… It has been said that in order to know the future, you have to know the past. An expert on the vast history of Egypt, and the archeologist’s extensive knowledge of the past has [Zahi Hawass] worried about what lies ahead.
“Not learning from history will leave us in a state of confusion during these coming times,” Hawass said.
He likened the Egyptian revolution to a similar one that took place four millennia ago, which he said was the first revolution in ancient history and the first-ever interim period.
“Over 4,000 years ago, a king ruled Egypt at the age of 8 and stayed in power until the age of 98,” Hawass says. “When he became old, his power decreased, and the power of his cronies increased. This is what happened with Mubarak as well.”
That ancient revolution lasted 150 years, and the interim period was characterized by chaos, crime, and a lack of security, according to the archaeologist.
Hawass also voiced his concern about the upcoming elections. “It will be hard to ensure free and fair elections,” he said. “Egyptians are used to fraud.”
What exactly is the lesson that Zahi Hawass — National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Emeritus — wants us to learn from the history of ancient Egypt? That without a Strong Man, society descends into chaos and crime? That the “interim period” is simply the gap between one dictator and the next? (He seemed to say as much back in February, when he spoke up forcefully and publicly for Egypt’s long-ruling Strong Man.)
The story that Zahi has spent his life celebrating — and which National Geographic never tires of documenting — is not a model for our future, but a dead weight that drags us all back to Pharaoh.
The good news is that ancient Egypt has long served not as democracy’s North Star, but as its opposite — as the historic (and cinematic) counterpoint to a very different, and far more hopeful, worldview: