Qurna - The Four Properties Projects

As of today there is a group of 4 adjacent properties in Horubat which, in essence and taken together as a group, demonstrate the last 300 years or more of Theban Necropolis and Qurnawi cultural heritage.

This small group should, above all, be retained and restored, conserved and used to house permanent exhibitions of the cultural heritage of Qurna.

What 4 properties?

They stand just West and South-West of the tomb of Nakht - see copy of 1921-24 maps
The group is comprised of (from the north):
A.        The now ruined house of Yanni with its large courtyard.
B.         The house of the Daramalli family
C.        The zawia of the Daramallis and Lazims
D.        A bab el haggar and outer courtyard.

Why these 4 properties?

Each one epitomizes different but inter-weaving strands of the Qurna story.
Chronological history:

Post pharaonic  -  20th century.
The bab el haggar was the property first inhabited in this group.  It would have been used from time to time over many centuries by families retreating from the valley for various reasons (war, tax collection, family problems etc).  From the early 19th century it was lived in by a Qurnawi family who had moved from the old village of Qurna in search of antiquities work.  Its roof shows the smoke of a million domestic fires.  The interior has a truly amazing collection of mud structures - cupboards, ovens, pigeon houses, grain stores and the like.  The courtyard holds some of the largest and in one case the oldest, menama on the hillside.  We know that one was made by the wife of Sheikh Awad who, in his middle age, worked with Sir G Wilkinson and Robert Hay. 

c. 1815 -  Yanni’s house
The house built by Giovanni d'Athenasi (Yanni) was the first free-standing house on the hillside - not as an adjunct to a bab el haggar.  Yanni worked for the British Consul, collecting antiquities for the British Museum and other collectors.  The house is extremely well-documented.  We have detailed drawings from various angles from the 1820s, photos from the 1850s and 1860s, and written descriptions from c 1818 to late 19th century of life in the house with its many European guests - Egyptologists, collectors, travellers etc.  It played a major part in the life of this important period.

This house provided a 'house style', much adapted by later Qurnawi-built houses.

20th century
The Daramalli family house is a fine but typical example of a Qurnawi house, built in the first half of the 20th century with more recent additions.  It has a small outer courtyard with a separate salle (reception room) and small courtyard to the hillside.

Late 19th until present
The zawia is first recorded in photos of 1909, and was probably built in the 1880s or 90s.  The contribution of the zawias to the community and religious life of the Qurnawi is very important - and this zawia was partially restored (timber and plaster) in 2003 by the Qurna History Project.
The passage at the South of the zawia, between the zawia and the bab el haggar, had a huge wooden door which has been rescued and retained for re-installation.  Behind the zawia is a partially demolished and now empty house (until recently the home of Taia Adaowi), the lower rooms of which should also be retained and converted and connected to the zawia.

What for?

Each of these properties will serve a different purpose, but each will contribute to the appreciation and understanding of the last 300 years of Theban heritage.

A.        Yanni's House
John Taylor of the Dept of Egyptology at The British Museum has written a biography of Yanni (soon to be published).  He is keen to see the house restored.  It could and should house a permanent exhibition to show the work of the early historians, artists and Egyptologists who worked on the Necropolis.  The British Library holds many of the original manuscripts and drawings of these vast collections.  This could be a fine project for international cultural co-operation.

B.        The Daramalli House
This should be used to house a permanent collection of traditional Qurnawi arts, crafts and domestic artefacts. A number of people have made personal collections over many decades of crafts and equipment which is no longer made or in use.  There is at least one personal collection which includes photos, paintings and drawings.  It is known that some such collectors would like to create a permanent home for these materials in order to present an enjoyable and clear record of the life of the Qurnawi on the hillside.  The Daramalli house would be an ideal venue.

C.        The Zawia will be an ideal venue for Qurna Discovery, Life on the Theban Hills 1826.  This small permanent exhibition (entrance FREE) was created, designed and maintained by Mrs Caroline Simpson, opened in 2001 and has attracted thousands of visitors - tourists and local people - over the last six years.  It has had to move from its previous venue which was lower down by the car park.  In order to properly exhibit the Panoramas of Robert Hay, (a gift from the British Library to Qurna) and a complementary exhibition, the old rooms of the Taia Adaowi house would need to be used in addition to the zawia itself.  Inter-connection can be achieved without spoiling the architectural integrity of the zawia.  This work would be done by the Qurna History Project as before at the Omda House (2001-2) and the lower previousvenue.

D.        The bab el haggar only needs to be cleaned out to remove modern plastic rubbish etc and appropriate lighting installed.  There are no inscriptions etc visible and as it has been open and used for many centuries it is highly unlikely to be needed for excavation at any time in the near or even distant future.  The modern walls in the courtyard would be cleared to show the glory of the groups of menama and other dulab.  The rubbish clearing and lighting could be done by the Qurna History Project as above.  Egyptologist Elina Paulin-Grothe has offered to supervise any and all clearing work connected to the bab el haggar.

What needs to happen next?

These properties are within the World Heritage Site and thus are the ultimate responsibility of the SCA.  This proposal outlines exciting and culturally respectful uses for these four adjacent properties.  Agreement for the retention of these properties and such useshas to be obtained from the SCA.  (This paragraph was inserted Feb14th to make these points clear)

If agreement is reached that all 4 properties (and the lower rooms of Taia Adaowi's previous house) will be retained, and the current occupants no longer resident, (*** below) then Mrs Caroline Simpson, the co-ordinator of the Qurna History Project and Qurna Discovery, will guarantee to do all she can to make the projects a success. 

The retention of the whole group must be guaranteed. 

Mrs Caroline Simpson is a personal friend of the essential people who have collections of Qurnawi crafts etc that they wish to house, and also of Dr John Taylor.  She has proved through her work at Qurna Discovery and the project's website that she has the knowledge and contacts which would be invaluable to such proposed projects.  (see www.qurna.org)

***  current residents:
B The Daramalli family have agreed to move and are waiting to be given alternative accommodation.  The house will then be empty of residents.
A  A member of the Lazim family has built modern dwelling rooms on the last few years in the Yanni courtyard.  If the project was agreed, then he would have to be relocated.

There are no other current residents.

Who is this all for?

The preservation, restoration and presentation of the more modern Theban Heritage is for the visitors to the Necropolis and also for the Qurnawi. 

For visitors it puts the archaeological work and knowledge of this World Heritage Site in its historical context, and for the Qurnawi it gives them recognition of their part in this cultural heritage and a presentation of Upper Egyptian traditional life which has vanished fast.



Mrs Caroline Simpson lives and works in London but travels frequently to Egypt.
Her address is: 9 Whittington Road, London N22 8YS, UK.  Tel 020 8881 9386
Email: Caroline@forbury.demon.co.uk

In her absence the practical matters concerned with Qurna Discovery and The Qurna History Project are in the very capable hands of Abdu Osman Taia Daramalli, resident in Geziret el Qurna, and who works with Egyptologist and long-time Qurna resident, Elina Paulin-Grothe.  His mobile is: 0105436085.

Proposed and prepared by Caroline Simpson, February 9th 2007.
Additional paragraph on page 3 inserted February 14th as indicated



The story so far: Feb 14th.
This proposal was presented to and discussed with Dr Mansour Boraik, SCA Luxor East and West, on February 10th 2007.  We visited the site together with other members of the West Bank SCA.

Dr Mansour expressed great interest in the proposals and gave the projects his agreement in principle.

On February 11th Dr Mansour said that the next step is for Abdu Daramalli to sign to agree that no money is required from the SCA for wood etc of the zawia or the Daramalli house.  A signed document will be given by Abdu Daramalli to Dr Mansour as soon as possible.

Mrs Caroline Simpson sent a copy of this proposal to Dr John Taylor of The British Museum on February 11th, and will send one to Dr Vivian Davies of The British Museum who is currently in Egypt and proposes to go and look at the Yanni house and meet with Dr Mansour.