Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trading in our history

This piece on Al Ahram weekly's website by Mohammed el-Ezabi, highlighting the problems of antiquities theft, is reproduced in full due to the fact that it will not be archived on the Al Ahram website:
"One dreads that even the giant statue of Ramses II might soon disappear. The highly organised theft of Egyptian antiquities would seem to suggest that the thieves themselves have easy access to these unique artifacts and that it's just as easy for them to smuggle them abroad. By putting tremendous pressure on scientists, archaeologists, antiquities experts and museums abroad, our officials at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) have managed to retrieve some of these items smuggled out of the country by gangsters who secretly trade in our history. Sometimes in the past we have threatened them with the curse of the Pharaohs and it's actually worked - some of these thieves have returned the artifacts they've stolen after suffering mysterious accidents. However, there seems to be no end to the corruption in the antiquities sector. The thefts are never ending and in fact they're on the increase. In a recent operation, thieves stole three ancient artifacts from the basement of the Egyptian Museum in el-Tahrir Square. The three antiquities came from Giza and were supposed to be exhibited to celebrate World Heritage Day four months ago. Each of the pieces weighs more than 15kg. So how were they stolen so easily? Strangely, some officials have tried to play down the whole issue, describing the missing articles as two limestone statues of no great value and a wooden box without a lid.Another official claims that the three antiquities have not been stolen, but they've merely been mislaid in the labyrinthine rooms of the basement of the museum, like so many other unregistered items that have accumulated there over the years!"

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