Egypt on Sunday said it aimed to retrieve a 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti from Germany for the opening of a history museum near the Great Pyramids in 2012, despite Berlin s resistance.
The director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, told German newsweekly Der Spiegel in an issue to be published Monday that he would formally request a three-month loan of the priceless limestone sculpture.
If Berlin denies this wish, we will change our tune, Hawass warned, saying Egypt could potentially ally with countries such as China, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Syria and Iraq to put together a wish list of artifacts that we would like returned from abroad .
Hawass said Germany had not acquired the Nefertiti bust legally, and that Egypt had been cheated into handing it over, which is why he said Cairo had insisted on its repatriation for decades.
Even Adolf Hitler did not at first object to early calls for its return. But regardless of whether Nefertiti s stay in Berlin is legal or illegal, the Egyptian people have the right to be able to admire their ancient queen face-to-face, he said.
He said, however, that Germany had nothing to fear if it agreed to a loan of the sculpture, which will be formally requested in a letter to Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.
I cannot understand this concern at all. We respect all our contracts and agreements – after all, we are not living in the 12th century. Of course the bust would go back to Germany after three months, Hawass said.
Neumann and the Altes Museum in Berlin have rejected Cairo s calls for a loan, saying Nefertiti was too delicate and valuable to be transported – claims Hawass sharply dismissed.
I cannot believe that a responsible decision-maker such as Minister Neumann would express such unfriendly and irresponsible views and threaten the scientific cooperation between Germany and Egypt, he said.
Cairo and Berlin have frequently locked horns over the bust, which was unearthed by German archeologists in an artist s studio on the banks of the Nile and taken to Germany under a 1913 agreement.