Maritime Archaeology Outreach Project (Bahar)
Egypt has significant, and unique underwater cultural heritage, however, there is an evident lack of public knowledge and awareness of maritime archaeology in Egypt. Hence, the Maritime Archaeology Outreach Project (MAOP) aims to introduce children to the field of maritime archaeology in an age-appropriate approach that teaches basic archaeological concepts and generates interest and awareness of the field.
Using a series of workshop stations to introduce children, aged 6-12, to maritime archaeology, each workstation provides a student with an experience to better understand the importance of their own cultural heritage. The workstations follow a hands-on and active approach which leads to enthusiastic and active participation by children, along with modern presentation of cultural heritage via virtual reality.
Successfully, over the past year, MAOP has contributed in raising public awareness of the importance of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). Considering most of the existing material available for a general audience on UCH or linked to maritime themes, is not in Arabic, MAOP is probably the only resource that provides the public with an Arabic knowledge about their heritage. Based on assessment most of MAOP’s workshop participants had no idea about UCH. Notably, after the workshops, over 90% of the participants had increased their knowledge and awareness toward their heritage. Consequently, the future plan includes developing and expanding avenues for dissemination to include more segments and destinations in Egypt.
A project mascot was developed to communicate with the audience in an efficient way, BAHAR (Arabic for seaman) is the messenger that carries the ideas and values, making the project more understandable relatable, and entertaining.
One of the outstanding achievements of MAOP is the publication of the first ever Arabic children’s story “the Adventures of Bahar and Nejma”, in cooperation with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The story is given away to the children at the end of MAOP workshops. Through the story, Bahar and Nejma introduce children, from 9 to 12 years old, to the significance and value of UCH. Moreover, the story raises the children’s awareness of the marine environment and the need for its protection.
For wider dissemination MAOP applied to establish a UNESCO Club for heritage and, approvingly, the Egyptian National Commission for UNESCO announced the establishment of a UNESCO CLUB at the Alexandria University Centre for Maritime Archaeology as part of the Maritime Archaeology Outreach Project (BAHAR). This is the first UNESCO Club in Egypt that focuses on raising public awareness of Underwater Cultural Heritage for children. The BAHAR UNESCO Club was presented by the Vice-President of the Alexandria University at a meeting of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Universities, as a model for best practice in outreach and community engagement.
The maritime archaeology outreach project (Bahar) is run by a team of students from the Alexandria University Centre for Maritime Archaeology & Underwater Cultural Heritage (CMAUCH).
You can also follow the project on their Facebook page
Nada Nofal also featured on the HFF podcast series, Dive & Dig, listen to the full episode here