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Egypt is a gift of the Nile

"I invite governments, institutions, public or private foundations and men of goodwill everywhere to contribute to the success of a task without parallel in history." With this appeal to world-wide solidarity, Vittorino Veronese, Director-General of Unesco, opened the International Campaign for the Preservation of the Monuments of Nubia, during an impressive ceremony in Unesco's Headquarters on March 8.

Vittorino Veronese, Director-General of UNESCO

Work has begun on the great Aswan dam. Within five years, the Middle Valley of the Nile will be turned into a vast lake. Wondrous structures, ranking among the most magnificent on earth, are in danger of disappearing beneath the waters. The dam will bring fertility to huge stretches of desert; but the opening up of new fields to the tractors, the provision of new sources of power to future factories threatens to exact a terrible price.

True, when the welfare of suffering human beings is at stake, then, if need be, images of granite and porphyry must be sacrificed unhesitatingly. But no one forced to make such a choice could contemplate without anguish the necessity for making it.

It is not easy to choose between u heritage of the past and the present well-being of a people, living in need in the shadow of one history's most splendid legacies, it is not easy to ichoose between temples and crops. I would he sorry for any man called on to make that choice who could do bo without a feeling of despair; I would be sorry for any man who, whatever decision he might reach, could bear the responsibility for that decision without a feeling of remorse.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the governments of the United Arab Republic and Sudan have called on an international body, on Unesco, to try to save the threatened monuments. These monuments, whose loss may be tragically near, do not belong solely to the countries who hold them in trust. The whole world has the right to see them endure. They are part of a common heritage which comprises Socrates' message and the Ajanta frescoes, the walls of Uxmal and Beethoven s symphonies. Treasures of universal value are entitled to universal protection. When a thing of beauty, whose loveliness increases rather than diminishes by being shared, is lost, then all men alike are the losers.

Moreover, it is not merely a question of preserving something which may otherwise be lost; it is a question of bringing to light an as yet undiscovered wealth for the benefit of all. In return for the help the world gives them, the governments of Cairo and Khartoum will open the whole of their countries to archaeological excavation and will allow half of whatever works of art may be unearthed by science or by hazard to go to foreign museums. They will even agree to the transport, stone by stone, of certain monuments of Nubia.

A new era of magnificent enrichment is thus opened in the field of Egyptology. Instead of a world deprived of a part of its wonders, mankind may hope for the revelation of hitherto unknown marvels.

So noble a cause deserves a no less generous response. It is, therefore, with every confidence that I invite governments, institutions, public or private foundations and men of goodwill everywhere to contribute to the success! of a task without parallel in history. Services, equipment and money are all needed. There are innumerable ways in which all can help. It is fitting that from a land which throughout the centuries has been the scene of or the stake in so many covetous disputes should spring a convincing proof of international solidarity.

"Egypt is a gift of the Nile"; for countless students this was the first Greek phrase which they learnt to translate. May the peoples of the world unite to ensure that the Nile, in becoming a greater source of fertility and power does not bury beneath its waters marvels which we of today have inherited from generations long since vanished.