Egypt announced Wednesday that it had retrieved some 5,000 ancient items from the United States, after years of negotiations to return what it said were fraudulently acquired items.
In a statement, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities confirmed the “arrival at Cairo airport of a large number of ancient Egyptian items which had been in the possession of the Museum of the Bible in Washington”.
The items, totalling nearly 5,000, mainly consisted of manuscripts, but also included funeral masks, parts of coffins and the heads of stone statues, said Chaabane Abdeljawad, an official quoted in the statement.
The items, which left Egypt in a fraudulent manner, would be placed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, the statement added.
It was not clear how the items left Egypt illegally or ended up at the museum in Washington, but Egyptian authorities negotiated their return over several years.
Many treasured items were damaged, destroyed or illegally whisked out of the country during the popular uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Egypt has registered over 160,000 novel coronavirus infections, including nearly 9,000 deaths.
Health officials have warned that low testing rates mean the real number could be at least 10 times higher.
Zayed said Cairo had inked deals to receive vaccine shipments from British, Chinese and Russian firms, for a total of around 100 million doses.
Earlier this month, the minister said Egypt would receive 40 million doses, mostly of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab, via the Gavi vaccine alliance, with the aim of inoculating 20 percent of its population.
Zayed said Sunday that the North African country was also working on producing a vaccine locally, with a view to distributing it to the rest of the continent, without providing details on which vaccine.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Africa was “in danger of being left behind as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals, driving up prices”.
“I am reassuring the Egyptian people they will receive the vaccine, but I reiterate the vaccine is not a substitute for staying vigilant in terms of health precautions, including wearing masks,” the minister said.
Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79 percent effective against the novel coronavirus.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles began vaccinating its population against the coronavirus earlier this month, the first African nation to do so.
Egypt unveiled Sunday ancient treasures found at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo, including sarcophagi over 3,000 years old, a discovery that “rewrites history”, according to famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass.
Saqqara is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to more than a dozen pyramids, ancient monasteries, and animal burial sites.
A team headed by Hawass made the finds near the pyramid of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
More than 50 wooden sarcophagi dating to the New Kingdom (16th century BC to 11th century BC) were found in a burial shaft.
“This discovery re-writes the history of Saqqara and more specifically the history of the New Kingdom, which began 3,000 years ago,” Hawass told AFP on Sunday.
He said his team had discovered a total of 22 shafts.
“One of the coffins belonged to a soldier. We found the axe that he used to fight,” Hawass said.
A stone sarcophagus was also found, he added, as well as “a papyrus around five metres long containing the 17th chapter of the book of the dead… masks, wooden boats, games the ancient Egyptians used to play”.
The games, known as Senet and Game 20, he said, were placed in the tombs so the dead could play on in the afterlife.
Egypt announced Saturday the discovery of a new trove of treasures at the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, including an ancient funerary temple.
The tourism and antiquities ministry said the “major discoveries” made by a team of archaeologists headed by famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass also included more than 50 sarcophagi.
The wooden sarcophagi, which date back to the New Kingdom, were found in 52 burial shafts at depths of 10 to 12 meters (40 feet), the ministry said in a statement.
It quoted Hawass as saying that the “funerary temple of Queen Naert, the wife of King Teti” as well as three warehouses made of bricks were found on the site.
Saqqara, home to more than a dozen pyramids, ancient monasteries, and animal burial sites, is a vast necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In November, Egypt announced the discovery of more than 100 intact sarcophagi, in the largest such find of the year.
The sealed wooden coffins, unveiled alongside statues of ancient deities, dated back to more than 2,500 years and belonged to top officials of the Late Period and the Ptolemaic period of ancient Egypt.
At the time, Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anani predicted that “Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents.”
In the statement released Saturday, Hawass said the latest discovery could shed new light on the history of Saqqara during the New Kingdom, between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC.
The discovery was made near the pyramid where King Teti, the first pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, is buried.
Egypt hopes archaeological discoveries will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple shocks, from a 2011 uprising to today’s coronavirus pandemic.
Later this year, and after several delays, authorities hope to inaugurate a new museum — the Grand Egyptian Museum — at the Giza plateau, home to the famed Giza pyramids.
There has been a flurry of excavations in recent years in Saqqara, home to the step pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest built in ancient Egypt.
An Egyptian appeals court on Tuesday acquitted two young women imprisoned for “attacking society’s values” over videos they published on TikTok, a court official said.
“The court of appeal accepted the appeal filed by Haneen Hossam and Mawada Al-Adham against their imprisonment… on charges of incitement to debauchery and attacking society’s values,” the official said, asking not to be named.
The women had been sentenced to two years in prison in July 2020 for “breaching public morals”.
Hossam had been arrested in April after posting a video on TikTok, telling her 1.3 million subscribers that girls could work with her for money.
She was accused of “inciting debauchery”, “attacking public morals” and “human trafficking”.
Al-Adham, who has some two million Instagram followers, was also arrested in May after publishing satirical videos.
They are among a dozen “influencers” arrested in 2020 for “breaching public morals” in the conservative country.
The board of the International Monetary Fund on Friday approved the release of a second tranche of aid valued at $1.67 billion for Egypt, saying public debt and Covid-19 threatened its economic recovery.
In June, the board approved a one-year, $5.2 billion financing package for Egypt. With the latest disbursement, more than $3.6 billion will have been released.
“The Egyptian authorities have managed well the Covid-19 pandemic and the related disruption to economic activity,” Antoinette Sayeh, the IMF deputy managing director, said.
“There are still risks to the outlook particularly as a second wave of the pandemic increases uncertainty about the pace of the domestic and global recovery.
“The high level of public debt and gross financing needs also leave Egypt vulnerable to volatility in global financial conditions.”
The IMF carried out a virtual mission to Egypt last month and then announced an agreement in principle for the release of the second tranche, which has now been approved by the board of directors.
Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday that there had been some progress to resolve the Gulf crisis which has pitted a regional group of nations against his country.
Saudi led its allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt — to cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of backing radical Islamist movements and Iran, charges Doha denies.
They subsequently forced out Qataris residing in their countries, closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and sealed their borders and ports, separating some mixed-nationality families.
“We have achieved certain progress at a certain point of time more than a year ago, and then things have slowed,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at the Mediterranean Dialogues forum in Rome.
“Right now, there are some movements that we hope will put an end (to) this crisis,” he said without giving details.
“We believe that Gulf unity is very important for the security of the region. This needless crisis needs to end based on mutual respect.”
US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is reported to have raised the Gulf crisis and pushed for progress towards ending the spat during a visit to Qatar Wednesday.
Few details have been made public about Kushner’s trip, which could have been his last chance to press diplomatic issues in the region that has been a focal point for the outgoing Trump administration.
Saudi Arabia’s closure of its airspace has forced Qatar Airways aircraft to fly over Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival and long-time adversary of Washington, paying significant overflight fees to Tehran in the process.
The New York Times has reported that Qatar pays $100 million annually to fly over the Islamic republic, citing diplomatic sources.
US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in November that allowing Qatari planes to fly over Saudi Arabia via an “air bridge” was a priority for the outgoing Trump administration.
Qatar has repeatedly said it is open to talks without preconditions, though has not signalled publicly it would compromise on the 13 demands of the boycotting countries.
Past mediation efforts led by Kuwait have yielded no results.
Egyptian authorities will deport seven #EndSARS protesters for lack of resident permits and visas.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) confirmed this on Monday evening in a series of tweets on its handle.
“The Egyptian authorities have said that seven out of the eight #ENDSARS Nigerians who protested in Egypt on October 18, will be deported to Nigeria for lack of resident permits/visas,” the series of tweets began.
According to the Chairman of the NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the “only Nigerian among them who has residency permit will get final clearance from the Egyptian Interior Minister, Mahmoud Tawfik after signing an undertaking not to be involved in any unauthorised activities while still in the country.”
The NIDCOM boss noted that the Nigerian mission in Egypt is still pleading for leniency on behalf of the seven Nigerians billed for deportation.
She, however, denied the allegation that the Federal government of Nigeria is involved in the Nigerians’ arrest, explaining that the Nigerians were not arrested at the Nigerian Embassy but at another location.
The agency noted that the Nigerian Mission in Cairo has had extensive deliberations with the Cairo Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior and the Diplomatic Police, explaining further that the eight detained Nigerians – four men and four women – were assured of decent treatment while in detention.
She further appealed to Nigerians abroad to be good ambassadors of the country by obeying the laws of their respective host nations and equally commended Nigerians in the diaspora who have conducted themselves in a disciplined and peaceful manner during the protest for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
Archaeologists in Egypt said Saturday they had found 59 well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins over recent weeks that were buried more than 2,500 years ago.
Opening one of the ornately decorated sarcophagi before assembled media, the team revealed mummified remains wrapped in burial cloth that bore hieroglyphic inscriptions in bright colours.
The dramatic find was unearthed south of Cairo in the sprawling burial ground of Saqqara, the necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“We are very happy about this discovery,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Since the find of the first 13 coffins was announced almost three weeks ago, more have been discovered in shafts at depths of up to 12 metres (40 feet).
An unknown number of additional coffins may still lie buried there, the tourism and antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, said at the site, near the 4,700-year-old pyramid of Djoser.
“So today is not the end of the discovery, I consider it the beginning of the big discovery,” he said.
The coffins, sealed more than 2,500 years ago, date back to the Late Period of ancient Egypt, from about the sixth or seventh century BC, the minister added.
Excavations in Saqqara have in recent years unearthed troves of artefacts as well as mummified snakes, birds, scarab beetles and other animals.
The discovery of the coffins is the first major announcement since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Egypt, which led to the closure of museums and archaeological sites for around three months from late March.
Dozens of statues were also found in the area including a bronze figurine depicting Nefertem, an ancient god of the lotus blossom.
Preliminary studies indicated the sarcophagi likely belonged to priests, senior statesman, and prominent figures in the ancient Egyptian society of the 26th dynasty, Anani said.
All the coffins would be taken to the soon-to-be-opened Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza plateau, he added.
They would be placed opposite a hall hosting 32 other sealed sarcophagi for priests from the 22nd dynasty, which were found last year in the southern city of Luxor.
The opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which has been delayed several times, is planned for 2021.
The museum will host thousands of artefacts, spanning multiple eras of Egypt’s history, from the pre-dynastic to the Greco-Roman period.
Egypt hopes a flurry of archaeological finds in recent years and the Grand Egyptian Museum will boost its vital tourism sector, which has suffered multiple shocks since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, most recently the pandemic.
The sports ministry said Wednesday it has referred a probe into a missing African Cup of Nations trophy which Egypt has possessed since 2010 to the prosecutor general after a string of explosive allegations.
“The ministry of youth and sports has referred the file of the loss of some important silverware from the warehouses of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) to the prosecutor general,” it said in a brief statement on its Facebook page.
The investigation was launched last week when celebrated ex-national goalkeeper Ahmed Shobair said the EFA found that the gold trophy, along with other awards from previous tournaments, had gone missing.
Officials were preparing to inaugurate a museum showcasing Egypt’s football memorabilia in time for the EFA’s centenary when the loss was realised, Shobair said on his popular talkshow.
Another former football hero Magdy Abdelghani, along with the EFA, waded into the debate suggesting ex-national team players and coaches Ahmed Hassan and Shawky Gharib knew of the 2010 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy’s whereabouts.
But former football officials said it was looted during a fire in 2013 caused by protesters, known as the Ultras, at the EFA headquarters in Cairo.
The accusations prompted the sports ministry and EFA to kick off investigations that have been closely monitored by Egypt’s legions of fervent football fans.
Hassan and Gharib have both dismissed any link to the disappearance.
The continent’s football governing body, the Confederation of African Football, said Sunday it had “learnt with shock reports of missing AFCON trophies from the Egyptian Football Association secretariat”.
“Our doors are open and the @EFA can count on our support in the search for the priceless memorabilia,” it tweeted.
Egypt was allowed to keep the trophy on a permanent basis — with a new cup made — after the dominant run of the “Pharaohs”, as the national team is known, winning three titles in a row, in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Egypt is the most successful country in Africa Cup of Nations history, having won the trophy a total of seven times since 1957.
But the Pharaohs were knocked out at the last-16 stage last year when Egypt hosted the biennial tournament.