ROME – Anyone calling the museum inside the Egyptian Academy in Rome to learn about its opening hours will receive the same answer: ‘We are sorry, the Egyptian museum has closed’. Employees also explained that ‘the artifacts have gone back. It was a temporary exhibit’. The museum’s artwork has been packed and taken back to Egypt, though it is still unclear where, in a without any clamour. This means that, for now, 200 original pieces of art mostly coming from the Egyptian museum in Tahrir square in the capital, are gone. They were brought to the Italian capital by ex-culture Minister Farouk Hosni after the renovation of the historic Egyptian cultural institution founded in 1929.
Back in 2010, the first Egyptian Museum in the capital was inaugurated with a lot of publicity by then-premier Silvio Berlusconi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
It is difficult to know why the unique art from the Pharaonic, Greek-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras of which Rome was so proud has been shipped off to Egypt. According to Egyptian media, the decision was taken directly by the culture ministry with the objective of helping save Egypt’s debt-ridden public finances. The new minister Alaa Abdel Aziz, according to the local Mena news agency, ordered the artifacts back in his efforts to raise money. Abdel Aziz was quoted as saying that since its inauguration ‘the ministry has paid for all maintenance costs of the museum without benefiting from ticket sale revenues’. Access to the museum, however, has always been free not only to students and scholars but to all visitors. The Academy’s director, Gihane Zaki, said that ‘the exhibit of findings was temporary. Ever since its inception, the project provided for the art on show in Rome to return to Egypt after three years’.