Egypt Asks for Loans of Artifacts Held Abroad

April 30, 2007

Egypt will request temporary loans of some of its most cherished artifacts currently on display at museums abroad, antiquities officials announced on Sunday.

The requested items include the famous bust of Nefertiti currently at the Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany, and the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum in London.

Most of the items are meant for display at the 2012 opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is being built near the pyramids at Giza (see a map of Egypt).

Nefertiti's bust is requested for display at the Atun Museum, which is set to open in the Nile Delta city of Meniya in 2010, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced in a statement.

All five of the artifacts are on a list of unique items that Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's antiquities council, has said should be returned permanently to their homeland.

But in an email to National Geographic News, Hawass said that the antiquities council will request a letter of guarantee from the Egyptian government "that will secure the safe return of these objects to the lending institutions."

(Hawass is an Explorer-in-Residence with the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)

"We are not 'Pirates of the Caribbean,'" he added. "We respect our contacts. We are in the 21st century."

Diplomatic Move

The recent statement from the Egyptian antiquities council called the requests a "diplomatic move."

Earlier this month a dispute escalated between Egypt and Germany over a previous request for the temporary return of the bust of Nefertiti.

Germany's Minister of State for Culture said the 3,400-year-old limestone bust is too fragile to travel the 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) to Cairo.

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