Mission Report – Egypt

Blue Shield International udsendte den 18. februar 2011 følgende mission report fra Egypten:

Karl von Habsburg and Joris Kila arrived in Cairo on February 12 coming from Vienna. It was decided to take only small digital tourist cameras since until the day before often camera equipment was confiscated upon arrival. In the evening the mission decided to visit the area of the Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square to get an impression of the situation. Getting around Cairo was very complicated, the fastest way usually by foot. Although the mood was generally jubilant, Mubarak had just stepped down and the situation was far from secure. The area of the museum was teeming with military and tanks. That evening the mission tried to make contact with their personal contacts in order to get an objective impression of the situation. A night curfew still existed.

On February 13 the mission visited the Dutch Institute. From there it was possible to reach an official of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Saqqara, who confirmed attempts of looting but denied anything had been stolen. A big problem was the constant stream of contradictive information as well as the large number of complot theories and fantasy or propaganda driven stories. It was also decided to focus on the archaeological sites around Cairo who had mostly not been visited by independent experts since the beginning of unrest in Egypt. The Egyptian Museum had already been visited several times at least by journalists, but the experience gained in Iraq showed that it is dangerous to focus only on one important museum and at the same time neglect the important archaeological sites. That day the mission received multiple background briefings on the situation in Egypt and Cultural Heritage.

In the morning of February 14th the mission went to the area of Saqqara accompanied by the director of the Austrian Institute of Archaeology in Cairo, but was turned away by armed guards. In Memphis they managed to get access to the open air museum. To the great relief of the mission the museum was, in spite of many contrarian reports, seemingly untouched. At noon the mission had a meeting with the Minister of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass. Dr. Hawass is personally known to the mission members since many years and promised his support for the mission to visit Saqqara, Abu Sir and Dahshur. The situation at the ministry, the former SCA building, was very tense. There were vast demonstrations outside the building and the mission members had to enter and leave the building through a besieged backdoor. In the afternoon the mission tried to check out the situation in Abydos and the Kharga Oasis by phone. Both places had reported violent unrest but damage to Cultural Heritage could not be confirmed.

On February 15th the mission, accompanied by the office manager of the Dutch Institute, left early to Saqqara. After some initial difficulties it was possible to have a conversation with the local SCA official. He was telling us about his experiences during the time of looting in Saqqara and Abu Sir. After that the mission visited several sites at Saqqara, following a provisional list of reported damages. In Abu Sir it was, due to time constraint, only possible to visit a few places reported to be affected. The mission decided it was very important to visit Dahshur, and especially the De Morgan warehouse where looting had been reported that supposedly took place until the day before the mission arrived. Although strongly discouraged to go there and with all sorts of constraints, the mission found that the doors and windows of the warehouse had recently been walled in (the mortar still being wet). The accounts of the local guards were not encouraging. At the end of a day enriched by a constant sandstorm, the mission visited the red pyramid of Snefru at Dahshur.

On February 16th, the mission still explored further possibilities to support training of Cultural Heritage Protection staff in Egypt and left back in direction of Vienna in the afternoon.

Se hele den originale mission report: Mission Report Egypt.