News / Africa

    Egypt’s 'Indiana Jones' Calls It Quits

    Zahi Hawass, head of the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, pictured above, resigned over what he considered a lack of security at the country's historic sites (file photo)
    Zahi Hawass, head of the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, pictured above, resigned over what he considered a lack of security at the country's historic sites (file photo)
    David Byrd

    The celebrated head of the Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has resigned. The man responsible for overseeing Egypt’s historical sites said he stepped down because many of the ancient sites are not being properly protected. Now, the new government is scrambling to replace the man who has become the worldwide face of Egyptian archaeology.

    Zahi Hawass, known in some circles as “Egypt’s Indiana Jones,” was the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities for nearly a decade. He was in many ways the face of Egyptian archaeology.

    In late January, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had elevated the SCA to a Cabinet level position with Hawass as its head.   

    But this week, Hawass said he was resigning. On his website, he said he was leaving because the Egyptian army could not protect all the ancient sites and no tourist police were available. That led to looting and damage of several heritage sites.  

    Hawass said the tomb of Hetep-ka at Saqqara, the tomb of Petah-Shepses at Abu Sir and the tomb of Em-pi at Giza had been damaged. Some storage magazines had also been attacked and several items looted. Hawass said he resigned because he could not stop the looting.

    Salima Ikram
    Salima Ikram

    Salima Ikram is a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC). She told VOA that some of the looting can be attributed to opportunists just looking for gold or other treasures. However, she added there is another group - armed thieves who break into sites and do irreparable damage.

    Fayza Haikal, the former head of the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology department at AUC, says Hawass did a lot to raise the profile of Egypt and increase tourism to the country. She is hopeful that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s new government will quickly move to protect ancient sites.

    “If ever they had a doubt that something is happening, they call the police, they report to the police. And there are no police for the moment,” she said.

    “I hope it will not be for very long because now the new administration, the new Cabinet is in place, so I hope that it will soon get active again and the monuments will be protected again,” Haikal added.

    Haikal said that one way to prevent looting is for the world to refuse to buy plundered antiquities. She says anything that appears on the market for the next few years has to be suspect.

    “To buy things is to encourage looting,” she said. “So I don’t know why the looters are doing that because I don’t think that they can really sell what they are taking now. But the one thing that is very, very important is that if there is no demand, there will be much less looting.”

    Zahi Hawass was not without detractors. He was criticized for a domineering style and for boosting his own media profile. There were also protests about jobs and pay for Egyptologists in the country.

    But he increased the salaries of SCA employees, offered medical benefits and was working on a union for archaeologists. He was also a staunch advocate for recovering plundered artifacts. During his tenure, 5,000 high-value antiquities were returned to Egypt.

    Salima Ikram says Hawass’s academic credentials remain untarnished, and even though he is no longer the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he will remain a powerful figure in archeology.

    “So the idea that just because he is not in charge of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he is not going to be an extremely active and perhaps even a more active member of the academic community is not a worry for us,” Ikram added.

    Prime Minister Sharaf has appointed Emad Abou-Ghazi as the head of the Ministry of Culture. However, after several archaeologists demonstrated in Cairo, the Antiquities Department remains separate. Several names have been put forth to replace Hawass. Egyptologists, historians and archaeologists are hoping whoever succeeds “the Egyptian Indiana Jones” makes preserving and protecting ancient sites the top priority.

     

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora