A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hawass Ouster Getting More Press Than Rest of Cabinet Combined

 Usually a Cabinet reshuffle that changes 15 portfolios and includes the Foreign Minister and Finance Minister among them tends to produce analysis on the key changes in key ministries, and my earlier posting on the reshuffle contained links to articles on the new Foreign and Defense Ministries. After all, Egypt's role in the world and its precarious economy are big issues, not only domestically but for other countries as well.

But a totally unscientific sampling of news sites and blogs (just what I've had time to look at so far) leaves me with the distinct impression that for most headline writers, the departure of Zahi Hawass is getting most of the attention.

I realize most people outside of Egypt and many at home couldn't have named the departing Finance or Foreign Ministers. Did the old Finance Minister have his own show on  the History Channel? Does anyone know what kind of hat the Foreign Minister favored? Star Power will tell.

One of the better treatments is Max Fisher's at The Atlantic;he also quotes from an excellent piece by Mohamed ElShahed at al-Jadaliyya, "The Case Against the Grand Egyptian Museum."  Though written before the reshuffle, it has strong criticisms of Hawass. If you're not familiar with the Grand Egyptian Museum, it's an ambitious, perhaps overambitious, effort to move the collections of the cramped Egyptian Museum to a new site, constructed on pharaoniic scale (and likely pharaonic expense) out in the desert past the pyramids. As ElShahed notes, it reflects the emphasis of the Mubarak years on building elite gated suburbs for the wealthy, so they could avoid the inconveniences of the urban core. (Not to mention the common people.)

Is this the end of Zahi  Hawass? I suspect his line of clothing will suffer a setback, and his television career may suffer now that he can't automatically grant the TV access to Egyptian sites. But if he can avoid prosecution I doubt that we've seen the last of him. Recall that earlier this year he resigned (almost certainly just before he would have been fired), then made a comeback as a sudden supporter of the revolution. This time he didn't get the timing right.

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