Funding issues threaten preservation of Christian sanctuary

The archaeological site of Abu Mena, an early Christian sanctuary south of Alexandria, might be added back to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, warned Mohamed Reda, head of the Engineering and Technical Unit for the Museums and Monuments in Delta and Sinai, at the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The site, which includes a complex of churches and Saint Mar Mena al-Agaiby’s Monastery, is among the most important destinations for Christian pilgrims around the world. In 2001, the site was put on the UNESCO list due to a significant rise in groundwater levels, a common problem in the Mediterranean region, where the local soil becomes semi-liquid with excess water resulting from urban growth and agricultural development.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities had allocated over LE45 million to save the site using a network of water pumps and drainage systems and build a fence around Abu Mena to protect it from encroachments and theft. The site was successfully removed from the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in Danger in 2009.

This project and others planned to deal with similar problems at more than 21 Lower Egypt archaeological sites have been put on hold due to a halt in funding since January, explained Reda.

“Underground water has risen again by five meters and part of the Abu Mena crypt collapsed two weeks ago,” Reda added.

Reda and fellow conservators are calling on the Egyptian cabinet to take immediate action to save the archaeological sites of Lower Egypt, whose funding has stopped.

Other endangered sites include: the Jewish Temple, the Greco-Roman Museum, and the Mosaic Museum.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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