Skip to main content

Egypt recovers new part of sunken ship from Red Sea

Cairo is celebrating the discovery of another portion of a ship sunk in the Red Sea in the 18th century carrying a treasure trove of artifacts.
AHMAD HUSSEIN/AFP via Getty Images

The archaeological mission of the Faculty of Arts of Alexandria University recently discovered the bow of a sunken ship near the Red Sea island of Saadana with 1,606 artifacts. Other parts of the ship had been uncovered earlier during excavation work in 1994.

The sunken ship is a merchant vessel dating back to the mid-18th century. It carried hundreds of artifacts, including porcelain, pottery of various shapes and sizes in addition to various grains. Studies revealed the ship likely collided with the coral reefs in the area when it sailed from southeast Asia to Egypt.

In March, Egypt wrapped up “The Secrets of Sunken Egypt” exhibition's tour to Europe and the United States that featured 293 artifacts discovered in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria. The exhibition, which began touring in 2015, included artifacts that were displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, the Alexandria National Museum, the Greco-Roman Museum and the Library of Alexandria Museum, as well as discoveries made by the Department of Underwater Antiquities.

Ehab Fahmy, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities' Department of Underwater Antiquities, told Al-Monitor that the archaeological mission of the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University found the middle part of the sunken ship and hundreds of artifacts.

Fahmy added, “Some 1,606 artifacts were found and extracted from the ship found in the Red Sea and dating back to the mid-18th century, during the Ottoman era. The finds will be showcased in the Hurghada Museum and the Maritime Museum in Alexandria after their restoration.” 

Fahmy confirmed that there are other submerged antiquities in the areas of Abu Qir Bay, the eastern port, Qaitbay Citadel, the Gulf of Maamoura and Shatby that are currently being extracted. 

Egyptologist Bassam al-Shammaa told Al-Monitor that because Egypt is on a major historical trade route. He said, "The Maritime Museum in Alexandria is home to a number of artifacts, including plates, utensils and ceramics." The museum will keep and display the artifacts in saltwater to protect them, he explained.

Shamaa said that the sunken ship was discovered due to the great efforts of the archaeological mission and its difficult underwater excavation work. “The state must make a complete survey of the Nile River, especially from Aswan to Luxor, where the pharaohs had transported many monuments. Sunken artifacts are likely to be found there,” he said.

Mohamed Hamza, the former dean of the Antiquities Faculty at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor that when the ship sunk, “Egypt played a major role in [world] trade due to its strategic position on the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Nile River. … The discovery of the ship and its cargo, which included Chinese porcelain, proves that the ship was coming from southeast Asia, specifically from China.”

Hamza continued, “The abundance of coral reefs in the Red Sea [may] have caused the ship to sink, as coral reefs were the main reason behind such accidents. The [remains] of more remains of Egyptian or peninsular ports dating back to the Islamic, Ptolemaic and Roman eras may yet be found in the Red Sea. Egypt had strong commercial ties with China throughout history, and the two countries constantly exchanged ambassadors and gifts, including during the Mamluk period. I believe that after the ship’s cargo is analyzed, more details about the nature of this relationship will be revealed.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial