Modern Art Revives Ancient Glories at Aswan Symposium

By Ahmed Kafafi


On a hill overlooking the Nile, the symposium is home to huge sculpture works that are spread out in a big desert stretch where you can get a panorama of the historic city of Aswan.

For more than two decades, many sculptors from different countries around the world would come together in this open-air museum to turn huge masses of rocks into inspiring shapes. “This is the fifth time I come here, and each time is a new and incredible experience,” says a British tourist.


Aswan is the ideal location for the symposium as the surrounding mountains are where the stones used to create marvel structures like the pyramids, temples and obelisks were shipped to the different parts of the Nile Valley.

“In the middle of 1988, the National Centre for Fine Arts carried out a number of studies that highlighted new forms of artistic activities to be held locally and internationally.  Among these was the sculpture symposium,” mentions Professor Ahmed Nawar.


“In 1990, the governor of Aswan was contacted regarding this issue, and showed great enthusiasm for it, demanding the implementation of the necessary measures needed to kick-start the event. A preliminary committee was formed to put the general detailed plan, including Dr. Ahmed Nawar, Samir Gharib, the Ministry of Culture’s art advisor, the famous sculptor Adam Hunein, artist Yosri Hasa and the report of the British sculptor Steven Cooks who was assigned by the British government to sculpt a statue to be presented as a gift to the Opera House,” he continued.


Nawar added, “In 1990, an agenda was presented to the Minister of Culture for approval, and a fixed date was given for the symposium to feature annually during the winter in a place that could be easily accessed by the locals and tourists. Due to its closeness to the granite quarries, Basma Hotel was chosen to host the sculptors.  The committee suggested that a group of young sculptors should accompany the international artists to allow direct interaction and further develop their talents. The subject and method of expression has been left entirely to the artist.”

The symposium is worth a visit, especially when the sculptors are at work. Their inspirations and creations are a reflection of both modern and Ancient Egyptian art.