48-year-old Khaled Elanani, Minister of Antiquities of Egypt, on Thursday attended a media event at the Embassy of Egypt in Beijing to deliver a lecture on new archaeological discoveries and extend willingness to enhance cultural cooperation with China in the future.
Elanani presented new discoveries of archaeological research including recently unearthed mummified animals, significant for the two young lion corpses which were included. Previously a tour guide, Elanani hopes to attract more Chinese tourists to Egypt by promoting Egyptian civilization and heritage. New museums are under construction and being decorated to improve the effectiveness of displays. More tourist sites have also been opened, including the Tomb of Mehu in Saqqara and the Opet Temple at Karnak.
He noted that Egypt and China have many cultural similarities as two great civilizations, not least that the two are tasked with retrieving looted relics. Both countries have made immense efforts to repatriate lost artifacts. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, over 150,000 artifacts have been returned to the nation. Egypt returned smuggled paper currencies and vouchers dating back to the early 20th century to China in 2017. Elanani revealed that 1,163 relics and 21,660 ancient coins have been repatriated to Egypt over the last three years. He expressed his hope that the two countries could work together to return lost relics to their home countries.
He said he was amazed by China’s heritage-preservation efforts and admires the fact that there are over 5,000 museums in China – and that the National Museum of China alone can attract about 8 million visitors every year. There are new, big discoveries in China almost every week. “We are competing with each other,” Elanani said. “We are very happy that each day we know better and more about our civilizations.”
The outcomes of archaeological projects come from scholars and researchers who work meticulously at heritage sites. Elanani called them “Indiana Jones.” Field researchers come from all over the world. In recent years, Egypt has embarked on 340 cooperative missions with 25 countries. Chinese team joined one such project in November 2018. Elanani said he looks forward to more applications from Chinese research centers and universities to work on the discovery of new information about civilization.
Luo Lin, a professor of Arabic language and culture studies, told the Global Times that Egyptian relics are well known to Chinese people and many museums in China are willing to hold themed exhibitions for their display. He added that he hopes more precious relics of higher standards can be put on display for Chinese audiences.
Elanani noted that negotiations were underway with the National Museum of China for a temporary exhibition. During his visit to China, he has also met with the president of Peking University to work on exchange projects in academic and research fields.
By Liu Zhongyin