Controversies Egypt

Zahi Hawass remains antiquities minister—for now

A cabinet reshuffle may well end his term, but it is proving difficult to find his replacement

Zahi Hawass, left, remains as Egypt's antiquities minister, though his future is uncertain. The nomination of his expected replacement, Abdel Fatah El Banna, right, was cancelled after outcry from archaeologists

CAIRO. Egyptian antiquities boss Zahi Hawass still remains the minister, despite reports that he has been sacked. On 19 July he told The Art Newspaper that prime minister Esssam Sharaf has asked him to continue to go to work. However, Hawass’s future is now very uncertain.

Although Hawass is facing dismissal in an imminent cabinet reshuffle, it is proving complicated to find his replacement as antiquities minister. Last Sunday Abdel Fatah El Banna of Cairo University was named as his successor, but the appointment failed to go ahead after he faced criticism, including protests from antiquities staff.

Hawass is a colourful and controversial figure who dominates Egyptology. After running the Supreme Council of Antiquities since 2002, he was appointed minister by former president Hosni Mubarak on 31 January. When Mubarak was toppled 11 days later, Hawass remained as minister, but he resigned on 5 March, citing two reasons. Hawass felt the army was no longer guarding archaeological sites and he himself faced what he regarded as false claims over “stealing antiquities and doing other illegal things.”

Alaa El Din Shaheen was named as Hawass’s successor, although the appointment was never confirmed. Hawass was reappointed minister on 30 March.

Hawass continues to face a string of problems. He is regarded as having been close to Mubarak and the former president’s wife, Suzanne. Antiquities staff have protested over employment conditions. Hawass’s lucrative consultancy with America’s National Geographic is being been questioned, as well as his links with US companies presenting Tutankhamun exhibitions and selling associated merchandise. He became embroiled in a dispute over a contract for the shop at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. And critics felt that his reaction to last January’s looting at the museum was not vigorous enough.

Hawass has strenuously rebutted these criticisms. Although the number of controversies may now end his tenure as minister, he has proved to be a resilient survivor. If he does go, he told us after his March resignation that he would be “writing books and lecturing all over the world.”

Meanwhile prime minister Sharaf has not yet finalised his new cabinet. This was expected to be completed this week, although there could now be a delay for medical reasons, since he is suffering from high blood pressure. There is concern that archaeology may be downgraded and rather than having a separate department it may fall under the ministry of culture.

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28 Mar 13
15:56 CET


I am very interested in ancient Egypt and Dr Hawass has been on many TV programmes I have seen over the years regarding Egypt's past. I heard he resigned during the uprising. I think he is a very talented Egyptologist and must be a great loss to the Cairo museum. Has he gone back to his job or has someone else taken over. Does anyone no at all.

11 Feb 13
15:24 CET


First meeting Dr. Hawass in Chicago his energy and expertise overwhelmed everyone he came in contact with. Since that time his endless dedication to Egypt and the preservation of its history has been the conversation of classroom students to presidents to monarchs. Yes Egypt has had its share of termoil however we cannot shun those few that have sacrificed so much of their time and lively hood to protecting some of the greatest treasures the world has ever seen. Dr. Hawass will always be the "Jewel in the Crown."

4 Feb 13
14:58 CET


I have followed Dr. Hawass for years in his quest to find and preserve Egypt's history. A somewhat of a "in your face" kind of guy, but definitely a dedicated person to bring to life the artifacts of the Egypt's ancient history. I remember when Art Bell of radio fame went to visit with Dr. Hawass to glean information about the finds that Hawass found. Dr. Hawass is an interesting person for sure, but it looks like politics if more important to Egypt than the work of a dedicated man who has opened up to the World Egypt's wonderful past. Best of Luck to Dr. Hawass who has made the world of archaeology interesting to those of us who want to know more. Thanks.

23 Jan 12
14:55 CET


I will agree that Dr. Hawass has, on occasion, been self-serving, but there this NO ONE in the history of Egypt who has brought Egypt and her Antiquities to the attention of the world to the degree that Dr. Hawass has. I don't agree that his ties to former political figures should affect his life's work. He has poured his heart and soul into preserving, protecting and repatriating Egypt's treasures. NO ONE has accomplished what Dr. Hawass has in his career. Yes, he may be an attention seeker - but I feel that he seeks attention for Egypt and her treasures more than for himself. What a shame that political ties can rob a great man of the love of his life - Egypt and her treasures!! It takes a strong, outgoing man like Hawass to bring the world's attention to Egypt for something other than WAR and politial unrest. God Bless Dr. Hawass and I'm so sorry for what has happened to him - in time, Egypt will regret what she has done to this great man.

27 Jul 11
14:53 CET


Egypt & Egyptology have been there long before Pr.Hawass, and more than probably will continue long after he has gone.As for the world's interest in Egypt's rich heritage thanks to him,it didn't have to wait for the coming of Pr.Hawass to really become alive. When I was in high school in '58, we learnt much about Egypt's Civilization in class, and our History books deal extensively with the subject.None of them was authored by Pr.Hawass to my remembrance(unless he's a genius in diapers) Now,in our TV-saturated culture, books are out and showbiz is in, and intellectual fastf00d has become the ersatz for personal learning,it's understandable TV watchers know nothing of Egypt outside of Pr.Hawass cooked-up versions("putting Egypt on the map"!)

26 Jul 11
17:42 CET


Everybody knows that Hawwas benefited from Egyptology more than Egyptology from him. There will be always people who deserve the post among the 80000000 Egyptians. Moreover, I think the minister of antiquity as well as the head of the supreme council of archeology unlike any other ministry or council in Egypt must be one term service of maximum 4 years.

22 Jul 11
15:44 CET


OK, perhaps Dr.Hawass had links with the former president. Perhaps he is controversial over a certain number of things. But the way he popularized egyptology like no other does put Egypt in the spotlights worldwide! The new regime would not be well inspired to remove him unless on very solid grounds. Regards

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