Poorly Researched Reporting only adds to the Confusion
Dr. Zahi Hawass

These days it would seem that most my time is spent denying rumors about the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Egypt’s Pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic monuments. I do not know why some people create this misinformation and give it to newspaper reporters to publish without them even trying to find out the veracity of the statement. Most of what is published in a few newspapers is not true at all.  It is quite amazing in my mind how they make up these stories. I once gave a talk at the Smithsonian Institute about the Sphinx. There was a reporter there from the Washington Post listening to the lecture. After the lecture, he came to me saying that he was very interested in what I had said about the Sphinx but that he would first like to read all the written information about the Sphinx and then he could come and talk to me. I respected this man very much. This is how news reporters should do their jobs.

A few weeks ago, we decided to move the pillar of Merenptah, the son of Ramses II, who ruled Egypt during his father’s old age. He was a very important king because we found a stela in his mortuary temple on the West Bank, re-used in the Temple of Amenhotep III of which only the Colossi of Memnon remains standing today. The stela of Merenptah has an inscription about the people of Israel. Many scholars tried to describe and translate this inscription. We must stress the fact that a poet wrote this inscription concerning the reign of his king, Merenptah. The most important passage of this inscription emphasizes the greatness of the king making peace with the Hittites, and states that the people of Israel are no longer in Egypt. Some translations even go as far as to say that they were destroyed. Since its discovery, the stela is now stored in the Cairo Museum. The pillar of Merenptah at Heliopolis was part of a temple built by this king dedicated to the local sun god. While performing an inspection at Heliopolis, I saw this pillar between some houses.  It was surrounded by water and garbage was everywhere. The inscription written on the pillar only tells us the nsw-bity (King of Upper and Lower Egypt) name of the king.

We have decided to build a museum, which explains the history of Cairo. The museum will be built in the Akha-khan garden in cooperation with H.H. Karim Akhakhan. The tourists will be able, not only to learn about the 1000 year period of Jewish, Coptic, and Islamic history of Cairo as well as the Mohamed Ali era, but the museum will also inform them about the history of this city, which goes back 5000 years. The Pharaonic era will be seen through Heliopolis or as the ancient Egyptians called it, On, now known as Matarya. This site had the first university in which Joseph studied and later married the daughter of the high priest. It is in Heliopolis that spawned the first ideas on the methods of creating a university. We also think that the pillar should be the most important piece in this museum. We need to save it from its surrounding because if it stays there for another year it could be destroyed forever. I decided that Egyptian Archaeologists and restorators should move the pillar carefully to the citadel for restoration and I asked Eduardo, the Spanish restorator who is working with us through the help of Akha-khan, to restore the objects in the Islamic museum.

And so the hallucinations began – the paper said that a Zionist from Israel moved the pillar of Merenptah after which people began to wonder; where did they move it? The paper even said that the pillar had been moved without the permission of any authority personnel. Others stated that the pillar was moved because it barred an inscription saying that Merenptah was the Pharaoh from the exodus. So many rumors and misinformation were written that sometimes all one can answer is: “that’s what we call suspense and hallucinations”, but these can only hold us back. We will never move forward toward the future if these people stay with us. After all this, I find out that these hallucinations come from corrupted officials working for the SCA, who gave this false information to reporters, who, in return, never bothered to verify it.

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