My Special Week with The British Museum in Egypt (Heba Khairy, ITP 2017)

Written by Heba Khairy, Curator, Grand Egyptian Museum (ITP 2017)

Greetings ITP friends from all over the world,

The first week of April 2018 was a very special week for me, and I would like to tell you some stories about it! I was so excited and happy to see Claire Messenger (ITP Manager) and Becca Horton (ITP Coordinator) here in Egypt after a long time, and spend four days with them.

On Tuesday 3 April, my friends Noor Hassan Salem (ITP 2017), Marwa Abdel Razek (ITP 2012) and I arranged to meet Claire and Becca in the database office of the Egyptian Museum, where Noor and Marwa are working. Sara Kayser, the British Museum’s Project Curator for the Egypt Documentation Project, also joined us, and we spent such a nice time together speaking about a lot of things: our memories of the UK, our work, our personal life news, and our upcoming plans.

With Sara Kayser

Later that day, we met again at the British Embassy in Cairo. All the Egyptian ITPers were invited by the British Museum to attend a reception. I was fascinated by the words of British Museum Director Dr Hartwig Fischer about networking between ITP participants to preserve and conserve heritage around the globe. It was pleasure to meet other Egyptian ITP fellows. I already knew some of them, but the others I was so happy to meet and chat with for the first time. I also made friendships with new British friends. We all had a great time and very special night!

Embassy Event

On Wednesday 4 April, I was honored to welcome my dear Claire and Becca to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), where I work. It was their first visit, and I was so happy to accompany them on their tour inside the different conservation laboratories of the Grand Egyptian Museum Conservation Center, along with my colleague Sara from the International Affairs department. Claire and Becca started their visit in the organic artefacts laboratory, where they saw and learnt about the conservators’ methods of conserving and preserving papyrus and textile artefacts. Then we moved to the wood laboratory in which they saw the process of conservation work for the wooden beds, chariots and boxes of king Tutankhamun. After that we moved to the heavy stone artefact lab,  where we store the huge objects that will be exhibited in the Grand Egyptian Museum’s galleries. Claire and Becca were fascinated by the Egyptian conservators’ updated methods and approaches for conserving and preserving the artefacts.

I was so happy when Claire and Becca entered the documentation department, where I work. My friend Ahmed did an orientation for them on the GEM Database, explaining the latest updates used. They also had a brief talk with my manager about our duties and responsibilities.

Heba's Team

After that we started our tour inside the construction site. We started from the highest location in the site where we could see the whole building under construction, combined with the pyramids’ plateau in an amazing view. Then we moved down to the entrance of GEM, where the colossal statue of King Ramses II welcomed our dearest guests. The most lovely and funny thing about this tour was that we were moving around the site in my personal car – it gave me a warm feeling as if were a family hanging out and going on a picnic!

I was so grateful and happy that Claire and Becca were able to visit my museum. I believe that this visit could be the cornerstone to build future relationships between GEM and the British Museum, and I hope it can be a starting point for future cooperation with the ITP. Through ITP legacy projects, we can support and deepen the collaboration, preservation and appreciation for each others’ heritage.

On Thursday 5 April, Claire invited us to dinner at Sequoia restaurant and café in Zamalek. We were very lucky to have a special round table in a great location with a Nile river view. We gathered together, talking about everything in life: Claire told us about her love for the Egyptian soccer player Mo Salah, who plays for Liverpool, and we also spoke about our studies and projects. We all had a very warm and lovely night full of love and good feelings.

On Saturday 7 April, Noor, Marwa and I invited Claire and Becca for lunch to enjoy the local Egyptian food at Sobhy Kaber, an oriental restaurant. We met in the restaurant, and we chose Arabian seating to help them enjoy the Egyptian atmosphere. We ordered the famous Egyptian green soup Melokhya ملوخية , and grilled Egyptian meats. We all were telling our stories about our experiences with different types of food, and we were laughing a lot! Then we went downtown and spent time in local café قهوة . Our small table was on the platform between a lot of other Egyptian young people. It was a lovely time with a lot of laughs and funny stories.

I would like to thank Claire, Becca and my friends Noor and Marwa for making my week so special, warm and full of love and happiness. I felt that I was sitting among family and not only friends. Thanks for giving me such great and amazing feelings – I am so grateful to have friends like you! The ITP will always be one of the greatest experiences that I have had in my professional and personal life.