Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whats up at Egypt's Ministry of Culture?

Since 1987 the ministry of culture has been headed by an abstract painter Mr. Farouk Hosny who recently had been a candidate for the job of UNESCO director general. A job he lost most likely over remarks he made in 2008 in the Egyptian parliament where he threatened "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt".

This threat of book burning had a precedent as in 2001 the minister ordered the burning of 3 homoerotic books by 8th-century Arab poet Abu Nuwas with some 6000 books being removed from Egypt's libraries and destroyed.

However, minister Hosny blamed the UNESCO loss on "Zionist pressures" and a conspiracy of "a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections". There is a sense that Mr. Hosny's term as minister of culture may soon be over with Mr. Hosny's replacement right on his tail.

Recently Egypt's president for life, Hosni Mubarak rescued Dr. Zahi Hawass from retirement as the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities by giving Dr. Hawass the job of vice minister of culture. Dr. Hawass has a tough reputation of a man not afraid to scrap and a strong determination to the preservation of Egyptian history.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hawass also displays certain amounts of arrogance and even before he has started his new job the doctor has created a scandal. While waiting far too long at the Giza pyramids for a visiting American music star the doctor became enraged when she finally did show up and began loudly to insult his guest in Arabic.

 “She’s a stupid person and she doesn’t understand a thing and she doesn’t want to understand. She’s coming here to take pictures and that’s it”.

Dr. Hawass' anger may have been justified but his words in public were unprofessional and beneath his years of wisdom. Not a great introduction to his new position!

To conclude with his well-known reputation of his love for burning books which pasture Mr. Hosny gets pushed into remains, for now, unknown. Unfortunately over at Egypt's ministry of culture, the upper echelon of officials are appearing to be uncultured hot headed cookie cutter men.

Hopefully, in the future ministers of culture will be remembered for the more positive aspects of culture rather than an insult of a V.I.P. or for burning books.

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