Some archaeologists and Egyptian activists thought Zahi Hawass was ancient history. But yesterday, according to several news reports, the controversial head of the country's antiquities has been reappointed to his post, less than a month after he threatened to resign. Hawass's resurrection came after a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
The well-known archaeologist was part of the Mubarak government for many years as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and was named minister of antiquities in the waning days of the regime. Those ties, along with accusations of corruption and recent looting of ancient sites, have made him a controversial figure in postrevolution Egypt. But his ability to lure tourists may have trumped those concerns.
"You can lose him or you can use him," says Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist in Washington, D.C., with National Geographic, which has worked closely with Hawass. "He turned tourism into the number one industry for the country. You can say he's an egomaniac who doesn't let others speak, but he has put Egyptian archaeology on the front pages of newspapers around the world."