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Three Days Without a Necktie
The world’s most prominent archaeologist tells us what he would do if he ever slowed down long enough to take a long weekend
By Zahi Hawass as told to Dan Reese
Zahi Hawass, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the man who is perhaps the world’s most-recognized archaeologist, scoffed when Egypt Today asked him what he would do if he had a long weekend.
“Me?” he asked, incredulously. Hawass is a busy man and was interrupted repeatedly during our brief interview with calls and questions from his staff, underscoring the notion that very idea of a short vacation was laughable.
He was game, though, and recounted what he would do if by some miracle he were to have a three-day weekend. Edited excerpts:
I have never taken a vacation in my life. I work seven days a week, and I’ve traveled everywhere in the world. If I did take a weekend, then I would do the following:
Number one, I would not take a driver. I would drive a car by myself, and I would take with me someone who’s not talkative — male or female — someone who is a dreamer who can help me enjoy this vacation. I would drive southwest of Cairo on the best road in Egypt. I would go through Sixth of October and take the Bahariyya Oasis Road.
After a four-hour drive, I would arrive at this beautiful hotel that I love called the Palm Tree. It’s a very nice hotel. It has a beautiful courtyard. Most of the places there have mosquitoes or flies — this place is completely clean. The Palm Tree Hotel is a very dear place to me, and really I think if I ever take a vacation, I would go there. I have a room there in my name called the ‘Zahi Hawass Suite.’
Sitting in the courtyard of this hotel would relax me.
The biggest mistake in my life was ruining the Bahariyya Oasis. The Bahariyya Oasis before 1999 was a paradise: beautiful, quiet, silent. But since I made the discovery in the Valley of the Golden Mummies? Well, there were no hotels when I went there except one. Now there are more than 25 hotels. This is how I ruined paradise — I call it Paradise Lost.
The next day I would take a four-wheel drive car and go into the desert. On this trip I would take a driver, because if you take a four-wheel drive in the desert, you need to know the way, and I don’t really know the way in the Black Desert.
I would go to the Black Desert and spend the whole day, then I would go to the White Desert and make a nice camp. I would prepare a very nice dinner — a duck from Bahariyya — with nice wine. There would be a full moon on this weekend. I don’t think that anything on Earth can compete with this.
At one in the morning, I would go back to the hotel. The next day, I would drive from Bahariyya to Siwa on the same road. It’s not really a beautiful road; it’s an adventure road. It is fantastic — I like it better than the other one. It’s a four-hour drive.
I would go to Siwa and stay one night at Adrere Amellal Hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel that takes you out of this world: no electricity, nothing. When you go to this hotel, and go to sleep by candlelight, and wake up to candlelight, with no pollution, you look at the sky and at the people — it’s incredible.
That’s really what I need: no antiquities, no ties, no monuments, but still being surrounded with the thrill of discovery. Siwa and Bahariyya oases are the most romantic places on Earth. There is nothing like them anywhere else. et
As told to Dan Reese
Egypt Todayis the leading current affairs magazine in Egypt and the Middle East
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nn ms.i sA.w -- No one is born wise.