Christmas Day 2011
An open letter to Zahi Hawass
On this day I opened my EMail to an alert from the Blogsite of Dr Zahi Hawass.
Zahi spoke to the world thus:
December 17, 2011: A Sad Day in My Life
This is a sad day for all of us who love Egypt. No one can believe that the Egyptian Scientific Institute has been destroyed.
On December 17, 2011, I joined the many people who watched the disaster on television. I was horrified to see the library burning in front of my eyes. This day will never be forgotten by intellectuals, and indeed all who love learning, not only in Egypt, but all over the world.
I was terribly upset to see young people in front of the building rejoicing at what they had done. When I looked at their faces, I could see that the majority were people who had nothing to do with the Revolution. I saw one boy of about 12 who was asked why he was there. He replied that he wanted el-Ganzory (the recently-appointed Prime Minister) to leave the government. I am sure that someone told this boy to say these words. Why can we not give el-Ganzory a chance to work and to bring safety and security back to the country? I saw another person say that we need the military to leave. This is not wise. The military council helped ensure the success of the revolution. They have promised to complete the elections and the new constitution before June 2012, and I think we should give them a chance to do this.
The day after the Institute burned down, my dear friend Salah Montaser, a famous columnist who has a daily feature in the Al-Ahram newspaper, called me and told me that almost 90,000 books had been lost, containing over 300 years of our shared history. As we spoke, we both had tears in our eyes.
The Egyptian Scientific Institute was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798, and holds about 20,000 manuscripts and rare books. It is the oldest scientific academy in the Arab world. It is registered as an antiquities site and is therefore the responsibility of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. I could not believe that the people who burned it down were Egyptians. Samir Gharib, one of Egypt’s great writers, told me that he saw one woman whistling with joy; he could not believe it, or understand at all why she was doing this. But I am sure that they are ignorant, and do not understand what they have done.
Many great books of our history are now ashes. A first edition of the Description de l’Egypte, published by Napoleon’s scientific expedition, was burned, but fortunately there are other copies in Egypt, one at the Geographic Society, another in the house of Documents and Books, and an incomplete on at Assiut University.
I think the looters and other ignorant people who did this should listen to what the late Shiekh el-Shaarawy (a great Muslim thinker who would offer advice to the people every Friday) used to say. According to our famous cartoonist, Moustafa Anssien, he said that the true revolutionary who turns in fury to destroy capitalism should first calm down and work instead to build the glory of his country.
I hope that UNESCO and scientific institutions all over the world can cooperate to bring back the glory of this Institute. This is not only our history; it is the history of the world.
I find it very distressing that so many crooks, looters, and thieves have taken advantage of the Revolution to come out of their holes not only to rob and steal, but also to hurt all of us. I can see that many good people are silent, and many crooks have loud voices. We need our young people to protect the Revolution, to stop demonstrating in Tahrir Square and give all of us a chance to make this work. Egypt needs to become stable again so the economy can grow. We need to move forward, to build our country by finishing the elections peacefully and choosing a new president. We should all stand firm in front of the crooks who have come out of their holes not only to destroy the revolution, but also to destroy Egypt.
Zahi, as a non Egyptian, I too had tears in my eyes when I read about this incident and the enormity of its act. Buildings didn't fall, people were not killed, but the tragedy of this act will reverberate throughout the years in just the same way as the loss from the Library of Alexandrea. The loss of so many priceless books of old knowlege 'will' ultimately have a worldwide impact. This massive loss has reduced humanity's pool of information which would otherwise help our understanding of ourselves and our origins.
The intended poignency of your letter on Christmas Day to vent the sorrow we should all feel, is not lost. But Sir, there is also grave error in your letter to the world. Reports of the crime included descriptions of vehicle loads of books during the incident, being loaded and spirited away by persons unknown. These were genuine crooks and thieves adding to the instances of the decades where faceless ones have planned and executed the removal of the audit trail which would tell a different version of history. We can all speculate their reason, but elementary logic tells us this was not done for the common good. It tells us there is a hidden agenda which dictates that to do such a thing is to serve a vastly greater agenda in service to themselves. I bet the thousands of books saved and stolen were not randomly taken. We can only wonder at their content.
The world looks to Egypt always as one of the biggest cradles for our world society. Entrusted to Egypt, there are the oldest and most important artifacts and texts we have, which point into the deepest past. We seek to know ourselves. It is a common wish. But the administrative corruption which presides over that responsibility is also legendary in the world. You have never shirked from centre stage to extol Egypt's importance and to demand the return from the world, all that it has taken and preserved; and had hitherto been displayed with dignity to all comers. This, despite the fact that thousands of similar ancient treasures linger in dark locked underground Egyptian stores, dead to the world and barred from access to all but those who are part of the academic establishment archaeological elite.
It is said Zahi, that a whisper is a whisper - but when a million whispers come together, it becomes a Roar. Have you not heard the Roar from the people all around you? It is not only the people of the world who recoil at the corruption which oils your society, it is specifically for example the tourists who come in vast numbers who leave feeling their wonderment has been mugged by the sellers conditioned to survive their poverty by harassing cash out of tourists. It is specifically the visitors who go home in disgust from the sight of animal cruelty and abuse - carried out by institutionalised locals who have had their ancient glory stolen away from them.
It is not at the hands of the private collectors around the world who have become private millionaires from the loot they have secretly stolen from Egypt and the people and the world, aided and abetted by corrupt Egyptian officials. It is not from the corrupt officials in the Egyptian administration who will do nothing unless cash is passed under the table, and who have similarly become obscenely wealthy from their crimes.
It is not the real crooks of a higher order who would kill the audit trail to our past completely. These are the ones who are implicated in the deaths of happless men engaged to dig illegally into the ground. They are the ones who deny a world brimming with finance and an open hand who would work openly with Egypt in their qualified thousands to otherwise excavate and discover!
It is not the ones who would get their obscene corrupt hands on the truth of our most ancient past and the potential value of any more advanced knowledge and technology stored away and left behind by our genuine most ancient ancestors - in trust for the world!
Zahi, I am very close to releasing a presentation article, backed by hundreds of photographs which will highlight and point a finger; which may herald the existance of a new discovery of vast potential human importance in Egypt. One again the corruption, theft and mal-administration which has so far prevented its full exposure to the world, will offer another chance for the same thing to be prevented this time. You presided over this site. You tried to tell the world it was worthless.
Zahi, you have been recognised worldwide as a consummate establishment figurehead for Egyptology, but Zahi, your administration has been instrumental in creating its own nemesis. It has been linked so very many times to events of 'favoured' dealing in such affairs. Your heartfelt words will resonate with some, but Zahi do you not hear the Roar from Egyptian people in their millions who are bearing down on you right now. They do not live in illusion. They have lived the poverty ridden truth of the product of what your administration stood for - and they have had enough. The world is watching and waiting for more ivory towers to collapse. Those who really love Egypt will have heard the Roar. Those who feel for humanity before themselves, will continue to wipe the tears... of frustration ...as the inevitable cleansing takes place in Egypt and elsewhere amid swansong acts of vile corruption such as the burning and thefts from this latest Priceless Repository.
So therefore Zahi, why is it so hard for you to understand. You were part of the Problem.
Your words now on Christmas Day 2011 prove you are Still not a part of the Solution!
December 25th 2011