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Jean-Yves Empereur
Director of CEAlex
January 2012
The exhibition Du Nil à Alexandrie in the Tessé Museum, Le Mans

A new year begins and exciting perspectives and duties lie ahead. Egypt finds itself in a previously unknown situation following a popular vote that should lead to a constituent assembly some time this month. Everything is possible in this new democracy, and the greatest hopes could be realised in this great country, even if the overflow of emotions has created certain crises. We have all seen those painful images of the fire that reduced the priceless collections of the Egyptian Institute to ashes. The destruction of thousands of books, many rare and precious, is all the more dramatic in that they do not even exist in digital form. The document has disappeared and the image of it too. This tragic event has encouraged us to pay even more attention to our own digital project that employs a full-time team of eight persons as part of the National Research Agency (ANR) programme on the Francophone press of Egypt. The website now hosts some 25000 pages open to casual visitors and researchers that give a new vision of daily life in Egypt over the past 200 years. In the same vein, we shall put on line old works on Alexandria, with plans and maps of the city.

On another note, the Supreme Council for Antiquities is back in operation and we have received our excavation permits without delay. The Marea dig will open in March and an underwater campaign on the Pharos site is scheduled for springtime, and we are beginning a new project with the excavation of an amphora workshop to the south of Lake Mariout. As for the dig commissioned by the Mariemont Museum on the sanctuary of Eleusis in the modern district of Smouha, work has continued throughout the winter.

The restoration, conservation and study of material extracted from our digs have continued at a steady pace in the Shallalat storehouse. The results will appear in a series of new publications. The CEAlex press published no less than three books in the second half of 2011 on subjects as varied as Egyptian amphorae, the dialect of Pamphylia, and the fourth volume of Alexandrie médiévale, which brings together the papers presented at the latest of our gatherings dedicated to that period. These works are now distributed by the Parisian publishing house Boccard (

Of special concern to us is the growing collaboration between the CEAlex and the Egyptian archaeological authorities. In addition to the training workshops in ceramology and archaeological photography, we are, at their request, about to start a new experiment in creating an excavation school to assist in a better understanding of archaeological digs.
It is clear that the present situation is the time to develop new approaches, to reassert the partnership with our Egyptian colleagues who are expressing an increased desire for common action and a better sharing of knowledge. We owe it to them to respond and the backing of our supervisory body, the CNRS, but also the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, in our excavations at Marea is of fundamental importance. The support of our collaborators in a country in the midst of profound changes demands a staunch presence and thus increased means, something that is certainly not simple in the present circumstances. Nevertheless, that is how our presence will be appreciated, by being there as a trustworthy partner when needed.

We have gained a reputation for our interest in sharing our knowledge. As well as the success of the second Heritage Days organised in Alexandria by our Educational Outreach Service (photos can be seen at, we have also inaugurated a new exhibition in the Tessé Museum of Le Mans in France. It opened on 25 November of last year and will run until 27 May, 2012, and has already proved a considerable success. There is an accompanying catalogue covering the history of water in the 2300-year-long life of Alexandria. For further information, see :
To finish, I would like to thank all those who have shown an interest in our work. We have had no less than 60,000 visitors to our different web sites in one year. We have enjoyed the faithful support of those associations that help us in our efforts to save and present the exceptional heritage of Alexandria, Sarthe-Alexandrie and Île-de-France Alexandrie
My warmest thanks go to all of their members, especially for their contributions to our educational activities.

Fig: The exhibition Du Nil à Alexandrie in the Tessé Museum, Le Mans. Photo J. -Y. Empereur, © Cealex.

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