New strategy for antiquity protection to be drafted [Archives:2006/916/Culture]

January 30 2006

Prime Minister Abdul-Qadir Bajammal has ordered the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to prepare a national strategy addressing the protection and excavation of antiquities and artifacts. He further suggested that Yemenis should make use of the expertise of archeological missions coming to Yemen and that Yemeni academics, archeologists and students should be involved in excavation, antiquity rescue and restoration operations.

Chairing a meeting at the head-office of the General Authority for Antiquities, Museums and Manuscripts (GAAMM) Saturday Jan 28, the Premier stressed the importance of reconsidering the current law of archeology in such a way as to enhance the GAAMM in terms of measures that further help in the protection and conservation of the national antiquities and relics as they represent a human, historical and literary treasure for the Yemeni people.

A number of pertinent issues were discussed at the meeting including the human and material resources locally available for the GAAMM and organizing its activities within a more institutional context. The meeting also discussed how to rejuvenate the GAAMM in terms of its duty towards national archeology through excavation, protection, conservation, renovation of the archeological finds as well as organization of its relationships with foreign missions in light of protocol and legal lines.

The meeting included Minister of Information Hussein Al-Awadhi and Minister of Culture and Tourism Khaled al-Rowaishan. Other officials attended the meeting including Abdullah Mohammed Bawazeer, Chairman of the GAAMM, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Jarallah, Deputy GAAMM, Dr. Saleh Basurrah, Rector of Sana'a University, and a number of academics at the Archeology Department at Sana'a University.

Bajammal suggested that Yemeni universities should participate actively in this regard. He specifically directed Sana'a University to submit a plan for establishing a college for archeology and tourism to the Higher Council of Universities. Bajammal indicated that a number of the faculties, such as those of education, can be restructured so that they serve the purpose.

The Prime Minister urged the local councils to contribute to safeguarding artifacts and archeological sites.

A team was set up to prepare a comprehensive report on the reality of antiquities and the way to improve it and how to protect antiquities. It will set forth all the necessary elements and prerequisites to be incorporated in the process. The team is led by the Minister of Culture and Tourism and consists of a number of specialists and academics. They are to submit the plan within two weeks.

This comes at a time when many alarming reports have been heard about the looting and pillage of archeological sites in different areas of Yemen, a country which is very famous for its rich history and outstanding old civilizations. Members of gangs dealing in Yemeni artifacts were also captured and tried. Yet, many people believe that selling of Yemeni antiquities is on the rise due to lack of protection on the part of the government.

This Premier's move is also meant to promote the ailing tourism sector which has witnessed setbacks recently due to abduction of tourists in Shabwa and Marib which triggered intense public protest and condemnation.