On February 16, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities organized a special tour for journalists of the Egyptian Museum, which was closed after the riots. Members of the media were able to see that the museum’s priceless collection was almost untouched by looters.
An inventory has found that only eight of the museum’s 150,000 artifacts were taken. Three of them have already been returned. Experts believe that looters did not succeed in selling the stolen items because they are included in the international museum registry. Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said that it is likely that the objects will be returned to the museum.
Egyptian authorities have suggested that the thefts occurred on the night of January 28, when the riots were in full swing in Cairo. Police had already left the museum, and the army had not yet arrived. First, looters broke into the gift shop, likely mistaking it for the museum, where they stole gold items. And several robbers managed to get to the real treasure. They smashed 13 glass display cases and scattered artifacts on the floor. Some of these items are in need of restoration.
Experts now believe that the darkness helped protect the museum from looting – there had been no power in the building. The thieves simply did not see the most valuable parts of the collection.
The Egyptian Museum is now closed to the public and is under the watchful eye of Egyptian special forces. The exhibition halls may be reopened for tourists as early as next week.