Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities and Director General call for the protection of Egyptian heritage

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© UNESCO/L. Rukingamubiri

Paris 8 October – On the occasion of an international conference on Egyptian museums, jointly organized by the Government of Egypt and UNESCO at UNESCO headquarters, H.E. Dr. Mamdouh Al-Damaty, Minister of Antiquities and Heritage of Egypt, paid an official visit to UNESCO.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and H.E. Dr. Mamdouh Al-Damaty, Minister of Antiquities and Heritage of Egypt, exchanged views on the cooperation between UNESCO and Egypt in the area of museums and the preservation of cultural heritage collections, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr, Ambassador Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO and Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board.

Underlining the importance and richness of Egypt’s cultural heritage and its universal significance, the Director-General highlighted the longstanding and fruitful collaboration between UNESCO and Egypt in the area of cultural heritage conservation, dating back to the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia.

“UNESCO and Egypt have recently reinforced their cooperation, notably in the area of museums,” said the Director-General, mentioning the ongoing efforts deployed by the Organization for the rehabilitation of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo damaged since January 2014. 

UNESCO is leading international efforts to repair the building and its collections, providing training to the Museum staff, with the support of Italy. 

The Minister informed the Director-General of the cooperation of a number of partner institutions, such as ICOM, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute, as well as the Römisch-Germanische Zentralmuseum (Mainz, Germany)providing technical assistance in repairing damaged objects and reinforcing staff capacity. 

The Director-General reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to technical support provided since 1982 to the creation of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations (NMEC) and to reinforcing the management capacities of its staff.

Irina Bokova also stressed the Organization’s assistance to the Egyptian authorities following the looting of Malawi Museum in August 2013, and emphasized UNESCO’s continued engagement with Egypt in fighting the illicit traffic of Egyptian cultural objects.

“We are extremely grateful to UNESCO for its work on the Malawi Museum and the Museum of Islamic art, as well as for the mission conducted earlier in September,” said Minister Al-Damaty. “Egypt is fully committed to make the most of its unique cultural heritage. The Prime Minister has convened a ministerial committee, with nine ministers and the authorities of Cairo, to mobilize all efforts for the protection and promotion of the historic heritage of the city," he continued.

Upon the request from the Egyptian authorities, UNESCO and its partners made a visit to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, from 4 to 9 September 2014, to review and assess their existing cooperation with the national authorities and to establish a joint road map on future cooperation on major cultural heritage projects. 

Active collaboration is ongoing to support Egypt in undertaking emergency measures to better manage and conserve the Historic Cairo. Following several reports on restoration works being carried out at the Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, UNESCO received from the Minister of Antiquities and Heritage a detailed  technical assessment report on the ongoing works, building on the technical recommendations from UNESCO’s report of 2011. 

"Culture binds us together and is the core of the social fabric of society. This is what museums are at their heart: places where people can access to and connect with their history," noted Ambassador Mohamed Sameh Amr, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO, at the opening of the Conference.

Attended by experts and a large number of delegations, the Conference provided an opportunity to reaffirm the strength of the cooperation between UNESCO and Egypt.

 “Egypt is, to say the least, an emblematic Member of UNESCO, and the international campaign for the safeguarding of the Nubian temples has set a universal standard of what the community can and should do to protect world heritage. This is extremely important today, when heritage is under attack in many parts of the world, and this is the vision we must carry forward together,” declared Irina Bokova.