Unforgettable days in Cortona

The time I have spent in Cortona, Italy, is unforgettable. I was invited by Mayor Francesca because the town of Cortona decided to confer on me the award of Man of the Year. I was accompanied in my trip by a group of Egyptians, including Emad, the head of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in Rome, and Essam, head of the Italian section of Egyptair, the Egyptian state airline.

When I arrived in Rome, my friend and colleague Leonardo was there waiting for me. He is the owner of Harmakis Edizioni, an Italian publishing company, which has just published my book “Magic of the Pyramids: My Adventures in Archaeology” in English and Italian. After giving an interview with Italian newspaper “Il Messaggero”, we drove north to Cortona, in the beautiful region of Tuscany, where I stayed in a nice small hotel.

On the morning of Friday September 4th, I met with a group of journalists and TV presenters and on the evening I gave a lecture on the pyramids in the beautiful local theatre, followed by a Q&A and a book signing. After the presentation, I attended a dinner organised by the tourist office with the mayor and a number of VIPs and town representatives.

On the Saturday, I had lunch at the gorgeous Villa di Piazzano, a beautiful historical residence. Here, I also met fifteen journalists from various Italian newspapers and TVs, who mostly asked me questions on the statue of Sekhemka, an ancient Egyptian masterpiece sold by the Northampton Council to a private buyer. I strongly condemn this sale, it is a crime.

I told them that if I were in charge I would have done three things. First, I would have filed a court case against the Northampton Council and his chief executive David Kennedy with the Attorney General in Cairo on the base that they have no right to sell the statue, or to remove it from public display and let it become part of someone’s private collection. Second, I would have asked all Egyptians living in the UK to file a case there against the Council. Finally, I would have blocked all foreign archaeological missions in Egypt unless they had taken action against the sale and boycotted the museum. I also answered questions on Nicholas Reeves’ theory on Nefertiti’s tomb.

On the evening of the Saturday, the award ceremony took place. They cited some of my career achievements and asked me to comment some photos related to me. They showed, for example, a still from the film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” and a photo of me opening a sarcophagus. They also showed a photo of my dear friend Omar Sharif, who has recently passed away, and I had the opportunity to talk about our friendship. I was then awarded the beautiful prize Cortonantiquaria 2015.

I was humbled by the fact that a huge number of people attended this great event. However, many of the participants were surprised to see that the Egyptian Ambassador was not present. We found out that he had received the mayor’s invitation but he answered that he could not attend. Everyone was quite puzzled by the fact that the person representing Egypt in Italy could not attend such an important promotional event for his country. We all agreed that this man is not capable of representing Egypt. He is doing nothing for our country and does not deserve his post. We need people who love their country to represent Egypt.


Zahi Hawass

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