Saturday, January 29, 2011
Looting in Cairo?
There are only sketchy reports of looting in Cairo, including some saying that street protesters have formed a guard outside the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, home of the world's greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities, including most of the artifacts found in the King Tut tomb. The museum is also known as the National Museum and the Cairo Museum.
According to this report by Agence France-Presse, a "human chain" has been set up at the museum to protect it during the growing street unrest. According to AFP, watch groups to protect museums and other sites have been set up by the Muslim Brotherhood ...(uh-oh).
[UPDATE: There was in fact some looting and/or serious vandalism at the museum earlier in the day.]
Homes in some neighborhoods are also being threatened by what some people on the streets say are thugs who appear to be out-of-uniform members of the security police.
But surely such a place as the Cairo museum, which is at Tahrir Square, the site of the major protest gatherings this week, cannot be in any real peril from looters. The police and hated security forces have basically skedaddled from Cairo (along, reportedly, with two of Mubarak's sons, including heir-apparent Gamal, who were reported to have fled to London, though the Egyptian government is denying this). But given the strength and professionalism of the Egyptian army, and the general goodwill the Egyptian people have toward that army (so far), it appears very unlikely that looters could do in Egypt what they did to the antiquities in Baghdad.
The official Cairo museum Web site is off-line as Internet service in the capital remains severely hampered. Here's one from the UK that has the background on the museum.
[UPDATE: From the BBC live update, just before 11 p.m. Cairo time: "Vigilante groups in the capital Cairo have set up checkpoints amid reports of widespread looting. Police have almost completely disappeared from the streets, to be replaced by young men armed with metal bars and knives. The army is guarding key locations, and shooting has been reported around government buildings as protesters continue to defy a night-time curfew. ..."]