Egyptian Leaders Trade Archaeological Heritage for Political Gain

Former presidents all offered various treasures to international recipients

Published on 13 October 2012

Author(s): Cultural Property & Archaeology Law/Kimberly Alderman

Type:  Blog Originally posted 9 Oct 2012

Recently, reports have surfaced that former Egyptian presidents have been trading Egyptian antiquities for political gain.

Dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels at Mansoura University, Sobhi Atiya, claims that former Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar Al-Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak all offered various treasures from the Egyptian Museum to international recipients such as former United States President Richard Nixon.

According to Atiya, “if they [foreign presidents] admired an artifact on display in the Egyptian Museum, it disappeared from its showcase.” In the 1970’s alone, over 100 Egyptian antiquities disappeared from the Egyptian museum. Among others, these antiquities were given to president Nixon of the United States, emperor Reza Haplavi of Iran, and US foreign affairs minister Henry Kissinger. The most notorious of such cases occurred in 2011, when a 48-piece collection vanished from the museum. The investigation into the disappearance was closed before any details could be brought to light.

Former legal consultant at the Ministry of State for Antiquities Judge Achraf Al-Achmawi not only confirmed Atiya’s statements, but also explained that all Egyptian laws and regulations concerning antiquities and passed before Law 117/1982 actually encouraged smuggling and illicit trade. Al-Achmawi also pointed out that antiquities trading in Egypt experienced significant growth between 1912 and 1951 under Law 14/1912, which made trading in archaeological heritage legal.


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