Hawass loyalists call for him to stay on

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 6 Mar 2011

Demonstrations of Egyptian archaeologists call for Egypt's new prime minister to persuade Zahi Hawass to remain minister for antiquities



At the footsteps of the Great Pyramid in Giza, in the garden of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, and before the façade of Luxor and Karnak temples, hundreds of protestors gathered asking for the continuation of Zahi Hawass in his current post as minister of state for antiquities affairs.

Yesterday Hawass warned that he will resign if asked to hold the antiquities portfolio in Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, due to police failure to protect Egypt’s antiquities. He said he could not be the protector of Egypt’s antiquities when the police remain absent. Last week, police failed to protect several antiquities and archaeological sites.

Ali El-Asfar, head of the Giza Plateau, called on Hawass to reconsider his decision, saying “Hawass is the only person that could do something positive for archaeology, through his ability to hold responsibility and his network connections.”

Mostafa Waziri, head of antiquities on Luxor’s West Bank, told Ahram Online that Hawass is very capable. During his tenure as secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), which commenced in 2002, Hawass did a lot not only for archaeology but for archaeologists as well.

On the archaeological level, Hawass was able to protect and preserve Egypt’s antiquities by applying a new antiquities law prohibiting antiquities trading and extending penalties for smugglers. He regulated the relation between Egypt’s archaeological sites and foreign archaeological missions who come to Egypt for excavation or restoration projects.

Hawass also succeeded in returning 5,000 precious antiquities that were illegally smuggled out of Egypt. New museums were built to house the items and several archaeological sites were developed and restored.

Waziri continued that on the employee level, Hawass increased the salary of SCA employees 200 per cent. He also offered for the first time medical insurance to all employees and was studying the establishment of a syndicate for archaeologists. Hawass also provided several training scholarships for Egyptian restorers and excavators.

The administrative board of the Arab Archaeologists Union held an urgent meeting yesterday night to discuss measures to protect Egypt’s monuments and archaeological sites, which are being subject to waves of looting. Following the meeting board members launched a petition asking Sharaf to keep Hawass on, in order to best protect Egypt’s heritage.

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