Should Egypt give up the fight for artefacts in foreign museums?


It is not in Egypt’s interest to lobby for the return of artefacts in foreign museums, says Mamdouh al-Damaty, the country’s antiquities minister from 2014 to 2016. He sees these objects as ambassadors for Egypt that encourage interest in the country, and says that the majority of them were exported legally. Al-Damaty’s statements, reported in the Egypt Independent newspaper, are in stark contrast to his predecessors, notably Zahi Hawass, who aggressively campaigned for the return of objects in foreign institutions. (The Rosetta Stone in London’s British Museum and Nefertiti’s bust in the Neues Museum in Berlin were among those on his “wish list”.) This u-turn in thinking may have to do with the government’s efforts to revive tourism, which has slumped following the 2011 revolution.