– In this file photo dated February 10, 2011, a flag is waved by anti-government protesters demonstrating in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s recent decision to move ancient Pharaonic artifacts to Tahriri Square, the epicenter of the so-called Arab Spring Rising in Egypt in 2011, has sparked new controversy over the government’s handling of their archaeological heritage. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the ram-head sphinx and an obelisk that are currently on their way to their new home in Tahrir Square. (AP Photo / Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)
Egypt’s recent decision to move ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a roundabout in the congested heart of Cairo has sparked new controversy over how the government is handling its archaeological heritage.
Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the four ram-headed sphinxes and an obelisk that are currently on their way to their new homes in Tahrir Square.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi weighed in that, according to a statement late Monday, similar obelisks are on display in western cities.
Dr. Monica Hanna, a cultural heritage expert, said Egyptian artifacts in cities like London, Paris and New York are at risk even from being outdoors.
“The sphinxes are made of sandstone and are part of the arid environment in Luxor. When they are brought to Tahrir Square with all the pollution, they deteriorate as a result of the reactions with carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air,” Hanna told The Associated Press .
You and a MP are part of a lawsuit to block the relocation of the artifacts recently filed by a local rights group.
Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of the Supreme Council on Antiquities, said the government would “do everything possible” to protect the artifacts.
In 2011, Tahrir Square was the epicenter of the so-called Arab Spring Uprising in Egypt. The Egyptian Museum is also located in the square.
The decision to move the artifacts as part of a major renovation of Tahrir Square was made without debate in Parliament. The controversy only emerged after archaeologists objected.
Since taking office in 2013, el-Sissi has touted a number of mega-projects aimed at rebuilding and expanding infrastructure. These include an expansion of the Suez Canal and a new Egyptian museum near the Giza pyramids.
At the center of the new museum is a towering statue of Ramses II. It once stood in a busy square near Cairo’s Central Station, but was removed in the 1990s for conservation reasons.
Waziri, the chief of antiquity, said the four sphinxes are not part of the famous Sphinx avenue in the city of Luxor. They were among several behind the first building of the Temple of Karnak.
The obelisk was recently brought to Cairo from the archaeological site of San el-Haggar in the Nile Delta, the ministry said.
But Hanna, the cultural heritage expert, emphasized that the obelisks in the western capitals were moved during the colonial period. “We really didn’t have a say in their delivery.”
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Quote: Egypt is in trouble with the relocation of artifacts to busy Tahrir Square (2019, December 31), which was released on February 8, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2019-12-egypt-ire-artifacts- busy-tahrir.html was obtained
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