The Fall of Zahi Hawass

Removed as minister of antiquities, the high profile archaeologist no longer holds the keys to 5,000 years of Egyptian history

After being abrupty sacked in an overhaul of the country's cabinet, Zahi Hawass has been reinstated, but only temporarily. (Shawn Baldwin)

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In June, he embarked on a tour to the United States to encourage tourists to return to Egypt—a high priority, given that Egypt’s political upheaval has made foreign visitors wary. Egyptian officials said in interviews last month that Hawass’ ability to persuade foreigners to return was a major reason for keeping him in his position.

Hawass rose to power in the 1980s, after getting a PhD in archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and being named the chief antiquities inspector at the Giza Plateau, which includes the pyramids. In 2002, he was put in charge of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. He began to call on foreign countries to return iconic antiquities, such as the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and the Nefertiti bust at the Neues Museum in Berlin. At the same time, he made it easier for foreign museums to access Egyptian artifacts for exhibit, which brought in large amounts of money for the Egyptian government. In addition, he halted new digs in areas outside the Nile Delta and oases, where rising water and increased development pose a major threat to the country’s heritage.

Hawass also began to star in a number of television specials, including Chasing Mummies, a 2010 reality show on the History Channel that was harshly criticized for the cavalier way with which he treated artifacts. In addition, Egyptians complained that there was no way to know what was happening to the money Hawass was reaping from his book tours, lectures, as well as his television appearances.


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