Zahi Hawass Fired

It seems like it might even stick this time. Under pressure from continuing protests, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced Sunday that 12 ministers with ties to the Mubarak regime would be replaced, among them Minister for Antiquities Zahi Hawass.

For more than a decade, he has been the international face of Egypt’s archaeology, with his trademark “Indiana Jones” hat that turned him into an instantly recognizable global icon. Hawass, however, has been the target of a series of heavily publicized protests by archaeology graduates who accused him of corruption and seeking publicity for himself.

He has been accused of being too close to Mubarak and his family, along with former culture minister Farouq Hosni, himself a protege of the Mubaraks who had served in the Cabinet for 25 years until he was pushed out after the revolution.

Hawass confirmed the truth of this report to the New York Times, and there’s extraordinary footage of him getting mobbed by angry protesters as he attempted to leave the ministry on Sunday.

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Archaeologists have long grumbled under their breaths about Hawass’ stranglehold on every aspect of Egyptian archaeology. Egyptian blogger 3arabaway explains the anti-Hawass case well in this post. I wasn’t aware of how Hawass’ indefatigable pursuit of foreign tourism translated into a repellent kind of mini-Jim Crow.

It is common practice for him to look down on Egyptians. During Egyptian public holidays, he bans Egyptians from visiting the pyramids and other historic sites, saying they harm Egypt’s antiquities. At the opening of the new Museum gift shop, when asked about the cafeteria and how it was too expensive for the average Egyptian, he said Egyptians can go eat at el-Gahsh (a popular foul place in a low-income neighborhood) – this cafe is for tourists only.

Ancient sites as Sun City. Charming.

Hawass’ replacement is still unknown at this time. The Prime Minister first appointed Abdel-Fattah el-Banna, a professor of restoration who has been an active participant in the Tahrir Square protests, but he was roundly criticized for lacking the archaeological credentials to be antiquities minister. Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, made a beeline for the prime minister’s office to argue that it would be a grave error to appoint a non-archaeologist like Banna. Museum employees all over Egypt went on strike Monday to protest the appointment, so by the end of today Banna had handed in his resignation.

14 thoughts on “Zahi Hawass Fired

  1. I’m sure he’ll be fine – he’s got his own line of clothing, and also sells replicas of his hat.

    I know he has many friends, but I will not miss him. But my most fervent hope is that the sites and artifacts continue to be protected, while the Egyptian government and people sort out the amazing changes in which they are embroiled.

  2. Wow, this raises so many questions that I don’t even know where to start! After so many years of “the devil we knew”…!!! And since I am spouting banal commonplaces, how about “Every change is not necessarily an improvement”?!

  3. This is really alarming. Zahi Hawass may have been many things to many people, but he protected the sites and museums, especially during the riots, and continues to promote tourism. He is correct that “Egyptians” harm Egypt’s antiquities. What will become of his current excavations? Will foreign archeologists be granted access to sites?

  4. Zahi Hawass turned me on to Egyptology. I can remember seeing him on every documentary about Egypt. I have learned so much from this man. I don’t think the Egyptians know how much money and economical support he has given to the country through tourism. I understand there are many things that he may have done wrong, but does he deserve the public humiliation that he has gotten? I believe the man had a job, he loved his job, and he did it well. His passion for all things Egyptian is unrivaled. There will be many that will miss him. :no:

  5. I never liked the guy or the nation’s policies on antiquities, but whatever comes out of this will be worse. Hope you saw Egypt when you had a chance, because very soon it’s going to be nothing but looting, destruction, burqas and public executions.

  6. Hey, if I copy and paste the url to a facebook post – which gives a link to your site….is that alright? It gives you all the credit for the writing….just making sure.

  7. About time.

    He is known to have salted his own digs from objects taken from obscure museums and collections in the country.

    Totally untrustworthy, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of the less high profile items he has been charged with taking care of have mysteriously gone missing and been sold on the black market. Blame it on the looters of course. 😉

  8. I saw an article describe Zahi Hawass as Egypts own Indiana Jones… it did make me laugh when did he get his hands dirty last…

  9. I know you’re just reporting facts and all that, but how do you personally feel about this livius?

  10. And the latest, a replay of the events of the spring, is that Hawass is actually not fired, as the PM has decided there is no suitable replacement.

    He is certainly to be replaced, it seems, just not yet.

  11. Yes I glad HawASS is gone he was just into Egypt antiquities for social, political and economic gains. Ancient Egypt belongs to Africans not Arabs. It was built by Africans not by Arabs nor Europeans. If Africans decide to share their culture to the world it is up to them to do so. Now the question is will the truth finally come out that King Tut like many of his ancestors were black or brown just like many Africans are today.

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