A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, January 24, 2014

Collateral Damage: Islamic Art Museum and Old Dar al-Kutub Damaged in Police Bombing

Museum Facade Damage (Ahram)
Today's massive car bombing at Cairo's Central Police Headquarters in Bab al-Khalq also apparently did significant damage to two key repositories of Egypt's heritage across the street: the Museum of Islamic Art and the old building of the National Library and Archives (Dar al-Kutub), shich houses many of the Library's rare manuscripts and papyri. (The Library has another building along the Nile.)

[Update: This photo gallery at Egyptian Streets suggests the damage to the recently renovated museum is really devastating. More as it becomes available.]

Ahram Online:
TV footage showed wrecked floors of the multi-storey building and a damaged facade of the nearby Museum of Islamic Art. The minister of state for antiquities told journalists in a statement after touring the site that some artefacts and items inside the museum had also been damaged. He said the 19th-century museum building, which was recently rennovated in a multimillion-dollar project, will need to be "rebuilt." Photos show that the building's roof has caved in, floors are covered with shattered glass and wood debris, and the display cases housing the museum artefacts have been smashed.
Library Damage (Ahram)
Another Ahram Online piece on the Dar al-Kutub:
The car bomb which gutted Cairo's central police headquarters early on Friday morning has also caused severe structural damage to Egypt's National Library and Archives (NLA), located across the street from the security directorate targeted in the blast.

Minister of Culture Saber Arab told Ahram Online that all the NLA's lighting and ventilation systems were completely destroyed, while the decorative facade, representative of Islamic architectural styles, had collapsed. He added that all showcases and furniture inside the building had also been badly damaged.
NLA head Abdul Nasser Hassan told Ahram Online that seven unique manuscripts and three rare scientific papyri had also been damaged. Hassan estimated that the losses will cost the government at least LE50 million in repairs.
Let me also share a memory from back in the late 1970s of the Police Headquarters building at Bab al-Khalq. I spent a lot of time among Cairo's medieval monuments on foot, and whenever I was headed to the Bab Zuwaila or Darb al-Ahmar areas, I would walk via Bab al-Khalq, passing right by the fortress-like police station. I remember that the rear of the building contained high, barred windows and apparently contained holding cells; there would always be wives out back, shouting up at their jailed spouses. Later visits to Cairo never took me back to Bab al-Khalq, I don't think.

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