Egypt asks Interpol to trace Tutankhamun mask over ownership docs

Laetitia Delaloye, head of antiquities of Christie's, poses for a photograph with an Egyptian brown quartzite head of the God Amen prior to its' sale at Christie's auction house in London on July 4, 2019. (REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)
Updated 09 July 2019
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Egypt asks Interpol to trace Tutankhamun mask over ownership docs

CAIRO: Egypt has asked international police agency Interpol to track down a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact that was sold in London for $6 million despite fierce opposition from Cairo, government officials said.
Christie’s auction house sold the 28.5-centimeter (11-inch) relic for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros) to an unknown buyer in early July at one of its most controversial auctions in years.
But less than a week after the sale, Egypt’s National Committee for Antiquities Repatriation (NCAR) said after an urgent meeting that national prosecutors had asked Interpol “to issue a circular to trace” such artefacts over alleged missing paperwork.
“The committee expresses its deep discontent of the unprofessional behavior of the sale of Egyptian antiquities without providing the ownership documents and the evidences that prove its legal export from Egypt,” the NCAR said in a statement.
The committee — headed by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and attended by his predecessor Zahi Hawass as well as officials from various ministries — also called upon Britain to “prohibit the export of the sold artefacts” until the Egyptian authorities were shown the documents.
It suggested the issue could have an impact on cultural relations, by referencing “the ongoing cooperation between both countries in the field of archaeology, especially that there are 18 British archaeological missions are working in Egypt.”
The NCAR added it had hired a British law firm to file a “civil lawsuit” although no further details were given.


The London sale of the head of “Boy King” Tutankhamun angered Egyptian officials at the time and sparked a protest outside Christie’s by about a dozen people who held up signs reading “stop trading in smuggled antiquities.”
Hawass told AFP that the piece appeared to have been “stolen” in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex just north of Luxor and the Egyptian foreign ministry asked the UK Foreign Office and the UN cultural body UNESCO to step in and halt the sale.
But such interventions are rare and made only when there is clear evidence of the item’s legitimate acquisition by the seller being in dispute.
Christie’s argued that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about an item whose existence has been “well known and exhibited publicly” for many years.
“The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation,” Christie’s said in a statement to AFP.
The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years and told AFP that it would “not sell any work where there isn’t clear title of ownership.”
bam-je/ind/hg


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 44 min 9 sec ago
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.