Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"Why not return your 'haunted heirloom' to Egypt?" - Egyptian official

“I ask two things, Lady Anita,” the Egyptian visitor to Castle Rothstone said. ‘The first is that you show me the artefact, the second that you hear a formal request from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.”

He was a calm young Egyptian with a passion in his eyes that belied his manner. An airport security man might have seen those eyes as those of a firebrand. Yet he was civil and controlled.

She led him through to Castle Rothstone’s private museum, a room lit by large windows and containing wooden, glass topped display cases in an island position and several tall glass standard cases at either side of the windows. A replica painted bust of Neferititi sat on a mantle and at the other end a shattered pharaoh’s head.

She guided him to the first glass case, but he was already heading there, spotting the pricked ears of the jackal jar that looked alert at his arrival.

“Yes,” he said with a slight catch of breath.


“I can see already that it is a perfect match with other relics I have, part of a unique set.”

“You mean there are other canopic jars like mine out there, giving their owners grief? You do believe in strange unseen forces, invisible worlds, Mr Naguib?”

“Egyptologists are science-trained people. Yet unlike many of my Egyptian colleagues, I respect the power of mystery. Who can deny strange forces in the world? And I appreciate that many people hold genuine concerns about what we may call unlucky objects.”

“Like this one. Do you want me to open the case so you can examine it?” she said.

He frowned. Surprised almost, even uneasy.

“That will not be necessary at this stage.”

“And what is your official request? That I give it back to Egypt?”

He shifted uncomfortably.

“It belongs in Egypt. Natural justice says that Egypt’s treasures belong back in Egypt.”

“Then I dare not show you the Castle’s collection of French impressionist paintings,” she said.

“Why would that be?”

“Because you might say that they belong back in Paris, by the same laws of natural justice.”

“But French impressionist paintings in Britain are not souvenirs of imperialism.”
“Now you turn it into a political argument.”

“It’s a moral issue,” he said. “As a rather more forceful predecessor of mine, Zahi Hawass, once said: ‘important icons should be in their homeland. Period’.”
“I notice moralists don’t apply the repatriation argument to foreigners living in Britain, America or Europe, that they belong in their place of origin, and people are surely more important than artefacts. Look, Mr Naguib, I am not unsympathetic to your sentiments, but I am not sure that the ownership of history is quite as partisan as you would suggest...”

“And yet, if the jar has been tragic and ill-omened for you, why not part with it? Be free of the artefact for your family’s sake. ”

“Because it will not help my family.”
Excerpt from new Egypt mystery adventure "A R T E F A C T", latest novel in the Anson Hunter series