zaterdag 25 september 2010

Zahi Hawass, Director General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities

Zahi Hawass, Director General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), recently attended ceremonies marking the reopening, after major restoration work, of a number of Islamic monuments in Cairo. It follows his appearance at similar ceremonies recently marking the completion of a number of big-budget developments in and around the area of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.
The restored Islamic monuments – all in the Al-Darb Al-Ahmar area of Cairo – include The Al-Imam mosque, the Al-Layth mosque, the Al-Set Meska mosque, the Ali Labib house and the well zone of Youssef, at the Salah El-Din Citadel.

The Al-Imam mosque, which dates from 1048 AD, was used for the burial of people who wanted to be laid to rest beside the Imam, whose grave is nearby. Architectural work has been carried out on the structure, and a rest house added, where people can hold funerals and recite the Koran. The Al-Set Meska mosque – built in AD 1339 in tribute to sultan Al-Nasir Mohammad’s loyal wet-nurse – has meanwhile been restored to its former glory after being heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1992. The 18th century Ali Labib house has been purchased and returned to its original style, and there are plans to eventually turn it into a school or library teaching hieroglyphs or Islamic and Coptic history.

Hawass has been accused in the past of overlooking Egypt’s Islamic history in favour of its pharaonic past; his backing of these facelift projects – which, together, over six years the SCA have funded to the tune of 9.5 million EGP (over 1 million GBP) – will go a long way to answering his critics. A new lighting system at the Salah El-Din Citadel is also on the long-term agenda, and the first phase of that project – the lighting of the mosque of Mohammad Ali – was unveiled too. Hawass was evidently impressed. “It captivated me and all those who saw it,” he wrote on his website blog. “When people witness the beauty of this light, it will capture their hearts and make them forget their troubles.”

The opening of a new visitor centre at Deir el-Bahri and the re-opening of the Youssef Abul-Haggag mosque after major restoration work were among the completed projects Hawass inaugurated as part of his recent ceremonial tour around the area of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. He also highlighted progress in a number of other ongoing projects, including the conversion into a museum of the rest house used by Howard Carter while excavating the tomb of King Tut. The combined budget for all of the work is a hefty 127 million EGP (over 14 million GBP).

Hawass was joined by Samir Farag, head of Luxor City Supreme Council (LCSC). First up was the small run-down mud-brick residence used by Carter while exploring KV62 in the 1920s. It’s being restored in a four month project by a French team, at a cost of 1.121 million EGP (about 124,000 GBP). It will feature two rooms displaying items left behind by Carter and Lord Carnarvon – such as tools, instruments and items of furniture – as well as a photographs and diagrams relating to their historic investigation. It’s hoped that the museum will be finished by November 4, just in time for the 86th anniversary of Carter’s discovery.

The inauguration of the site management programme at Deir el-Bahri was next up. Previously, the area surrounding the 4,000 year-old complex of mortuary temples and tombs on the west bank of the Nile was a mess – polluted and swamped with ramshackle, unlicensed bazaars. Now it boasts a neat car park, and a visitor centre in which tourists can view photographs, a short film and a detailed scale model of the site. There’s also a café, a bookshop and an area for 52 licensed bazaars (the rest have all been cleared out). A small electric railway leads to and from the temple complex.

Howard Carter's house, which is currently being converted into a museum. Picture by JohnDoodo.A large wall will eventually surround the various Luxor monuments on the Nile’s west bank, to protect them from various threats. That was inspected too, as was, in the evening, the first test of another new lighting system, the 52 million EGP (5.25 million GBP) one which upon completion will stretch six kilometres from the Valley of the Kings to Deir el-Bahri, lighting up the various sites along the west bank of the Nile such as the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, various mortuary temples and Deir el-Bahri itself. This will further boost their accessibility to tourists, by allowing them to all be visited after nightfall.

The final stop was to open the freshly restored Youssef Abul-Haggag mosque, which was built in the 1286 – on top of one of the original parts of the Temple of Luxor – to commemorate the Sunni Sheikh Youssef Abul-Haggag. Over the centuries, cracks had spread across the mosque’s walls, and the foundations had been rotted by a leaking water fountain; a 14 month, 13.4 million EGP (approximately 1.5 million GBP) project has seen it returned to its former glory.

Hawass additionally took the opportunity to announce that a scheme to protect the Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank – which he warned is in danger of being destroyed within 100 years without drastic action – is to be implemented, using a Spanish grant of 150 million euros. He also again highlighted future plans to build replicas of the tombs of Tutankhamun, Seti I and Nefertari. “This is the only way to ensure that these tombs will be preserved for eternity,” he commented on his website

Original here

Luxor Heritage Centre

This recently building was recently opened by Susan Mubarak and is situated at the junction between the airport road and sphinx avenue. If fact it actually overlooks the Sphinx Avenue which was an added bonus when visiting.

Over three floors and built with a mixture of donations and government funding it is a very impressive building. I was shown round by a member of the staff Mona, she spoke excellent English, and she and the rest of the staff could not do too much to show off their new building.

The Egyptology Library on the first floor is decorated with photos donated by Mr Gaddis showing Luxor as it used to be but the books inside are up to date modern editions. Although there are some classics as well. They are in a variety of languages and cover all aspects of Egypt’s history pharaonic of course but including its Islamic past as well. There is computer access all over the building where people can research, catch up with current affairs or play as the example of the children.

Also on this floor is a large map room where both historic and current maps are stored. It was quite fun finding my own house. This room also has facilities for video conferencing

The Arabic library on this floor seemed to have a large range of reference books, videos and tapes. I could see the Dummies Guide books in Arabic, Guinness World Records and was told there were also books on law, religion, and physiology.

The top floor had lots of children’s facilities, a well stocked lending library and reading hall. There was a great children’s activity area with wall displays and bright colours. And lots and lots of kids having fun. Computers, a green corner for environmental studies and internet access at 1LE per hour. There was a second adult Arabic library with Agriculture, Business studies, Chemistry and Geography. I also saw a complete range of Naguib Mahfouz books so there must be fiction in there as well. Also a computer teaching room and language hall. Not all these facilities were in operation yet but judging by the children’s area when they are they will be well used and fully equipped.

Downstairs in the basement there was a Star Riders exhibition where some of the compasses, time keeping devices and other wonderful devices from the past were displayed. There is an area with a huge screen where you can explore to Eternal Egypt Website, Animation halls are planned and there will an interactive Culturama.

With disabled access, clean toilets and coffee shop this is a centre to be proud of.

Projects are:

• Panorama of Culture (CULTRAMA): An interactive showcase of the documentation of Pharonic, Coptic, Islamic, natural and modern Egyptian heritage. This panorama is the first of its kind in the world.

• Forsan al-Sama’a Hall: A hall where astrological equipments are displayed to demonstrate the contributions of the Islamic culture and the Arab leadership in astrology.

• 3D Show Hall: The hall comprises three rooms for 3D showcase of selected Pharonic, Coptic and Islamic archeological pieces. Visitors can view these pieces as they are showcased in Egyptian museums by using special eye-glasses.

• Eternal Egypt website: is a unique interactive website that showcases selected treasures of the Egyptian cultural heritage covering all Pharonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic ages.

CULTNAT has participated in designing these halls so that they can occupy the largest number of tourists daily. Regular shows will be presented in Arabic and English languages in the first phase and other languages will be added in the future.

donderdag 23 september 2010

Nieuwe Koptische kerk bij het station

Nieuwe Koptische kerk bij het station

dinsdag 7 september 2010

Nieuw Boulevard

The old Promenade is being lowered by 3 metres. These old booths are about to be demolished and 3 kilometers of booths will replaced  once the new promenade is finished.