Kate Taylor’s front page article for the New York Times suggests that Dr. Hawass, the controversial Egyptian antiquities minister, is on the way out. I know more than a few people who think it’s more than past due:
Until recently Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, was a global symbol of Egyptian national pride. A famous archaeologist in an Indiana Jones hat, he was virtually unassailable in the old Egypt, protected by his success in boosting tourism, his efforts to reclaim lost artifacts and his closeness to the country’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak.
But the revolution changed all that.
Now demonstrators in Cairo are calling for his resignation as the interim government faces disaffected crowds in Tahrir Square.
Their primary complaint is his association with the Mubaraks, whom he defended in the early days of the revolution. But the upheaval has also drawn attention to the ways he has increased his profile over the years, often with the help of organizations and companies with which he has done business as a government official.
He receives, for example, 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.
He has relationships — albeit ones he says he does not profit from — with two American companies that do business in Egypt.
One, Arts and Exhibitions International, secured Mr. Hawass’s permission several years ago to take some of the country’s most precious treasures, the artifacts of King Tut, on a world tour; its top executives recently started a separate venture to market a Zahi Hawass line of clothing.
A second company, Exhibit Merchandising, has been selling replicas of Mr. Hawass’s hat for several years. Last year that company was hired to operate a new store in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Mr. Hawass says his share of the profits from those products goes directly to Egyptian charities. But the fact that both charities, a children’s cancer hospital and a children’s museum, were overseen by Ms. Mubarak before the revolution has angered some critics…
[continues in the New York Times ]