A look at the impression that Hawass has made during the Egyptian crisis and the looting of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The gates to the office of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and of Zahi Hawass—the council’s Secretary General, then Minister of Antiquities Affairs, and now object of public scorn—were padlocked yesterday, in an effort to keep out protesters. Unemployed graduates of Egypt’s archaeology programs milled around on the sidewalk outside the building, in Cairo’s Zamalek district, demanding jobs and Hawass’s resignation. The calmness of their demonstration raised the question: Was the security measure really necessary, or was it an act of theater staged by Hawass? The gift store inside was still open.
Since the Egyptian Museum was looted on January 28th, Hawass’s official story has fluctuated. First he said that daft, amateur looters stole nothing of value—“They thought the shop was the museum, thank God!”—and all was well. Hawass was appointed as Minister of Antiquities Affairs in Mubarak’s interim government, and announced that protesters should go home; the Sphinx, he wrote on his Web site, agreed: “I looked carefully into his eyes, and imagined that I saw tears. The Sphinx is sad because of what has happened; Egypt will lose billions and billions of dollars, and for Egypt to recuperate this money it will take at least three years.” Then Mubarak resigned, and Hawass revealed that eight pieces remained missing from the museum, among them a statue of Akhenaten and two of Tutankhamun. Broken bits were being recovered from the area around the museum.