ITP in Alexandria, Egypt (Claire Messenger)
Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme
While in Egypt last month for the interviews to select two participants for the ITP summer programme 2019, Rebecca and I had the opportunity to travel to Alexandria and visit some of our ITP Fellows based in institutions in the city. Miral Taha (ITP 2013) arranged for us to visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina – a major library and cultural centre made up of the library, planetarium and conference centre. This was Rebecca’s first visit to Alexandria and while I had seen the Library before I had only seen the building – designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architectural company – from the outside so this was a very special visit for us.
Miral met us and introduced us to colleagues who gave us introductions to the Antiquities Museum, the Library, and the conservation section. We also had the opportunity to see some of the work their digital team have been developing including an innovative virtual reality project to encourage the city authorities to consider the installation of a cycle lane on the seafront.
The Library opened in 2002 and is a truly magnificent building. Currently housing 2 million books – which can grow up to 8 million – the Library contains books in Classical Arabic, English, and French. The library also includes museums:
- The Antiquities Museum has a collection of over 1,300 artefacts and provides an insight into Egyptian history from the Pharaonic era through to the Roman period including underwater antiquities from the Mediterranean harbour.
- The Manuscript Museum has a collection of rare manuscripts and books and contains the world’s largest collection of digital manuscripts.
- The Sadat Museum contains personal belongings of the Egyptian president Anwar Al Sadat from military robes, his Nobel Prize medal, his copy of the Qur’an, a few of his handwritten letters and pictures of him and his family.
We also had a wonderful visit to the Alexandria National Museum where we were met by Walaa Mostafa Mohammed Abd el-Atti (ITP 2006) and Rasha Ali Attia Abd El-Mageid (ITP 2011). Rasha gave us a tour of the collection which is housed in a beautiful 3-storey Italian-style building. The Museum contains about 1,800 artefacts that tell the history of Alexandria throughout the ages, including the Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. The pharaonic pieces are shown in a very atmospheric and cleverly renovated basement and some of the material found during the archaeological underwater excavations in Alexandria is also on display. The Museum also has a beautiful garden full of trees and plants that create a wonderful, peaceful setting.
We then had a lovely walk with Walaa and Rasha who took us for ice-cream and coffee which provided an amazing opportunity to catch-up on their news and ideas for future projects and programmes.
Finally, Miral arranged for a colleague to meet us at the Catacombs of Kom El Shurqafa, which date back to the Greco Roman period, who gave us a fascinating tour of the site.
We also had a wonderful time catching up with Rana Ramadan Mahmoud (ITP 2018) and Bassem Mohammed Ezzat (ITP 2018). Finally, a huge thank you goes to Heba Khairy (ITP 2017) who, on hearing that we were planning to go to Alexandria, offered to drive us which gave us a wonderful opportunity to meet her beautiful family.