At this writing, Zahi Hawass still seems to be Egyptian antiquities minister, though it was widely reported over the past week that he had been fired. On July 19, he told the Art Newspaper that prime minister Essam Sharaf has asked him to continue to work.
Hawass’s most recently named successor, Abdel-Fatah al-Banna, an associate professor of restoration at Cairo University, was nominated for the top post last Sunday but declined—or was asked to decline—after protests from department staff and other experts.
Hawass served as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities from 2002 until his appointment as minister by Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 31, 2011, 11 days before the Egyptian ruler’s ousting. Amid the fallout of the popular uprising and looting of the state museum, Hawass resigned on Mar. 5, sort of. Without actually vacating the post, he said that he would not accept the position if it were offered by the new regime. (Another replacement, Alaa El Din Shaheen, came and went last March.)
Opponents of the charismatic antiquities chief cite his image-conscious branding efforts—of himself and Egyptian antiquities—and his lack of solid research. Though he began his career in 1969 as an inspector of antiquities, and served as the general director at the Giza plateau from the late 1980s until 2002, he has come under fire for his affiliations with the National Geographic Society and the Discovery Channel, and for launching his own line of Indiana Jones-style clothing.
Despite his professional accomplishments or shortcomings, Hawass’s biggest problem stems from his close association with Mubarek. Because the antiquities post remains open, Esssam Sharaf has postponed announcing his new cabinet.