Egypt's youngest ambassador

By Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass

A few days ago I received a pleasant surprise, an electronic letter from Dina the eight-year-old Egyptian- American girl who came to visit me at the Pyramids last July. She wanted to thank me for what she called the "unforgettable" day she spent with me at the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. She told me that she was so impressed with the trip that she decided to tell her friends about it by giving a talk to her school class in Los Angeles.

Dina said that after hearing her impassioned talk, her friends all dreamed of visiting Egypt. However, no matter how much Dina tried to convince them that there was no such thing as the curse of the Pharaohs they were still afraid. In my reply, I suggested that she tell her friends to read my new book Curse of the Pharaohs, which is being published by National Geographic and will be available soon. I also mentioned that the book was written for boys and girls of her age.

I still remember Dina's face change from a smile of delight to a look of terror, her eyes and mouth wide open, when I told her one story about my excavations in Bahariya Oasis. We had found a tomb which was seven metres underground, and in my left hand I was holding a light to illuminate the area while in my right hand I had an axe. I saw a statue, and when I pulled the lamp closer so as to see it better, I received an electric shock, fell down and was unconscious for a couple of minutes. When I came to, I told my assistant Mahmoud Afifi that if I had died everyone would have believed in the curse. I was laughing as I told Dina the story, and I noticed that she no longer looked afraid but was smiling again. Dina left with a new love in her life -- Egypt had captured her heart.

Dina told me that in her speech she had explained the details of her visit to Egypt to her classmates, including her trip to the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the museum, which she innocently called "Zahi's museum". I wish I were able to relate to you the speech in its entirety, just as she told it to me. I found her closing statement very interesting; it illustrates this little girl's naturally embedded sense of humour. She said: "It was a great day with Zahi. He showed me everything, explained everything to me, and most of the time I was holding his hand. The tour was fantastic! And man, he's good when he screams at his staff!" Isn't this wonderful? I believe it is the most sensitive letter I have ever received, especially so since it came from a child. My earlier article about my adventures with Dina reached people all over the world who were inspired by her spirit and love of Egypt. Another Egyptian- American girl, Mona, aged nine, read it and was also inspired to come to Egypt.

Owing to my heavy schedule, it is difficult for me to respond to all the requests to meet me. But one thing I am eager to pursue, despite all my engagements, is meeting my young friends whenever they ask me because (and this is true) I learn continuously from them and their comments. They may not all be as lucky as Dina and Mona to travel to Egypt and see its magic, but I hope that every child will have a chance to escape into the world of the ancient Egyptians by reading books, watching the National Geographic and Discovery channels and other informative TV specials, and reading the information on my Web site:

The Sakakini Palace in Cairo is currently undergoing restoration prior to being turned into a medical museum.

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