Zahi Hawass: Our Man in Egypt

Dear John,

Dr. Zahi Hawass

Given the conspiratorial, dangerous, and inaccurate comments made by Dr. Zahi Hawass in this video, we’re wondering:

• Why is Dr. Hawass still a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence?

• Why was Dr. Hawass recently appointed to be an official adviser to National Geographic‘s new Arabic edition, which is now published in 15 nations in north Africa and the Middle East?

• If such comments don’t appall you enough to distance our Society from Dr. Hawass, what comments would? Just how nasty would his conspiracy mongering need to become before you publicly said something like this:

“Dr. Hawass is a smart, accomplished, and very influential man, but he is spouting inaccurate and extremely dangerous nonsense that the National Geographic Society hereby condemns.

I know this criticism will not please Dr. Hawass, who might exert his power in Egypt to deny National Geographic access to the pyramids and to Pharaoh’s many unexplored tombs. The result: We’re probably giving away the next installment of Tales From the (Egyptian) Crypt to our chief competitor — the Discovery Channel.

But you know what? That’s okay with me. As President of one of the world’s largest educational non-profit organizations, I don’t have to slake the thirst of rapacious stockholders. I don’t have to placate labor unions because we don’t have any. I don’t have to answer to a Member Council because that doesn’t exist either. I’m pretty much a free agent. And, to be honest, all those mummies and gold trinkets begin to look the same after a while.

Which means I am blessed with a special gift: I have the freedom to do the right thing. In this case, I choose to stop underwriting Dr. Hawass’s poisonous worldview, which undermines cross-cultural understanding, co-existence, and peace.

Now that National Geographic publishes in the Middle East, I feel an especially urgent responsibility to fulfill what has long been our Society’s unwritten mission: to seek and to follow our better angels.

And you know the best part of all? Here at NGS, following our better angels helped create an incredibly successful business. The Society’s 122-year history demonstrates that people are drawn to us when we seek the light — and not just the kind that shows up in a photograph.

The take-away: By doing good, we can do extraordinarily well.”


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