The Fatimid Dome in Aswan – Another Episode of Ignorance

The recent episode of the Golden Mask of Tutankhamun, damaged by poor restoration, sadly highlighted the ignorance of some conservators inside the Egyptian Museum. Well, another episode of ignorance and mismanagement happened recently in Aswan, in Upper Egypt.

Every year, the Ministry of Culture organises a symposium in Aswan where it invites sculptors from all over the world to work with granite. This symposium always takes place in an Islamic site known as the “site of the domes”, which is a beautiful archaeological site where there are box-shaped tombs with mud brick-made domes. The domes are built in the unique Fatimid style, which can be found in many historical Islamic sites across Egypt. Given the beauty and importance of this site, when I was working as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, we launched a site management project in order to restore the domes and carry out other major restoration work.

Some days ago an accident happened in this place. During preparations for the sculpture symposium, a crane which was moving granite around the site hit one of the domes, destroying it into pieces. Who is going to take responsibility for this shameful episode of mismanagement and poor coordination? Where are the inspectors of the Ministry of Antiquities, whose duty is to protect and preserve our monuments?

  • The damaged dome in Aswan - © Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt

I believe that the symposium should be suspended until those who are responsible for this accident appear in court and pay for what has happened. The local inspectors should be more careful and understand that we cannot continue to see our heritage being ruined or damaged, as it has happened over the past three years.

This episode denotes once again that it is a sad time for antiquities and archaeology in Egypt. While writing this editorial, I heard that someone working in the field even dared to say that the Golden Mask in the Egyptian Museum is fake. This shows how ignorance is widespread at the moment among those in control of antiquities and people who have no credentials are able to make themselves heard. We need strong people around the Minister of Antiquities in order to defend our monuments and return them to their glory. I am afraid that the future of our great archaeological heritage may be compromised if we continue to give voice and credit to ignorant people who know nothing about archaeology.


Zahi Hawass

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