Monday 19 December 2011

Egypt: Antiquities Council in December 2011

There have been a number of changes in the structure of Egypt's antiquity services. The SCA has now been incorporated into a Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), Mohammed Ibrahim Aly was appointed Minister of Antiquities (7th December 2011)by Egypt's prime minister, Kamel El-Ganzouri. The Minister is Professor of Archaeology at the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University.
Photo: Prime minister El-Ganzouri (left) and Mohammed Ibrahim Aly (right), photo Al-Ahram.

Mohammed Ibrahim Aly talked recently of his plans. He says that under his tenure Egypt’s antiquities will be managed differently:“
I will focus my work more on archaeologists than on archaeology,” he asserted, explaining that “this doesn’t mean that I will neglect archaeology; on the contrary, protecting Egypt’s heritage is an obligation.”
He added that when the skills and knowledge of archaeologists are better developed, Egypt’s heritage will be better preserved. Part of the new policy means that restoration work will be carried out by the SCA’s own restorers and not outside consultants. His immediate aims were:
"to preserve more of Egypt’s heritage, develop further existing archaeological work, upgrade the skills of archaeologists, renew efforts on projects on hold. “The youth and junior archaeologists are my top priorities," Aly told Ahram Online. He promised to appoint all SCA temporary staff in four phases, the last phase concluding in 2012. Meanwhile, 2,000 of 6,000 fresh graduates are to be appointed at the SCA and the Ministry of Antiquities according to a scheduled timetable. Aly suggested remodeling the thinking and goals of the SCA Administrative Council in order to better handle the current workload, adding new blood to its membership, including "prominent figures of civil society" and from the media. Aly also promised to speed up construction, development and restoration work put on hold in the last year, including construction work of the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau, the National Museum for Egyptian Civilisation at Fustat, and restoration work of the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria". (Al-Ahram)
He also announced that in he will soon inaugurate such projects as the Serapium Necropolis in Saqqara and the Crocodile Museum in Kom Ombo, "helping to boost tourism to Egypt".

Ibrahim has "called on antiquities leaders to periodically inspect archaeological sites and museums falling under their responsibility, and not to stay in their offices in isolation from field work. He also asked site leaders to develop plans detailing their own vision regarding sites under their responsibility, including current information on budgets, goals, obstacles, and the timeline of each project".

Dr. Mostafa Amin is currently still the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities:
The re-establishment of the Ministry of State for Antiquities doesn’t controvert the existence of the Supreme Council of Antiquties and its secretary general; each has its own work and job to protect and preserve Egypt’s heritage,” Amin asserted. He also called on all Egyptologists and archaeologists in Egypt to protect Egypt’s heritage and stand against any rumour that could create a negative attitude between antiquities’ top officials and the new minister.

The SCA currently has six departments, Ancient Egyptian Antiquities department (the head of which is now Abdel Hamid Marouf - replacing Atef Abul Dahab), there is the department of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish monuments; one department dedicated to projects; one to documentation; one to restoration efforts; and one to antiquities recovery.

There is another people-orientated move (Antiquities hotline to launch in Egypt on Monday)
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is to operate a hotline service to receive complaints, ideas and suggestions to help the council develop its archaeological work. Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced the hotline would open on Monday. It will be operated five days per week from Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm until its full operation in January when it will be operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Meanwhile, one cannot help but remember about Dr Mohammed Ibrahim Aly's involvement in the development of the controversy about the so-called "Bosnian pyramids" (aka "hills") at Visoko. It never really was clarified what he thought about them.

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