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After Looting, Should Antiquities Ministry Hide Mosque Artifacts?

14 March, 2017
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For fear of more looting, the Standing Committee of Islamic and Coptic Monuments decided to move old mosque artifacts to warehouses belonging to the Ministry of Antiquities.

This comes after six Islamic-style lanterns out of 15 were stolen from Al-Rifai Mosque in Cairo's Citadel Square. The lanterns disappeared from the burial chamber of Egypt’s King Fuad I and Princess Ferial.

“Storing things is an out of date solution, we live in the digital age,” said Ahmed Seddik, an Egyptologist, lecturer and tour guide.

“There is a better way of securing our treasures. Masterpieces are not created to be stored. Masterpieces are the marvelous impressions of Egyptian talents,” he stated, adding that he agrees with Benjamin Franklin’s saying “Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What is a sundial in the shade?”

“Hiding the treasures sends the wrong message, that Egypt is not safe. While I keep telling people everywhere that Egypt is the safest place on earth,” he added.

On the other hand, security at airports and ports were tightened to thwart attempts to smuggle artifacts outside of the country.

Seddik suggested that installing surveillance cameras and making those cameras available to the authorities and the people is the way out. He also said that highly trained staff and more inspection tours are needed.

Dating back to 1911, the niches are made of sanded glass emblazoned with the seal of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II. They also bear a Quranic verse in Mamluk characters. The theft of these niches follows a long history of looting Egyptian artifacts. In July 2012, one of the most recent robberies found thieves looting the tomb of King Farouk after they had drugged the guards.

Niches, carpets, chairs and other small items are on top of the list for moving artifacts to the warehouses, given that they are easier to steal.

The committee will also inspect the condition of minbars, platforms where the sheikhs gave lectures, to move the more valuable ones, and ones placed where their fillings can be stolen, as previously happened with the mosques of Al Tanbagha Al Merdani and Qani Bay Al Rammah.

There are more than 100,000 historical mosques in Egypt, according to Seddik. However, Egyptians are either unaware or do not pay enough attention to this Islamic heritage. The Egyptologist pointed to much needed education on the matter.

“Our history ought to be presented with the pleasure that reflects the treasure that it is,” he concluded. 

Tags mosque Ministry of Antiquities artifacts