The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a decree in 2011 to separate the Supreme Council of Antiquities from the Ministry of Culture. The Antiquities Law was kept intact; the only change was to replace the phrases “Minister of Culture” and “Ministry of Culture.” Wherever these phrases appear in a the President of the Republic’s decision to establish the Supreme Council of Antiquities, they appear as “the minister concerned with the affairs of Antiquities” and “the Ministry concerned with the affairs of Antiquities” respectively.
[The following text refers to the “Ministry of Culture,” “the Ministry,” the “Supreme Council of Antiquities” (SCA), the “Council,” and the Board of Directors (of the SCA); they should all be understood to mean “the Ministry of State for Antiquities” and its organs.]
[Any reference to “this law” in the text below should be understood to refer to “The Antiquities Protection Law promulgated by Law No. 117 of 1983” and it’s Implementing Regulations]
Ministry of State for Antiquities (formerly, the Supreme Council of Antiquities)
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is the institution entrusted with the protection of the Egyptian heritage from all ages from the prehistoric era through the Pharaonic era, then the Greco-Roman era, followed by the Coptic and Islamic times, up to the modern era.
Before the revolution of 2011, the SCA was subordinate to the Ministry of Culture, but now it has separated from the Ministry of Culture and turned into a ministry with a legal personality (Ministry of State for Antiquities). The Ministry performs its tasks either individually or in cooperation with national or global bodies and institutions. In order to achieve its objectives, the SCA formulates and implements all policies relating to archaeological sites; the SCA issues the necessary permits and general procedures for excavations, restorations, and maintenance. Additionally, the SCA documents and studies archaeological sites and artifacts and manages a comprehensive system for museums at the national level. The SCA also oversees the publication of magazines and books on archaeology and cultural heritage. It funds its own excavations and related documentation and restoration processes.
The Department of Antiquities — a governmental body responsible for Egyptian cultural heritage — was established in 1859 (it was a a subsidiary to the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Education and National Guidance, and then the Ministry of Culture). This Department retained its name until 1971, when it was renamed the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO); following this, the name was changed to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) under Presidential Decree No. 82 of 1994. Eventually, the SCA gained independence from the Ministry of Culture and became an independent ministry under the leadership of Ahmed Shafiq.
The Ministry of Antiquities’ Mandate and Functions
- The Ministry is exclusively concerned with Antiquities’ affairs and everything related to them, whether in museums, warehouses, archaeological sites or artifacts found by chance.
- The Ministry is fully responsible for supervision over archaeological areas and approves the activities that may be carried out in them, after the approval of the competent standing committee, and in accordance with the regulations set forth in the this law, in order to rehabilitate and ensure the safety of archaeological sites.
- It is not permitted to carry out any work or to provide any recreational, cultural, tourist, sports or other services in archaeological areas or within the surrounding beautification areas except after obtaining the approval of the Council.
- The presence of any kind of riding animals or street vendors in the mentioned areas is prohibited except in the locations and according to conditions and controls specified by the executive regulations of this law.
- The Minister shall determine the areas covered by the designated beautification areas surrounding the archaeological areas, at the request of the Board of Directors [of the SCA]. Such a decision shall not prejudice the right of the stakeholders to fair compensation if there is justification for such compensation. Areas covered by beautification areas are considered archaeological areas, and the provisions of this law shall apply to them.
- The Ministry is responsible for identifying/inventorying, recording, photographing, and drawing the fixed and movable artifacts; additionally, they are responsible for registering, cataloging, and compiling data on artifacts in the records designated for that purpose. Registration shall be in accordance with the terms and conditions issued by a decision of the competent minister. The artifacts that are already recorded shall be registered in the designated records on the date of entry into force of this Law.
- The Ministry conducts archaeological surveys of all archaeological sites and lands, identifies their places and features and establishes them on maps. The Ministry provides a copy of these maps and data to the competent local unit and to the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), for the purpose of taking account of them at the commencement of their respective jurisdictions.
- The Ministry records environmental and urban data and the factors influencing each archaeological site according to its importance.
- The Ministry prepares the registered monuments, archaeological sites and historical buildings for visits or studies in a manner that does not harm their safety and maintenance, and works to show their characteristics and its artistic and historical features.
- The Ministry may use the resources of archaeological sites and museums to develop archaeological public awareness by all means.
- The Ministry is responsible for securing monuments, museums, warehouses, archaeological sites and historical buildings, in cooperation with the police and special security units, in accordance with the rules governing this matter, which shall be determined by a decision of the Minister and in coordination with the Minister of the Interior. The Council shall set a maximum limit for the scope and area of each inspection of archaeological sites in order to ensure easy movement in them and monitor their artifacts. A decision by the competent minister shall determine the perimeter of each archaeological site to be secured.
- The Ministry is responsible exclusively for the necessary maintenance and restoration work for all archaeological sites, areas and buildings.
- Each of the ministries, public legal entities, the Egyptian Endowments Authority (Awqaf) and the Coptic Endowments Authority shall bear the expenses of restoring and maintaining the archaeological properties under their authority.
- The Ministry coordinates the work with the planning, housing, tourism, utilities and security agencies, in addition to provincial councils and other authorities to protect the monuments, museums and historic buildings from vibrations, bottlenecks, leakage, pollution, industrial hazards, changing their beautification area lines, and historical and archaeological surroundings, in order to achieve a balance between the demands of urbanization and the necessities of conservation of antiquities and heritage.
The Ministry of Antiquities’ Authorities
- The Ministry shall have the right to accept the waiver of ownership by bodies or individuals of their historic or archaeological properties by donation or sale at a nominal price. The Ministry shall have the right to put these properties under its control for at least 50 years, when the State has an interest in that and as determined by the Council.
- The Minister may decide, upon a proposal by the Board of Directors [of the SCA] after taking the opinion of the competent Standing Committee, to cancel the registration of a fixed archaeological site or part of it. The decision must be published in the Egyptian Official Gazette; and the individuals and entities previously informed about the registration of the archaeological site concerned should be notified [about the cancellation of registration]. This action must be confirmed on the margin of registration of the archaeological site maintained by the Council and on the margin of registration of the property in the Real Estate Registration Authority.
- Without prejudice to the penalties provided for in this Law or any other law, the Minister or his authorized representative may, in coordination with the concerned Governor, remove any infringement on any archaeological site or property through an administrative procedure and upon the proposal of the competent Standing Committee, and without recourse to the judiciary. The competent local authorities, with the protection of the police, shall implement the removal decision at a time commensurate with the nature of the archaeological site and the actual nature of the infringement, and not later than ten days from the date of issuance of the decision. Otherwise, the Council can implement the decision through its own organs and with the protection of the police, at the expense of the violator.
- The ownership of land or buildings owned by individuals may be expropriated for their archaeological importance, which is determined by the Ministry. A decision by the President of the Republic may also temporarily confiscate these lands and buildings until the expropriation proceedings take place and the land or building shall be deemed an archaeological site from the date of temporary seizure. The expropriation shall be made in return for a fair compensation to be determined by the competent Standing Committee, and the compensation estimate shall not include the possibility that the confiscated land contains artifacts.
- The Ministry shall bear the expenses for the restoration of archaeological buildings in the possession of individuals or other persons to whom the special law applies, unless the cause of the repair is due to misuse by the holder, as determined by the competent standing committee. In this case, the holder shall bear the value of the repair costs.
- The Ministry has the right to terminate the contractual relationship of any occupancy [of archaeological buildings], whether residential, commercial, industrial or any other occupancy, regardless of the parties to the contractual relationship. Fair compensation is paid upon cancellation of any contract.
- In all cases, the Ministry shall have priority to obtain the artifacts owned by individuals, in exchange for fair compensation. The Ministry is also entitled to recover the antiquities owned by individuals or artifacts taken from the architectural elements they have, in exchange for fair compensation.
The Council’s Affiliation, and the Mechanisms for Selecting and Appointing its Board of Directors
Before the revolution of 2011, the Supreme Council of Antiquities fell under the Ministry of Culture, but now it has separated from the ministry and converted to a ministry with its legal personality (Ministry of State for Antiquities), and it follows the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Minister of Antiquities is appointed by the Prime Minister.
The Administrative Structure
The highest authority in the ministry is the Supervisory Board. The President of the Board is the Minister of State for Antiquities (formerly, the Minister of Culture) and is the sole legal representative of the sectors of the Ministry. The directors of the six sectors constitute the executive body of the Supervisory Board, as permanent members. The Director of the General Secretariat [of the Supervisory Board] serves as the Executive Director for the Ministry’s sectors in the management of day-to-day functions, directing all sector operations and functions; other Sector Managers are under his/her direct supervision.
The Ministry consists of six sectors, covering all administrative, financial, legal, technical, engineering and scientific requirements. The six sectors of the Ministry are:
- General Secretariat Sector
- Egyptian (Pharaonic), Greek and Roman Antiquities Sector
- Coptic and Islamic Antiquities Sector
- Sector of the Financial Support Fund for Antiquities and Museums
- Public Projects Sector
- Museums Sector
The most important projects and programs related to urban development
Areas and buildings targeted by the Ministry
- An artifact is any property or movable piece found in Egypt that is produced by various civilizations or by their arts, sciences, literature and religions, as long as it has archaeological or historical value or importance as a manifestation of the various civilizations that were established on or historically related to Egypt. This includes periods from prehistoric times and through successive historical eras, up to a hundred years ago. This also applies to the remains of human races and their contemporary organisms inhabited the land of Egypt.
- Archaeological land is any land owned by the state that was deemed archaeological according to decisions or orders issued prior to the implementation of this law, or lands which the Supreme Council for Planning and Urban Development (SCPUD) decides to consider as archaeological lands, upon a proposal of the Minister. The SCPUD may decide, upon a proposal of the Minister, to remove any land from the list of archaeological lands or lands of public benefits for archaeological value, if it became certain to the SCPUD that the land in question is devoid of any artifacts, or if the land becomes outside the beautification area assigned to an archaeological site.
- Buildings that were deemed archaeological or registered as such under resolutions or orders issued prior to the implementation of this Law shall be considered as archaeological buildings.
- Any natural or legal person occupying a historic building or archaeological site that has not been expropriated shall protect it from any damage or diminution. The status of the current tenants of these premises shall be resolved and the rental relationship shall be terminated within one year from the date of the implementation of this law when the State has a national interest therein.
Dealing with archaeological buildings
- All artifacts and archaeological materials are considered public property, except for those privately owned properties and Waqf properties, even if the artifacts are located outside the Arab Republic of Egypt and have been exported by illegal means. The possession, retention or disposition of antiquities shall not be permitted except in accordance with the conditions and procedures set out in the Law and its Executive Regulations and the resolutions implementing it. The executive regulations of this law regulate all procedures for the recovery of the artifacts that came out of Egypt by illegal means and the legal proceedings that are brought forward for their recovery.
- Except in cases of acquisition or possession existing legally at the time of the operation of this Law or which are established in accordance with its provisions, trafficking in, the possession, retention, or disposition of antiquities in any way is prohibited.
- Antiquities traders who registered movable antiquities in their possession in accordance with article 8 of the Antiquities Protection Act of Law No. 117 of 1983, shall hand over these antiquities to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for deposit in the Council’s stores or for display in museums, within a maximum period of one year from the date of the implementation of this law, without prejudice to their right to compensation.
- In all cases, anyone in possession of antiquities is not permitted to dispose of them except after obtaining a written approval of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in accordance with the procedures, conditions and rules issued by a decision of the Minister of Culture. Any such disposal should not entail taking the artifact out of the country in any way. Any person to whom the ownership or possession of antiquities is transferred in accordance with the provisions of this Article or by way of inheritance shall be subject to the provisions of ownership or possession of the antiquities.
The declaration of owning an archaeological real estate and registering it by its owner, in accordance with the provisions of Article (12) of Law No. 117 of 1983, ensures the following obligations, without prejudice to the right of the owner of an artifact to fair compensation:
- It is not permissible to demolish the whole or part of [an archaeological] property or to remove part of it from the Arab Republic of Egypt.
- It is not permissible to dispose of the land or the property for the benefit of others. The lands adjacent to it may be disposed of after the approval of the competent minister upon a proposal of the Board of Directors [of the SCA].
- It is not permissible to grant easement rights to others through [an archaeological] property.
- It is not permissible to renovate the [archaeological] property or change its features in any way without the approval of the President of the Council after the approval of the competent Standing Committee and in coordination with the administrative authority concerned with the said building law. The work referred to shall be under the direct supervision of the Board delegate. If the owner [of the property] carries out any [renovation] work without a license, the Council, in coordination with the administrative authority referred to, shall restore the property to its former status, at the expense of the perpetrator of the violation, without prejudice to the penalties provided for in this law and to the right [of the authorities] to claim compensation.
- The owner is obliged to obtain a written approval from the Council for each act of disposal on the property, stating the name of the beneficiary of the transaction and his/her place of residence. The owner must inform the beneficiary of the transaction that the property is registered [as an archaeological real estate]. The Council shall give its opinion within thirty days from the date of its notification of the request for disposal. The expiration of this time without a response shall be regarded as a decision of refusal.
- The Council can implement at any time it deems appropriate any action necessary for the maintenance of the archaeological property and at the expense of the Council.
- Any existing exploitation by individuals or entities of an archaeological site shall not result in any right to own it by prescription. The Council shall, whenever it deems necessary, vacate the archaeological site in return for fair compensation, in accordance with the procedures issued by a decision of the Minister.
- The Supreme Council for Planning and Urban Development (SCPUD), upon the proposal of the Minister and in return for a fair compensation, settles any easement granted to adjacent properties to archaeological sites and historic buildings to ensure the preservation of their artistic characteristics or their general appearance. The decision in this regard shall specify the real estate or parts of the real estate that entail one or more rights of easements and the scope of this right and the restrictions that are applicable to the right of the owner or holder [of the property] accordingly.