Monday, January 31, 2011

Damage and disaster at the Cairo Museum

For years, I've felt that it was unwise to return anything and everything that Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) claimed "belong to Egypt." He's gone around to Western museums, shopping bag in hand, demanding this, that and the other - often with very little documentation for his allegations. Anybody with even the slightest knowledge of Middle Eastern governments (with the exception of Israel) knows that regime change is always difficult and usually volatile with looting and mass riots. 

I'm not claiming that the Egyptians don't have a case. Of course, they want a better life. I doubt that they will get it and there's a serious danger that the government that replaces the current one will be more repressive and totalitarian. In fact, Egypt may get a version of the theocracy that currently rules Iran, Gaza and Lebanon. 

In the meantime, Egypt's - and the world's - priceless heritage is being destroyed. I lived in Cairo as a kid and got to visit the place dozens of times; in fact, my father's aide-de-camp always knew where to find me. I was at the museum, dreaming over the tiny boats (now damaged), the miniature houses showing people going around their every day chores or just wandering around, mentally transported back to ancient Egypt. My two favorite books as a child were about ancient Egypt. Long before Indiana Jones, I wanted to be an archaeologist. As a young woman, I taught English in Cairo (and other Arab countries, including Turkey) so watching the backwards slide in the Middle East is a sobering reminder of just how easy it is for a region without a democratic tradition to move backwards.

"Devastating footage from Al Jazeera posted on Twitter and Flickr now shows significant damage and destruction in the Egyptian museum.." It's heartbreaking.

1 comment:

namastenancy said...

For some reason blogger is not allowing me to comment at the moment, so i thought I'd write.

it's all so heartbreaking, understandable,incomprehensible, eternal and of the moment.

i guess it's something about being in my 60s but one finally begins to see how little things change, or as much as they change, they stay the same too. do you know what i mean.

Doesn't it feel fraught with some kind of meaning that it's Egypt? do they still make Pharaohs?

You and i, i think, go to beauty. at least with the internet, it will be harder to make images of things lost harder to lose.