Zahi Hawass has been in the media a lot lately, but not in ways he is accustomed to. The supreme and ebullient promoter of all-things-ancient in Egypt (and beyond), is more widely know outside his country's borders than its now deposed president thanks to ubiquitous appearance on shows related to Egyptian archaeology.
But Zahi is facing new challenges and a storm of criticism from those in his country who know him best. They argue that Zahi's agenda was self-promotional, imperious and used to provide lucrative contracts, such as the bookstore in the new Cairo Museum, to friends. His supporters say his notoriety and passion for Egyptian culture make him the best qualified for the government post he held, and depending upon the day, may still hold.
The archeological world outside of Egypt has been fairly quiet on the topic. Zahi's magnetic personality is an instant guarantee of success in promoting an exhibition or discovery, but when his attention turns to repatriation of objects big and small his provocative and direct verbal assaults can instantly redden the faces of even the world's greatest museum directors.
And his wrath extends far beyond what's in museums, as head of secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, he personally approves every permit for achaeological excavation within Egypt's borders. So, it's his way or the highway.
Still, even his critics must admit that Zahi has been masterful at raising global awareness of Egypt's ancient past. The big question, as explored in more detail in this Washington Post article, is whether Zahi's on-air personality is large enough to survive his off-air tactics.