Tunisia seeks to block online auction of royal artefacts

Members of the honour guard stand at attention during a flag raising in place of Kasba in Tunis, Tunisia, June 26, 2018. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Tunisia seeks to block online auction of royal artefacts

  • They are due to go under the hammer in an online June 11 sale organized by a Paris auction house

TUNIS: The head of Tunisia’s National Heritage Institute urged authorities Tuesday to block the sale of royal artefacts at an auction in France, saying they were spirited out of the country.
More than 100 objects “of huge historical value were taken out of the country without any official authorization in the second half of March, in the midst of the (coronavirus) lockdown,” Faouzi Mahfoudh said.
“They don’t belong to any state museum. It’s private property,” the head of the National Heritage Institute told AFP.
They include an ancient Qur'an which belonged to Mohamed el-Moncef Bey, one of the last representatives of the Husseinite monarchy that ruled Tunisia from 1705 until its independence from France in 1957, Mahfoudh said.
Also in the lot is the original copy of a reference book on the Husseinite monarchy written by 19th century Tunisian historian and politician Ahmed ibn Abi Dhiaf.
Among the 114 objects are ceremonial apparel from the start of the 20th century, religious manuscripts, poetry books and official correspondence.
They are due to go under the hammer in an online June 11 sale organized by the Paris-based Coutau-Bégarie auction house.
“The authorities must do what is needed to stop this sale because these objects have a priceless value and are part of the country’s history,” said Mahfoudh.
He said that authorities on Tuesday had launched an investigation to determine how the artefacts were smuggled out of Tunisia.
Mahfoudh said the National Heritage Institute had only found out on Sunday that the objects had left Tunisia without authorization.
“I will not cede these objects to anyone for all the money in the world,” Mahfoudh said.
The National Heritage Institute is also planning on submitting an official complaint to the state prosecutor, he said.


Egypt PM visits Sudan as Nile dam talks stall

Updated 50 sec ago

Egypt PM visits Sudan as Nile dam talks stall

  • The GERD has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011
  • Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat to vital water supplies

KHARTOUM: Egypt’s prime minister arrived in Sudan on Saturday on a visit aiming to “improve cooperation” between the two neighbors, officials said, amid tensions over Ethiopia’s Nile dam.
It is Mostafa Madbouli’s first official visit to Sudan since the formation of a transitional government in Khartoum in 2019.
“The aim of this visit is to improve cooperation between the two countries in various fields,” the office of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in a statement.
Madbouli’s delegation includes Egypt’s ministers of water and irrigation, electricity, health, and trade and industry.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.
Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it crucial for its electrification and development.
Talks between the three countries were suspended last week after Addis Ababa insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.
Sudan on Monday said negotiations had been postponed for a week.
During his visit, Madbouli is also expected to meet with General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, council deputy chief and military general.