Tutankhamun world tour sparks debate among antiquities experts

German specialists in restoration work on antiquities in glass and metal Christian Eckmann works on the restoration process of the golden mask of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 18 February 2018
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Tutankhamun world tour sparks debate among antiquities experts

CAIRO: Plans to embark on a worldwide tour to showcase 166 artifacts belonging to Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun set for next month have sparked a debate among antiquities experts, a news report said Sunday.
The exhibition is scheduled to tour seven foreign countries, starting from Los Angeles in the United States on March 23 and will continue over the next 7 years, Egypt Antiquities Minister Khalid Al-Anani said.
The exhibition includes 166 artifacts, excluding the basic pieces of Tutankhamun, Anani added. The full collection of Tutankhamun contains about 5,000 pharaonic pieces, he explained, which are scheduled to be displayed at the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum by the end of this year.
Egypt’s Heritage Task Force said that the duration of the overseas show is 7 years, and it is expected to generate close to $50mn.
But academics and scholars from within and outside the Antiquities Ministry are reportedly campaigning against the exhibition over concerns the monuments may be falsified, stolen or replaced.
A Facebook page has been created to call on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to intervene and open an investigation into the exhibition.
Monika Hanna, a member of the campaign, called the exhibition a “catastrophe,” according to Al-Masry El-Youm newspaper.
She said the law of archaeological artifacts allows the rental of duplicates, not originals, and leasing to scientific bodies or museums, not private companies as per the terms of this contract.
She noted that the “insurance value of the golden coffin of Tutankhamun is low,” amounting to only $5 million, and said the company may pay it to Egypt and claim it was stolen.
She expressed concern over the fact that the monuments will remain outside Egypt for 7 years, and wondered if the inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum will be delayed until that time.
Gharib Sonbol, Head of the Central Administration for Restoration and a member of the Foreign Exhibitions Committee, said that an imprint was prepared for all the artifacts that are scheduled to travel to ensure that the pieces will not falsified or replaced.


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Updated 25 September 2018
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Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Cirque du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.



Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.



As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.


The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.