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Getting Dirty with Zahi Hawass

October 20, 2017

A Conversation on Egypt

World-renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass is the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Director of Excavations at Giza, Saqqara, Bahariya Oasis, and the Valley of the Kings. Dr. We would like to congratulate Dr. Hawass on being named ‘Man of the Year; by the Telemed Foundation.


If you could have lived in any era in any civilization, when and where would it have been?

I would like to live during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, the builder of the great pyramid. I lived in front of the great pyramid for years and tried to reveal the secrets of this great king for years. I have also worked on a book with Mark Lehner about the pyramids. Sometimes, I feel like I am living in this period, 4500 years ago. Once they crowned me with the crown of upper and lower Egypt like Khufu.

What is your most treasured possession?

My hat. I brought my hat from a store in Los Angeles to protect me from the sun in the field. Since then I have made many important discoveries with my hat. To the world, this hat has become a part of me. A company in China made a copy of my hat and that cost $45. All of the profits went to opening the new children’s museum. There is also an American company that sells a copy of my hat. Their profits got to a hospital in Luxor. 

If you were not in this line of work, what would you want to be?

When I was young I wanted to be a lawyer, a diplomat, a police officer, and an adventurer. I joined the faculty of law, only to learn that I did not want to read about law. Then, I went into a government job, but the people there were not ambitious. I went into archaeology accidentally when I was 19, and when I made my first discovery, I found myself. Once, when I was giving a lecture, a young girl asked me about my passion. I said if you have passion you can do anything. I became all of the above defending Egyptian archaeology. If you went back and asked me what I wanted to be, now I know I would say an archaeologist.

What are you most proud of accomplishing? 

The happiest day of my life was when I had just returned to Egypt from the University of Pennsylvania. I opened I new tomb and found a statue of a dwarf. When I held the statue in my hand, I felt like I was holding my first son. I found a secret door inside this pyramid and through this door I found a tooth and the tomb of Hatshepsut. This was also very important to me because this was my answer to the people who claim aliens built the pyramids.

What s the last book you’ve read—that doesn’t have to do with work?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. This is the second time I have read this book. It was made into a movie with Gary Cooper. The court case in this book is incredible and shows how people are dedicated to their values in this life. They do not let their values go and they fight for it.