Antiquities thieves have benefitted the most from the waves of riots and lawlessness in Egypt, and they are making fortunes. More treasures are being stolen and sold on the black market with every wave of unrest. Perhaps the most prominent looting incident was that of the Egyptian Museum during the events of Jan. 28, 2011.
That tragedy was repeated with the looting of the Malawi Museum when the Rabia al-Adawiya and Nahda squares sit-ins were broken up on Aug. 14 of last year, and in the looting of the Islamic Museum on Jan. 24. Those incidents have encouraged other thieves to loot antiquities sites by exploiting riots. Targeting museums and archaeological sites has become common during the riots, when security chaos keeps the police busy.
Not a week goes by in Egypt without someone transporting stolen artifacts being arrested or stolen museum pieces being seized.
The crisis has grown from the looting of Egyptian museums with each riot wave to the looting of archaeological excavation sites. The attacks are aggressive, as if some people are taking revenge against the state for their extreme poverty and marginalization by looting ancient monuments. What’s making things worse is that the thieves sometimes destroy the sites themselves, unaware of how valuable the rare artifacts are, according to Hiba Saleh, Egypt's chief inspector of artifacts.