Who said social media was pointless? Dr. Monica Hanna is in New York this week to receive a coveted prize after saving some of Egypt's most prized antiquities by tweeting about looters and tomb raiders.
As Egypt struggles to find political stability in the aftermath of its January 25th uprising, concerned citizens seem more focused on Egypt's future, as opposed to protecting its past. While many try to decide who the best candidate is, looters have slowly been robbing Egypt's history by stealing its antiquities and selling them online.
Last August, the Malawi National Museum in Minya was ransacked by a mob of looters. At the time the only line of defense was the brave Dr. Monica Hanna. Armed with only a cellphone and a Twitter account, Dr. Hanna, an archaeologist, stood stunned as she pleaded on Twitter for help to stop thieves from emptying the museum of its treasures. Her tweets garnered the attention of her colleagues and local police, and together they were able to save some of the relics amidst a gun battle.
“We are trying to create communal watchdogs all around Egypt,” Dr. Hanna said in an interview this week in the New York Times, adding that “for now we are like butter spread over too much bread.” Dr. Hanna spoke from New York, as she set to receive an award from Saving Antiquities for Everyone, a New-York based organisation that work to protect cultural property. The organisation heralded Dr Hanna for using “Social media tools to their fullest potential to expedite the recovery of stolen objects, effectively reducing the supply side of the illicit antiquities trade.”
Dr. Hanna efforts have resulted in several artifacts being returned. The Minya robbery was not an isolated event, however, as archaeologist also witnessed an incident that occurred last summer at Dashur, a site near the Giza pyramids. Once again, armed tomb raiders were attempting to burrow for treasure, and once again Dr. Hanna was there alarming archaeologist and local resident to the site to protest via Twitter. The global attention led to the government having to place soldiers at the site for security.
Often we are told by society that one person can't make a major difference, however Dr. Hanna has proven the naysayers wrong. Her efforts have directly resulted in the recovery of hundred artifacts, and she is essentially saving Egyptian history. Even more refreshing is that her efforts are being internationally recognized. We here at CairoScene couldn't be prouder of what Dr. Hanna has been able to do for Egypt, and will continue to update the scene with her accomplishment as she continues to inspire her fellow citizens to make an impact.