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

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.

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”