Chinese Sphinx replica raises Egyptian ire
Replica of Sphinx in China - Photo courtesy of

CAIRO: China’s newly unveiled replica of Egypt’s Great Sphinx has raised questions over the legality of such an act, as well as strained relations between the two countries, as the replica is seen by some as an insult to Egypt’s cultural heritage.

But many legal experts say Egypt has little recourse in the matter.

“Egypt has no national law that copyrights its antiquities. In most Western countries, such laws generally protect copyrighted property for a specific amount of time,” Mohamed Mahmoud, a lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information told The Cairo Post Saturday.

“I do not think that there will be any penalty applied to China as Egypt did not copyright the Sphinx and thus, China did not commit any violation,” Ali Atef, a lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also told The Cairo Post Saturday.

But copyright or no copyright, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that Egypt will demand Egyptian Ambassador to UNESCO Mohamed Sameh Amr take up a complaint with UNESCO over the Chinese Sphinx violating the third paragraph of article VI of the 1972 UNESCO Convention. The paragraph states, “Each country included in the agreement pledges not to take any deliberate procedure that would either directly or indirectly harm the cultural and natural heritage located in the other countries involved in the agreement.”

“We will address UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova to inform her that the re-production of the Sphinx harms the cultural heritage of Egypt where the statue is registered on the World Heritage List,” Ibrahim said on May 17.

“The Chinese replica of Egypt’s Sphinx will not pull the rug out from under the original Sphinx,” Minister of Trade and industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said Friday evening during his interview on Al-Arabiya channel. “In accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries, China is not entitled to cause any harm to Egypt’s cultural heritage.”

He also said the Chinese version is inferior to the original.

“Unlike the Egyptian Sphinx, which was carved from one piece of limestone, the Chinese version is made of a reinforced steel framework and a concrete body,” Nour said.

The Sphinx stands for the wisdom, power and authority of the pharaoh and features a lion’s body and human head with the pharaoh’s facial features, former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Abdel Halim Nour el-Din, told The Cairo Post. The Sphinx was buried under sand by the time of the 641 A.D. Arab conquest of Egypt and was not completely excavated until the 1920s according to Nour el-Din.

The Chinese version isn’t the first attempt to replicate the Sphinx. The Luxor Las Vegas Hotel and Casino houses several replicas of ancient Egyptian monuments including a sphinx.

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