Transfer of sphinxes to Cairo square stirs controversy

Transfer of sphinxes to Cairo square stirs controversy
In this file photo taken on June 12, 2015, tourists take the avenue of the ram-headed sphinxes, symbolising the ancient Egyptian god Amun, as they visit the Karnak Temple Complex (unseen) in Egypt's southern city of Luxor, 700 kilometres (435 miles) south of the Egyptian capital. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 May 2020

Transfer of sphinxes to Cairo square stirs controversy

Transfer of sphinxes to Cairo square stirs controversy

CAIRO: In a bustling square of Egypt’s capital, four sphinx-like statues stand in wooden crates ahead of a planned unveiling ceremony following their controversial transfer from historical sites.
With the bodies of lions and heads of rams, the statues had for millennia graced Karnak temple in the southern city of Luxor representing the ancient Egyptian god “Amun.”
This month, the restored sandstone statues were moved to Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square, the epicenter of a 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
“I am against the moving of Luxor monuments. I was especially saddened by their relocation,” legislator Ahmed Idris from the city told AFP.
“Luxor has long been like an open museum which should be developed and its monuments’ historical value are tied to the city,” said Idris.
The statues will be the square’s centerpieces, along with a 19-meter-tall (60-foot-tall) pink granite obelisk of the famed Ramses II.
The 3,000-year-old obelisk — of Ramses II facing an ancient deity as well as inscriptions of his titles — was moved from a Nile Delta archaeological site.
The relocations which came as part of government plans to renovate Tahrir Square have drawn wide criticism from archaeologists and activists.
Some petitioned President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to stop the transfer.
Others including lawyers from a rights group filed a lawsuit citing a 1964 Venice Charter on the conservation and restoration of monuments, saying the move could “jeopardize the priceless artefacts.”
Egypt signed the charter, adopted by UNESCO, in 1974.
A frenetically busy square, Tahrir in downtown Cairo has long been associated with blaring car horns, traffic jams and exhaust fumes.
It stands a short stroll away from the Egyptian Museum, a tourist magnet which holds a vast collection of precious relics.
A staging ground for major protests in Egypt, the square has undergone multiple phases of renovation since the 2011 uprising.
Its renovation plan includes unifying building facades, removing street advertisements and an overhaul of its lighting.
In December, El-Sisi said the transfer of artefacts would add “a touch of civilization” to the site.
But fears have grown over possible damage to the monuments.
“The high pollution in Tahrir Square will ruin the antiquities and accelerate their deterioration,” Egyptologist Monica Hanna said in a Facebook post in December.
“A monument’s value is diminished when removed from its original historical context and becomes an ornament rather than a monument,” she said.
Egyptian architect Ayman Badr has said the square does not need “to be adorned with historical elements” as it “already holds historical value.”
Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled Al-Anani has dismissed warnings that the monuments could be vandalized or be affected by pollution.
Ancient relics in Egyptian museums or public spaces often suffer damage by graffiti, engravings or just being frequently touched.
“No-one will be able to touch them. They will be placed on a high pedestal and surrounded by a water fountain,” Anani told a private television channel in March.
He said they would undergo regular restoration and maintenance.
The statues were not among those lined up on the famed Kebash (rams) avenue linking Karnak and Luxor temples, according to the minister.
Mahmoud Zaki, a tour guide from Luxor, also sided with those defending the transfers.
“We exhibit artefacts abroad for foreigners to enjoy... and now it’s a great honor that antiquities from Karnak temple adorn Egypt’s most popular square,” he told AFP.
An unveiling ceremony is planned but an official date has yet to be announced.
“It’s nonsensical that (Egyptian) obelisks could be found in public spaces across the world and none of them stands in Egypt’s most popular square,” said antiquities expert Ali Abu Deshish.


Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival
Updated 08 May 2021

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

Egypt to test visitors from countries with COVID-19 variants on arrival

CAIRO: Egypt will require all visitors arriving from “countries where variants of the virus have appeared” to take a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival, its health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The statement did not specify the countries from which passengers would take the 15-minute DNA test, called ID NOW.
Egypt’s new coronavirus cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Saturday it reported 1,125 new cases and 65 deaths, although experts say that reflects only a fraction of total cases.
In a statement on Saturday, Egypt’s tourism ministry clarified that restaurants and coffee shops attached to hotels were exempt from a recent decree that such outlets as well as malls and stores would close at 9 p.m. local time (GMT +2) in order to not affect tourism.


Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police
Updated 08 May 2021

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police

Medics: 200 Palestinians hurt in Al-Aqsa clashes with police
  • Clashes erupted when Israeli police deployed heavily as Muslims were performing evening prayers at Al-Aqsa

JERUSALEM: A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.
Nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place and have reignited in recent days over threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict.
It was unclear what set off the violence at Al-Aqsa, which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers at the sprawling hilltop esplanade.
Throughout the night large groups of protesters could be seen hurling rocks as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. At one point, the police entered one of the buildings in the complex, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the wounded were hospitalized. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 83 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, including three who were shot in the eye, two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws.
The Israeli police said protesters hurled stones, fireworks and other objects at them, wounding six officers who required medical treatment. “We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots and attacks on our forces,” it said in a statement late Friday.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Some 70,000 worshippers had attended the final midday Friday prayers of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, the Islamic endowment that oversees the site said. Thousands protested afterwards, waving the green flags of the Islamic militant group Hamas and chanting pro-Hamas slogans.
At the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Israel blocked off a popular gathering spot where Palestinians traditionally socialize at the end of their daylong fast. The move set off two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted the restrictions.
But in recent days, protests have grown over Israel's threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighborhood.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides to try and de-escalate tensions.
“It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” the US State Department said in a statement. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”
The European Union also urged calm. It said the potential evictions were of “serious concern," adding that such actions are "illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground.
Neighboring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has also condemned Israel's actions, as has the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel last year in a US-brokered deal.
Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days.
Sunday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa.
Sunday night is also the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital.


Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops
Updated 08 May 2021

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops

Drone attack on Iraqi base hosting US troops
  • The US accuses Iran-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A drone strike early on Saturday targeted a military base in Iraq that hosts US troops, causing only minor damage and no casualties, Iraq’s military and the US-led coalition said.
The pore-dawn attack damaged a hangar, tweeted coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto. He said the attack was under investigation. An Iraqi military statement also said no losses were reported.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The US has blamed Iran-backed militia groups for previous attacks, most of them rocket attacks that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq.
Drone strikes are less common. In mid-April, an explosive-laden drone targeted the military section of the international airport in Irbil, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region, causing no casualties or damages. The base also hosts US troops.
The attacks have been frequent since a US-directed drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a non-binding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country.
The Biden administration has resumed strategic talks with Baghdad, initiated under President Donald Trump, in which the future of US troop presence in Iraq is a central point of discussion.


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 08 May 2021

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 08 May 2021

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.