Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany looking at recently found ancient colored coffins with inscriptions and paintings, in the city of Luxor. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2019

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass: ‘There isn’t a country that doesn’t love Egyptian archaeology’

  • With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, there is no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground, says Hawass

 CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass has affirmed the importance of Egyptian archaeology around the globe.

“There isn’t a country that does not love Egyptian archaeology,” Hawass, who was minister of state for antiquities affairs, told Arab News.

With only 30 percent of Egyptian monuments discovered, Hawass said there was no rush to pursue the remaining 70 percent which remain hidden underground.

“We don’t want to discover everything. We want to start by preserving and preparing the historical monuments which we have discovered, then start thinking about what is still undiscovered,” Hawass said.

So, restoration and preservation are the main goals for now.

With the new Grand Egyptian Museum still in the works, it seems likely that archaeology will be put in the spotlight once again, with more room for Egyptian artifacts to be showcased and appreciated rather than hidden, as in the old Tahrir museum.

“No one in the world doesn’t know Egypt. Egyptian archaeology is in the hearts of all people all across the world,” Hawass said.

This explains the immense popularity the new museum is expecting, located as it is, minutes away from the Pyramids of Giza.

Another reason behind its expected popularity is the attention ancient Egyptian figures have received across the years.

“Among the most famous ancient Egyptian figures, even for those who are not interested in monuments, we have King Kufu, who built the greatest pyramid, because that pyramid is something everyone talks about,” Hawass said.

He added that King Tutankhamun was popular because his coffin was restored whole, as was King Ramses II, the most famous of Egyptian kings, and Queen Cleopatra. Each of these figures gained fame due to popular tales and monuments attached to them.




Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass. (AFP)

Hawass plays a crucial role in drawing awareness about Egyptian archaeology around the world as well as focusing on the current situation in Egypt.

“I lecture everywhere (about archaeology)” he said. “Two to three thousand people attend each of my lectures. So I take advantage of to tell people everywhere that Egypt is safe and that Egypt is run by a president whom we have chosen. I am trying to change the perception about Egypt.”

As part of his efforts to promote Egypt and Egyptian culture, Hawass recently visited Japan.

“They (the Japanese) love archaeology. I would never have expected to be famous in Japan, but as a result of their love of Egyptian archaeology, they know me,” Hawass explained.

This is but a speck in the eventful career Hawass has led — which all started by accident.

“As a child I wanted to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school at 16 but realized that it wasn’t something I could do. So I left law and decided to study literature. There they told me about a new section called archaeology,” Hawass said.

After graduating Hawass went to work for the government, which he dreaded, until his first project came along. Workers came across a statue hidden inside a coffin which he had to clean. During the process he found his passion for archaeology. He went on to pursue his graduate studies on the subject.

“I went from failure to success thanks to one thing: Passion. When a person is passionate about something, he excels in it.”

Hawass did not point out his most successful or most preferred moment in his career, so full his life has been of memorable events.

“You cannot prefer one of your children over another. They’re all in my heart, all of the discoveries I have made.”


‘Who controls Lebanon’s destiny?’ asks former president

A general view shows a street hosting banks and financial institutions, known as Banks street, in Beirut Central District, Lebanon June 2, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

‘Who controls Lebanon’s destiny?’ asks former president

  • IMF continues talks and Beirut examines ways to overcome crisis

BEIRUT: Former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel asked: “Who controls power now in Lebanon? Is it the legitimate authority, or illegitimate armed groups? Who controls Lebanon’s destiny? Is it legitimate armed institutions, or illegitimate ones — whether Hezbollah or any other group?”

Gemayel added that the state is “searching for solutions away from legal and financial ones related to the well-being of the country, by (working) alongside the Central Bank of Lebanon to nurture the treasury and financing its expenditure from private bank deposits of residents or expatriates.”
Gemayel also complained about “the absence of good governance and total absence of the political authority with regards to handling the current crisis in Lebanon,” noting the “indifference of many states, and the lack of interest of brotherly and friendly states in helping Lebanon under the current government and situation.”
Lebanon’s ongoing crisis is set to worsen in the near future, with a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9. Its total debt is around $30 billion, divided between banks and investment funds.
On Wednesday, Lebanon formally requested technical assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to tackle its economic crisis. Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni said meetings with an IMF delegation in Beirut are still in their “consultative stage to help Lebanon set a rescue plan.”
His media office said: “Deliberations are taking into consideration all available data and possible options based on the delegation’s evaluation of the situation in Lebanon.”
Wazni claimed: “Lebanon has set a plan to face and resolve the crisis, and (has asked) that the IMF give its point of view in light of the current situation regarding the challenges and ways to overcome them, in addition to the economic and financial reforms that Lebanon needs.”
Twelve legal and financial consulting firms have reportedly made offers to give advice on the best options to restructure Lebanon’s debt and prepare for negotiations with creditors.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun told Ján Kubis, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, “Solutions are in place to resolve the financial and economic crisis in collaboration with the IMF.”
According to Auon’s media office, “The measures that will be adopted aim at protecting the finances of Lebanon and the rights and interests of its citizens.”

FASTFACT

On Wednesday, Lebanon formally requested technical assistance from the IMF to tackle its economic crisis.

Kubis urged the Lebanese authorities to implement the promised reforms and gave his assurance that the UN “supports the reforms that the government intends to undertake.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said: “The crisis that we are passing through today is unprecedented in the history of Lebanon — even in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Lebanese Pound faced sharp decline, the situation was different. Lebanon is going through a turning point in its history and our government is working day and night to find solutions within 30 days to a 30-year crisis.”
As the government is reportedly considering postponing the payment of the Eurobond and negotiating a restructuring of its debt, the exchange rate of the dollar to the LBP remains as high as LBP2,450 or 2,500 for $1 in exchange offices, while the official exchange rate remains LBP1,515 for $1.
The Lebanese Bakeries and Ovens Unions warned on Friday of “new burdens due to the increase of the US Dollar exchange rate,” and called on the state to “satisfy the country’s wheat needs, as citizens cannot bear more pressure.”
Nicolas Chammas, president of the Beirut Traders Association, expressed the concern and anger of the commercial sector regarding the Lebanese political class. “Ever since the war in Syria erupted nine years ago, our situation has been in steady decline due to displacement, smuggling, unfair competition and mismanagement by the state,” he said. “One week before protests erupted, more than 100,000 merchants staged sit-ins in front of their shops and (gave warnings about) the serious situation they were passing through.”
The protests, he claimed, “have exacerbated our problems due to the impossibility of transferring money, and restrictions on bank deposits which made us strive for survival.”
On the streets, tensions were again running high this week, as supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) staged a protest in front of the Central Bank in Hamra Street. FPM demonstrators clashed with supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) for the first time — due to rumors that the FPM supporters intended to move their protest to the nearby house of PSP leader Walid Jumblatt — before the army intervened to separate the two sides. Jumblatt later asked his supporters to disperse.