The potential collapse of a neighboring building caused by fire due to the riots has threatened the priceless artifacts kept in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Even if the risk of looting has been minimized by Egyptian army commandoes, on 28th January, 2011, the ruling party headquarters building next door to the museum was in flames.
The protesters torched it during the mass anti-government protests which swept across the capital. Eventually, the building did not collapse, but if destroyed, it would have fallen over the museum.
Previously, some Egyptians armed with truncheons, created a human chain at the museum’s front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its artifacts. Some looters have had the possibility to vandalize two mummies, ripping their heads off , taking some small artifacts out of their glass cases and clearing out the museum gift shop.
In the same days, rumors that attacks were planned against monuments prompted authorities to erect barriers and guard Karnak Temple while tanks were positioned around Luxor’s museum.
Two distinct groups of looters were reported in January 2011. One sought quick gains, looting the gift shop and attempting to find gold on the first floor. Many were apprehended. The other group, possibly international thieves, targeted specific pieces with a market value. Security cameras were reportedly off during this time, raising suspicions of a publicity stunt gone wrong.
In the museum, cases were shown to have been broken, but the Tutankhamun statue was reportedly fine, and only minor losses were mentioned. Despite the museum’s enduring magnificence, after the riot it has faced financial challenges for infrastructure, preservation, and security. At the time, with limited revenue from entrance fees and a boarded-up museum shop, essential projects are on hold. The security presence is insufficient, and Egypt’s economic struggles require substantial aid, with cultural needs not topping the priority list. As the world observes, substantial assistance has been essential for the museum and broader archaeological efforts.
In late January 2011 the Minister of Antiquities in Egypt assured the world that despite security breaches at the museum during the tumultuous days, no antiquities had been stolen.