Egyptian Queen Nefertiti not budging from Berlin

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BERLIN -- The beautiful women of the ancient world have always had a dangerous streak. The face of Helen of Troy launched a thousand warships, and now the exquisite Queen Nefertiti is at the heart of an imminent museum war between Germany and Egypt.

The 3,400-year-old bust of the wife of the Sun King Akhenaten has been in German hands since it was dug out of the desert by the archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1912. It was smuggled out of Egypt and became a central part of Berlin’s museum collection.

Now the Egyptians want it back, if not for keeps, then at least on loan to mark the opening in 2012 of a new Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Pyramid at Giza. If the Egyptian Museum in Berlin does not agree, says Zahi Hawass, there will be trouble...

German officials say that the bust is too fragile to travel. “Nefertiti is not a pop star that can simply go on tour,” a senior official said...

The bust, he says, has become globally famous in a way that it would not have had it stayed in Egypt. “Nefertiti has become an outstanding example of how the foreign can be integrated into society,” Dr Wildung says. “She is accepted, not assimilated. She keeps her separateness and her uniqueness, yet she belongs here.”

Nefertiti, in other words, is not budging.

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