31 March 2011

Hawass Back in the Saddle in Egypt

The dead rise! (AFP)
As I suspected - and despite his resignation - we haven't seen the last of Zahi Hawass. AFP and the Middle East News Agency both reported his reappointment as Minister of Antiquities yesterday. The AFP story:
CAIRO — Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass, the guardian of some of the world's most important treasures, was on Wednesday named minister of antiquities, the official MENA news agency reported. Hawass had served as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and later became minister of state under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Nationwide protests that erupted on January 25 overthrew Mubarak and saw power handed over to a military council. Hawass's appointment is likely to anger pro-democracy activists who have been calling for the cabinet to purged of all old regime elements.

His nomination comes amid multiplying calls by the UN cultural agency to protect Egypt's heritage after reports of looting and theft during the unrest that followed the popular uprising. UNESCO said on Tuesday that it would write to Egyptian authorities to officially ask for more protection for the country's archaeological sites. Earlier this month, the UN body voiced growing concern for such sites which it said were threatened by pillaging. Robbers raided several warehouses around the country, including one in the Egyptian Museum, after the uprising gave way to looting and insecurity. An antiquities official said last week that 800 relics stolen by armed robbers from a warehouse east of Cairo were still missing.
Hawass' website has no announcement on this yet, so we'll have to wait for his explanation for more detail. I stick with my guess when he resigned - it was a negotiating move to improve his position within the ministry. For more, see Egyptology News' roundup of stories or CultureGrrrl's report.

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