Jawdat Khoudary will open the first museum of archaeology in
When Jawdat Khoudary opens the first ever museum of archaeology in Gaza this month, it will be an act of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad.
The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers.
And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling.
"The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too."
The oldest Gaza site dates from the middle of the fourth millennium B.C., when Gaza became the head of all the caravan routes linking the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, via the Red Sea, to the Mediterranean.
History offers not only legitimacy, but a framework for coping with the present. Gaza is under an Israeli and international siege aimed at sapping strength from Hamas. But this is not the first time Gazans have faced such a squeeze.
Khoudary's collection includes thousands of items, but some of the most extraordinary of them will not go on display just now, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps with Jewish menorahs on them.
Asked why, Khoudary noted although negativ conditions he said simply: "I want my project to succeed."
He did, however, bring a Hamas government minister to see the exhibit recently and pointed out two crosses on Byzantine columns.
A prominent construction company owner, Khoudary, who is 48 and a believer in coexistence and global culture, has been collecting for 22 years, ever since he came across an Islamic glass coin and fell in love with its link to a bygone era. Since then, he has asked all his construction workers to save whatever is dug up so that he can go through it for treasures. Local fishermen know that anything old that washes ashore will fetch a decent price from Khoudary.
You may ask how a man open a museum with thousands of important historical items although he's belonging a nation which fight with poorness, occupation and political conflicts. Khoudary had face big difficulties when he attempted to open this museum "el Mat'haf".
In 2005, he persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to let him set up a national archaeological museum with Swiss help. A site was picked and a show was developed at the Geneva Museum of Art and History; it brought in large crowds.
Then in June 2007, some months after Hamas won a parliamentary majority, Hamas and the Fatah party of Abbas fought street battles that ended in the banishment of Fatah and Abbas from Gaza.
So with the project stalled and Gaza's borders closed, Khoudary decided to do it on his own. He built a restaurant and café (with space for a hotel) and on the same property added the museum. He dubbed the entire complex on the coast near the Shati refugee camp north of Gaza City "el Mat'haf," Arabic for museum, saying, "People here don't hear this word. I want it to enter the vocabulary."
With so little to do in Gaza - factories are closed and the economy is stalled - el Mat'haf seems likely to attract huge crowds.
IHTLast Mod: 07 Eylül 2008, 19:11