Zahi Hawass

Witnessing and Discovering Ancient Egyptian History

Dr. Zahi Hawass
1983 Fulbright Foreign Student to the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Zahi Hawass.

Dr. Zahi Hawass is a witness to history. A renowned archaeologist, Egyptian government official, and public intellectual, Dr. Hawass received his Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1987 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a master’s degree as a Fulbrighter, which Dr. Hawass believes “changed [his] life,” making him a good Egyptologist with a “vision for the future.” Dr. Hawass has been the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Director of Excavations of historical sites. For 30 years, he has been excavating, preserving, and protecting Egyptian heritage and human history. 

Following his return to Egypt from the United States, Dr. Hawass was named General Director of Antiquities at Giza, Saqqarah, and Bahariya Oasis and Research Director for the Egyptian Mummy Project (EMP). The EMP uses modern forensic techniques to investigate ancient Egyptian royals, making significant findings ranging from uncovering the mummified remains of Queen Hatshepsut and the family of King Tutankhamun, to resolving Ramesses III’s mysterious murder. Alongside his fieldwork, Dr. Hawass taught Archaeology and Egyptology at Alexandria University, the American University in Cairo, and the University of California, Los Angeles, and continues to work as a guest lecturer.  

Among Dr. Hawass’ numerous discoveries are the Valley of the Golden Mummies at Bahariya Oasis, and the Tombs of the Pyramid Builders and the Osiris Shaft at Giza. Once found, these precious monuments, tombs, statues, and artifacts must be cared for, and Dr. Hawass has done important work as Director of Restoration and Director of Conservation at multiple sites, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Sphinx Temple, the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, the statue of Ramesses II at Memphis, and Islamic, Coptic, and Jewish monuments in Old Cairo. 

 Dr. Zahi Hawass at the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt.

In 2002, Dr. Hawass was appointed as Egypt’s Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which became the Ministry of State for Antiquities in 2011. During Dr. Hawass’ tenure, he revolutionized site management in Egypt and revitalized the museum system, opening 15 museums to the public and initiating the construction of 20 more, including The Grand Egyptian Museum, slated to open in 2021 as the largest archaeological museum in the world. Dr. Hawass is known for reclaiming Egyptology for Egyptians and has successfully repatriated more than 5,000 artifacts. He continues to advocate for the return of Egyptian relics, such as the Rosetta Stone and the bust of Nefertiti. 

Dr. Zahi Hawass as a young student.

Dr. Hawass’ vibrant personality and sense of showmanship were honed at the University of Pennsylvania: “I went as a quiet young man, I didn’t know my talents, but I learned how to choose my words, and how to become a public lecturer.” He is a prolific writer of books and articles that have been published in multiple languages, and has made numerous appearances on TV shows and documentaries, nurturing a global interest in ancient Egypt. He currently serves as the World Tourism Organization’s Ambassador for World Tourism and Ambassador for Responsible Tourism.  

Dr. Zahi Hawass surveying the newly discovered Dazzling Aten lost city in Luxor, Egypt.

After a lifetime of uncovering ancient history, Dr. Hawass’ work continues to make history. In April 2021, Dr. Hawass discovered an entire lost city in Luxor. The city, called Dazzling Aten, dates back 3,500 years to a golden age in ancient Egypt. Dr. Hawass said on site, “I’m proud to be a Fulbright. I learned a lot about how to be a good lecturer, how to write books, and also how to educate people all over the world.” Dr. Hawass’ work, including his latest discovery of Dazzling Aten, demonstrates a spirit of adventure and discovery as well as the desire to share knowledge and culture that exemplifies Fulbrighters from across the globe.

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