Zahi Hawass to “resign temporarily” as National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

According to a front-page story in the national edition of today’s New York Times, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s embattled Minister of Antiquities, “has decided to resign temporarily as a National Geographic explorer [Explorer-in-Residence] so that he can focus on protecting antiquities.”

 

Revolution Dims Star Power of Egypt’s Antiquities Chief

By Kate Taylor

Until recently Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, was a global symbol of Egyptian national pride. A famous archaeologist in an Indiana Jones hat, he was virtually unassailable in the old Egypt, protected by his success in boosting tourism, his efforts to reclaim lost artifacts and his closeness to the country’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak.

But the revolution changed all that.

Now demonstrators in Cairo are calling for his resignation as the interim government faces disaffected crowds in Tahrir Square.

Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak & Dr. Zahi Hawass

Their primary complaint is his association with the Mubaraks, whom he defended in the early days of the revolution. But the upheaval has also drawn attention to the ways he has increased his profile over the years, often with the help of organizations and companies with which he has done business as a government official.

He receives, for example, an honorarium each year of as much as $200,000 from National Geographic to be an explorer-in-residence even as he controls access to the ancient sites it often features in its reports.

National Geographic first brought Mr. Hawass on as an explorer-in-residence, one of 16 it has around the world, in 2001 when he was director of the Giza pyramids. He has appeared in numerous National Geographic films about ancient Egypt, and the organization publishes some of his books and arranges his speaking engagements, for which he asks $15,000.

It is not clear how the National Geographic payments compare in size to Mr. Hawass’s government salary, which he would not disclose. National Geographic says it pays Mr. Hawass to advise it on major discoveries and help shape its policies on antiquities issues. It says it has never received preferential access to archaeological sites or discoveries.

Mr. Hawass said his impartiality was evident when the Discovery Channel won out over National Geographic in a bid to make films about DNA research on royal mummies.

“All proposals about films go before a committee,” he said in an e-mail, “and decisions are made to maximize both the scientific results and the profit for Egypt.”

But Mr. Hawass also said this week that he has decided to resign temporarily as a National Geographic explorer so that he can focus on protecting antiquities.

Read the whole thing here.

We welcome Zahi’s resignation for many reasons. Then again, his saying that “he has decided to resign temporarily” could mean almost anything.

For instance:

• He’s made the decision, but hasn’t actually resigned yet. And tomorrow is a new day. He could always change his mind.

• He resigns temporarily. Headlines! He returns to his ministerial position next Monday because… because the antiquities have been protected. Headlines! Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announces his cabinet overhaul later this week — and Zahi remains standing. Or he gets tapped for an even more powerful position. Headline: Zahi Hawass: Survivor. And so on.

• His “temporary” departure is really permanent, and he knows it. But by saying “temporary,” he makes it sound as though duty calls, and that he needs to devote more of his time and energy to protect Egypt’s antiquities, legacy, and honor.  Which makes us wonder: Why in the world would Zahi walk away from a lucrative deal with NGS (the Times says as much as $200,000 per year) when his arrangement with our Society, best we can tell, requires very little of Zahi’s time or attention?  

Dear John,
Why is Zahi Hawass resigning? 

  • Nicole Hansen

     He is resigning probably because the accusations about the payments from National Geographic are absolutely true and there is no way they can be spun otherwise. Interestingly enough, a lot of these accusations have already been circulating in the Egyptian press and media for some time now, and every one of them he either denies, or spins to make it seem OK. The one accusation he has YET to address either positively is the money he got from National Geographic.

  • Nicole Hansen

     I meant to say positively OR negatively.

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  • Robert Bauval, author

    URGENT URGENT! BREAKING NEWS: EGYPT.
    AT LAST THE SMOKING GUN PROOF FROM MINISTRY OF ANTIQUITIES THAT ZAHI HAWASS HAS BLATENTLY LIED AND COMMITTED SERIOUS DEFAMATION ABOUT THE ‘CARTOUCHE OF KHUFU’ AFFAIR.

    On the 10th December 2013 Hawass in…formed the Arab newspaper El Masry El Youm that “that the robbery of King Khufu’s cartouche was done on behalf of, Robert Bauval, an Egyptian Jew working in Belgium, who has been trying by every means to prove that the pyramid is a Jewish and not an Egyptian product… I would like to make it clear that the foreign vandals are led by an Egyptian Jew living in Belgium.”
    This rash (false and very anti-Semitic) accusation resulting in causing an international ebroglio and scandal involving Interpol, the German Embassy in Cairo, the Foreign Ministries in Egypt and Germany, the Security Police in Egypt, UNESCO, not to mention the hundreds of Newspapers and Blogs that were duped by Hawass to report such false and fefamatory accusations, and thus putting them in serious legal danger.

    ON 17 DECEMBER 2013 the Minister of Antiquities sent a groups of SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) Inspectors to investigate this claim. The inspectors examined the five Relief Chambers, took many HD pictures, and submitted their report to the Minister and the Security Police.

    ON 21st DECEMBER 2013 Hawass told journalists that he “had no evidence that Robert Bauval was involved in this crime (the alleged stealing of the Cartouche).

    YESTERDAY, 29th January 2013, I WAS FINALLY SUPPLIED WITH THE PICTURES TAKEN BY THE SCA INSPECTORS SHOWING CLEARLY THAT THE ‘CARTOUCHE’ OF KHUFU IS SAFE AND SOUND AND TOTALLY UNHARMED. (I had on a previous occasion been supplied their report).

    In view of the extremely high profile and importance, as well as grave legal implications of this affair (which will involve international lawyers and Attorney Generals), caused by the totally irresponsible and dangerous behaviour of Zahi Hawass, The Ministry of Antiquities has wisely decided to be totally transparent in this matter. Consequently, I hereby am pleased to publish the following official documents and pictures from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities:
    1) Copy of written instructions by Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim, to SCA Inspector to investigate the Relief Chambers in the Great Pyramid.
    2) Copy of the report by SCA Inspectors of their inspection of the Relief Chamber in the Great Pyramid of the 17th December 2013.
    3) Seven pictures (there are many more) of the SCA Inspectors showing the undamaged Cartouche of Khufu in the 5th Relief Chamber (Campbell’s Chamber).

    Please FEEL FREE to copy, share, distribute these official documents and pictures to your friends, your colleagues, your local media, National Geographic Society, UNESCO and anyone else you care to inform. Thank you.
    [Hi Alan. I can send you the pics and docs if you want. They are today published on my Facebook Wall.]

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