Signboards of archaeological sites in Gaza at hand
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MTA) in Gaza ended a project to develop guidelines for identifying panels of archaeological sites located in different parts of the Gaza Strip. “Arabs Today”
received a copy of a statement released by the MTA on Wednesday, stating that they put up many of signs at entrances and junctions leading to the various archaeological sites. They are aiming to get the Palestinian public familiar of these sites and be able to access them and visit with ease.
The Director General of the MTA Mohammad Khela said that this step comes as part of the ministry's efforts to increase citizens' awareness of these places and to highlight the history and culture of the Palestinian people that has stretched over thousands of years. He explained that the signs were provided with the date of the archaeological site in both Arabic and English.
He added that this is just the first stage, as the Ministry is seeking to develop labels for each of the paintings and archaeological sites with photographs and details in the main places in the Gaza Strip.
He pointed out that recently archaeological sites had witnessed a notable increase in the visits and tours from various segments of the Palestinian people, which according to estimates by the ministry reached thousands of visits and a wide variety of tours. This shows a positive increase in awareness among citizens of the cultural importance of these sites.
Khela confirmed that all archaeological sites in the Gaza Strip are open to the Palestinian public for free, in order to encourage citizens to visit such features, calling on all
citizens and civil and educational institutions of every type to increase their visits to these places.
On the other hand, Israel targeted more than one archaeological site in Gaza; the latest was through the bombing of church "Jabaliya", during the invasion of the town in 2002.
The siege imposed on the Gaza Strip four years ago, has tied the hands of the MTA as the closure of the crossings choked out foreign visitors preventing the Ministry from raising funds through admissions to contribute to the cleaning and restoration of the monuments. Some monuments need chemicals to clean them, but the occupation refuses to let them in to the Strip, as well as any machines needed for the restoration processes.
Hundreds of Antiquities and coins made of precious metals were recently discovered in Gaza in Tal Rafah, on the Palestinian side of the Egyptian-Palestinian border. The MTA in Gaza confirmed that the excavations are continuing, following the discovery (1300) pieces of large and small silver coins.
In a statement, the Ministry pointed out that in South Tal Rafah a strange tunnel was discovered, however it is unknown where it leads to as it blocked and extensive excavations of the region would be needed to find out.
Two weeks ago, the MTA opened the Qasr Al Basha Museum; which is in a building that dates back to the era of Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Baibars (1260-1277), which is considered to be the only remaining palace in Gaza.
Reflected in the architectural design of the museum, is the philosophy and the nature of Islamic architecture. It consists of two separate buildings with a yard in the middle, and a front yard for the old two-floor house. People from Gaza visit the museum daily to look at the
architectural Islamic patters such as star and stalactite shapes. The ground floor in the museum is the basement which is made up of three halls each one carrying the name of famous Palestinian cities which were occupied by Israel in 1948.
The Haifa hall displays Byzantine décor and has coins, pottery jars in a variety of forms, as well as crowns and half-columns of marble and different bronze tools.
It is notable that the pottery has a strange twisted shape, the reason for is explained by the museum Manager Nabila Maliha: “they were found in the Balakheyeh region south of Gaza, which confirms that they were used to export oils in ships.” Al Balakheyeh used to be the old Gaza port in the Roman era.
The Jaffa hall contains Roman décor, represented in pottery, coins and tools made of bronze, as well as several pottery jars and bottles of different shapes and sizes.
The Jerusalem hall represents different periods of Islamic civilization, like the Ayyubid, Mamluk and the Ottoman Empire, where there are many different copper pitchers, along with coins.
The excavation began in the Gaza Strip under foreign experts in 1998, but stopped five years ago, due to unstable political situations; however the MTA has managed kept all the antiquities until now.