UNESCO pledges to help restore the Islamic Museum

31-01-2014 04:18 PM

Reporting and photos by Nasser Sobhy

A delegation from UNESCO today visited the Museum of Islamic Art in the heart of Cairo to assess the damages and losses owing to the car bombing on Friday 24 January

 which caused substantial damage to the museum and its collection. UNESCO has pledged to finance the restoration process required to return the museum to its original splendour, and to launch a global campaign for donations for the project. News had initially circulated that UNESCO had allocated some USD100,000 for the restoration, but the final figure awaits the assessment of the damages. 
The bombing, which involved half-a-ton of explosive material, was meant for the Cairo Security headquarters. It caused severe damage to the security building but also damaged nearby buildings, destroying facades and shattering glass windows. The magnificent Islamic-style building which houses both the Museum of Islamic Art and Dar al-Kutub, Egypt’s national library, and which lies close to the security headquarters, was among the buildings that suffered severe damages.
The splendid façade of Islamic ornamentation was shattered, as were all the glass display cases. A unique collection of Islamic-style lanterns was lost to humanity. All in all, some 74 pieces were lost. The wooden, textile, metal and ceramic artefacts remain, as do the manuscripts, but more than 1000 pieces of some1500  that were on display are in need of extensive restoration.
In a press conference held at the museum today, Minister of Antiquities Muhammad Ibrahim lamented the losses and damage, and called for donations to repair the damage, explaining that Egypt on its own was incapable of coming up with the necessary funds. He said that USAID has pledged a million dollars for the restoration.
On the local front, the leading comedian Muhammad Sobhy donated EGP50,000 for the restoration of the museum, in a bid for his fellow actors and artists to join in a donations campaign. He said he wished the campaign to extend to include Egypt’s children, in order to raise awareness among them of the ultimate importance of preserving our heritage both for Egypt and for the whole world. “Even a one-Pound donation by a child can work to make him or her aware of the value of saving and preserving heritage,” Sobhy, who was among those who attended today’s conference, said. 
On 29 December 2013 Egyptian cultural circles celebrated 110 years on the foundation of the museum. Some three years earlier, the museum had opened its doors to the public after a five-year renovation process which cost some EGP70 million. The renovation was carried out jointly with the Islamic Department at the Louvre and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is home to some 92,000 pieces of Islamic art collected from Egypt and from the world over. It is reportedly the largest collection of Islamic art in the world.    
WATANI International
31 January 2014
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