Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Avenger of the Pharaohs

This office became Hawass' gateway to power. Over the years, billionaires, actors and politicians came to visit him there. From former US President George Bush to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi -- they all had the Sherpa give them a guided tour through the gigantic tomb.

Hawass realized at the time that the West was willing to stand in line and pay hard currency to share in the luster of the pharaohs.

The television crews soon began knocking on his door, drawn by the gifted speaker's ability to extract exciting stories from even the most wretched heap of shards.

A New Museum by the Pyramids

The magician gave his most astonishing appearance in 2002. In a live broadcast for the National Geographic Channel, he sent a remote-controlled robot through a light shaft into the Pyramid of Cheops. The event was broadcast to TV audiences in 142 nations.

There was little to be seen other than wobbly, black-and-white endoscope images, but Hawass, undaunted, indulged himself: "What we have seen in this night is completely unique in the world of Egyptology." This is the man's true gift: the ability to weave together dreams and history. Omar Sharif calls his friend an "amazing actor."

Nevertheless, he has tremendous achievements under his belt. The country has moved forwarded as a result of his determination. He provided the antiquities agency with clout, kick-started important mummy analyses and brought millions of tourists to the country.

Now Hawass wants to have 19 museums built, the largest of which is already under construction directly adjacent to the pyramids. In 2013, when it is finished, it is expected to house the world's largest Egyptian collection.

The master is working towards this triumph. He is also determined to exhibit the six disputed masterworks at the new museum, which would represent a crowning conclusion to his career.

But will he succeed? The Western museums have remained intractable until now. The curators in Hildesheim also see no reason to comply with his wishes. "The Hemiunu is the pride of our collections," they say.

The splendid statue was discovered in 1913. Wilhelm Pelizaeus, a wealthy businessman who sold railroad parts in Egypt for the German steelmaker Krupp paid for the excavations. Pelizaeus was painstakingly exact in adhering to the agreed division of the excavated objects "in equal parts." There can be no talk of theft and plundering.

The curator responsible for the Hemiunu in Hildesheim explains that it was taken to Germany because it was in such poor condition when it was discovered. "The head was completely fragmented, and the Egyptians didn't want the statue."

The circumstances of the Boston case are similar. In fact, the MFA even has a 1927 document stating that the Ankhaf bust was given to the new owner in the United States as an express act of gratitude on the part of Egypt.

Shortly after finding the Ankhaf, the US archeologist also found the famous shaft tomb of Hetepheres, the mother of the pharaoh. It was filled with furniture that had crumbled into dust, leaving only the gold plating and fittings. Nevertheless, the archeologists managed to reconstruct chairs, cushions and a bed.

Like Bargaining at a Bazaar

After that, the Americans turned over the sparkling household goods to Cairo. Because they had paid for everything out of their own pockets, the Egyptians gave them the bust as a reward.

In light of such facts, Hawass' protests suddenly fall apart.

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