A photo of the Egyptologist Zahi Hawass who was tried for corruption following the Arab Spring and supported coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power will be on display in Times Square in Manhattan, New York, in a bid to encourage Americans to visit Egypt.
Earlier this week Egypt launched a major promotional campaign to encourage people to visit the North African country. Since the 2011 Arab Spring tourism to the country has waned, which has been made worse by reports of human rights abuses and the 2015 attack on a Russian aircraft which killed 224 people.
In 2010 almost 15 million tourists visited the country and in 2016 this figure dropped to 5.4 million.
However, for supporters of the 2011 uprising Hawass will be remembered as a figure of the ancien regime and of the Egyptian state’s failure to bring members of the deep state to justice.
During Egypt’s 2011 uprising Hawass appeared on state TV and called on Egyptians not to believe the “lies and fabrications” broadcast on Al-Jazeera and to support Mubarak amidst calls by demonstrators that he resign.
Hawass was appointed minister of state antiquities on 31 January 2011 but in early February faced calls to resign by 200 archaeology graduates who had gathered outside the Supreme Council of Antiquities to accuse him of corruption and for being a Mubarak loyalist.
The Egyptian military used the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to detain government opponents during the protests and tortured many of them.
Hawass was later tried for corruption, sentenced to a year in prison, and then absolved of all charges. He is now an ambassador for the country’s tourism ministry.
When Sisi rose to power after the coup Hawass described him as a “strong leader” and the “perfect person” for the job. Hawass has previously compared the general turned president to the pharaoh Mentuhop II whose rule over Egypt over 4,000 years ago was preceded by chaos.
Severe concerns about human rights abuses in the country have not affected the US-Egypt relationship. Washington provides Cairo with $1.3 billion a year of military assistance.
When Trump ran for president he called Al-Sisi a “fantastic guy” and said “he took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.”