Zahi Hawass – Egypt’s larger-than-life minister for antiquities and self-styled ‘Indian Jones of the East’ – appears to have finally fallen on his sword, following months of pressure over his strong praise for Hosni Mubarak during the uprising and his persistent implication in corruption scandals.
Hawass is one of the best known Egyptians outside the country. The archaeologist has dominated Egypt’s antiquities scene for many years, maintaining total control over who gets to dig and where, and transforming himself into a global superstar through his National Geographic and Discovery channel television ventures.
With his trademark hat, pompous swagger and unbounded sense of self-worth, Hawass has been credited with boosting national tourism revenue and opening up the mysteries of pharaonic Egypt to the world.
But he’s also been a consistent hate figure for many working within the archaeological community, and his emphatic support for Mubarak – made in a BBC TV interview just five days before the dictator was toppled – seemed to be the last straw for his career. But, as seen in a recent interview with the Guardian, Hawass tried to improbably style himself as an enthusiastic revolutionary in recent months and somehow clung onto his position – until today.
We haven’t had any official confirmation of the departure yet, but Hawass has posted a typically bombastic resignation letter on his own blog. In it he condemns the ministry of interior for not providing good enough security for ancient sites, and in a complete volte-face, explicitly warns foreign tourists against visiting Egypt at the moment.
Sure Zahi, sure. Now that you’re not making money from it, it makes perfect sense that you want the tourists to stay away. If Simcha resigns I’ sure we’ll tell tourists to stay out of Caiphas’s family tomb and Jesus’ family tomb, and the rest.