Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 May 2006
Issue No. 793
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

He made it in Time

Zahi Hawass has been selected by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential people, reports Nevine El-Aref

Zahi Hawass

The world's 100 most influential people will gather on Monday at Lincoln Centre, in the scintillating new Time Warner Centre in New York. Among them will be an Egyptian, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass.

Described by Time as "The Guardian of Egypt's Antiquities" and "The perfect image of a modern-day archaologists with his jeans and trademark Indian Jones hat" Hawass, the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, has to be -- and is -- a master of multi-tasking. He tours the world lecturing, making TV appearances and churning out a steady stream of books and articles. He has been described as theatrical, passionate about Egypt and archeology, as well as controversial. He makes news by demanding the return of artefacts stolen and smuggled out of Egypt and his recent edicts restricting new excavations, particularly in such popular sites as Saqqara and the Valley of the Kings, have aroused the ire of some foreign archaeologists.

"Yet those regulations as well as his focus on conservation may be Hawass' most lasting legacy," Time wrote. "There are already too many monuments in danger of destruction, both by natural forces and by the tourism on which Egypt's economy largely depends -- and which Hawass has done so much to encourage."

Enjoying his selection, Hawass told Al-Ahram Weekly that he was very happy, impressed and flattered. "Now I feel that I am harvesting the crops of all the hard effort I exerted to protect and preserve Egypt's heritage."

He said the honour was not for him personally but for Egypt and its civilisation.

It also highlights Egypt's cultural leap in archaeology and the role of its political leaders and President Hosni Mubarak to protect and preserve the country's heritage whether by building state-of-the-art museums or demanding the return of artefacts stolen and smuggled out of the country.

"Being among Time 's 100 list is an indication that Egypt was able to capture the heart of the entire world by introducing its ancient civilisation and archaeology," Hawass said.

Hawass previously received several national and international awards. President Mubarak presented him with the state award of the first degree for his efforts in the Sphinx restoration project. In 2002, he received the American Academy of Achievements' Golden Plate and the glass obelisk from US scholars for his devotion to the protection and preservation of Ancient Egyptian monuments, a prize received by Egyptian scientist and Nobel laureate Ahmed Zuweil the same year.

In 2003, in recognition of his achievements and outstanding contribution to world culture, Hawass became only the second Egyptian after Boutros Boutros Ghali given international membership in the Russian Academy for Natural Sciences (RANS). The award is given to outstanding scholars, Nobel laureates and statesmen in science, culture and the economy. RANS presented Hawass with the Silver Pavel Tretiajiy Medal, a prestigious international decoration named after Pavel Tretiajiy, an outstanding Russian patron of the arts.

For his many achievements in the ongoing battle to return Egypt's stolen antiquities, Hawass received the Ecumene d'Oro (The Golden Globe) Award from the Supreme Institute for Cultural and Environmental Conservation Techniques in Italy. The award is a prestigious international decoration given every 10 years to three people chosen from around the world for their pioneering roles in the protection of cultural and environmental heritage.

Last year, the American University in Cairo (AUC) awarded Hawass an honorary PhD for his relentless efforts not only in bringing several great Pharaonic archaeological discoveries into the light of day but his unremitting activity to spread knowledge of the great Ancient Egyptian civilisation across the world.

Previous recipients of the award include Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, Zuweil, US-based Egyptian scientist Farouk El-Baz and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said.

Time 's list profiles the lives and ideas of the world's most influential people and is divided into five categories: leaders and revolutionaries, builders and titans, artists and entertainers, heroes and icons, and scientists and thinkers.

Hawass and the rest of the honorees selected by Time will gather at Allen Room for an elegant dinner with an evening of entertainment. Up to 350 distinguished guests from around the world are expected to attend the event, including many of the individuals from the 2004 and 2005 Time 100 lists, the international press and a host of worldwide dignitaries.

The Time survey was launched six years ago, at the turn of the millennium, chronicling the lives and legacies of the 100 most powerful and influential people of the 20th century. Starting in 2004, the Time 100 became an annual affair.

Osama Bin Laden's right-hand Ayman El-Zawahri was the second Egyptian listed among the Time 100. The magazine wrote that in the past year, El-Zawahri, 54, had increasingly become the public face and voice of Al-Qaeda while Bin Laden had ceded the spotlight to his deputy.

Regional world leaders on this year's list include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Iraqi Muslim Shia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr, Palestinian Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Vatican Pope Benedict, Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also listed.

Actors include Ellen DeGeneres, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie. Former US Vice President Al Gore is in the heroes' category.

Repeats from earlier lists include George Bush senior and son, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former US president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

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