Egypt, plagued by tomb raiders and art dealers, has lost large portions of its pharaonic heritage to Europe and the United States. The head of the country's Supreme Council of Antiquities is waging a bitter moral campaign against the West, and he is now demanding the return of six of the most beautiful masterpieces.
It is 5 a.m. and Zahi Hawass is sitting in his SUV, freshly showered, about to drive out to the Bahariya Oasis for a press appearance. The streets are still empty as Cairo shimmers in the rose-colored morning sun. Hawass must hurry to avoid the morning traffic.
He has already had a heart attack, and since then he only smokes water pipes. Referring to his driver, he says: "If he slows down I'll fire him." He likes to call his opponents "assholes."
But no one here is troubled by his behavior. In fact, Hawass has a license to be loud and angry. He sets his own rules. As Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), he is the ultimate protector of all monuments in the country.
Some 30,000 people report to Hawass, whose organization is responsible for hundreds of dilapidated temples, gloomy tombs and treasure chambers fragrant with the scent of resin, once filled with gold jewelry and papyrus documents, stretching from the delta to the fourth Nile cataract.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Profile of Zahi Hawass
Spiegel Online (Matthias Schulz)