Stumbling Around

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Archaeologist May Have Helped Protect Pyramids From 9/11 Attack

Exploring Egypt - Dr. Zawi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in front of the
Giza Plateau in Egypt.

Watch any television show about the pyramids in Egypt and within a few minutes, Zawi Hawass will be on the screen. Dr, Hawass is an archaeologist, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, and an Under-Secretary of State in Egypt. He is credited with such major discoveries as the tombs of Giza and the Saqqara Pyramids. As a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence he recently helped to reopen the tomb of Tutankhamun so that the mummy could undergo a CT scan to determine the cause of death. He is in charge of the King Tut exhibit now touring the world. Dr. Hawass is THE person to with about ancient Egypt, the curse of the pharaohs, and anything else Egyptian.

A not too well known fact is that after he took King Tutankhamun’s mummy out of it’s sarcophagus in order to perform a CT scan (and then returned it afterwards), he also placed a hand-written note in the sarcophagus with the mummy. The note said “ I, Zahi Hawass, have opened the sarcophagus in order to perform a CT scan on the mummy of Tutankhamun on January 5, 2005.” At the time, Dr. Hawass did not tell anyone about the note. In the note he also said that he hoped in the future no one else will take the mummy out of the coffin and that if they do then the curse of the Pharaohs will be on them.

Dr. Zawass and Egypt may seem far away, but he travels to the United States often. He was awarded a Master’s Degree by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1983 and a Ph.D. in Egyptology by the same university in 1987. I met him at a conference on Egyptian antiquities in Virginia Beach, VA in 1998. A commercial airlines pilot was a guest speaker and he told a delightful story about Dr. Hawass.

It seems that the speaker was piloting a commercial jet on which Dr. Hawass was a passenger into the Cairo, Egypt airport. The night was beautiful and the sky clear so the pilot announced to the passengers: “On board tonight, we are honored to have Dr. Zawi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. In his honor, we’re going to fly right over the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza and provide you with a great view of the pyramids and the sphinx.” So, that’s what they did.

The next morning, all commercial airlines were notified that a “no-fly zone” was being established in the vicinity of the pyramids by Dr. Hawass. He had decided that it was entirely too easy for a plane to fly over the pyramids, accidentally or intentionally, and that made these Egyptian antiquities vulnerable to attack or destruction.

The message from the pilot was that one should be very careful what one does for or says to Dr. Hawass.

After September 11, 2001, I read that consideration had been given by Usama Bin Laden to crashing a jet into the Great Pyramid either instead of or along with crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Dr. Zawass’ actions in 1998 may have prevented that from happening and saved the pyramids from damage or destruction.


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