And they have launched 19 new archeological missions in the Sinai to add to the collection.
In the meantime, Egyptian scholars have begun to examine the 16 faded and crumbling documents uncovered at Saleh Eddin's fortress on the island of Pharaoun, which guarded the Arab coasts of Egypt, the Hijaz on the western Arabian peninsula, Jordan and Palestine.
Israeli historians had linked the ancient documents to the time of Saleh Eddin, and some had theorized that they might have been communiques between the Citadel and the commander's headquarters in Cairo (and later Damascus).
However, Farouk Askar, librarian at the Islamic Museum in Cairo, said a closer examination reveals that they are more likely communications of merchants, and between soldiers living in the Citadel and their families, after Saleh Eddin's time. They might even date from much later, when the Citadel was used as a rest house for Muslim pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Mecca.
Much of the language, he said, appears to be commercial: "Fish to Mahmoud Harmi Yahia, 6 pounds." A reference to "caravans." And, "There are seven units, not eight, and they belong to the sailors." One begins, "In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate"--a phrase that antedates Saleh Eddin's rule.
"In the first place, great leaders never write the actual orders themselves, and in the photographs of the documents, there are not any military expressions. The castle itself was used by Saleh Eddin, no doubt, but this does not mean anything we find came from Saleh Eddin's period," Askar said.
Also, the script in the documents is not the style that was common during the earliest centuries of Islam.
Still, Egyptian officials said they considered the return of the documents a gesture of friendship. And at a time when even getting the Arabs back to the peace table with Israel was proving difficult, gestures, even old, crumbling ones, count.
Israeli border police at the village of Rafah in the occupied Gaza Strip check out packages of