CAIRO: The archaeological season in Egypt started rather later this year. What with the heat of the summer continuing unabated until almost October and then the holy month of Ramadan falling immediately after that, we have seen a somewhat staggered start to the usual round of digging, surveying and research.
This may lead you to think that news of discoveries may be thin on the ground, fortunately for us that is not true.
Some recent announcements are of course the results of work carried out before the summer break and a number of hardy souls do continue working throughout the intense summer heat in Egypt. This of course includes workers of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) who, apart from their normal summer break, continue their work unabated.
In recent weeks we have seen news from the world of museums. A new museum has been constructed in Rosetta in the Beheira governorate and after extensive restoration the Royal Jewelry museum in Alexandria is to be inaugurated by First Lady Suzanne Mubarak.
With more museums planned to open or re-open in the winter and early spring of 2009, the museum sector of the SCA is one to watch. Late summer would also see the return of several important pieces of Egypt’s culture heritage, a joint international plan to conserve the Baron Palace launched, the formal backing of UNESCO for the simply amazing underwater museum in Alexandria, the news that Egyptian archaeologists have possibly unearthed the remains of a 3,000-year-old temple belonging to the Pharaoh Ramses II and, most recently, the amazing announcement of the discovery of a new pyramid in Saqqara.
The return of the overseas archaeologists to Egypt this year was kicked off with a conference held by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) at the Cairo Hilton from Oct. 26-29. The conference was organized with the support of the Delegation of the European Committee in Egypt and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Cairo, held during this year of European Intercultural Dialogue.
However, it must be said that the dialogue between cultures around the Mediterranean is not a new phenomenon, somehow invented at the time the European Union was established or the Barcelona process was started. On the contrary, people from regions around the Mediterranean have been in contact with each other since prehistory, as is becoming increasingly clear from the results of the latest archaeological research.
Whether the Mediterranean can be seen as an entity deserving research in its own right has recently become the topic of discussion. In the light of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the NVIC decided the time was right to organize a conference in Cairo dealing with intercultural contacts in the region. This was the first international conference addressing this topic in a southern Mediterranean country.
During the conference, a panel exhibition illustrating Egypt s contacts with the ancient Mediterranean was opened at the Egyptian Museum, which will be on display throughout the months of November and December.