Chasing Fame and Mummies: Zahi Hawass Goes Global

Dr. Zahi Hawass at the British Museum - SpeechThere is a billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles where Zahi Hawass is framed in the photo to look bigger than the Great Pyramid.Supposedly, it is all a matter of perspective.

In the same way you can take your own view on the reality television series “Chasing Mummies” from History Channel.

(If anyone in LA can snap a good shot of that billboard, please add it to the comments below.)

In terms of realityTV fare on the tube, I guess this show is pretty good. It is action packed. The series has a strongstar driving the drama andmany interesting, unexpected things randomly happening. All of this is set inamazing places, like the Giza plateau, Saqqara and the tomb of Seti I.

Even the hapless intern Zoe d’Amato is -nothwithstanding her bladder size- starting to grow on me. They shoot her as a kinda dopey, mousey klutz, but actually she seems very pretty and smart on her website.Will shetransform into a butterfly by the last show?

Yet, the producers seem to have a lack of imagination on what makes the show truly dramatic. Wouldn’t it begreat to see Zahi negotiate the King Tut exhibition deals worth $ millions to Egypt? What about following the Egyptology tsar to Berlin, in order to discuss Nefertiti’s repatriation?Or Dr Zahi personally chasing looters and evil antiquity traders out of Egypt?

Education by accident might be the result.

What more could you expect from the History Channel that also airs shows like “Pawn Stars” and “Ice Road Truckers”. Personally, I’d ratherwatch a bit of Caribbean Cops for this kind of stuff.

If you were expecting somethinglike History Channel’s “King Arthur’s Round Table Revealed”, more a docu-CSI-mystery format, then probably you will be disappointed with the frenetic Cairo driving or claustrophobic scenes inside the narrow chambers with Dr. Hawass – it does look pretty hot in there.

However, at least a lot of people zapping on the tube will get some information and ideas about Egyptian culture. Education by accident might be the result.The general state of awareness of history by the reality tv viewing audience should get a little lift in any case?

Just maybe Chasing Mummies will inspire some people to watch Zahi’s more serious stuff (check out some of our picks here), to learn more about the Ancient World – or even to visit a museum.

In the video on the right, Dr Zahi explains his motivation for the series to Associated Press.

Hawass is also doing the radio talk show circuit and spoke to the gang at WOC1420 radio which you can listen to here:
Zahi Hawass on WOC Morning Report 23 June 2010.

Chasing Fame,
Reality or

The main criticism about the show seems to be about how much of it is scripted; “Is Chasing Mummiesreal?!”.

Indeed, it is a bit hard to believe so many wacky things could happen all at once. The outcome is more like a “Seinfeld” episode than “Big Brother.”

Zoe D'Amato - Actress and Model Zoe D'Amato - Baghaded ER Negative SandwichArchaelogy moves a much slower pace than tomb raiding with Lara Croft or Indiana Jones, but would watching people painstackingly brush sand for artefacts be good viewing?

Probably all these kinds of things did really happen and do happen, but the show format seems to be in-between re-enactment and reality. It’s just confusing.They could have just let Zahi tell stories about what did happen and flashback re-enactments. That wouldhave been more genuine.

Zahi Hawass definitelyhas the adventures to share, and the passion to makethemexciting -all the noise about the disorganized film crew just gets in the way.

Sure DrZahi is a tough love, screaming person. That is for real. You have to have the volume on 11 to get above the sounds of the sandstorms in the desert.

Zahi is the sheriff out there. He makes and enforces the law about how things can and cannot be done.

It is also the communication style of that part of the world to scream and wave hands around a lot. I think though some of the sense is lost in the translation to the tube.

The Pharaoh bit in the promo is a bit too much and – unfortunately – overstepping seems to diminish Zahi’s statur. But’Chasing Mummies’ surelyis entertaining and audiences respond to the pretense?

Check out this video of Dr Zahi under the Cairo Egyptian Museum where you get that calm, wise, personal feel for what he is about.

What do you think? Is it possible to consider ‘Chasing Mummies’ to be edutainment and/or suitable for kids to watch?Isthe showdoing Egyptology – and archaeology – any favours?Should Dr Hawass have passed for the show? Or is it the producers to blame? And err.. where did Dr Hawass’ all-Egyptian team (reclaiming Egyptology) go?