Dina and the Curse
Zahi Hawass
About a month ago, I had a very special and unforgettable visitor. Her name is Dina and she is about eight years old. She is an Egyptian-American. Before she came to Cairo she asked her aunt, “Do you know Zahi Hawass. I see him on TV and it would be a dream to meet him while I am in Egypt.” Her aunt replied that yes, she knew me and that she would arrange for Dina to visit me.

Dina came to see me at my office in the shadow of the pyramids. She was so excited that she couldn’t stand still, filled with anticipation and something I was surprised to see – Fear! The first thing she said to me was, “I do not want to enter the Great Pyramid because of the Curse!” I tried to explain to her that there is no such thing as ‘the Curse’ and that the things she had heard were not true. I told her most of the stories from this book in the hope of reassuring her that she would be safe. But the more I spoke, the more unconvinced she was. She didn’t believe me at all. The curse was alive in her mind and there was nothing I could say to change it or ease her fear.

Finally, I told her that I would enter the Great Pyramid with her and that I would always be with her, holding her hand. I said that it was important to me and that I wanted to take her inside. Together, we would explore the chambers and passageways. I would explain the secret doors, mysterious limestone slabs that block narrow tunnels called airshafts inside the Pyramid to her. I could see her lip tremble, and her feet became heavy as her pace slowed with every step we took. She held my hand tightly. When we reached the Pyramid, all the lights inside were off and I told Dina that we would have an adventure in the dark. As we entered the Pyramid, the color drained from her face and she held my hand even tighter. In her free hand, she held a flashlight with which she lighted our way. I could see the fear in her eyes -- she was trembling, but I knew she felt safe holding my hand.

She looked at me with a mixture of trust, excitement and terror. I began to explain the Pyramid to her. I told her how it was built and about the ancient Egyptians. We were making our way through the dark passageways, scooting on our stomachs, inching forward, until we reached the second burial chamber. By this time, Dina had relaxed a little, listening to the stories and feeling the magic and mystery of the Great Pyramid. In the second burial chamber, I showed Dina the location of the airshafts that lead to the secret doors. I told Dina that a team from the National Geographic would send a robot into the airshafts to see what is behind these secret doors.

We continued our adventure as we left the second chamber and entered the Grand Gallery (the beautiful passageway leading to Khufu’s burial chamber). By this time, she was more excited than afraid, her hand held tightly in mine, and I could see her confidence grow with every step. We climbed and climbed up the dark passage until we reached the burial chamber. And then an amazing thing happened: she let go of my hand. In her excitement, she forgot her fear. She walked over to Khufu’s granite sarcophagus and told me with a bright smile on her face that she wanted to take a photo to show her friends at school in L.A.

We had finished the visit and we started to leave the pyramid. She was walking on her own, no longer holding my hand. She had a happy bounce in her step. I could see with the light of the flashlight that she was not scared and that she was smiling from ear to ear. We quickly made our way through the dark passageways that had scared her before and now seemed to energize her until we left the pyramid and could feel the bright sun hit our faces. She blinked a few times to adjust to the bright light and then with a beautiful smile said to her aunt Lamia, “I do not believe in the Curse!”

Read the follow-up article about Dina and Dr. Hawass

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