A fire broke out in Cairo’s Institute d’Egypte on Saturday as a result of a misfired Molotov cocktail launched by a protester in Egypt’s latest round of violence. The Institute d’Egypte was a research center founded by Napoleon Bonaparte during the French invasion in the 18th century, and housed many of Egypt’s oldest and most important documents.
The fire raged for 12 hours before subsiding, leaving little more than cinders behind for volunteers to salvage. Firefighters flooded the building with water in attempts to put the fire out, which added to the overall damage. The most devastating loss is a handwritten 24-volume document known as the Description l’Egypte, a multi-generational document which began during the French occupation.
The Hindustan Times reports: “The Description of Egypt is likely burned beyond repair. Its home, the two-story historic institute near Tahrir Square, is now in danger of collapsing after the roof caved in.”
“The violence erupted in Cairo Friday, when military forces guarding the Cabinet building, near the institute, cracked down on a 3-week-old sit-in to demand the country’s ruling generals hand power to a civilian authority. At least 14 people have been killed.”
Along with the Description l’Egypte, other documents believed to have been destroyed include a precious map of Egypt and Ethiopia dating from 1753 and other documents important to scholars of Egyptian history, Arabic studies and Egyptology.
Zein Abdel-Hady, an important librarian, said to television reporters, “This is equal to the burning of Galileo’s books.”
The continued loss of life due to civil unrest in Egypt is truly heartbreaking. And the latest news of all the historical treasures that have been lost adds to the country’s grief.
Photo credit: Learning Lark