In the 19th century, Egypt repeatedly tightened its laws to prevent the sale of its antiquities. By order of the government, excavations and collections are strictly regulated.

What is considered cultural property in Egypt?

The cultural heritage of Egypt includes products of the Egyptian civilization or one of the subsequent civilizations; works of art, science, literature or religious works created on Egyptian soil from prehistoric times to over 100 years ago; objects of historical importance for the Egyptian civilization or of archaeological or artistic value. Mummified human and animal remains are also included. The Ministry of Antiquities may declare objects of scientific, religious, artistic or literary value as cultural property if there is a public interest.

What are the export regulations?

Since 1983, antiquities are generally not allowed to be exported from Egypt. Temporary export for exhibition purposes is possible with authorization.

What sanctions are there?

The illegal export of cultural property is punishable by a fine of 100,000 to 1,000,000 Egyptian pounds and the theft of an antiquity by a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 Egyptian pounds. Illegal trafficking is punishable by one to seven years in prison. Property damage, including unauthorized excavations, is subject to a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 Egyptian pounds.

Chronology of cultural property protection laws

  • 1835
    – 1858
    Decree of Mohammed Ali, Governor of the Ottoman Province of Egypt
    Export ban on antiquities; the government is the deciding authority on excavations, collections, exhibitions and the preservation of antiquities
  • 1869
    – 1874
    Decree of Ismail Pasha, Governor of the Ottoman Province of Egypt
    Regulation of excavations; prohibition of unauthorized export of antiquities
  • 1880
    Decree of Mohammad Tewfiq Pasha
  • 1891
    – 1897
    Decree on Excavations and the Division of Finds
    Illegal excavations are prohibited; introduction of the division of finds
  • 1912
    Law No. 12, Ministerial Decree
    Extension of decrees concerning the antiquities trade; introduction of state licenses for dealers
  • 1951
    Law No. 215
    Regulation of antiquities in private hands; restriction of export licenses
  • 1955
    The Hague Convention of 1954
    Protection of the cultural property of countries in the event of armed conflict
  • 1973
    UNESCO 1970 Convention
    Means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property
  • 1976
    – 1979
    Cultural Charter for Africa
    Rehabilitation, restoration, conservation and promotion of African Cultural Heritage
  • 1983
    Law No. 117, Updated 2010
    Definition of cultural property; prohibition of trade and export of cultural property; obligation to report finds of antiquities; all finds from excavations belong to the Egyptian state
  • 2005
    – 2018
    Hague Convention, Second Protocol of 1999
    Clarification and extension of the 1954 Hague Convention