1960s Wall Paintings at the Marsam/Sheik Ali Hotel, Luxor, Egypt

While working on various conservation projects in the Theban Necropolis in Luxor, including some covered in this blog: Conservation of a New Tomb; The Colossi of Memnon, Thebes, Luxor, Egypt, the teams have stayed at the legendary Marsam/Sheik Ali Hotel.

The Marsam is one of the oldest guest houses on the west bank, owned by the Al Rasoul family – who have long historic connections with excavations  in the Theban Necropolis.  More about the history of the hotel can be found here: Marsam Luxor, and here: Lonely Planet: Marsam Hotel

One of the many interesting features of the hotel are a series of informal paintings executed on ‘muna’ – traditional mud plaster, in the room now used as a breakfast/dinning room. These paintings date from the 1960s, from the time that the hotel was used as an art school.  The styles are spontaneous, with subjects ranging from versions of traditional Egyptian wall painting, to abstract work, and include a scene which appears to show some of the artists themselves.

Over time the paintings have been subject to some damage, as changes to the building were made historically; a window had been cut through the lower part of one, while later muna patches cover areas where work had obviously been carried out to install electrical cabling in the wall.  Muna had also been used to patch holes in the paintings.  At lower levels there were various detachments and losses.

In 2013 the new manager of the hotel was concerned about the condition of the paintings, and wanted to prevent any further deterioration or damage. The room was being used as a dinning room and the lower parts of  the paintings were particularly vulnerable to passing visitor traffic, with people passing behind chairs and brushing against them.  There were numerous losses and detachments at this height.  At the request of the manager I carried out a very limited consolidation programme to stabilise and secure the vulnerable lower levels of the paintings from this traffic, this was done including the use of some conservation materials kindly supplied by the ULB MANT project.  This intervention ensures their continued preservation for now, and should prevent further incidental deterioration.

Some images of the paintings are below:

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