Iraqi museum unveils ‘looted’ artefacts

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Over 2,000 artefacts, including about 100 that were looted and found abroad, were unveiled in Basra museum. (AFP)
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The heritage of Iraq, most of which was former Mesopotamia, has paid a heavy price due to the wars that have ravaged the country for nearly four decades. (AFP)
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The museum is located in southern Iraq. (AFP)
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People visit one of the three newly opened galleries in southern Iraq's Basra museum, on March 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Iraqi museum unveils ‘looted’ artefacts

  • Basra is the most oil-rich province in Iraq but its heritage sites have long been neglected
  • US says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artefacts to Iraq since 2005

BASRA, Iraq: Over 2,000 artefacts, including about 100 that were looted and found abroad, were unveiled Tuesday in a museum in Basra province on the southern tip of Iraq, authorities said.
Basra is the most oil-rich province in Iraq but its heritage sites have long been neglected.
On Tuesday between 2,000 and 2,500 pieces went on display in the Basra Museum, the second largest in Iraq, said Qahtan Al-Obeid, head of archaeology and heritage in the province.
“They date from 6000 BC to 1500 AD,” he told AFP, referring to the Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian periods.
Obeid said about 100 artefacts — most of which came from Jordan and the United States — were given back to Iraq to be displayed in the museum, a former palace of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
The heritage of Iraq, most of which was former Mesopotamia, has paid a heavy price due to the wars that have ravaged the country for nearly four decades.
Following the US-led invasion that overthrew Saddam in 2003, Daesh group militants destroyed many of the country’s ancient statues and pre-Islamic treasures.
During its occupation of nearly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, Daesh captured much attention by posting videos of its militants destroying statues and heritage sites with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills on the grounds that they are idolatrous.
But experts say they mostly destroyed pieces too large to smuggle and sell off, and kept the smaller pieces, several of which are already resurfacing on the black market in the West.
The United States says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artefacts to Iraq since 2005, including many seized in conflict zones in the Middle East.


UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

Updated 18 June 2019
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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

  • Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017

FONTAINEBLEAU: An exquisite 19th-century French theater outside Paris that fell into disuse for one and half centuries has been restored with the help of a €10 million donation from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
The Napoleon III theater at Fontainebleau Palace south of Paris was built between 1853 and 1856 under the reign of the nephew of emperor Napoleon I.
It opened in 1857 but was used only a dozen times, which has helped preserve its gilded adornments, before being abandoned in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III.
But during a state visit to France in 2007, Sheikh Khalifa, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly entranced by the abandoned theater and offered €10 million ($11.2 million) on the spot for its restoration.
After a project that has lasted 12 years the theater is now being reopened.
An official inauguration is expected soon, hosted by French Culture Minister Franck Riester and attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
For all its ornate beauty, the theater has hardly ever been used for its orginal purpose, hosting only a dozen performances between 1857 and 1868, each attended by around 400 people.
“While it had been forgotten, the theater was in an almost perfect state,” said the head of the Fontainebleau Palace, Jean-Francois Hebert.
“Let us not waste this jewel, and show this extraordinary place of decorative arts,” he added.
According to the palace, the theater is “probably the last in Europe to have kept almost all its original machinery, lighting and decor.”
Having such a theater was the desire of Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie. But after the defeat, his capture in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the declaration of France’s Third Republic, the theater fell into virtual oblivion.
Following the renovation, the theater will mainly be a place to visit and admire, rather than for regularly holding concerts.
“The aim is not to give the theater back to its first vocation” given its “very fragile structure,” said Hebert.
Short shows and recitals may be performed in exceptional cases, under the tightest security measures and fire regulations. But regular guided tours will allow visitors to discover the site, including the stage sets.
The restoration aimed to use as little new material as possible, with 80 percent of the original material preserved.
The opulent central chandelier — three meters high and 2.5 meters wide — has been restored to its original form.