11 JUN 2013: Always a showman Dr. Zahi Hawass the renowned Egyptian archaeologist who brought the discoveries of King Tut into our living rooms through his perceptive documentaries and breathed new life on the antiquities of the underworld was centre stage in a hotel ballroom declaring his love of Egypt when I finally met him in Toronto.

I never anticipated the moment would happen. Over the years I have watched him - fascinated as he shimmied into the narrowest crevices descending into the bowels of tombs no one has dared to tread.

The man

The underworld explorer with his signature Crocodile Dundee cowboy hat was just as I pictured him: energetic, impassioned, gentlemanly and radiating an aura exceeding his physical frame.

But it was the keen twinkle in his eye, the thoughtful gaze toward me as he listened to my personal account that touched me.

The Pharaonic Connection

I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Canada. As a young girl I regularly visited our sadly now closed Niagara Falls Museum (Canada’s oldest) which at the time was a nondescript roadside venue located near the Rainbow Bridge. The old factory building had few visitors so most times I visited I had solo staring contests with the ancient mummies. Back then an advertising flyer, hoping to entice tourists, featured a gruesomely exposed mummy with a crown of ruddy hair dubbed the "unknown mummy". Many ignored the place discarding it as just one of the many tacky Niagara Falls attractions. I did not.

The summer I was heading to grade seven I gave myself a summer project on Ancient Egypt. (I used to like making my own summer projects where I picked a subject of my own interest).

I cycled to my local library, borrowed books on King Tut and the Valley of the Kings and feverishly taught myself the names of the pieces archaeologist Howard Carter resurrected during the legendary King Tut expedition. I imagined the countless hours, the unbearable heat, the sun scorching down and the steely determination to collect artefacts long forgotten.

The inspiration

Now here I was face-to-face with Dr. Hawass, the real McCoy, whose own career reads like a Who’s Who of discoveries. The influence he has shed on preserving antiquities and on world heritage sites, not to mention the care and thoughtfulness he imposes upon the expeditions he undertakes, are merely a blip on the whole picture. He has done so much more.

Dr. Hawass has dedicated his life to the study of ancient Egypt but more importantly inspired the world to learn from its past and dream about the ancients, who even today, still have much to teach us. Watching his exciting TV shows I felt as though I was with him descending all those shafts and stairs leading to more discoveries and mysteries.

He is always inspiring. And on this night his passion for Egypt inspired me again.

A memorable moment

During my brief one-on-one I mentioned my recent visit to his magical country to which Dr. Hawass in his glorious showman-like way responded to his fellow dinner companions, “We have to get her up there to tell everyone what she saw. We need her to talk about Egypt.”

He wanted me to take the same centre stage as he had done earlier in the evening to help shed light on my own discoveries.

I was taken aback and was truly honoured though I didn’t address the group of guests. But I hope my future stories recounting my visit to Egypt will make you want to take a journey to this land of treasures with me .

The revelation

As it turns out, the ancient Egyptian mummy I stared at years ago resurfaced recently thanks in large part to Dr. Hawass. When I recounted my childhood visits to see the unknown mummy he replied before I could get to the finale, “I know! It was Ramses I!” he said, his index finger striking the air like a conductor.

We both widely smiled because I knew that and he knew I knew.

The end

I saw him attempt to slip away as he tried to make a quiet exit later that evening.

“Dr. Hawass I meant to ask where your next expedition is.”

He stopped in his tracks, adjusted the strap of the leather satchel flung over his shoulder, rested a hand on my shoulder and said with a glint in his eye.

“Why, the Valley of the Kings.”

email icon facebook logo twitter logo


Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

Read more from Ilona Kauremszky

comments powered by Disqus