Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zahi Hawass in post-revolution Egypt

New York Times (Kate Taylor)

Until recently Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, was a global symbol of Egyptian national pride. A famous archaeologist in an Indiana Jones hat, he was virtually unassailable in the old Egypt, protected by his success in boosting tourism, his efforts to reclaim lost artifacts and his closeness to the country’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak.

Zahi Hawass near the Giza Pyramids last year. Critics are questioning his closeness with the Mubaraks and his business ties.

Now demonstrators in Cairo are calling for his resignation as the interim government faces disaffected crowds in Tahrir Square.

Their primary complaint is his association with the Mubaraks, whom he defended in the early days of the revolution. But the upheaval has also drawn attention to the ways he has increased his profile over the years, often with the help of organizations and companies with which he has done business as a government official.

Scientific American
(Jeffrey Bartholet)

Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities research focus Hawass brings a bigger-than-life personality to the quest to find Cleopatra’s tomb and other Egyptian treasures.

A consummate marketer and political operator as well as an archaeologist, Hawass was a controversial figure even before the revolution.

One night in the weeks leading up to then President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, looters swarmed the grounds of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo (sometimes called the Cairo museum), and at least one broke into the main building by descending on wires from a skylight. Others rampaged through storerooms at well-known archaeological sites. Panic swept the world of Egyptology.

Ultimately, the looting was not as devastating as some had feared, and many of the country’s treasures were recovered. The chaos, though, focused renewed criticism and exacted an emotional toll on Zahi Hawass, the minister of state for antiquities.

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues
(Paul Barford)

Paul points to the inconsistencies in some of Hawass's statements, past and present.

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

The Supreme Public Funds Prosecutor (SPFP) decided to hold back investigations of the allegations submitted by Yasser Ahmed Seif El Din, chairman of the International Association for Development, Environment and Culture against Farouk Hosni, former minister of culture and Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities. Seif el Din claimed that both Hosni and Hawass offered Suzane Thabet, wife of former president Hosni Mubarak, an authentic gold necklace once belonging to Princess Samiha, a member of the Mohamed Ali family. This necklace was on display at the jewellery museum in Alexandria.

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