Egypt’s pyramids and the Great Sphinx have survived pharaohs and empires, the Greeks and Romans and Napoleon, World War II and the harsh desert weather. They seem to outlive time itself. But they may not survive the Arab Spring, according to hints found in an article by Der Spiegel’s Daniel Steinvorth.
During the campaign, leading members of the Al-Nour Party seemed as if they came from a different era; it was a sharp contrast to Egypt’s liberal tradition. For instance, when party spokesman Abdul Munaim al-Shahat appeared on a TV talk show, he insisted that a divider be set up between himself and a female guest. In his most recent demand, he calls upon Egyptians to “destroy the temples!” He wants Egypt to finally put an end to the “idolatrous worship” of its pharaonic heritage. If Shahat had his way, sculptures, statues and portraits spanning 5,000 years of Egyptian history would be covered with a layer of chalk, and pharaonic street names would be Islamicized.
Al-Nour is the Islamist party that came in second to the Muslim Brotherhood in the first round of Egypt’s elections. They take their Islamism up to 11.
“Destroy the temples!” does not equate to covering things up with a layer of chalk as the article’s author suggests, which would be impractical on objects the scale of the pyramids and sphinx, and the grand Temple of Karnak, anyway. Chalk cannot do what dynamite can. No, that’s a suggestion that the new Islamist Egypt would follow the way of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In March 2001, the Taliban took that “destroy the temples!” line quite seriously. They blew up the priceless giant Buddha statues at Bamiyan.
Is this the fate that awaits the Great Sphinx, thanks to Time magazine’s Person of the Year?
Update: A commenter wonders what Dr. Zahi Awass has been up to lately. Good question. He was forced out of his position atop Egypt’s antiquities ministry in July, accused of numerous offenses by various critics, and seems to have lain low since August. August 15 was the last time he updated his facebook page, too.