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Egypt’s Zahi Hawass and a dark past

Posted on Mar 30, 2011   by admin


Egypt’s Zahi Hawass, the man who has become synonymous with Egyptology, known for his cowboy had wearing, has sparked the ire of Egyptians in recent days, with protests chanting for him to step down from his post atop the country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Ironically, as reports of stolen artifacts continues to surface since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power on Friday, Hawass went public during the demonstrations and declared, triumphantly, that nothing has been stolen from the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo following the break-in on January 28.

“Get out,” chanted a crowd of 150 archaeology graduates outside Hawass’ office on Monday. The protest was highly personal: demonstrators called Hawass a “showman” who seeks publicity and has little regard for the thousands of archaeology students who are unable to find work in their field.

Hawass has been under fire from a number of sides in recent years including from rights groups who accuse the man of dictatorial polices concerning debate and scientific findings. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) called out Hawass in 2009 for allegedly pushing aside a researcher for stating views that differed from the SCA Secretary-General’s, which led to dozens of investigations.

Ahmed Saleh, the researcher in question, told ANHRI that he was “alarmed” with a series of investigations and announcements from Hawass in newspapers’ that the researcher felt were undermining and ridiculing his work. According to ANHRI, the researcher proposed a new approach on how to deal with “some Egyptian antiquities, especially the mummy of King Tut.”

Hawass is known for his cheerful spirit, and a closet full of cowboy hats he passes to foreign dignitaries as they come through Egypt. He even gave American President Barack Obama one of those hats.

Despite his jolly spirit, archaeologists, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of permits to dig in the country, which all go through Hawass, tell Bikya Masr a different, behind-the-scenes reality.

“He has a huge temper,” began one archaeologist. “If you don’t agree with him, he simply screams at you and threatens to remove your funding.”

Other reports show that he takes advantage of those needing internships with the SCA. He takes on American students, promises them adequate salaries, and then refuses to pay, a number of former interns told Bikya Masr.

“He is paid thousands of dollars for each appearance he makes for the Discovery Channel and every time he writes or appears anywhere. The man makes so much money that it is no wonder he tries to curtail other opinions,” an Egyptian researcher told Bikya Masr. The researcher, who works for the SCA, says that “everyone in the council knows what goes on, but he is the boss and his rules go, so there is little we can do.”

It is also well known, archaeologists say, that he takes bribes in order to give permits. “And he is big on cronyism and sexual favors,” another American researcher said, adding that “it is well-known in the community that he gives key positions to women for specific reasons.” This has been supported by a number of archaeologists, who added that on trips to New York, “he has often been seen with call girls and escorts.”

Maybe, as the protests against him say, it is time he goes.

RELATED ARTICLES:
800 artifacts missing from Egypt storehouse

HOW DID “PHARAOH” DR ZAHI HAWASS TRY TO STOP BOSNIAN PYRAMIDS PROJECT

Source: bikyamasr.com


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