Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egypt’s man from the past who insists he has a future

Past Horizons (Jack Shenker)

No one interviews Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s self-styled Indiana Jones of the east – he interviews himself, fist pounding on desk and spittle flying forth into the ether.

“Do I look like a minister to you? Of course not!” thunders the minister for antiquities, a man appointed by Hosni Mubarak to oversee his nation’s cultural riches and, improbably, the great survivor of this year’s dramatic revolution.

“I am not part of the old regime – I love Egypt, I love archaeology and I will never be a politician,” Hawass continues. “I’m a damned archaeologist through and through.”

Zahi’s strength of feeling is understandable. The 63-year-old headed Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) from 2002 onwards. Like so many other Mubarak-era public figures he is struggling to carve out a role in post-uprising Egypt.

He is desperate to hammer home his apolitical virtues but after accepting a cabinet job as the regime was beginning to crumble and then taking to the airwaves in early February to declare ”we need President Mubarak” the task was always going to be tricky.

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