Egypt seeks enhancing archaeological cooperation with China


Jia Xiaobing, head of the Chinese archaeological mission in Egypt, addresses the launching ceremony of a joint Egyptian-Chinese archeological mission at the Temple of Montu in Luxor, Egypt, November 29, 2018. (Photo: Xinhua)

Egypt is looking to enhance archaeological cooperation with China after a team of Chinese experts began restoration work at an ancient temple in Luxor last year, an Egyptian minister said.

The Chinese mission from the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) started work on a joint project at the site of the Temple of Montu, north of the famous Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor, in October 2018.

"The first Chinese archaeological mission in Egypt started work last year and I hope it is only the beginning for a big number of similar Chinese missions in Egypt," Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anany said in an interview to China's Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

gypt, known for its rich ancient past, hosts close to 250 international missions on a number of excavation sites across the country.

China became the latest country to enter the country's archaeological field after CASS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities in October last year during Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan's visit to the country. Among those present at the signing ceremony in Cairo was Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

According to the MoU, signed by Anany and Chen Xingcan, director of the Institute of Archaeology at CASS, the two countries will strengthen cooperation in the archaeological field, the training of archaeologists and museologists, and increase archaeological awareness among both Egyptian and Chinese citizens, Egypt's Al Ahram English-language newspaper reported.

"We have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with CASS and we are very optimistic for very fruitful cooperation between the two countries in archaeology," Anany told Xinhua.

A month after the MoU, a team of seven Chinese archaeologists from CASS joined their three Egyptian counterparts in the restoration project of the ancient temple dedicated to the eagle-headed Egyptian god of war.

The Temple of Montu is believed to have been built in the 14th century BCE. For decades, the site has remained abandoned, hidden under grass and wild shrubs. The five-year Chinese mission hopes to restore the temple to its original glory and open the site for tourists. 

'Very good plan'

The Egyptian minister said that the Chinese mission has finished its first season, which is mainly a preparatory stage in the project. The Chinese team, along with Egyptian counterparts, is expected to start the reassembly and restoration works of some of the scattered pieces and ruins of Temple of Montu in the coming season, he added.

The Chinese team “had a very good plan, first to get rid of the wild grasses. Two, to make a sort of documentation of Montu Temple. Number three to have a site plan for the entire area,” Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who has been overseeing the Sino Egyptian archaeological cooperation, told CGTN last month.

“They are coming in a couple of months to continue work there. So far they are doing such great work at Montu temple," Waziri said praising the efforts of the Chinese mission.

Describing the Egyptian-Chinese relations as "exceptional," Anany expressed hope that they will be equally distinguished in the field of archaeology.

Echoing the Egyptian minister's remarks, Waziri told CGTN that Cairo would welcome more Chinese archaeological missions to work in the country, also stressing that such projects could benefit China in the long run as archaeologists try to unearth ancient monuments from the Chinese civilization.

China, in recent years, has expanded its archaeological horizon and has undertaken joint missions in another Middle Eastern country, Saudi Arabia.

Last December, a joint China-Saudi underwater exploration unveiled the ruins of Al Serrian port, an important pilgrim-trade port in ancient times by the Red Sea.