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Cairo Islamic Art Museum Bombing

Ancient Islamic art decimated in latest Egypt bombings

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Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art —home to more than 100,000 priceless artefacts that comprise one of the world's most important collections of its kind—was significantly damaged in a suicide car bomb attack early Friday morning outside police headquarters across the street.  The blast was the first of four that rocked the Egyptian capital today, reportedly killing at least six people and injuring more than 90.

The first bomb blasted out all the windows of the museum and ripped into the facade of the two-story building, obliterating many of the ancient artefacts inside.  Ceilings collapsed inside the museum, smashing many of the display cases and damaging the objects they held.

Although the full extent of damage is unknown, cultural heritage experts have said that centuries-old glass and porcelain pieces were smashed to powder, a priceless wooden prayer niche was destroyed, manuscripts were soaked by water spraying out from broken pipes, and other artefacts “have been turned to dust”.

Experts scrambled to try to save thousands of priceless treasures as ceilings crumbled in the 19th-century building, which had just undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation and will now need to be total rebuilt.

According to its official website, the museum houses works from the 7th-century pre-Islamic era to the end of the 19th century. The collection included one of the rarest copies of the Koran, a gold-inlaid key to the sacred Kaaba (the building that houses the black stone kissed by Mohammed) in Mecca, a water fountain made of coloured mosaic which dates back to the 13th-16th century Mamluk era, Ottoman-era ceramics, Persian carpets, ancient scientific instruments, a dozen glass mosque lamps from the 14th and 15th centuries, ancient coins, jewellery, manuscripts, marble carvings and wood work.  Among other destroyed treasures were glass pieces dating back to 750 AD, including an ornate pot of a rare type of glass believed to be pioneered by the early Egyptians.

Minister of State for Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, described the destruction as a "great loss" for Egypt and the world.

Abdel-Moaz Abdel-Salam, a local resident, summed up the extent of the tragedy: "Look at this. The history of the country! Look what happened to it. This is the history of Egypt… We can easily rebuild the security headquarters. But how can we rebuild this?"

By April Holloway

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