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Thursday, 10 March 2011 03:48

Cairo museum weighs up cost of protests

Cairo's Egyptian Museum houses some of the world's greatest ancient treasures, but last month's unrest prompted fears over the fate of its historical artifacts.

Among the prized objects at the Egyptian Museum are towering statues of ancient pharaohs, a rare collection of royal mummies and intricately painted sarcophagi.

But it is perhaps King Tutankhamun's treasures that continue to draw the biggest crowds.

King Tut's golden mask, a collection of exquisite jewelry from his tomb, and two magnificent golden coffins are among the star attractions.

Zahi Hawass was Egypt's minister of antiquities before and during the revolution, but this week he announced on his website that he was resigning from the post.

In a statement on his website Hawass said that while the Egyptian Museum had been well protected during the recent revolution, heritage sites elsewhere in the country were now being attacked by criminals and thieves.

But Hawass says no harm came to King Tut's golden death mask during the revolution.

After an inspection tour with the museum's team of curators, he insists that damage caused to the museum by looters was minimal.

"We have more than 100,000 artifacts in the museum," Hawass said.

"When I came that day, 29th of January, and I saw through the monitor the golden mask, the famous masterpieces of Tanis, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, I said 'Cairo Museum is safe.'"

Hawass won't give an estimate of the total loss suffered by the museum in the looting. But other priceless artifacts are missing or were damaged by intruders who, according to museum director Tarek El Awady, broke into the museum through a glass window in the ceiling.

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