America’s fascination with ancient Egyptians

November 15, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Ahmed Tharwat



More than 1,200 years ago, two ancient Egyptian cities vanished from the face of the earth due to natural disasters. It took the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio more than 40 years to discover the two missing ancient cities on the bank of Alexandria, Egypt. However in less than 40 days, president el-Sisi, the current pharaoh, sold two strategic islands to the Saudis.


I went to meet Mr. Goddio at MIA where more than 250 of his discoveries are on display in Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit. He was enthused, proud, informative and introspective. I asked him about his fascination for dead Egyptians and Egypt’s ancient history whereas Egyptians themselves don’t really care that much or don’t even bazar. Most Egyptians never visited the Pyramids, they are consumed by their modern Pharaohs more than the ones who lived thousands of years ago. He wasn’t interested in getting political though, and talked about the joint discoveries between the French and the Egyptians. “The reason Egyptian civilization survived thousands of years was the permeance of ancient Egyptian writing” he explained. It was the work of science, dedications, and appreciation of history that led him to this major discovery.


The west has been always fascinated by old Egyptian history and lives, not so much about Egypt present or future. Corruption and theft dominated the antiquity industry in Egypt. For three decades, Dr. Zahi Hawass – the darling of the west – was running the antiquity department and ministry as his private planation, where embezzling resourcing and smugglings were rampant. Using Egyptian antiquity to enrich himself and his cronies. Here is how the Guardian described him: “In the 2000s, the flamboyant Hawass became known as Egypt’s Indiana Jones, starring in several Egyptology documentaries, as well as his own reality series. In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and he later put his name to a line of khaki trousers.”


Why are Egyptians not as excited about their lands, history and civilization instead of corruption and abuses of power? Visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, you find precious statues and ancients’ artifacts piling up like a Home Depot warehouse. reported that “While adjusting the lighting in the case holding the relic last August, workers handled the mask incorrectly and accidentally knocked the long braided beard, commonly worn by pharaohs and gods, off the chin of one of ancient Egypt’s most recognizable artifacts.” Some Egyptians used to sell actual Egyptian mummies on the street like dried fish. Right after the Egyptian revolution, Dr. Hawass was sent to prison for one year, (bending appeal now), and is accused of using his close association with the Mubarak family to accumulate wealth and fame. According to most Egyptians he is opportunistic at best and the dictator of Egyptian antiquities at worst. As FP magazine reported “In a separate scandal, several Egyptian publications are claiming that Hawass used priceless artifacts in the Egyptian museum’s collection for a photo-shoot to promote his fashion line.”


I went to meet Dr. Hawass in 2011 right after the revolution, at MN Science Museum King Tut exhibit, and asked him about the accusations and his financial relationship with Suzanne Mubarak. Dr. Hawass and Ms Mubarak were allegedly accused of looting Egyptian treasure and wealth, Mubarak herself having to give back $25m that was donated to the Alexandra library by the international community that she pocketed into her personal account to be let out of jail. Dr. Hawass vehemently denied the accusations and blamed it on his opponents, haters, and those who didn’t care as much as he about Egypt. “Those lies spewed by this Coptic (Christian) guy who hates me,” he fumed. As dictators now do to protect their turf, turn the corruption problem to a sectarian one.


Last Sunday I went to speak at a storytelling event, “Keys to Homes in Our Hearts”, organized by master storyteller Maren Hinderlie. The event was held at Hennepin History Museum, next to Minneapolis Institute of Art, where thousands of people with their buses and cars were heading to the Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit, to see and hear the story of ancient Egyptians. Those who attended Hennepin History Museum event, probably were the few lucky Americans to hear a living Egyptian speak in a Museum for the first time.


One just wondered if Americans are as interested in live Egyptians as much as dead Egyptians. Just one last note; in my visit to Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit, make sure to visit queen ISIS on display with the missing head… ISIS beheaded thousands of years ago.






Ahmed Tharwat

Ahmed Tharwat is the Producer and Host of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan. His articles are published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes from America, and his articles appear in national and international publications. Follow him on Twitter @AhmediaTV.

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