Monday, March 11, 2013

A Good Beginning

This morning we went to the Ministry of Antiquities office on Zamalek. We had to go around the back to enter, the front had chains and locks on it. They must have had some hostility and problems. That is going around right now.  We waited quite a while. In the meantime the secretary, Mona, a wonderful woman, read to us the names of the people that had been approved for work this year. She read to us last year’s names, a list that is missing quite a few of the people who will be here this year. That caused us some anxiety, and I was quickly working through various ways to make this work. After some time we figured out that she had just grabbed the wrong file. We had the right one sent over. It turns out that they have approved everyone and we are set to go. The offices out in the Fayoum usually like a bit of a donation so they can buy paper, ink, etc., but they have never asked for it here before. Today they did. Surprise! We spoke with Mohammed Ismail Khaled, the head of the committee that approves these things, about some work that was once started with Dr. Zahi Hawass. We asked him if we should keep working on the project or what we should do. He said that we should see if Dr. Hawass wants to still work on it with us. Then he called Dr. Hawass right then and there. That surprised us. Dr. Hawass wanted us to come visit him right then and there so we could talk about it. That surprised us too. We were given very detailed directions to his house. But first we needed to go get our archaeologist cards. We went to the downstairs office and found that the person we needed was not there, but was in the Abbusayah building, in downtown Cairo.

We caught a taxi, got to the office just before it was to close, and got everything taken care of. It worked extremely well and it was all done before too long. That is the quickest we have ever been able to get everything done. So then we caught a taxi and found our way, after only a few wrong turns, to Dr. Hawass’ house. He invited us in. He was as gracious and charming as a person could ever be. It was an amazingly pleasant visit. It was productive and enjoyable. He asked if he could take us all to dinner sometime soon. I have seldom been around someone who was as charming and pleasant as was Zahi Hawass today.

We were also able to buy a bunch of water to get us through the excavation season, and were able to exchange all sorts of money, but certainly not enough to get us through the season. I bleed money almost the whole time I am here. It just seems to flow from me.

After dinner I was able to arrange some meetings with other archaeologists out here, and with some other great people we want to meet and do things with while here. Things are going very, very well. They will go especially well if I can get my luggage here tonight so that I can have all the things I need with me when we go out to the Fayoum tomorrow.

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