Zahi Hawass is back in the news — and so is our Society

Last June, I posted a news item about accusations that Zahi Hawass — a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus) — had taken revenue from overseas exhibitions of rare Egyptians artifacts and funneled the cash to the family of toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

This week the story has taken a new and troubling turn — especially for our Society:

Ahram Online, Monday 2 Apr 2012

General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud on Monday referred charges of wasting public money and stealing Egyptian antiquities against Zahi Hawass, former minister of state for antiquities to the Public Fund Prosecution office.

Nour El-Din Abdul-Samad, Director of Archeological Sites, had filed the accusations against Hawass, and requested that the objects in question be returned to the Egyptian Museum.

The Public Funds Prosecution office also received other charges accusing Hawass of wasting public money and exposing Egyptian antiquities to stealing in collaboration with former regime members.

Hawass is accused of sealing a deal with the American Geographical Society [National Geographic Society] to display rare Egyptian antiquities in exhibitions across the United States and Australia, violating the law of protecting antiquities.

Hawass admitted in a television talk show that he had a 17 million dollar deal with the American Geographical Society [National Geographic Society] with regard to a Tutankhamun exhibition to raise donations for Suzanne Mubarak’s association, wife of former president Hosni Mubarak. Suzanne Mubarak’s association was a private association not a state body, and as such Hawass was not legally allowed to use his position as a state minister to raise funds for it.

The charges relate to Hawass agreeing to transfer and display 143 objects from the Egyptian Museum to Washington DC in 2003. The antiquities have yet to be returned to the museum.

These exhibitions violate the antiquities law that prohibits renting Egypt’s heritage.  {emphasis added}

From the Egypt Independent:

… In March 2011, Hawass denied signing an agreement with the American Geographical Society (National Geographic). Rather, he claimed that it was protocol whereby Egypt received a cat scan machine worth US$5 million for Egyptian scientists to conduct research on the mummy of Tutankhamun, in return for National Geographic to film the scientific work.

At the time, National Geographic was to pay an additional US$60,000 to the treasury of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

If these charges are true, and Zahi Hawass really did commit a crime, then two other stories from last year suddenly seem relevant again….

The first story is about Terry Garcia, the Society’s EVP for Mission Programs who worked closely with Zahi for many years. Last May, President Obama nominated Terry to become the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. But when the nomination stalled months later, Terry withdrew himself from consideration without explaining why.

(I called Terry’s office last year for comment, but he was “in a meeting” — and never called back.)

Zahi Hawass and Terry Garcia (via

The second story is Zahi’s very public embrace of Terry Garcia — and Tim Kelly & John Fahey — just as the Senate nomination process began last May, and just as Zahi’s government career in Egypt was crashing & burning along with the Mubarak regime. “Terry is one of the greatest friends that I have ever had in my life,” Zahi begins his blog post. “When I think about my closest friends, Terry is at the top of the list!

Zahi then describes how Terry was a key player in the funding and organization of the Tutankhamun exhibition. At the end of the post, Zahi says: “I have faith that my two other good friends at National Geographic, John Fahey and Tim Kelly, will continue to support Egypt in the way that Terry has in the past.”  (Read the whole thing here.)

Given the recent criminal allegations by Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Zahi’s energetic and very public embrace of Terry, Tim, and John begins to sound less like an endorsement or a heartfelt “thank you,” and more like an attempt to share the glare of a media and legal spotlight which Zahi must have worried he might ultimately occupy alone.

It’s almost as if Zahi is saying: You and me, guys — we’re all in this together! 

For the sake of our Society’s reputation, it would be helpful to hear something — anything at all — from Terry, Tim or John about their dealings with Dr. Hawass, whose status inexplicably changed last year from National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence to National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus).

  • Rbauval
  • J.R. Ewing

    Zahi Hawass is a crooked viper of a man. He deserves to be put UNDER the jail for his crimes! What kind of person steals antiquities from his own people?!? And the rage inside this man is legendary; he’s a brutal pig.

  • RaybanMonster

    Zahi Hawass is a bigoted joke of a man. Beyonce snubbed him for a very good reason.. he refuses to accept a black African heritage in historic Egypt despite the black pharaohs and the proximity to All things African… the things this man has said and denied is hilarious. He knows a lot, but dont confuse knowing volumes with common sense.

    • David Rohl

      Zahi knows very little, believe me. He is a buffoon with hardly any knowledge of Egyptology beyond the most basic level. His articles and books are written by others, whilst his shallow public lectures in the USA are lapped up by people who also know nothing about ancient Egypt and are impressed by pop-up-book ancient Egypt. National Geographic is in danger of ending up the same way.

      • David,
        Thanks much for your comment.
        While I’m not qualified to assess Zahi’s credentials as an Egyptologist, I am quite sure that the people and the values he celebrates are not a foundation for a sustainable Society or society. I keep returning to the BBC interview that Zahi gave as Mubarak was being dethroned. It’s embarrassing.

  • S

    He is the greatest man of all time. So cram bimbo pop stars and self importance up your asses =]

    • Ray Sandy Pharaoh

      Hawass is a throbbing hemorrhoid on the ass of society.

  • Robert Bauval, author

    Hawass must have lost his mind. He has made these outrageous accusations against me! Is this the kind of person NGS has for Explorer-in-Residence Emeritus????

    [Translation of the Arabic text. See below]

    BREAKING NEWS. Egypt. Hawass.
    The source of the story where Zahi Hawass made the outrageous accusations against me is from a very popular newspaper in Egypt, AL MASRY AL YOUM, on 10 December 2013.
    Notwithstanding the bizarre and blatantly… false accusations made by Hawass, I find it incredible that a daily newpaper can publish such rubbish.

    No wonder Egypt is in such a mess. Lies upon lies.

    The translation in English of the Arabic text:

    (Germans working for an Egyptian Jew in Belgium stole Khufu cartouche in April 2013)
    Dr Zahi Hawass, ex Minister of State for Antiquities, revealed that the robberies 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 Egyptian product’.
    Hawass said in a special statements that Muhamed Ibrahim, the Minister of Antiquities has said in one of his media interviews that Khufu’s cartouche had was stolen in 2006, which is not true, as the inspecting agencies and the police have proved that the robbery took place in 2013, and the the passports of the Germans showed that they entered Egypt last April.
    Hawass wondered ‘how the theft could have taken place in 2006 while the investigations were conducted with current officials and not those responsible for the pyramid area at the time? While the investigation result came to confirm my words, and all those responsible for the have been removed from the pyramid area after their involvement, one way or the other, has been proven’.
    He added: “I would like to make it clear that the foreign vandals are led by an Egyptian Jew living in Belgium, who had previously sent more than one person, who were all forbidden completely, and with whom I have had many battles, and he wrote a book before trying to prove that the pyramid was not Egyptian”. Hawass confirmed that “it was not permitted to enter the pyramid except through tourist companies in order to make control, which is the opposite of what is happing now; which allowed the samples to be smuggled”.
    He (Hawass) pointed that “the German laboratories attempted to demonstrate, through the red colour found in the rooms, that the pyramid dates to 15 thousand years (ago), which means that this was the time it was built, but the fact which is confirmed by both Egyptian and foreign scientists is that Khufu sent in his Year 27 a mission to bring the red colour from the Western Sahara, from Mast stone in which the cartouche was written, which means that it was the quarry from which the colour was brought who dates 15 thousand years ago and not the pyramid”.
    He (Hawass) stressed on “the need for those responsible for antiquities to look to what is happening of destruction and vandalism in some areas, not just remove accusations from officials or trying to deny responsibility for a great disaster like breaking into the pyramid and stealing Khufu’s cartouche, as the present minister does”.

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