Since the revolution in January 2011 many Egyptians have no work and have no way of supporting their families – desperate situations often lead to desperate measures – one is looting ancient sites, and becoming part of the illicit antiquities trade.
To help prevent and face cultural racketeering in Egypt, the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities was launched, and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities signed the first-ever US-Egyptian cultural heritage partnership, focused on training, education and social entrepreneurship.
But it is people like Dr Monica Hanna, who with her archaeological knowledge and her passion has brought international attention to protecting Egypt’s heritage. At a recent lecture in New York she shared her first hand experiences of watching how the Mallawi Museum in Minia was looted and burned – more than 1000 objects were stolen or destroyed. Dr. Hanna described her horror of watching helplessly the destruction — and how the following morning with the help of the only policeman in town and his family they were able to save 50 items which had been left.
Another time when visiting Dashur, she and her team were shot at by looters digging in the area. The absence of police leaves the area unprotected, and gives criminals a free hand. She explained that through Google Imaging, done twice a year, it is possible to calculate how many more sites have been looted, and to which extend. The last time they checked the area around Dashur the destruction had increase by 300%. The looted sites show up as dark spots on Google Imaging.
There are two types of looters – the very well-organized, who have automatic weapons, are very knowledgeable, and look for specific objects – it is looting on order – which also provides this mafia with save ways to smuggle the objects out of Egypt.
The second type of looters live in small villages, and are often children asked to do the digging. They bring their finds to an elder in the village who sells them to the highest bidder.
And since unfortunately the world, as well as the Egyptian people themselves, have separated Ancient Egypt from the Egypt of today, the connection between the two has been lost — and as Dr. Hanna points out without reestablishing this link, quote ” Egypt is stealing from he future of its children.”
More from Egypt soon