Unesco to assess blast damage at Islamic museum in Cairo

Glass and porcelain artefacts smashed and wooden prayer niche destroyed in bombing targeting security HQ last Friday

A Unesco team will travel to Cairo to assess the damage inflicted on a renowned Islamic art museum by a bombing targeting the nearby security headquarters, Egypt’s antiquities minister has said.

The truck bombing on Friday was one of four attacks across the capital targeting police. The blast shattered the facade of the security headquarters and propelled steel and ceiling plaster on to artefacts in the museum across the street.

Centuries-old glass and porcelain pieces were smashed, a priceless wooden prayer niche was destroyed and manuscripts were soaked by water spewing from broken pipes, said the minister, Mohammed Ibrahim.

A Unesco spokeswoman confirmed that a mission was planned and that emergency funds of $100,000 (£60,000) had been set aside.

Inside the museum, glass from broken display cases and splintered woodwork littered the halls. A ministry worker wearing a white coat and rubber gloves picked through rubble, collecting broken pieces.

Built in 1881, the Cairo Museum of Islamic Art is home to the world’s richest collection of artefacts from all periods of Islamic history. It houses nearly 100,000 pieces, 4,000 of them on display and the rest in storage.

According to its official website, the museum houses works from the seventh-century pre-Islamic era to the end of the 19th century, including carpets, coins, ceramics, jewellery, manuscripts, marble carvings and woodwork.

A water fountain made of coloured mosaic, dating back to the 13th-16th century Mamluk era, is among the most impressive pieces on display.

A recently completed £8.7m renovation included 25 exhibition halls, as well as state-of-the-art security and lighting systems, a fully equipped restoration laboratory, a children’s museum and a library, much of which was gutted by the blast.

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