lunes, 12 de marzo de 2012

Deluded diggers defy death

By Amina Abdul Salam - The Egyptian Gazette
CAIRO - Dreams of making a fast fortune have motivated many Egyptians, who are looking for antiquities and carrying out excavations not only at locations known for Pharaonic precious artefacts, but also to other areas of Cairo.
Sayeda Aisha, Khalifa, Tunsi and Deweiqa have all recently witnessed increased excavations, which affect houses and put people’s lives at risk.
According to older inhabitants of these areas, a large number of residents of these areas are being deceived, because of their state of poverty and dreams of speedy wealth.
The senior citizens stressed that these deluded residents wrongly believe that people exhibiting riches imply that they are working in illegal archaeological trading and smuggling.
The senior citizens have appealed to mosque employees more than once to try to stop these excavations. However, nobody responds to these calls and death is the frequent end, due to undermined houses collapsing.
Haj Ismail Fadel, a Sayeda Aisha senior citizen says the occurrence of looking for antiquities has become widespread recently, attributable to the present security vacuum. Furthermore, the excavations not only dangerously damage housing but also the inhabitants due to the buildings collapsing
He added: “A couple of month ago, a resident called Mansour had been deceived into believing that there were Islamic antiquities under his house. Working then with other eight people, he stated digging beneath the house and when they had reached a depth of 12 metres the house collapsed on its inhabitants’ ‘ heads.”
Haj Fadel commented that these people are dreaming of getting rich quick although looking for antiquities is not easy. The process needs several people working in co-operation, he added, noting that a kind of mafia is controlling this work.
Ibrahim Ahmed, a Khalifa area resident, stated that some houses recently caved in on top of some people, who were digging for antiquities. He commented that such cases have become very widespread and exceed those reported by the newspapers.
Another resident mentioned that, in most cases, no antiquities exist, but the excavations start through a member of this antiquities mafia, who convinces the house owner that there is treasure below his property.
Osama Wasfi, a professor of Islamic History at Helwan University, noted that any Islamic artefacts found in these Cairo areas encourage people to undertake their amateur archaeology.
He told the mouthpiece of the Justice and Freedom political party that the security vacuum had exacerbated this problem.
However, Wasfi stressed that the police force has frustrated some attempts at theft and has seized hundred of gold items and historic swords from some thugs, who were going to offer them for sale.
He called on the government to strengthen legislation to deter people from carrying out their own excavations to look for antiquities.

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