Cairo's Islamic Art Museum Reopens 3 Years After A Car Bomb Damaged It : Parallels "We cried so much when we first saw it, because ... what you see standing here was all in pieces on the floor," says an Islamic art specialist. Museum staff repaired all but 10 of 179 damaged objects.
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Cairo's Islamic Art Museum Reopens 3 Years After A Car Bomb Damaged It

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Cairo's Islamic Art Museum Reopens 3 Years After A Car Bomb Damaged It

Cairo's Islamic Art Museum Reopens 3 Years After A Car Bomb Damaged It

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A museum in Cairo that was damaged by a car bomb three years ago recently opened its doors again. The Museum of Islamic Art houses some of the most important treasures of Islamic culture. NPR's Jane Arraf was there to take a look.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Sufi dancers whirl in the stone courtyard of the museum, their spotless white robes billowing. It's a form of prayer. You can see it in the look of pure devotion in the dancers' faces. Inside, the Museum of Islamic Art is full of other expressions of devotion, the painstaking work of artists and craftspeople over the richest centuries of innovation in the Islamic world.

Shahinda Karim, a professor of Islamic art, takes diplomats and journalists into the new galleries.

SHAHINDA KARIM: You're not talking about one country, and you're not talking about one dynasty. You're talking about countries from Spain to China and from centuries from the 7th until today.

ARRAF: Karim shows us incredibly intricate wooden panels with repeating patterns of interlocking geometric shapes, incense burners covered in gold and diamonds, floral-patterned Persian carpets so finely woven they're almost paper-thin...

KARIM: This is a masterpiece of a carpet. It's from the Safavid, which is the 16th century, from Persia.

ARRAF: ...And miniature paintings of palace life so finely drawn that a single squirrel hair was used as a paintbrush.

Near the entrance is a delicate enameled glass bottle from Syria more than 800 years old. It's one of 169 objects restored after the blast three years ago. You can see where it was glued back together. Karim says the damage to the museum was devastating.

KARIM: We cried so much when we first saw it because a lot of what you see today standing was in pieces.

ARRAF: The U.S. government helped repair the museum's intricate stone and wood facade. United Arab Emirates provided the money to renovate the interior. Signs in the museum remind people of the scientific and artistic contributions of what some call the Golden Age of Islam. The exhibits include an engraved astrolabe, one of the first devices used to navigate by the stars. Karim, from The American University in Cairo, believes the museum will help counter negative images of Islam.

KARIM: It will show people that this was one of the most advanced cultures. And you have to see through art because it's art that shows you the beauty.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: Outside, Egypt's minister of antiquities says the reopening is proof that terrorism will not cripple the country with fear.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARRAF: And then the music - attuned to the heavens, the dancers whirl on.

Jane Arraf, NPR News, Cairo.

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