A recent offer by Qatar to ‘rent’ Egypt’s national treasures in exchange for 200 billion US dollars has attracted harsh criticism from the Ministry of Antiquities, Egyptologists, activists, and the Egyptian population.
The Ministry of Antiquities, which rejected Qatar’s bid and the Ministry of Finance’s proposal, stated in a press release that Egypt will never accept the possibility of compromising or allowing the exploitation of its cultural heritage and civilization. Adel Abdel Sattar, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that it is impossible for Egypt to rent its monuments, “This is our heritage…our roots.”
The Ministry of Finance and high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood officials believed that the rental of Egypt’s treasures to Qatar or international companies would be a quick solution to Egypt’s financial woes. Egypt’s GDP is said to have dipped below 200 billion US dollars in 2013, and the funds generated from the rental of monuments would almost surely end the country’s financial crisis. In fact, renting the monuments for $200 billion would dwarf the $4.8 billion IMF loan that President Morsi and his government have been chasing after since late 2012.
The financial benefits are clear – Egypt’s economy and future can be saved. Other benefits include better management of Egypt’s historical sites (as I wrote in a previous article on the Pyramids, the management has been very poor since the revolution), the introduction of new ideas, and the potential to spread Egypt’s culture to a wider audience.
A widely shared cartoon in Egypt depicting President Morsi telling Qatar’s Emir “Choose the Pyramid that you like. If you buy two, you’ll get the third for free!”
Nevertheless, to what extent do any of those benefits outweigh the dignity and pride of Egypt?
The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World took over 15 years to construct and has remained standing for over 3,700 years. Throughout that time, the Pyramids and other historical sites have reflected Egypt’s pride and glory. Most importantly, Egypt’s national treasures have embodied the strength of the Egyptian people – they are a reminder that though Egypt has endured invasions, plagues, famine and other adversities, the Egyptian people have always prevailed.
Millions of foreign tourists flock to Egypt, hoping to stand in the shadows of the monolithic statues of Pharoah Ramsees II at Abu Simbel. Egyptologists have spent thousands of hours studying detailed paintings on the inner-walls of Egyptian monuments that reveal the daily-life scenes of ancient Egyptians. Tourists come to experience Egypt’s culture, traditions, and its treasures. They flock to museums across the globe whenever ancient Egyptian exhibitions are launched. In schools around the world, children are taught about the great ancient Egyptian civilization.
Yet, in just seven months of being in power, President Morsi and his incompetent Islamist government want to sell Egypt’s civilization to the highest bidder.
The Pyramids, Abu Simbel, and other historic sites are the Egyptian people’s source of inspiration. Taking that away would wipe out any hope for a better future.