World's Heritage at Stake in North African Revolts

Having a popular uprising play itself out in front of a museum of world importance has been a nerve-wracking experience for much of the cultural community this past week. Fires, looters, attacks and counter-attacks have all broken out on the steps of Cairo’s Egypt Museum with its treasures of Ancient Egypt. These objects are of value to everyone in the world, not matter how remote their culture. With the increasing importance being placed upon the construction of world museums like the ones going up in the UAE, the instability of North Africa is thrown into a new light.

The Wall Street Journal’s Stan Sesser outlines what’s at risk:

In Tunis, the Bardo National Museum contains one the best collections of Roman mosaics in the world, from the ancient city of Carthage and other parts of Africa, dating from 30 B.C. to A.D. 395. In Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, the National Museum’s treasures include sculptures and steles (slabs of stones with carvings, often placed in temples) from around the time of Christ.

Sudan—Egypt’s neighbor and an impoverished dictatorship whose capital Khartoum has already been hit by protests—is home to statues, fabrics and paintings from the once-powerful Nubian Empire, dating to 2000 B.C. Nubian kings once ruled Egypt. Asaad Ahmad, the Sudanese cultural attaché in Washington, couldn’t say if any damage had been done to the National Museum in Khartoum, or how the museum had been protecting itself. Museum officials couldn’t be reached.

High Alert for Mideast Museums (Wall Street Journal)

Huh? Revolution in Egypt Proves Greece Shouldn’t Get Marbles

Well, it didn’t take long for the revolution in Egypt to be thrown back in the face of Zahi Hawass who has been loudly demanding Egypt’s treasures back from Germany, the UK and other museums. The Wall Street Journal reminds Hawass that his country’s patrimony seems safer in Europe than in his own museums:

These events make Mr. Hawass’s quest to return all Egyptian objects to Egypt misguided or at least poorly timed. Last week he again demanded the return of the bust of Nefertiti from Berlin. The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum has long been on Mr. Hawass’s wish list, along with the Zodiac Ceiling in the Louvre and statues in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and museums in Hildesheim, Germany, and Turin, Italy. Continue Reading

Egypt to Try 11 in Van Gogh Theft

Bloomberg has this troubling report of retribution for last month’s theft of Poppy Flowers from a Cairo museum:

Egypt’s public prosecutor said 11 people will be tried in connection with the theft of a $55 million Vincent Van Gogh painting in a Cairo museum, the state- run Middle East News Agency reported. If convicted, the people, who include museum officials and security guards, could face sentences of as much as three years for dereliction of duty and negligence, the Cairo-based agency reported, without saying where it got the information.

Egypt to Try 11 People in Theft of $55 Million Van Gogh From Cairo Museum (Bloomberg)

Eqypt Wants Its Van Gogh Back

Van Gogh’s “Poppy Flower” painting was stolen for the second time last weekend and was the subject of several mixed reports that it had been recovered at the airport from foreigners trying to flee the country. Apparently the work is still missing because a prominent Egyptian is offering a sizable reward. Here’s Reuters on the continuing–and confusing–saga:

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered a 1-million Egyptian pound ($175,300) reward for information leading to the recovery of a stolen Van Gogh painting, television reported on Wednesday.Continue Reading

Egyptian Culture Minister Detained

Bloomberg reports this piece of information in the growing complexity of the Egyptian van Gogh theft:

Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered that a culture ministry official be jailed for four days as part of an investigation into the theft of a $55 million Van Gogh painting, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported today, without saying how it obtained the information.

Egypt to Jail Culture Ministry Official in Van Gogh Theft Probe (Bloomberg)

Confiscated Sarcophagus Goes Home

[audio:|titles=US Returns Sarcophagus to Egypt]

All Things Considered reports that the US is returning an Egyptian sarcophagus that was confiscated:

A statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the coffin was originally scrutinized for agricultural concerns at Miami’s airport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ICE contacted the importer to see if the coffin had been exported legally from Egypt. Neither the importer nor the Spanish gallery that exported the object could show it left Egypt legally.Continue Reading