On Friday morning, Minya awoke to find its statue of Taha Hussein — the first Arab author nominated for the Nobel Prize — missing:
The statue, which had been placed on a pyramid-shaped pedestal, was one of the city’s central monuments. It was at a picturesque spot near the Nile, and, according to numerous news sites, Minya’s brides and grooms often had their wedding photo taken with the “Dean of Arabic Literature.”
As yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the disappearance. However, many have blamed Islamists, and on Sunday the Egyptian culture ministry and writers union linked the incident with the veiling of a statue of singer Um Kulthoum and condemned both acts.
Ahmed Abu-Bakr, a board member of Minya’s Intellectual Club, told the Daily News Egypt that, “We strongly condemn this unpleasant incident. Today they stole the great thinker’s statue; only god knows what tomorrow has in store for us.” However, Abu-Bakr also told the paper he has not made up his mind about who perpetrated the crime: “It may be random robbers, junk dealers or even fundamentalist Islamic groups.”
According to Watani Weekly Newspaper, “On the official level, the head of the local government in Minya, Ismail al-Fahham, said it was far-fetched that the bust would have been removed by radical Islamists, but was probably the work of some teenage outlaw street vendors.”
Al-Fahham also apparently added Mr Fahham that another bust has been ordered, and that the one which disappeared was made of gypsum and was worth no more than a mere 50LE.
Taha Hussein was born in the village of Ezbet El-Kilo, near Minya, in 1898. From relatively modest beginnings, he became one of Egypt’s leading authors, critics, and social reformers.
The Days, Hussein’s memoirs, is probably his best-known work. Part one (An Egyptian Childhood) was published in serialized form in 1926 and 1927. It was followed by a second part, serialized in 1940 (The Stream of Days), and a third in 1967 (A Passage to France). The English translation appeared as a single volume in 2001, trans. EH Paxton, Hilary Wayment and Kenneth Cragg.
Many in Egypt’s religious right have demanded that The Days be removed from Egypt’s school curriculum, for (allegedly) tarnishing the image of Al Azhar.
Egypt Independent: Culture Ministry condemns damaging of statues
Daily News Egypt: Bust of Taha Hussein disappears in Minya
Watani Weekly Newspaper: Bust of Egyptian enlightenment figure disappears