The controversial Egyptian Minister for Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, has reportedly been dismissed from his position in a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. From the NYT:
Egypt’s antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country’s best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, lost his job along with about a dozen other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak’s regime.
“He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. “He acted as if he owned Egypt’s antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt.”
Despite the criticism, he was credited with helping boost interest in archaeology in Egypt and tourism, a pillar of the country’s economy.
When Dr Hawass resigned earlier this year, post-Egyptian uprising, I commented that I thought he would likely be back soon enough – and was later proven correct. This time, however, I find it difficult to see him returning to his former power…this could be the end of the road for Zahi in terms of ruling Egyptian archaeology (he could still have some plum jobs with the U.S. media as a pundit, I’m sure).
As Dr Hawass left his office by taxi he was mobbed by an angry crowd, who smashed out the window of the cab and hit the driver:
Dr Hawass’ replacement was initially reported as being Abdel-Fattah el-Banna – however, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) rejected the appointment and called for the dissolution of the recently established Ministry for Antiquities.
Just last week I reported on some odd incongruities in the Big Z’s story of how looted museum treasures were returned to the authorities, so there may yet be further pressures on the former ‘pharaoh of the pyramids’ beyond public anger at his support for Mubarek.