Heba Abd El Salam: Preserving Egypt’s Cultural Heritage—The Mallawi Community Outreach Project

Friday, February 15, 2019

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free) 


The desecration of cultural heritage is a major problem in many places around the world today. In the Middle East especially, in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, heritage sites have been destroyed or heavily looted during recent conflicts. Egypt has experienced this problem since ancient times, but after the 2011 revolution the situation got worse. As Egypt became increasingly unstable, many heritage sites were destroyed in high-profile places such as Luxor, Dahshur, and Tanis.

     Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Minya region has also experienced much destruction of its cultural heritage. The worst example occurred at the Mallawi Museum in 2013, when people broke into the building to smash and  steal its artifacts. Exquisite examples of animal mummies, ibis statues, and other treasures were all lost.

Learning an ancient craft during a community workshop.

     To help prevent this kind of attack from happening again, Heba Abd El Salam conducted two community engagement projects as part of her Ph.D. research—one at Minya University and the other in the restored and reopened Mallawi Museum. Using different methods of interpretation such as storytelling, living history, craft-making workshops, and archeological demonstrations, Abd El Salam and other experts encouraged local people to engage with the museum as they never had before. This allowed people to form personal connections with the museum and become stakeholders in preserving and defending a cherished historical asset in their own community.

     This kind of engagement, which forges strong links between communities and their own heritage, can be a powerful tool in better preserving historical sites throughout Egypt.

      ARCE itself is actively engaged in cultural heritage preservation at many sites in Egypt. ARCE’s interim U.S. Operations Director, Fatma Talaat Ismail, will present an update on the some of the organization’s many current projects.


Heba Abd El Salam
is a program advisor at the ARCE headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. She has excavated and surveyed at many sites in Egypt including Abydos, Dakhleh Oasis, and Beni Hassan.

     Abd El Salam specializes in public history, museum studies, and cultural heritage preservation. She earned her Ph.D. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Central Florida. She also has Bachelor’s degree in Islamic and Coptic archaeology from Cairo University.  

     Given the increasing number of threats to heritage sites in Egypt, her focus for the past five years has been to learn about the best practices in public programming, museum education, and historic and cultural heritage preservation.  Her main goal has been to find a way to connect communities with their own local museums and historic sites.

Fatma Talaat Ismail teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. 

     She received her Ph.D. from the Near Eastern Department of the Johns Hopkins University in 2009 after completing her undergraduate studies and a Master’s degree in Egyptology at Helwan University in Egypt. She has participated in Johns Hopkins field excavation projects in Luxor and has a broad knowledge of and interest in ancient Eastern Mediterranean history up to medieval Islam.

     Ismail has worked on a number of museum exhibitions including “Faces of Ancient Arabia” at the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore and “Quest For Immortality: Treasures Of Ancient Egypt” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  She also served as curator for the exhibition “For Now and Forever: Funerary Artifacts from Ancient Egypt” at the Kohl Gallery of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)


Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.

Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, just a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at ccboyer@comcast.net