The Archaeological Replicas Unit, affiliated to the Ministry of Antiquities, plans to conclude a study on establishing a production factory of Egyptian monument replicas and goods with investments worth EGP 30m.
Amr El-Tibi, executive director of the unit, told Daily News Egypt that the factory would be funded by the ministry, with the possibility of putting it up for partnership with an investor in case of lack of funding.
El-Tibi added that the cost of technical preparations and the machines that produce the replicas would reach EGP 13m, in addition to the costs of the building that will be established in Fustat next to the Museum of Civilisation, as decided by the ministry.
The Archaeological Replicas Unit was established in October 2010 with the amendments made to the Antiquities Protection Law. They allowed the establishment of production units of special nature, especially in the fields of archaeological replicas, publishing and printing, and documentary and cinematic films.
The ministry began the establishment of these units with the archaeological replicas unit, which took six months to prepare, coinciding with the events of 25 January 2011.
What is the unit’s plan for foreign exhibits to be held throughout the upcoming period?
In cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the unit is preparing for the archaeological replicas sale exhibit in Latin America starting 2017.
The exhibit will take place in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina; however, its duration is not yet decided. Moreover, there are ongoing negotiations about the number of pieces to be produced for the exhibit.
On the other hand, the unit is preparing for its exhibit in Japan to be held in December. It will last for 18 days, with nine days in Tokyo, and nine days in Osaka.
The unit aims to achieve revenues worth EGP 20m through taking part in the Japan exhibit, with produced replicas worth EGP 1m.
The Japan exhibit comes within the framework of the cooperation protocol between the Antiquities Ministry and Al-Ahram National Press Foundation. According to the protocol, Al-Ahram is responsible for organising the exhibit and covering the costs of packaging and transporting the replicas.
Al-Ahram will also cover the insurance cost, estimated at EGP 3.7m, in addition to the repayment of EGP 100,000 for the right to utilise replicas.
What is the unit’s plan over the upcoming period to increase the production of replicas?
The unit aims to establish at least five production lines in the main Egyptian touristic governorates in order to cover the local market’s needs of archaeological replicas, such as Alexandria, Matrouh, Middle Egypt (Fayoum, Beni Suef, Assiut), and the South Sinai region.
Each governorate will need replicas that mimic their historical and archaeological eras, like Alexandria. It is most characterised by the antiquities of the Greco-Roman period, while Sinai is rich of its own heritage, whereas Aswan, Luxor, and Qena are full of Pharaonic antiquities.
If the Antiquities Ministry manages to launch the Holding Company for the Management of Archaeological Sites soon, the latter will be responsible for the establishment of different branches all over the country, while the Archaeological Replicas Unit will be the core of the company and have several branches all over Egypt.
The ministry has been working on preparing the final structure of the holding company planned to be established in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning. The company will include four separate companies that contribute to increasing income for antiquities.
The four companies include one to produce museum display windows, one to manage services in archaeological sites, one to produce replicas and clone monuments, and one to produce publications.
Will local products be able to compete with Chinese products after the decision to stop importing?
The unit seeks to expand in the industry of archaeological replicas. It considers it an industry with large revenues, as proven by the great attention it receives from the Chinese market. It is an export-heavy industry due to the large demand on the pieces that reflect the Egyptian civilisation.
Currently, the industry of archaeological replicas depends on a technical, manual aspect and a mechanical one. Right now, the first aspect is available. The second will be available once studies for the factory establishment and operation are concluded.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade decided to stop importing Egyptian archaeological replicas and goods from China in April 2015.
The decision stipulated halting imports of folk art products, especially drawings with lines and colours, carving, sculptures, ceramic, clay, wood or metal products, jewellery, textiles, carpets, clothes, musical instruments, and pictures of archaeological pieces and sites.
The decision requires the local production of enough archaeological replicas in order to meet the needs of the domestic market after the Chinese imported product disappears. The Archaeological Replicas Unit is still covering only 1% of the total domestic market needs.
When the merchants are out of stock of Chinese pieces, they will resort to demanding them from the Archaeological Replicas Unit or the local workshops.
The unit aims to continue producing archaeological replicas at the same quality as when it was established, as well as to generate profit for the Ministry of Antiquities through producing and exporting archaeological replicas.
What is the size of the unit’s production and revenues since its establishment?
The archaeological replicas unit has achieved total revenues of EGP 6m since its establishment in 2011 until this year. The volume of production is subject to demand, whether from customers or external and internal exhibitions.
The replicas units started its actual production in 2011 through contracting on producing about 150 replicas of King Tutankhamun’s collection for a client in Sharm El-Sheikh. That collection achieved total revenues of EGP 2.8m. It was a good start that pushed the unit to produce more replicas. The reason behind starting with the King Tutankhamun collection was his international fame, in addition to the client’s specific request for those replicas.
The unit contracted with the Egyptian Academy in Rome, affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, in 2014 to produce 50 archaeological replicas; they were sold for EGP 1.2m.
Moreover, replicas were exported to Spain, Germany, and Japan on the occasion of holding some art, archaeological, and cultural exhibitions and festivals.
The unit’s most recent work is the one-month replicas exhibition that was held in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. It achieved revenues exceeding EGP 225,000 in three weeks.
He said that the time during which the replicas exhibition had been held is considered a period of recession for tourism due to the low number of foreign tourists visiting Egypt in the summer season. In the summer, the visitors are usually limited to Egyptians and Arabs. Nevertheless, the exhibition has achieved good revenues.
The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir used to achieve daily revenues of approximately EGP 1m compared to no more than EGP 50,000 now.
The replicas exhibition is one of 20 gift outlets managed by the Ministry of Antiquities nationwide. Those exhibitions are distributed among the most important archaeological places, such as Giza, Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan.
How do you manufacture the archaeological models?
Models and artefacts manufacturing passes through stages linked to each other. It starts with carving pieces if they are made out of wood, or casting them with alabaster in the case of statues. After that, it enters the finishing stage, which could be followed by grafting pieces with precious stones, and finally colouring if needed.
80% of archaeological models components are produced from local raw materials, while a small amount of raw materials are imported, such as alabaster. Local materials vary between woods, gemstones, and copper.
The unit has five sections for archaeological models production, namely woodworks, ceramics, casting, ornaments, and colouring.
How many labourers are working in the unit?
The amount of workers is not that large; it reaches roughly 60 workers. However, they are experienced and highly qualified technicians and craftsmen. The workshop does not solely rely on people with advanced educational degrees.
The unit requires experience and efficiency, not educational certificates. Workers are chosen according to their technical competence in producing models and pieces.
Workers and technicians receive training on the academic aspect of models production.