Will the real Zahi Hawass please stand up?

First, Zahi Hawass — a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residencedefended Hosni Mubarak on international TV.

Then, he pivots, and claims he embraces the Egyptian revolution and democracy.

But is Zahi up to his old tricks again? Is he saying one thing to an English-speaking audience, and something else to the Arabic one? Shahira Amin, a former anchor on Egyptian state TV who resigned in protest during the uprising, provides this behind-the-scenes peek at one of National Geographic’s marquee personalities:

“These sons of bitches have destroyed Egypt.”

_____

Dear John,
Any thoughts?


  • Eugene Cruz-Uribe

    Shahira Amin’s comment on Zahi is so typical. I see the field of Egyptology has been divided into the pro and anti camps regarding Zahi Hawass and his tenure. I have admired many things that Zahi has done, but too many times I simply see an overinflated ego running things. As an Egyptologist I am sorry we as a field have to deal with such a person.
    Eugene Cruz-Uribe, PhD
    Professor Emeritus

    • You are not alone, Dr. Cruz-Uribe. From what I’ve read, there are scores of Egyptologists who have grown weary with Zahi’s antics. There’s no doubt he’s a visible figure, and has raised the profile of Egyptology, but at what cost?

      My interest, of course, is how his behavior reflects on the National Geographic Society — and it’s not good. I remain puzzled why John Fahey, our CEO, continues to tolerate Hawass, and even reward him. Zahi was recently tapped to be an advisor for National Geographic’s new Arabic edition. If the sort of double-talk that Shahira Amin observed is really just Zahi being Zahi, then I shudder to think what sorts of stuff our Arabic edition may be publishing. Something to keep an eye on.

      Thanks very much for stopping by — and for your comment.

      P.S. If you’d like John Fahey to respond to some of these concerns, please give the “Dear John: Let’s Talk” widget a “Like” (in the right sidebar). Or, if you don’t have a Facebook account, feel free to email me — alan [at] societymatters [dot] org — and I’ll increase the anonymous tally by one.

  • Tom Holloway

    Zahi Hawass reminds me of those “crusty but benign” police captains in those American cop shows of the 1970’s. Adam Palmer created a marvelous character of him in the character of “Akil Mansoor” in the MOSES LEGACY (http://davidkesslerauthor.com/?page_id=55). The trouble was he toned it down (including some of Hawass’s comments about Jews) presumably to soften the rough edges.

    • Thanks for the link to Adam Palmer’s book. Sounds like I should check out Akil Mansoor, though your description leaves me wondering: Akil may be “crusty but benign,” but is Zahi?

      While I know professional archaeologists have valid concerns about Zahi’s tenure as head of Egyptian antiquities, I worry more about his rhetoric: Speaking in an “Arabic idiom” does nothing to foster peace in the Middle East.

      Thanks for stopping by, Tom, and for your comment.

    • Thanks for the link to Adam Palmer’s book. Sounds like I should check out Akil Mansoor, though your description leaves me wondering: Akil may be “crusty but benign,” but is Zahi?

      While I know professional archaeologists have valid concerns about Zahi’s tenure as head of Egyptian antiquities, I worry more about his rhetoric: Speaking in an “Arabic idiom” does nothing to foster peace in the Middle East.

      Thanks for stopping by, Tom, and for your comment.

  • Tom Holloway

    I just realized that when I said “character” I meant “caricature” – but then again the real macoy is a bit of a caricature 😉

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.