Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mallawi Museum in Egypt Looted

Asalamu Alaykom,

Let's play a game. 

When I take children to museums I often play this game.  I tell them, "As we're looking around, think of this as a store not a museum.  Pretend that you could have one of these things from the exhibit with you when we leave."  It motivates them to see the value in things which other people have collected together.

I played this game with Mr. Boo when we were visiting the museum in Aswan.  I chose these earrings

He chose this crown.

I should be more specific.  We're going to play this game in the Museum of Mallawi.  

This is not a place you've ever heard of.  It's in Egypt in between Minya and Sohag.  You might not have heard of those places either.  

That's part of the problem.  When nobody knows about a place, then nobody visits and when nobody visits then nobody understands the value.  The townspeople themselves didn't realize what they were holding in that building.  It was not benefiting them because no tourists were coming any more.  It became a bunch of stuff to them.  There are reports that the police army didn't even guard the building.  Imagine that!

From Travel Wolf:  

"Not the most prepossessing of places, Mallawi is somewhere people merely stop off when using public transport to reach archaeological sites such as Tel El-Amarna, Tuna El-Gabel [the burial site of Hermopolis] and the Meir Tombs. Replaced by Minya as the regional capital in 1824, Mallawi has been in a state of decline ever since. Today its littered streets make it a town most people avoid, particularly because Minya is just up the road. At present there are no hotels that accept tourists so it’s not possible to stay overnight. 

Hold on.  I'm losing our train of thought.  We weren't trying to imagine the little village town of Mallawi.  We were trying to imagine inside the museum.  Here's some more on that:

There is, however, a good museum (Sat-Thu 0800-1500, E£6, students E£3, cameras E£10) which displays some beautiful and unusual findings from Tuna El-Gabel and Hermopolis. Among the many mummified ibis and animals on display is a baboon with amulets still embedded in the linen wrappings, as well as the mini-sarcophagi that housed their remains. Painted plaster death masks from Hermopolis individualize the deceased, and decorative coffins made from a variety of materials are in an excellent state of preservation. Upstairs look out for the coins minted with the profiles of tousle-haired Roman emperors and 2000-year-old palm baskets identical to those still woven today."

You conjured up the baboon in your mind, didn't you? 

Here indeed in the baboon mummy with the amulets still embedded in the linen wrappings.

Now, you are imagining the other animals mummies.

Imagine you walk a little ways and see a case of ibis bird statues.  Lean in to get a closer look.

Look closer.

Wow.  Look at this one.  Don't you wish you could reach out and touch it?  Of course you can't.  It's a museum and there's a glass case surrounding it.  But remember our game!  You can "take" one item with you.

How many of you would choose this?

I think this shrine to Persian ruler of Egypt King Darius is rather grand.  Can you picture it?


Read the information, "Small shrine of wood created for Persian King Darius.  The Persians ruled Egypt from 525-404 BC and were represented like any other Egyptian pharaoh--as here.  The shrine was reused in the Tuna el Gebel catacomb to hold an ibis dedication."

That would be amazing!  I might choose that.  I love how the colors are still vibrant after all these years.

Remember that all Egyptian museums hold antiquities from the many ages of Egypt---not just the pharaohs.  Here are some Roman statues.  I bet some of these would look good in your garden.

So much to choose from!

Do you need some time to think about it?  Remember you get to choose only one item.  I'll give you a minute.

Oh, no.  We took too long.  The museum was looted in the dark before Thursday morning.  This was the scene after looters came in.  1050 (more or less) objects are missing.  That's one THOUSAND and fifty cataloged treasures.  To see what all is missing click here.

Doesn't look like they took everything but whatever they left is damaged.

What a shame.  I wish those lips could talk and tell us who did this horrible crime.  As for you, Dear Reader, please don't try to guess who did it.  In Islam, we only testify if we've seen it with our own eyes.  Some people are blaming this on Pro-Morsi supporters or Islamists.  I didn't see that and neither did anyone else.

I  can surmise that whoever did this was an opportunist.  There's a lot of that in Egypt right now.  It's not a person representing a group but rather a person out for themselves.  "Take what you can get," might be their motto.

Yes, they certainly did take what they could get.

They also killed a security guard ticket seller and injured the director.  Astragferallah.

Part of the museum caught on fire from a nearby blaze.  It wasn't the only important building on fire that night.

The Evangelical Church in Mallawi was also burned.

Oozabellahi min a Shaytan a regime.

You know, soon this imagination game for museums might be all that I can offer you in Egypt.  I'm sorry.  I had hoped that someone in authority knew how to safeguard invaluable historical objects.  Astragferallah.

Before the Revolution, I used to be on the bandwagon of returning the Egyptian antiquities to Egypt.  Made sense to me then.  It was a robbing a country of its own heritage!

The night of Friday, January 28, 2011 that nice little theory changed for me.  I heard that the Cairo Museum was being looted.  It chilled me to the bone.  If Egypt couldn't protect King Tut, then how could I ever stand a chance.  King Tut did survive that night, thank God, but not everything did.

You can read more about it here.

Time Magazine reported on the Cairo Museum looting and said that out of the 1,000 objects taken, four had been returned.  That link is for an article published on April 23, 2011.  Did anything else ever come back?  Is it possible that 996 objects from the Cairo Museum remain missing?

Shame on Egypt for not protecting its museums---and churches for that matter.  Where was the army?  You do not deserve Egyptian artifacts returned to you from the museums overseas.  No one will ever believe you again that you care about your history because you have not protected it.

Shame on whoever is secretly hoarding these antiquities.  Shame on them and their families.  It is as bad as if they ripped the flesh from their own mother.  Any money earned from the selling of these is haram and any food or drink they buy with it will burn in their insides.  This will be a small taste of what eternal hell will feel like to them.  The only way out of this torment will be to return the treasures for the world to enjoy.

Shame on any collectors who are buying these for their private pleasure.  You say you love Ancient Egypt but you really don't.  Loving isn't possessing.  If you truly loved these objects, then you would want everyone to enjoy them with you.

There are no tourists are here now.  The U.S. Government has warned against travel to Egypt.  I'm even supposed to leave (but inshahallah I'm not going to).

Whenever the travel ban is lifted, I've got a good idea how to spin this tragedy.  Maybe the Minister of Tourism can encourage travelers to come to Egypt with the slogan,


August 23, 2013 UPDATE

 National Geographic has an article up on its website about the looting.  There isn't necessarily more information than what was previously reported but it is set in a context.  National Geographic is so good at explaining the big picture.

Speaking of pictures, there are a few more objects they show on their site than I've shown on mine.  I really do like the statue of King Ahenaten's daughter but I felt it was too risque to post on my blog.  Sadly, somebody else liked it too much and it is still missing.  The photo of her is captioned, "Abducted Princess."

August 20, 2013 UPDATE

Blogger Luxor Times reports that objects are being returned.

Here is the one eye witness who is making a statement.  Egyptologist Dr. Monica Hanna risked her life to stand up to the thieves.  If you want some heroes in this revolution, you put her on the list.

This is not the first time she has risked her life this year.  She came out publicly in this story from June 15, 2013, denouncing the desecration of Egypt's treasures by mismanagement and looting.

August 18, 2013 UPDATE

Dr. Monica Hanna, of the Mallawi Museum, has given this Facebook status:

تم بنجاح ساحق انقاذ القطع الاثرية التي تركها اللصوص بمتحف ملوي،انقذنا التوابيت الخشبية و مومياءتين وبردية كاملة بالديموطيقي، بالأضافة الي الكثير من القطع المكسرة التي سوف يتم ترميمها في مخزن الأشمونين حيث نقلنا كل القطع بسبب حالة حرب الشوارع وضرب النار المستمر بملوي؛ الشرطة كانت بطل اليوم لأنها اتت على عهدتها الشخصية وسط الحالة الامنية...

We have successfully transferred all the objects from the Mallawi museum, which were left behind by the looters. We transferred the wooden sarcophagi and mummies in addition to numerous fragments under fire. The objects are safely now in al-Ashmounein magazine because we could not leave them in the mayhem of thugs in the city center of Mallawi. The police has been the hero of the day, because they showed up on their personal responsibility

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