Egypt tries to retrieve head of Tutankhamun from London auctioneers

A handout picture released by Christies auction house in London on June 11, 2019 shows an ancient sculpture representing King Tutankhamun's head. The Egyptian embassy in London requested that Britain prevent the planned sale by Christie's of an ancient sculpture representing King Tutankhamun's head and return it to Egypt, Cairo said. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Egypt tries to retrieve head of Tutankhamun from London auctioneers

  • Christie’s expects the head to reach upwards of £4 million at auction, scheduled for July 4

CAIRO: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry says its embassy in London addressed the British Foreign Office and Christie’s auction house to stop the sale of the head of a statue of Tutankhamun, and return it to Egypt.

Christie’s expects the head to reach upwards of £4 million at auction, scheduled for July 4.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has also addressed UNESCO to stop the auction. Dr. Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Arab News he wanted the auctioneers to prove the head had been removed from the country legally, which he doubted they could.

He added that the exit of the head, supposedly from the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, was shrouded in uncertainty.

“We will stop this auction and demand the return of this piece immediately,” he said. Christie’s, though, insists that the sale of the 3,000 year old head is legal.

The St. James-based auction house suggested that the head, along with a wooden sarcophagus and multiple other artifacts also going on sale, were previously owned by the Munich-based collector Heinz Herner, and before that by Austrian dealer Joseph Mesina, who obtained the head from the collection of Prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis in the mid 1970s.

In January, Egypt took possession of a stone tablet belonging to the pharaoh Amenhotep I, which had been put up for sale at another London auction house after being illegally smuggled out of Egypt.

The Ministry of Antiquities said it had recovered the piece after searches on global auction sites on the internet brought the tablet to its attention.

Archaeologist Shaaban Abdul Jawad told Arab News the Egyptian state was taking a keen interest in the sale of potentially looted ancient Egyptian items, often tracking them to international auctions to return and preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.


Tunisia's Ennahda names Habib Jemli as choice for PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Tunisia's Ennahda names Habib Jemli as choice for PM

  • Jemli, 60, an agricultural engineer, served as a junior minister in the first post-revolutionary government formed in late 2011, which was also led by Ennahda
  • Jemli has two months to build a governing coalition from a fractured parliament

TUNIS: Tunisia's moderate Islamist Ennahda, which came first in last month's parliamentary elections, has named Habib Jemli, a former junior agriculture minister, as its choice to become prime minister, party spokesman Imed Khemiri said on Friday.
President Kais Saied is expected to officially ask him to form a new government later on Friday.
Jemli has two months to build a governing coalition from a fractured parliament in which Ennahda, the largest party, holds only a quarter of the seats.
On Wednesday, its election foe Heart of Tunisia supported Ennahda's veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi as parliament speaker, a sign the two might put aside their earlier hostility and join together in coalition.
Any new government that Jemli is able to muster would need the support of at least one other party to command even the slender parliamentary majority of 109 seats needed to pass legislation.
Jemli, 60, an agricultural engineer, served as a junior minister in the first post-revolutionary government formed in late 2011, which was also led by Ennahda.
Analysts say the new government will need clear political will and strong backing in parliament to push through economic reforms started by the outgoing prime minister, Youssef Chahed, who is acting as caretaker during coalition talks.
His cabinet has focused on spending cuts backed by the International Monetary Fund to bring Tunisia's hefty deficit and public debt under control while raising spending on security to woo back tourists.
Economic woes - unemployment of 15% nationally and 30% in some cities, inflation of nearly 7% and a weak dinar - have plagued Tunisia since its 2011 revolution ended autocratic rule, introduced democracy and sparked the "Arab Spring".
Those problems, alongside deteriorating public services and a public perception of widespread government corruption, drove voters to reject the political establishment in this autumn's elections.
That public anger may make it harder for a new prime minister to continue to cut spending, and he will be buffeted by the same competing demands to control the deficit while improving services.
President Saied, an independent retired law professor, has already pushed anti-corruption proposals since his inauguration, a programme that diplomats have said could win enough public support to buy time for new economic reforms.
Heart of Tunisia, which came second in the parliamentary election, is headed by media mogul Nabil Karoui who was detained for much of the election period on corruption charges, which he denies.
Ennahda, whose own candidate lost to Saied and Karoui in the first round of a separate presidential election, had sworn not to enter into coalition with his Heart of Tunisia party, painting it as part of a corrupt elite.