Fruitful collaboration with Prince Clause Fund in rescuing cultural heritage in four Arab countries

This collaboration will not only safeguard irreplaceable heritage; it has trained heritage rescuers in the region and is giving them the chance to put their knowledge into practice. It will go a long way in helping communities understand their traditions and saving history that would otherwise be lost! ”

-          Deborah Stolk, Coordinator Cultural Emergency Response, Prince Claus Fund

Projects in Libya and Iraq are working with local organisations

The Cultural Emergency Response (CER) programme of the Prince Claus Fund in collaboration with the regional conservation centre ICCROM-ATHAR, has begun projects to safeguard cultural heritage in four countries.

In Libya, work is underway to restore the iconic Qishlah, which dates from the late 19th century and has served various functions and masters since. The complex has been badly damaged by recent fighting and decades of neglect. Work has already begun to strengthen structures at risk of collapsing and to clean up the area, as well as to develop a plan for full restoration.

In Iraq, the University library of Mosul was completely destroyed when jihadists invaded the city. Books and publications have been donated from around the world to restock the university’s collection, but there was no safe place to house them. A joint Prince Claus Fund-ICCROM-ATHAR project is providing safe storage facilities and making the new collection accessible. Shelves for books, chairs, tables and other needed furniture, computers, printers and photocopiers are all contributing to local pride and spirited efforts to rebuild the nation’s most important library.

In January, two more projects were approved that will safeguard heritage and engage local populations.

In Egypt, the al-Sharaybi Hammam, a traditional bathhouse dating from the Mamluk period was named a World Heritage Site in 1979.  It is one of only two medieval hammams left in the historic city of Cairo. Closed in the 1980s and badly neglected since, it now poses several grave dangers to the surrounding neighbourhood. The structure is very unstable and collapse would damage surrounding buildings and shops. Moreover, accumulated waste is a major fire hazard. The Prince Claus Fund-ICCROM-ATHAR grant will enable the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF) to carry out a structure analysis, stabilize the building and remove the waste. In addition, workshops will be organised to engage the local community in reducing fire risk and addressing the ongoing need for structural maintenance.

In Sudan, the Prince Claus Fund-ICCROM-ATHAR grant will enable the Sudanese National Corporation for Antiquities and Monuments to strengthen security, preserve collections and improve storage and display conditions for the collections of three regional museums.

In Omdurman, Sudan’s second largest city, Al Khalifa House was built in 1860 as the residence of the Kalifa and the administrative headquarters of the Mahdi State. It is now an ethnographic museum that contains artefacts from a period of nationalism documenting the struggle against Ottoman, and later Anglo-Egyptian rule.

In El Obeid, the Al Sheikan Museum is housed in a building that is a unique example of Ottoman fort architecture. It holds many objects of successive periods of Sudanese history, including archaeological objects and ‘relics’ of the Madhist era and objects that tell the stories of local communities.

In Nyala, the historic regional capital, the collection of the Darfur Museum represents the heritage of the non-Arab ethnic groups that make up the majority Darfur people in the South Darfur region. In recent years, Nyala has seen an enormous increase of displaced people fleeing conflict. The museum brings people together through its collection, its educational centre and the cultural activities it organises.