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)