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Published on 23 August 2011
Mohamed Abdel Fattah, the head of the antiquities sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, will become the council’s secretary general
A month after Egypt’s controversial antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, was ousted in a cabinet reshuffle, Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, has appointed a successor. Mohamed Abdel Fattah, the head of the antiquities sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, will become the council’s secretary general, the position Mr. Hawass held before former President Hosni Mubarak elevated the council to a ministry. Mr. Sharaf had previously indicated that he planned to return the council to its former status.
Mr. Abdel Fattah’s positions are not well-known, and reaction to his appointment, which was first reported last week in the Egyptian press, has so far been muted. He was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm as pledging to resolve disagreements among the council’s leadership and root out corruption. He said he would complete several unfinished construction projects, while cautioning that others would have to be postponed because of a lack of money. Much of the council’s budget comes from ticket sales to museums and archeological sites, and tourism to Egypt has been decimated by the revolution.
Mr. Abdel Fattah is expected to wield less power than Mr. Hawass, a media celebrity who was credited with increasing tourism and securing the return of antiquities from foreign museums and collectors. He was removed amid criticism of his business relationships and his close relationship to the Mubaraks, and he is currently being investigated by one of Egypt’s public prosecutors.
Last week, in his first message on his Web site since his ouster, Mr. Hawass referred to the investigation, complaining that he was having to spend much of his time defending himself against what he called false accusations. Otherwise, he struck a typically proud and defiant tone, saying that he was working hard in his retirement and citing the many expressions of support he had received. “I do not use my private car,” he wrote, describing his daily life. “I take taxis and walk on the street, enjoying the crowds of Cairo. Every day I am blessed to see first-hand how so many Egyptians respect and love me.”
Meanwhile, he is still in demand as a speaker: He is scheduled to give a lecture in Brussels on Sept. 23, in conjunction with the King Tut exhibition there, and at the Midland College Foundation in Midland, Tex., on Oct. 6.
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