide to learn anything about the exhibits. Most reviews on websites, such as TripAdvisor, highlight this requirement. Notably, the museum does not have a website, which would be a useful information resource. Hence, visitors are unable to attain vital information on the exhibits prior to visiting.

Museum employees said although an Egyptian company offered to create a new website for free, its inability to connect with officials in the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) has stalled the process. The lack of an IT expert at the museum is another prohibiting factor.

Other issues raised by museum staff concerns museum bureaucracy and poor management. Since the revolution, the museum’s director, according to staff, has changed four times and is usually in office for about four to six months. At the moment there are three directors. 

"We are not happy about the continuous change of management. Although there are now three directors, progress is minimal," explained Habib.

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