Since we first celebrated Orphans Day on 2 April 2010 with a charity gala in the gardens of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, I have been feeling a bit guilty about not dedicating an article to Egypt’s Orphans Day and the Supreme Council of Antiquities contribution to Egyptian society; improving the standard of living of orphans and children with special needs.
All religions around the world command looking after orphans. Our prophet (pbuh) urged all Muslims be kind and generous towards orphans, and in a well-known hadith, he said that he and the guardian of an orphan would be akin to inseparable companions in Paradise. Thousands of years earlier, we can see that ancient Egyptians also prided themselves on protecting orphans, and this was an epithet often inscribed onto the walls of their tombs. One of the most impressive inscriptions I have ever seen in this respect, can be found on the walls of the tomb of a important figure from ancient Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, and which reads “I have defended widows and protected the rights of orphans; I have given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked.”
The Supreme Council of Antiquities, in collaboration with the Dar Orman Charity Society, managed to arrange a day-out for 5,000 children to the Giza Pyramids as part of Egyptian Orphan Day, and in order to make an appeal to the entire world for this to become an international event that is observed across the globe. A few years ago, we began to invite children from all age brackets to join the Egyptian Museum’s school, where they can learn hieroglyphics and ancient Egyptian history, as well as draw pictures, and make sculptures.
I can’t find the words to express how happy these children were drawing pictures of some of our ancient Egyptian exhibits, or making sculptures of statues or sarcophaguses. At the end of each semester, we would hold an exhibition to display the works produced by these young children and offer them awards and certificates for their work. The number of children wanting to join these classess increased to the point that we are having problems finding a place for them all!
Our focus is not only limited to school children, but also children with special needs. We held an exhibition at the Egyptian Museum for the visually impaired where we put statues and sarcophaguses on show, and then we invited the children to touch them and try to identify what they were. I recall this exhibition vividly and remember the smiles on the children’s faces upon touching these ancient statues and their joy at discovering a world that was previously inaccessible to them.
Looking after our children and introducing them to ancient history will ultimately lead to the preservation of our antiquities and artefacts. These children are the future generation, and there is nothing more important than brining up a future generation that is aware of the significance and value of our history and its antiquities. We have suffered a lot due to the generations of people who viewed ancient Egyptian antiquities as nothing more than the pagan idols of infidels. Reviewing and correcting people’s conceptions is an important undertaking which paves the way for a brighter tomorrow.