There are organised heritage mafias working in Egypt and this is not new. This means that the damage to their cultural heritage is astonishing during the last two years. These gangs target objects to loot, as well as snatching land of archaeological importance. In addition, the dire economic circumstances in poor Egyptian villages have intensified the looting activities, either through villagers taking matters into their own hands or through their supplying the organised mafia with men to work for a wage under heavy machine guns. The international demand for Egyptian objects form Ancient Egyptian, Coptic, Islamic and modern periods has always been very high. New markets have opened in the Persian Gulf, Eastern Europe and the Far East with a taste for anything Egyptian but let’s not forget the huge US informal art market.
The government bodies tasked with the protection of heritage in Egypt have been bad in combatting such crimes. Objects have been looted from museums or are rumoured to have been exchanged with fake copies. The Mallawi National Museum in Upper Egypt was ransacked in August, with more than 1000 objects destroyed or stolen. many museum inventories were not thoroughly compiled in the past, those at the Museum of Islamic Art have not been updated since the 1960s, so objects were easily able to go missing. Seven items remain unaccounted for from its collection. The situation is bad and no one seems to be doing anything about it. Just a thought.
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