Ahmed Fahmy, professor of plant taxonomy and archaeobotany at the University of Helwan, Egypt, lost his two year battle with brain cancer in December 2013. He graduated from Cairo University in 1990 and received his PhD from Göttingen University in 1995, with a dissertation on the plant remains from the Predynastic site Hierakonpolis, under the supervision of Prof. Ulrich Willerding.

Prof. Fahmy was heart and soul a committed botanist and archaeobotanist (Fig. 1). His PhD dissertation initiated a high-standard of archaeobotanical practice and research in Egypt, a field that had traditionally been dominated by Western scholars. At the University of Helwan where he was a dedicated teacher from 1998, he founded an archaeobotanical laboratory, developed the herbarium, and trained young Egyptian archaeobotanists. Prof. Fahmy cooperated with several international institutes, including Kew Gardens (London) and the Smithsonian (Washington DC); as well as with archaeological projects throughout Egypt, representing the full range of Egyptian history from Prehistoric through to the Islamic Periods. The many archaeological projects he published on include Hierakonpolis, Farafra, Helwan and North Saqqara.

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Prof. Fahmy during an excursion in the Rocky Mountains, 2011

Since his PhD, Prof. Fahmy had maintained a close relationship with his German colleagues. Originally trained as a specialist on fruits and seeds, he became interested in phytoliths and received an Alexander von Humboldt research grant in 2003 to study the phytoliths of West African plants. Until his untimely death he worked for several weeks each summer in the archaeobotanical laboratory of Frankfurt University and made a significant contribution to the development of phytolith research in Frankfurt. Unfortunately, being severely limited by health issues, he was unable to complete alone the publication of his last comprehensive study on the phytoliths of West African grasses.

In 2009, he organized the 6th International Workshop of African Archaeobotany (IWAA6) at Helwan University and edited the Proceedings volume (Fahmy, Kahlheber and D’Andrea, Windows of the African Past, 2011). In honour of Prof. Fahmy’s contributions to African archaeobotany, IWAA8 (Modena 2015) is dedicated to his memory. Furthermore, the IWAA8 organizational committee inaugurated a competition to select an African graduate student or young academic who is invited to present a paper as the “Professor Ahmed G. Fahmy Memorial Speaker.”

Apart from archaeobotany, Prof. Fahmy was especially interested in threatened plant species of arid ecosystems. His last scientific project was conducted with his colleagues and students at Helwan University on the endangered species of the Sinai. Of particular interest to him was the need to train young Egyptian botanists to international standards. To this end he gifted his extensive personal botanical and archaeobotanical library to the American Research Center in Egypt, where Egyptian students and academics may have free and open access to his collection, which in his name will be built upon in perpetuity.

Prof. Fahmy was not only well-respected for his professional merits, but also for his personal qualities. He was a highly ethical person, a devout Muslim who had a great deal of respect for people with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds. His honesty, cooperativeness, and dry sense of humor were outstanding; cooperating with him in a team was a pleasure. He was always ready to compromise, except in the area of scientific research, where he always insisted on the highest standards. The scientific community has lost a great scholar, and we have lost an exceptional colleague and friend.