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Egypt Antiquities Restoration Under Way

Restoration work is under way for antiquities damaged during a looting attempt at Cairo's Egyptian Museum in late January. Museum officials say very little was damaged and that nothing was destroyed or stolen from the museum.

© 2011 National Geographic; field producing and videography by Dana Smillie



More than two weeks after political protests began in Cairo’s Liberation Square, crowds continued to arrive. Located adjacent to the square, Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is at the epicenter of the action.

During the chaotic early days of the demonstrations in late January, looters entered the museum and damaged priceless antiquities.

But restoration work got underway quickly on the objects damaged in the chaos.

SOT Hoda Abd El Hamid, Museum Conservator: “Most of them are in good shape, a little bit need restoration, about 25 pieces.”

Museum director Tarek al Awady shows objects that were in a case that was damaged. Many are fine, but a few are in need of restoration.

SOT Tarek al Awady, Egyptian Museum Director: “…This is not damaged, it was dismantled, here we have a part broken,…”

One case was damaged in the collection of King Tut. The thieves found only wooden statues and discarded them.

The famous golden mask was safely under lock and key.

SOT Tarek: “from one glass window the thief made his way inside the museum, but because it was completely dark, he couldn’t see any of the museum collection. So, that’s why we have minor damage (that) happened to the collections, but we have all the masterpieces of the Egyptian museum, all the collections, almost, safe.”

Dr. Tarek says the intruder was eventually apprehended near the statue of SEKHMET  --- the goddess of protection.

Officials are downplaying the incident, and they’re quick to show that most of the museum remains unharmed, protected by the Egyptian army.

SOT Zahi Hawass, Minister of Antiquities: “Museums all over Egypt are safe, Sakkara, the Valley of the Kings, all the synagogues, all the Coptic monasteries.. the Islamic monuments, and pharaonic and Greco-Roman are completely safe. “

SOT Hawass: “If Cairo Museum and the pyramids are safe, Egypt will be safe. “