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Unemployed Archaeologists Mob Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities

News organizations report that more than a hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Cairo office of Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, demanding jobs.

“Not since Indiana Jones have archaeologists seemed quite so belligerent,” Sky News reported on its website.

A protester, center-left, and an army soldier policing the protest, center-right, gesture to about 150 graduates of archaeology schools as they demonstrate outside the office of Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass, seeking jobs and accusing the minister of corruption, in Cairo, Egypt Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. The graduates argued that Egypt’s tourism industry is a major foreign currency earner yet it was unclear how exactly the income is spent.

Photograph by Ben Curtis, AP

Sky News was interviewing Hawass in his office yesterday when the Minister’s assistant interrupted to say a crowd was trying to break down the gates. Hawass used his mobile phone to call in the Army, Sky reported.

“It’s chaos,” Hawass told the Sky News team. “The revolution will destroy Egypt. It’s happening everywhere. How can I suddenly give all these people jobs.”

‘Give Us Work’

As the journalists left the ministry, Sky News said, the crowd forced the gates and stormed the forecourt shouting: “Give us work.”

“Ahmad showed us his degree certificate and masters in archaeology. He had come many times to the ministry to find work but nepotism and corruption meant it was always someone else who was hired,” Sky News reported.

At the famous pyramids of Giza, Sky News continued, “A camel belched angrily at our camera while his owner said he could only afford to feed him twice rather than five times a day. Others told us they were forced to sell off their animals to raise money to feed their families.

“Mohammed Ali, who owns a tourism business nearby, said he hopes the sightseers will come back soon because the area is being devastated.”

Hawass has also been receiving support.

But not everyone is critical of Hawass.

“Since Zahi is so well known outside of Egypt, he’s a good target for reporters looking for a sensational story,” Peter Lacovara, the curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubain and Near Eastern Art at the Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta, told LiveScience. But that narrative ignores Hawass’ contributions to Egyptian archaeology, Lacovara added.

“No director since Auguste Mariette, who founded the service in 1858, has done more. He modernized the ancient, arbitrary and uninformed bureaucracy that had existed before and moved the offices from a dusty, remote slum into a modern office building in central Cairo and one that operated swiftly and efficiently.”

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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