Egypt 'safe, but greater boldness needed', says Hawass

Patrons needed for archaeological heritage

04 September, 18:59

    Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass

    (by Cristiana Missori) - CORTONA - The most famous Egyptian archaeologist in the world, Zahi Hawass, will on Friday evening be giving a preview of his latest book in the Tuscan city of Cortona. ''Egypt is a safe country,'' the former head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities told ANSAmed in an interview, stressing that a hefty dose of boldness is needed to bring back tourists. The presentation of 'Magia delle Piramidi. Le Mie Avventure in Archeologia'' (Harmakis Edizioni) will be at Teatro Signorelli. The book illustrates the discoveries of the last 20 years in the Giza and Saqqara plateau.

    Hawass reassured Italians that ''Egypt and its sites are protected. The Islamic State (ISIS) will not enter. I am here to reiterate this''. Though Hawass has been criticized - in part for his tendency to make a spectacle of every new find - Hawass has brought the larger public closer to ancient Egypt and has put Egyptology back into the hands of Egyptians. For about 15 years until 2011, he was the go-to person for all authorizations in the sphere of Egyptian antiquities. His role is now more similar to that of ''an ambassador'', as he himself underscores, who aims to do everything in his power to revive the country's tourism industry. ''Money is needed to maintain our cultural heritage,'' he stressed, through the use of ''brands'' and media ploys such as Nicholas Reeve's theory that there may be a secret passage in Tutankhamon's tomb.

    ''Despite being utterly mistaken and lacking in any foundation whatsoever,'' Hawass said, ''it managed to attract international media attention.'' Many scholars may not agree, but the man known for his 'Indiana Jones' Stetson hat calls it a clever way to attract tourists. ''We need funds,'' he noted, for such things as completing a new Egyptian Museum in Cairo - in the works for years. It was to have been inaugurated in 2015, but several million dollars are still lacking to do so, the Egyptologist noted. Hawass said that ''the issue must be internationalized and visibility given to patrons willing to make donations through such things as naming a room or wing in their honor, or engraving their name on the front wall of the museum.'' He admits, though, that he is not being listened to on this matter. Under his direction at the antiquities council, ''there were 22 plans for new museum spaces, but none of them have yet come into being. Everything has been put on hold, including 10 million euros that Italy allocated for the makeover of Alexandria's Graeco-Roman Museum. It has inexplicably been put on hold by the Ministry of Antiquities,'' he said. On collaboration in the cultural field with Rome, he said that ''Italy does a lot. It has done a great deal.'' Hawass intends to continue raising awareness in Italy about the world of the Egyptian pharaohs by taking his book even to smaller towns throughout the country. ''I will be making about a dozen presentations from now until May,'' he said. The Tuscan town, which set Friday aside for Egypt, will on Saturday be awarding the Cortonantiquaria 2015 Prize. 

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