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Prince Imesy Returns Home - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Finally, ancient Egyptian Prince Imesy has returned home to Egypt. We don’t know how or when this Pharoanic prince traveled from the land of the Pharaohs to the United States but the strange story began when a shipment that claimed to be carrying fruit and vegetables arrived in Miami. The customs official responsible for agricultural products at the airport must examine such an import in order to confirm that it is free of any pests, insects or diseases.

As the customs officer carried out his work inspecting the shipment, he was shocked to find something strange; it was a wooden sarcophagus engraved with scenes of ancient Egypt, images of gods of the other world and hieroglyphics…the customs official was sure that there was something strange about the sarcophagus so he told internal security officers about the sarcophagus.

They asked the person the shipment belonged to – a man from Barcelona who had agreed to sell it to a Canadian citizen for one million dollars – for the title deed for this antiquity and of course he could not provide any proof of legal ownership of the Pharoanic sarcophagus.

Consequently, the police sent me a letter outlining the details of the incident and asking me for information on this artefact. Immediately, just by looking at the pictures they sent with the letter, I sent them a complete file full of information explaining the importance of the sarcophagus and highlighting that it is part of ancient Egyptian civilization. By looking at the depictions engraved on the sarcophagus, it was clear that it dates back to the Third Intermediate Period i.e. the period straight after the New Kingdom and the 21st Dynasty. The sarcophagus goes back approximately 3000 years.

But the Spanish citizen refused to return the sarcophagus to Egypt and as a result we informed the US security officers that we wished to file a lawsuit against him so that we could retrieve the sarcophagus. Of course court cases in America are very costly but regardless, I called a lawyer’s office in Miami where the sarcophagus was seized. It came as a [pleasant] surprise that the head of the office immediately agreed to help us file a lawsuit pro bono. We began to prepare the required documents and when we sent the complete file to the court we were surprised to find that the Spanish citizen had withdrawn the case and agreed to surrendering the sarcophagus to Egypt, acknowledging that its exit from Egypt was illegal.

After that, negotiations with the Americans to return the sarcophagus to Egypt began. I had to go to the US embassy in Cairo to sign many documents to release the sarcophagus and the Americans asked if they could exhibit the sarcophagus temporarily at the Smithsonian Museum to demonstrate to the world America’s efforts to return the stolen artefact.

In fact, America is one of the most important countries that have helped us in returning antiquities to Egypt. They have highly-educated and well-trained officers dealing with cases. One of them, James McEnroe, spent two years in touch with me as he monitored an officer from the US army who had visited Egypt in 2002 and when he traveled back to the US he had with him around 200 artefacts from the pre-dynastic period stolen from a private warehouse at the Faculty of Arts in Cairo University!

This secret surveillance continued between James McEnroe, his administration and myself until he contacted me one day to tell me that the US officer had been arrested with the artefacts in his possession. I traveled to New York and inspected the artefacts and I wrote a report to present to court and returned the artefacts to Egypt once again.

Let us go back to the sarcophagus of Imesy. After it transpired that there was nowhere suitable for it to be exhibited at the Smithsonian, an agreement was reached to return the sarcophagus to Egypt. I traveled to Washington to receive the sarcophagus during a big press conference held at the National Geographic Society and it was attended by the Egyptian ambassador to the US. The sarcophagus was on show and then a booking was made for it on Egypt Air from New York to Cairo! This is how Imesy, the Pharoanic prince, who I accompanied, returned home on an airplane that was proud to be flying him back to his Egyptian homeland.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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