14 June 2009
Pahor Labib, born 1905, was a renowned Egyptologist and Coptologist. The book presents his life and works in chronological order. Dr Labib’s family roots lie in Upper Egypt; his father Cladius Labib came from the small town of Meir near Dier al-Muharaq Monastery. Meir hosted the Holy Family during its flight into Egypt in the first century and was sometime regional capital in ancient Egyptian history. The elder Labib was in his own right a famous Coptologist; he authored a Coptic-Arabic dictionary in five sizeable volumes. Pahor Labib was brought up to speak Coptic at home and at his father’s funeral he thanked those attending in Coptic.
Throughout the book one comes to realise how much Labib Pahor loved Egypt. At the early age of 14 he joined the 1919 national revolution. He was the first Egyptian to obtain a doctorate degree in Egyptology; from Germany in 1934. He studied under some of the greatest names in the field as Professors Herman Grapow and Sir Percy Newberry.
On graduation he joined Fouad I University (present-day Cairo University) staff and was later appointed to the Cairo Museum then as Director of the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo. Dr Labib transformed the Coptic Museum into an international Centre for Coptic studies by setting up a group of renowned Coptologists to translate the Nag Hammadi Coptic Papyri under the auspices of UNESCO. This work lasted for many years and the translations were published in successive volumes. By 1976 the work was completed and the entire papyrus library is housed now in the Coptic Museum. Along with several international institutions, this group established the International Association of Coptic Studies (IACS) which holds its meetings every four years, the last being in Cairo in September, 2008. The Nag Hammadi Library is one of the most important discoveries in the 20th century, and has significantly contributed to the study of the Coptic language.
Dr Labib made many contributions to Egyptology and Coptology such as starting the excavations at St Mina’s site in Maryout west of Alexandria. He knew Pope Kyrillos VI before becoming the Patriarch; and the afore-mentioned excavations, beside many other activities, brought them closer together. He also knew well Pope Shenouda III and his Holiness encouraged the team led by Dr Labib to continue excavations at the site of St Mary’s Cathedral at Tel Atrib near Benha in the Delta.
Many dignitaries visited the Coptic Museum and the book contains photographs of these visits along with many other occasions. Dr labib received decorations from Germany and Denmark. He served on numerous committees including the ones that award the highest accolades in Egypt for Literature and Arts.
Pahor Labib passed away in 1994 aged 89 years. The book gives insight to him not only as a scientist but also as a man. It cited the difficulties he faced and also the moments of joy and success—the mixture of disappointments and triumphs that strengthened the sinews and enhanced the mantle of this great men.
Dr Pahor Labib is sold at al-Mahaba bookshop in Shubra, and the Layla bookshop in Gawad Hosni Street; both in Cairo.
Title: Dr Pahor Labib, Archaeologist: His Struggles and Success
Author: Dr Ahmes Pahor Labib, FRCS, FICS, PhD
Language: Arabic, 288 pages, St Mina’s Monastery Press, 2009
ISBN: 977–17– 6848-4