During the 55th edition of the Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF), a symposium titled "Reclaiming Egyptian Antiquities" was held in the main hall, under the theme of "Out to the Light."
The symposium featured talks by archaeologist and former Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, and Ambassador Omar Selim, the grandson of Egyptian archaeologist and exhibition figure, Selim Hassan.
Hawass spoke about his journey in recovering looted antiquities that were found outside the country. He explained that after 2011, 54 simple antiquities were stolen from the Egyptian Museum, but they were all recovered. Each piece has a funny story in its recovery, knowing that the British Museum was stolen, of which 2000 pieces.
Hawass shared that when he was in charge of antiquities, he created a system to preserve and recover them. The first step in implementing the system was to take an inventory of all the stores because antiquities thieves had reached the point of digging under the stores and stealing treasures, including papyri that had been smuggled outside the country. He built 50 museum stores in cooperation with the armed forces, and these warehouses saved Egyptian antiquities.
Hawass reviewed the number of antiquities recovered by the Supreme Committee of Antiquities at the time of his appointment, which reached 6,000 antiquities. He also recounted the story of the "Can Ever" mask that he found on display at the St. Louis Museum in America.
He said that he had contacted Internal Security and demanded the return of several valuable items, including the mask, the head of Nefertiti, the Rosetta Stone, and the planetarium. He emphasized the urgency of returning these treasures to Egypt and referred to an international museum that had already returned stolen Egyptian antiquities that are now on display. However, most of the items that have been recovered to date have come from private individuals or auctions dedicated to selling antiquities.
Hawass pointed out that the members of the recovery committee are mostly employees, and therefore, specialized members and experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Antiquities should also be involved. Ambassador Omar Selim, the grandson of Dr. Selim Hassan, added that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry plays an active role in recovering looted antiquities. They follow up on cases filed against antiquities smugglers and work with the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute them.