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Egypt’s Revamped Cabinet: Zahi Hawass Replaced by Abdel-Fattah El-Banna UPDATED and CORRECTED

Abdel-Fattah El-Banna, Egypt’s new Minister of Antiquities

In what the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram has described as “the latest cabinet reshuffle,” Zahi Hawass is being replaced as Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities by Abdel-Fattah El-Banna—one of many new appointments just announced by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

UPDATE: The link in the above paragraph now calls up a “Page doesn’t exist!” message on Al-Ahram’s website. Al-Ahram now reports that Sharaf canceled El-Banna’s nomination, immediately after protests erupted (see below). More on these breaking developments, here.

Al-Ahram noted:

The cabinet reshuffle comes following the demands of Tahrir Square protesters for a new revolutionary cabinet.

Paul Barford, in his Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues blog, has the most complete description (drawn in part from the new minister’s YouTube channel) that I’ve seen thus far of Hawass’ successor:

Associate professor at Cairo University [and] stone monuments restoration specialist, he obtained his Ph.D. from Warsaw University, Poland, in engineering geology [and] majored in restoration of historic buildings.

He has been campaigning against Hawass for some time. He does not seem to have been disposed particularly favourably to an American foreign mission in the past. According to Al-Ahram Weekly, he personally led a protest to oust Mark Lehner and his team from the AERA dig house [my link, not Barford’s] earlier this year.

At this writing, Hawass has not commented on this turn of events on his website. A widely circulated news video purportedly shows Hawass’ cab being surrounded by angry protesters as he attempts to depart from the ministry building.

A statement (in Arabic) posted on the Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page calls upon museum professionals and archaeologists to mount a “general strike” to “contest the selection” of the new minister, decried as “an insult to archaeologists” (perhaps because his specialty is restoration, not archaeology).

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post called El-Banna’s new position (since rescinded) “Minister of Culture.” He had been named to become Minister of Antiquities.

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