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Zahi Hawass

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Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass
زاهي حواس
Hawass in Paestum, November 2006
Minister of Antiquities
In office
January 31, 2011 – March 3, 2011[1][2][3]
President Hosni Mubarak
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Mohamed Said
In office
April 5, 2011[4][5] – July 17, 2011[6]
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf
Personal details
Born (1947-05-28) May 28, 1947
Damietta, Kingdom of Egypt
Nationality Egyptian
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
University of Cairo
Alexandria University
Profession Egyptologist
Religion Islam
Website .comdrhawass

Zahi Hawass (Arabic: زاهي حواس‎; born May 28, 1947) is an Egyptian archaeologist, an Egyptologist, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs.[7][8] He has also worked at archaeological sites in the Nile Delta, the Western Desert, and the Upper Nile Valley.

Hawass has received widespread publicity internationally, and was the subject of a reality television series in the United States, Chasing Mummies. His views and links to business ventures and the Mubarak regime have engendered controversy. In connection with the awarding of a gift shop contract at the Egyptian Museum and alleged smuggling of antiquities, he was sentenced to a prison term, which was later lifted.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Minister of Antiquities 2.1
  • Works 3
  • Appearances 4
  • Views 5
    • Return of artifacts to Egypt 5.1
    • DNA testing of Egyptian mummies 5.2
    • Statements about Israel and Jews 5.3
  • Controversies 6
    • Association with Mubarak 6.1
    • Clothing line 6.2
  • Recognition and awards 7
  • Sources 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life and education

Hawass was born in Damietta, Egypt. He originally intended to become a lawyer, but then studied Greek and Roman archaeology at Alexandria University, where he obtained a B.Sc. degree. He obtained a diploma in Egyptology at the University of Cairo. In 1987 he received his PhD degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied as a Fulbright Fellow.[9]


After 1988 Hawass taught Egyptian archaeology, history and culture, mostly at the American University in Cairo and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993 he left his position as Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau. According to Hawass, he resigned.[10] Others claim, however, that he was fired because a valuable ancient "statue" under the custody of Hawass was stolen from Giza. He was reinstated as Chief Inspector in early 1994.[11][12] In 1998 he was appointed as director of the Giza Plateau. In 2002 he was appointed Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Zahi Hawass and Barack Obama, June 2009

He is also responsible for the discovery of the tombs of Giza pyramid builders, and the Valley of the Golden Mummies in Bahariya. In 2005 as part of the National Geographic Society-sponsored Egyptian Mummy Project to learn more about patterns of disease, health, and mortality in ancient Egypt, he led a team that CT scanned the mummy of King Tutankhamun. His team is continuing to CT scan mummies, both royal and private, and hopes to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the lives and deaths of such important figures as Hatshepsut and Nefertiti.[13]

When U.S. President Barack Obama was in Cairo in June 2009 Hawass gave him personal tours of the sites of ancient Egypt. At the end of 2009 he was promoted personally by President Hosni Mubarak to the post of Vice Minister of Culture.[14]

In the midst of the 2011 Egyptian protests, Hawass arrived at the Egyptian Museum on January 29, 2011 to find that a number of cases had been broken into and a number of antiquities damaged. Police later secured the museum.[8] Hawass was reported to have faxed a colleague that 13 cases were destroyed and to have said, "My heart is broken and my blood is boiling."[15] Hawass later told the New York Times that thieves looking for gold broke 70 objects, including two sculptures of Tutankhamen, and took two skulls from a research lab before being stopped as they were leaving the museum.[16]

Minister of Antiquities

He was appointed Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, a newly created cabinet post, by Mubarak on January 31, 2011 as part of a cabinet shakeup during the 2011 Egyptian protests.[15][16][17]

In a blog on his website it was reported that Hawass "will continue excavating, writing books, and representing his country." Hawass' blog said that archeological sites in Egypt were being safeguarded and that looted objects had been returned. Regarding the Egyptian Museum looting, he said that "The museum was dark and the nine robbers did not recognise the value of what was in the vitrines. They opened thirteen cases, threw the seventy objects on the ground and broke them, including one Tutankhamun case, from which they broke the statue of the king on a panther. However, the broken objects can all be restored, and we will begin the restoration process this week."[17] Hawass rejected comparisons with the looting of antiquities in Iraq and Afghanistan.[16]

On February 13 Hawass said that eighteen artifacts, including statues of King Tutankhamun, were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in January. Among them were eleven wooden shabti statuettes from Yuya, a gilded wooden statue of Tutankhamun carried by a goddess and a statue of Nefertiti.[18]

Egyptian state television reported that Hawass called upon Egyptians not to believe the “lies and fabrications” of the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya satellite television channels.[19] Hawass later said “They should give us the opportunity to change things, and if nothing happens they can march again. But you can’t bring in a new president now, in this time. We need Mubarak to stay and make the transition.”[16]

On March 3, 2011 he resigned after a list was posted on his personal website of dozens of sites across Egypt that were looted in the 2011 protests.[20][21] On March 30, 2011 a tweet was posted stating that he was once again the Minister of Antiquities ("I am very happy to be the Minister of Antiquities once again!").[22] He was reappointed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf at that time,[23] but resigned on July 17, 2011, after Sharaf informed him he would not be continuing in the position.[6] According to other newspaper reports, he was sacked from his job.[24]


Hawass has written and co-written many books relating to Egyptology, including King Tutankhamun: The Treasures from the Tomb,[25] published to coincide with a major exhibition in the UK.[26] He has also written an article on Tutankhamun in Ancient Egypt magazine, and has written several articles for this bi-monthly UK-based magazine in the past. He wrote another book and included Tutankhamun curse, called The Curse of the Pharaohs: My Adventures with Mummies.

Hawass is a regular columnist for Egypt Today magazine[27] and the online historical community, Heritage Key. He has narrated several videos on Egyptology, including a series on Tutankhamun.[28]


Zahi Hawass signing a book in Mexico City, August 2003.

Hawass has appeared on television specials on channels such as the National Geographic Channel, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.[29] Hawass has also appeared in several episodes of the U.S. television show Digging for the Truth, discussing mummies, the pyramids, Tutankhamun, Cleopatra, and Ramesses II. He also appeared on Unsolved Mysteries during a segment on the curse of Tutankhamun's tomb. In 2010, Hawass appeared on a reality-based television show on The History Channel called Chasing Mummies.[30]

Hawass also worked alongside Egyptologist Otto Schaden during the opening of Tomb KV63 in February 2006 – the first intact tomb to be found in the Valley of the Kings since 1922.[31]

In June 2007 Hawass announced that he and a team of experts may have identified[32] the mummy of Hatshepsut in KV60, a small tomb in the Valley of the Kings.[33] The opening of the sealed tomb was described in 2006 as "one of the most important events in the Valley of the Kings for almost a hundred years."[34]

Hawass helped create and host the documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries.


Return of artifacts to Egypt

Hawass spearheaded a movement to return many prominent unique and/or irregularly taken Ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as the Rosetta Stone, the bust of Nefertiti, the Dendera zodiac ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple, the bust of Ankhhaf (the architect of the Khafra Pyramid), the faces of Amenhotep III's tomb at the Louvre Museum, the Luxor Temple's obelisk at the Place de la Concorde and the statue of Hemiunu, nephew of the Pharaoh Khufu, builder of the largest pyramid, to Egypt from collections in various other countries. In July 2003 the Egyptians requested the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum. Hawass, as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, told the press, "If the British want to be remembered, if they want to restore their reputation, they should volunteer to return the Rosetta Stone because it is the icon of our Egyptian identity."[35][36] Referring to antiquities at the British Museum, Hawass said “These are Egyptian monuments. I will make life miserable for anyone who keeps them.” Britain has refused to return them.[37]

The Wall Street Journal commented that the looting of antiquities during the 2011 civil unrest in Egypt made Hawass' quest to return Egyptian antiquities to Egypt "misguided or at least poorly timed."[8]

DNA testing of Egyptian mummies

Hawass has been skeptical of DNA testing of Egyptian mummies: "From what I understand, it is not always accurate and it cannot always be done with complete success when dealing with mummies. Until we know for sure that it is accurate, we will not use it in our research."[38]

In December 2000, a joint team from Waseda University in Japan and Cairo's Ain Shams University tried to get permission for DNA testing of Egyptian mummies, but was denied by the Egyptian Government. Hawass added that DNA analysis was out of the question because it would not lead to anything.[39]

In February 2010, Hawass and his team announced that they had analyzed the mummies of Tutankhamun and ten other mummies and said that the king could have died from a malaria infection that followed a leg fracture.[40] German researchers Christian Timmann and Christian Meyer have cast doubt on this theory, suggesting other possible alternatives for Tutankhamun's cause of death.[41]

In 2012, a study signed by Hawass disclosed that Ramses III had a haplogroup that is associated with the Bantu Migrations and is the most dominant in Sub-Saharan Africa, E1b1a.[42]

Statements about Israel and Jews

Hawass has been a long-standing opponent of normalized relations between Israel and Egypt.[43]

In January 2009 Hawass wrote in [44]

In an interview on Egyptian television in April 2009 Hawass stated that "although Jews are few in number, they control the entire world" and commented on the "control they have" of the American economy and the media.[45][46][47] He later wrote that he was using rhetoric to explain political fragmentation among the Arabs and that he does not believe in a "Jewish conspiracy to control the world".[48]


Hawass has been accused of domineering behaviour, forbidding archaeologists to announce their own findings, and courting the media for his own gain after they were denied access to archaeological sites because, according to Hawass, they were too amateurish.[49] A few, however, have said in interviews that some of what Hawass has done for the field was long overdue.[49] Hawass has typically ignored or dismissed his critics, and when asked about it he indicated that what he does is for the sake of Egypt and the preservation of its antiquities.[50] Hawass helped to institute a systematic program for the preservation and restoration of historical monuments, while training Egyptians to improve their expertise on methods of excavation, retrieval and preservation.[51]

Criticism of Hawass increased following the protests in Egypt in 2011. The New York Times reported in a front page story in July 2011 that he receives an honorarium each year "of as much as $200,000" from National Geographic to be an explorer-in-residence, "even as he controls access to the ancient sites it often features in its reports."[52] The Times also reported that he has relationships with two American companies that do business in Egypt.[52]

On April 17, 2011, Hawass was sentenced to jail for one year for refusing to obey a court ruling[53] relating to a contract for the gift shop at the Egyptian Museum to a company with links to Hawass.[52] The ruling was appealed and this specific sentence was suspended pending appeal.[53][54] The following day, the National Council of Egypt’s Administrative Court issued a decree to overturn the court's original ruling, specifying that he would serve no jail time, and would instead remain in his position as Minister of Antiquities.[52][55]

Association with Mubarak

Hawass has been closely associated with the government of former President Hosni Mubarak. He was a member of the government as Minister of Antiquities during Mubarak's presidency. His resignation as minister on March 3, 2011 and his re-appointment to the Ministry on March 30, 2011 have been seen as part of the overall events surrounding Mubarak's resignation. It has been reported that his re-appointment has angered numerous factions, who have opposed the appointment of any of the old guard under Mubarak to new positions in the government.[56]

The 2011 Egyptian protests resulted in increased criticism of Hawass. Demonstrators called for his resignation, and the upheaval has increased attention on his relationship with the Mubarak family and the way in which he has increased his public profile in recent years.[52]

Clothing line

Hawass has lent his name to a line of men's apparel, described by The New York Times as "a line of rugged khakis, denim shirts and carefully worn leather jackets that are meant, according to the catalog copy, to hark 'back to Egypt’s golden age of discovery in the early 20th century.'" The clothing was first sold at Harrods department store in London in April 2011.[53]

Critics say the Hawass clothing commercializes Egyptian history and there were accusations, which proved incorrect , that models had sat on or scuffed ancient artifacts during a photo shoot for advertisements. Hawass already sells a line of hats similar to the ones he wears, which mimic the ones worn by Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies.[53]

Recognition and awards

Hawass is the recipient of the Egyptian state award of the first degree for his work in the Sphinx restoration project.[57] In 2002, he was awarded the American Academy of Achievements' Golden Plate and the glass obelisk from US scholars for his efforts to the protection and preservation of Ancient Egyptian monuments.[57] In 2003, Hawass was given international membership in the Russian Academy for Natural Sciences (RANS),[57] and in 2006, he was chosen as one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine.[57]


  • A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’, John Tierney, The New York Times, 2009


  1. ^ Egyptology: Zahi Hawass confirms resignation, Dan Vergano, USA Today, March 5, 2011
  2. ^ Hawass loyalists call for him to stay on, Nevine El Aref ,Ahram Online, March 6, 2011
  3. ^ Why Dr. Hawass Resigned, Zahi Hawass blog, March 6, 2011
  4. ^ People's Daily Online: "Egypt's minister of state for antiquities sworn in" April 5, 2011
  5. ^ "Egypt reappoints Antiquities Minister" Press TV, April 3, 2011
  6. ^ a b "Egypt’s Zahi Hawass resigns". Bikya Masr. July 17, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Cabinet of Ministers". Retrieved February 25, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Joffe, Alex (February 1, 2011). "Egypt's Antiquities Fall Victim to the Mob". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  9. ^ Zahi A. Hawass The Funerary Establishments of Khufu, Khafra and Menkaura During the Old Kingdom University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 1 September 2010
  10. ^ "From the Notebook of Dr. Zahi Hawass". 
  11. ^ "The Modern Riddle of the Sphinx". 
  12. ^ "Additional Information on the Giza Plateau from Graham Hancock".  "Archaeological Developments at Giza by Robert Bauval". 
  13. ^ "Zahi Hawass". National Geographic. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ Hawass, Zahi. "Dr. Hawass Named Vice Minister of Culture of Egypt". Dr Hawass. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Lawler, Andrew (Jan 31, 2011). "Archaeologists Hold Their Breaths on Status of Egyptian Antiquities". ScienceInsider (American Association for the Advancement of Science). Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d Taylor, Kate (February 2, 2011). "Egyptian Official, Zahi Hawass, Says Antiquities Are Secure". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "The State of Egyptian Antiquities Today: An Update". Feb 1, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  18. ^ Kassem, Mahmoud (February 13, 2011). "King Tutankhamun Statues Missing as Intruders Break Into Egyptian Museum".  
  19. ^ Fahim, Kareem (February 1, 2011). "State TV in Egypt Offers Different Perspective". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  20. ^ Taylor, Kate (March 3, 2011). "Egyptian Antiquities Chief Says He Will Resign". New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  21. ^ Hawass, Zahi (March 3, 2011). "The status of Egyptian antiquities today, 3 March 2011". Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  22. ^!/ZahiHawass
  23. ^ Taylor, Kate (March 30, 2011). "Egyptian Antiquities Minister Returns Less Than a Month After Quitting". New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  24. ^ Sacking Zahi Hawass is a sign of Egypt's ongoing revolution. The Guardian, Friday 22 July 2011.
  25. ^ King Tutankamun: The Treasures of the Tomb : Books : Thames & Hudson
  26. ^ "King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Exhibition". Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  27. ^ "Egypt Today – The Magazine Of Egypt". Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  28. ^ [4]
  29. ^ [5] Archived March 20, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "History Channel: ''"Chasing Mummies"'' Archaeologist Profile: Dr. Zahi Hawass". Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  31. ^ "KV-63 ~ Newly Discovered Tomb". 
  32. ^ "The Quest for Hatshepsut – Discovering the Mummy of Egypt's Greatest Female Pharaoh". 
  33. ^ "Zahi Hawass's home page". 
  34. ^ "King Tut's Mystery Tomb Opened", video documentary, Discovery Channel, first aired July 9, 2006
  35. ^ Charlotte Edwardes and Catherine Milner (July 20, 2003). "Egypt demands return of the Rosetta Stone". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  36. ^ Henry Huttinger (July 28, 2005). "Stolen Treasures: Zahi Hawass wants the Rosetta Stone back, among other things". Cairo Magazine. Retrieved October 6, 2006. 
  37. ^ Williams, Daniel (Jan 27, 2010). "Egypt Relics Chief Pulls in Revenue as He Fights for Nefertiti". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Unravelling the Mummy Mystery – Using DNA (citing Interview with al-Ahram issue 512.)". Egyptology Online. Retrieved April 10, 2009. 
  39. ^ "Unravelling the Mummy Mystery – Using DNA (citing Interview with "Travel Egypt" magazine, 2004.)". Egyptology Online. Retrieved April 10, 2009. 
  40. ^ Roberts, Michelle (February 17, 2010). Malaria and weak bones' may have killed Tutankhamun"'". BBC. Retrieved February 17, 2010. 
  41. ^ Malaria, mummies, mutations: Tutankhamun's archaeological autopsy. Trop Med Int Health. 2010 Nov; 15 (11): 1278-80.
  42. ^ British Medical Journal, BMJ 2012;345:e8268, Hawass et al, "Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological, forensic, radiological, and genetic study BMJ 2012", Published December 17 2012. [6] About Ramses III's haplogroup, Hawass et al state: "Genetic kinship analyses revealed identical haplotypes in both mummies (table 1); using the Whit Athey’s haplogroup predictor, we determined the Y chromosomal haplogroup E1b1a."
  43. ^ "Egypt antiquities chief: I gave the Zionist enemy a slap in the face".  
  44. ^ Antisemitic Statements and Cartoons in Wake of Gaza War, MEMRI, March 30, 2009.
  45. ^ The Jews' secret weapon: Bickering Jonathan Kay, National Post, April 20, 2009.
  46. ^ Video Clip: Renowned Egyptian Archeologist Zahi Hawass: Jews Control the Entire World, MEMRI, March 30, 2009.
  47. ^ Renowned Egyptian Archeologist Zahi Hawass: Jews Control the Entire World, MEMRI, Clip No. 2049 — transcript, February 11, 2009.
  48. ^ Clarification of Remarks on Jewish History, Zahi Hawass's blog.
  49. ^ a b The Show-Biz Pharaoh of Egypt's Antiquities. Sharon Waxman. New York Times. June 13, 2005.
  50. ^ Parker, Ian (2009), "The Pharaoh", The New Yorker, November 16 issue, pp 53–63.
  51. ^ Hawass, Zahi (May 2005). "A New Era for Museums in Egypt". Museum International (Oxford: Blackwell Synergy) 57 (1–2): 7–23.  
  52. ^ a b c d e Taylor, Kate (July 13, 2011). "Revolt in Egypt Dims Star Power of Zahi Hawass". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved July 14, 2011. 
  53. ^ a b c d Taylor, Kate (April 19, 2011). "Egyptian Antiquities Official Defends Fashion Line". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  54. ^ "Egypt antiquities chief faces jail time - Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  55. ^ Hawass, Zahi. "Decision in the Court Case Against Me". Retrieved April 19, 2011. . The jail sentence was lifted after a new contract was solicited for the gift shop
  56. ^ "Breaking News". Jerusalem Post. March 30, 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  57. ^ a b c d Nevine El Aref (May 4–10, 2006). "He made it in Time". Al Ahram Weekly 793. Retrieved January 3, 2014. 

Further reading

Schulz, Matthias (May 28, 2010). "Egypt's Avenger of the Pharaohs".  

External links

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