Zahi Hawass has more lives than a divine Egyptian cat. Yesterday he was reappointed as Egypt's antiquities minister — after having been replaced on Sunday. Last spring he also survived a firing and re-hiring, despite his ties to ousted president Hosni Mubarak. This time, however, he may only last as long as it takes to find an acceptable replacement.
Hawass told the Art Newspaper yesterday that prime minister Essam Sharaf had asked him to continue in his post as antiquities minister. On Sunday, Abdel Fattah El-Banna was appointed as his replacement but was forced to resign the next day after antiquities staff said he lacked the proper credentials. "This man, he is not an archeologist. It was a great mistake to appoint him," Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Reuters. "The prime minister has now decided to choose another person."
Many of Hawass's opponents were displeased with the choice of El-Banna. Egyptian archeologist Nora Shalaby blogged about the "delightful news" of Hawass's resignation, "something many Egyptians had long been waiting to hear." But she was not happy about the choice of El-Banna, whom she described as "somewhat crazy." She connected El-Banna to a mob that surrounded the villa of American Egyptologist Mark Lehner last spring and unjustly accused him of stealing antiquities.
The post of minister of antiquities was created for Hawass by Mubarak in the waning days of his presidency. Hawass left it once before, in early March, saying that he was protesting the new government's inability to defend cultural sites. At the time, he faced corruption charges and mounting criticism of his reluctance to acknowledge the full extent of the looting of Cairo's Egyptian Museum, which was revealed to be much greater than originally stated. But less than a month later, when no acceptable successor had been appointed, Hawass was reinstated.