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)
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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.


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 40 min 14 sec ago

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.