First Mubarak, now Hawass. When chief antiquities official Zahi Hawass’s reassurances that Egypt’s cultural heritage was safe and sound began to ring hollow, he became the target of harsh criticism and professional scrutiny. Archeologists and students staged a protest seeking Hawass’s resignation when evidence of looting began to surface.â?¨â?¨
Prime minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned on Thursday and the army, which is now running the country, has ordered his replacement to create a caretaker cabinet. So far, one of the new government’s biggest initiatives, to boost tourism, has been to invite Oprah to film a show in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. She declined.)
The swashbuckling Hawass, who had close ties to Mubarak, told the New York Times that “If the government will ask me again, I will not accept this job.” So, he’s still head of antiquities until asked anew to be head of antiquities.
No longer denying the devastating effect of the riots that drove Mubarak out of power, Hawass, told the Times that he plans to leave his job because he can no longer protect the country’s antiquities or excavation sites. But one wishes Hawass had seized the opportunity for international aide and assistance, and not just hailed reopened tourist sites as “uplifting news.”
According to NPR, Hawass’s job was made more difficult by the lack of police presence following the riots. Loyal to Mubarak, the police were brutal in their crackdown on protestors and have “mysteriously disappeared.”
Hawass has continued to blog about sites that have been looted, including the Metropolitan Museum’s excavation in Dahshur, which has been hit twice by looters. He has called on the youth groups that sparked the initial uprising against Mubarak to help protect archeological sites.â?¨â?¨In the early days after the uprising, universities and museums declined to speak about their projects until their personnel had been safely evacuated. In a statement on Thursday, Metropolitan director Thomas Campbell said, “The world cannot sit by and permit unchecked anarchy to jeopardize the cultural heritage of one of the world’s oldest, greatest, and most inspiring civilizations. . . . Action needs to be taken immediately.”