There are two reasons why Dr. Zahi Hawass is effective as Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. The most obvious is: he clearly knows and cares a great deal about his country’s cultural treasures. But another reason emerged on Tuesday night: he knows how to make others care as much as he does.
Dr. Hawass was the featured speaker at last night’s Arts&Letters Live event at McFarlin Auditorium. The demand for tickets was so high that the lecture was moved from the Dallas Museum of Art to the theater on the SMU campus to accommodate everyone. For more than an hour, Dr. Hawass spoke with boundless energy about not only King Tut and the current exhibit at the DMA, but also about current discoveries he and his team are making in his home country. About midway through the talk/slideshow presentation, he dropped this prediction on us:
“I tell you, in one year’s time, I will discover the tomb of Queen Nefertiti.”
In fact, he’s pretty sure he knows exactly where it is now: under a temporary office set up out at a dig site.
“Today, on the telephone, I ordered that office demolished,” he said with a laugh.
And there were plenty of laughs mixed in with the serious discussion. Many of them came as he ran through countless slides of famous people he has given pyramid tours to – everyone from Hugh Jackman to George Lucas to Greg Norman to Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Former First Lady Laura Bush has taken two tours with Dr. Hawass in Egypt, which made her a fitting choice to introduce him on Tuesday night.
But the funniest zinger came as Dr. Hawass discussed his search for the tombs of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. An assistant working on a dig near the possible burial site discovered a statue of a man with a cleft chin.
“Do you think this is a statue of Mark Antony?” the assistant excidedly asked Dr. Hawass.
“No,” the doctor answered. “I think it is a statue of Richard Burton!”
If you haven’t seen Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of The Pharaohs, it runs through May 17.