The British Museum’s Egyptian Sculpture Gallery was packed last night, as hundreds of dignitaries flocked to see The World’s Most Famous Archaeologist (copyright all bloggers) Dr Zahi Hawass, speaking ahead of the release of his latest book A Secret Voyage. Cameras in hand, Heritage Key was there to witness Dr Hawass’ appearance, heralded more like the second coming than a book signing.
Stood in front of the museum’s colossal head of Ramesses the Great, Dr Hawass boomed out at his fans like an emissary from the pharaoh himself. But as he spoke, you could sense he was looking longingly above all our heads at the Rosetta Stone – the repatriation of which he continues to crusade.
Yet as Dr Hawasssteps up his quest for the Stone, he tried to placate things with BM director Neil MacGregor in his introduction: “When I first came here, everyone thought I came to take back the Rosetta Stone! But I’m not here to talk about the Rosetta Stone…” followed by a couple of minutes talking about the Rosetta Stone.
The basalt slab, famous for unlocking the secrets of the Egyptian language, promised to be the evening’s unsettling white elephant. But once Dr Hawass had launched into his famous acerbic rhetoric half an hour later (after an amusingly Hollywood-esque introductory video) the issue of repatriation had been left behind tales of the SCA’s latest discoveries, which we’ll bring to you later here at Heritage Key.
Secret tunnels, lost queens, mixed-up mummies and ancient dams were just a few of Dr Hawass’ topics, pock-marked with his dry humour. “I had no idea archaeology would be my life. In fact, I hated archaeology.”; “At the tomb of Tutankhamun, when Lord Carnarvon asked Howard Carter, ‘What do you see?’ he said, ‘Wonderful things’. In my excavation, when my assistant asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I smelt the sewage, I said, ‘S**t.'”
We were then treated to around five minutes listing the celebrities Dr Hawass has met recently, including of course President Barack Obama.
Yet I couldn’t help but think that seeing Dr Hawass in a suit addressing a room full of dignitaries isn’t the right place to be seeing him in action. Take a look at some of these Heritage Key videos to see Dr Hawass in full swing, attired in denim shirt, hat and chinos. After all, he is called the ‘real Indiana Jones’.
If you missed Dr Hawass’ lecture at the British Museum, but do want your ‘Inside the Egyptian Museum (with Zahi Hawass‘ book signed by both the famous archaeologist and photographer Sandro Vannini, you can still head to Waterstone’s at Harrods on the 10th of December (that’s tomorrow).
Heritage Key videos featuring Dr Zahi Hawass: