Friday 31 January 2014

The Damage at Cairo's Islamic Museum

I have not written about the damage caused to Cairo's Islamic Museum due to a truck bomb blast on Jan. 24 2014 outside Cairo’s police headquarters across the street, killing four people and injuring 76. The bomb consisted of 500 kilograms of TNT, detonated just 25 meters from the museum. It seems separatists from Sinai were responsible. The museum’s collection of artefacts focussed on Islam’s Golden Era and representing Islamic history from the Umayyads in the seventh century to the Ottoman period in the 19th. There has been extensive media coverage elsewhere, but the reports about the damage caused were conflicting, some reporting near total destruction of all the exhibits, others playing down the damage. Certainly photographs show extensive damage to the building itself, which though serious were mainly superficial, not affecting the structural core. The façade was damaged, windows blown in, ceilings collapsed. The blast tore through the 111-year-old museum, blowing out windows and sending metal and glass flying through its halls. A water pipe in one of the upper stories was ruptured, sending water cascading down onto some of the collection.

Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, said on Friday that 74 precious artifacts had been destroyed and that 90 were damaged, but repairable. The museum had nearly 1,471 artifacts on display in 25 galleries and 96,000 objects in storage. Situated near Islamic Cairo, the museum building, with its impressive neo-Mameluke facade, had recently undergone a six-year, $10 million renovation. The complex includes Egypt’s National Library on the second floor, where several rare manuscripts and papyri were also damaged.

Sarah Gauchjan, 'Triage for Treasures After a Bomb Blast Sorting Through the Rubble of Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo', New York Times Jan 31st 2014.

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