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News from Qurna on the West Bank at Luxor

Many readers will be among the tens of thousands of people who have visited the special exhibitions at ‘Qurna Discovery’ in the village of Qurna on the West Bank of the River Nile at Luxor. The exhibitions opened in 2001 and have proved very popular, not just with tourists, but with the people who have lived in the area for generations. The great exodus of the Qurnawi began in December last year. The Qurna houses are built directly over tombs, and it has been a long-term project to clear the area. Most of the people have now left the area and much of the Qurna that we all knew has been demolished, which meant that the ‘Qurna Discovery’ had to move home too. The exhibition could have just closed once and for all, but in many ways the individual exhibitions that make up this collection – ‘Life on the Theban Hills 1826’, ‘Living Villages in the City of the Dead’, and the ‘Bogdadi Saqieh’ – are more needed now than ever. They were made in the knowledge that most people would move soon, but not that the built heritage of the many hamlets would be destroyed. The exhibitions display a variety of elements of the cultural heritage of this World Heritage site over the last few hundred years. It was thought important that this period and the Qurnawi culture should not be wiped off the map. In January, as the co-ordinator of ‘Qurna Discovery’, I negotiated with SCA officers and secured agreement that a unique range of buildings just west of the tomb of Nakht would be retained; permission was given to restore them for exhibition purposes. In October, Dr Hawass gave his support to the project. The small nineteenth-century zawia (family meeting house) of the descendants of Khalil – the Osman, Adouwi, and Daramalli families – will house ‘Qurna Discovery’. The black and white photo. (see above right) taken by Arthur Weigall shows the properties in 1913. The lower photo. on the right shows the zawiain 1999. It has been restored and conserved. The house next door will be an exhibition of Qurnawi family life – people who have collected Qurnawi domestic and agricultural items have said they will be willing to give them to the house. We already have collected a number of domestic items for future display in the restored family house (see photo. below). Behind and to the south is a wonderful bab el-hagar (tomb house) with a remarkably fine range of mud

The views of the West Bank at Qurna are changing, as many of the mud-brick houses are demolished. Photo: RP.

ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008

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