Tumult in Egypt antiquities as Hawass swept aside

Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:20am GMT

By Patrick Werr

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is struggling to find a replacement to run its antiquities ministry after the flamboyant Zahi Hawass, easily recognised by his Indiana Jones-style hat, was swept aside in a cabinet reshuffle to eject the old guard.

Hawass regularly appeared on international television, often with his feet covered in dust at the site of a dig, explaining the latest of Egypt's myriad Pharaonic ruins to be revealed.

His initial replacement, Abdel-Fattah al-Banna, came under fire for lacking archaeology credentials for the post. Appointed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Sunday, he quit a day later.

Hawass had also drawn criticism at home, although he became a celebrity abroad with his documentary appearances, describing finds from various pharaonic dynasties or campaigning for the return of treasures he said had been smuggled overseas.

Archaeologists working in Egypt said Hawass had a domineering style and often took credit for work uncovered by others. He also angered those who worked under him.

One witness said he was mobbed by angry employees on Sunday as he left his office for the last time, part of a reshuffle demanded by protesters camped out in central Cairo who are disappointed with the pace of change since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.

"Thief, thief," crowds yelled at him, according to a video on the website of el-Youm el-Sabaa newspaper.

One official at the antiquities department said many people in the crowd were angry that Hawass had not fulfilled a promise to give workers on contract staff jobs by mid-July.   Continued...

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