Egyptian and Arab antiquities take pride of place in Vienna museum

This Oct. 2018 photo, released by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, shows archaeologists uncovering parts of a booth with a seat that belonged to Ramses II, one of the longest ruling pharaohs in antiquity, in eastern Cairo's Matariya neighborhood, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 27 October 2018
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Egyptian and Arab antiquities take pride of place in Vienna museum

  • Most of the additions in the first half of the 20th century were the result of archaeological excavations in Egypt and Nubia financed by the Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Three Egyptian monolithic columns more than six meters in height support the ceilings

CAIRO: One of the world’s most important collections of Egyptian antiquities is on show in the Fine Arts Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) in Vienna.
The museum holds more than 17,000 objects that date from a period of almost 4,000 years, from the Egyptian Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (ca. 3500 BC) to the early Christian era.
Geographically their origins range from Egypt, Nubia, the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia to the Arabian Peninsula. The Egyptian collection contains about 6,000 pieces, traced back to the Pharos, Ptolemaic and Greek-Roman Periods.
The collection has a history extending back to around 1560. The Egyptian antiquities already in the ruling Habsburg family’s possession were held in the coin collection and cabinet of antiquities.
The museum said: “The holdings of Egyptian artefacts were considerably expanded by various gifts and acquisitions, most importantly by the objects purchased in Egypt in 1821 by the physician Ernst August Burghart, and the Austrian general consul in Alexandria from 1824 to 1849, Anton Ritter von Laurin.”
Other pieces were provided by Crown Prince Rudolf, the son of Emperor Franz Joseph, who acquired numerous Egyptian artefacts during his travels to Egypt in 1881, the museum explained.
Most of the additions in the first half of the 20th century were the result of archaeological excavations in Egypt and Nubia financed by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Among them are the famous Reserve Head, numerous tomb statues, inscribed architectural components such as false doors and architraves, coffins of stone and wood, jars, jewelry and vessels made from various materials.
“These masterpieces are the treasures of my ancestors,” said Samah Hussien, an Egyptian citizen based in Vienna, who was admiring the treasures in the museum.
“I am so proud to see Egyptian pieces in one of the most famous museums in the world but it is painful to see them here, and not in my country,” he added.
The rooms holding the Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection are magnificently decorated with an ancient Egyptian design. Three Egyptian monolithic columns more than six meters in height support the ceilings. The columns, which were excavated in Alexandria, were a gift to Emperor Franz Joseph in 1869, the fine arts museum said.
The monumental museum buildings, built as part of the Emperor Franz Joseph’s expansion of the city in 1858, was intended to appropriately represent the artistic treasures that had been collected by the Habsburgs over the centuries.
The museum was ceremoniously opened in 1891.


UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

US Deputy United Nations Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, left, address the UN Security Council after a report from UN chief mediator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, shown center in a live video broadcast, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP)
Updated 9 min 13 sec ago
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UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

  • Staffan de Mistura said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members

NEW YORK: The UN is still aiming to send invitations to 150 Syrians by mid-December to participate in a committee that would draft a new constitution for Syria, which is key to holding elections and ending the country’s civil war, a UN envoy said on Monday.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, told the Security Council that the UN also aims to hold the committee’s first meeting before Dec. 31.
But de Mistura said the Syrian regime is objecting to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women that he was authorized to put together at a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi on Jan. 30.
Under the Sochi agreement, the committee is to comprise 150 members. There is already agreement on the 50-member delegation from the regime and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.
But de Mistura warned that if there is no agreement on the remaining members, the UN may have to conclude that it is not possible to form a “credible and inclusive” constitutional committee at this stage.
He said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members. But de Mistura said they must “maintain the same spirit of credibility, balance and international legitimacy,” and he stressed that the list cannot be filled with political leaders who are already represented.
The UN envoy said that at his last briefing to the Security Council in December “it will be my duty to explain where we are on the constitutional committee, and leave a clean and clear ground to my successor regarding it.”
De Mistura was supposed to step down at the end of December but UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday he will be staying on “for a bit longer” to make sure there is no gap “at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks.”