During his term as an attaché at the Italian Embassy, I met Bartolomeo Cuccia, who has lived in Egypt now for the last 10 years. We became good friends. Rita, his wonderful wife, lives most of the time in Italy because her daughter Martha has to be in school in Rome, but she comes often to visit her husband here in Egypt. Their eldest daughter Erika married a nice young Egyptian man named Julio, who lives downtown and works for the Italian Consulate.
We have gone out many times to have dinner together. Last week all the members of his family were in Cairo, and held a wonderful dinner in their home. I was invited to meet the family, and many other Italians who live in Cairo. I had such a good time during that visit, and it made me remember how important it is to keep in touch with friends. I decided that it was time to make a post to my blog.
For the last few months, I have been busy writing and working hard, as I am used to doing. I am at my private office 7 days a week working on various projects. Actually, being away from government has been god for me. I needed time to recover from all the trouble, and to give the friends of Seth, the god of chaos, some time to calm down. I have been staying very busy giving public lectures. One recent talk was at the Mena House hotel for an American group, and another one for 60 Australians was at a resort in Sahl-Hasheesh, Hurghada. I really enjoyed the two days that I spent at this beautiful seaside resort, and the wonderful people I met there. I even agreed to travel to Australia and New Zealand at the end of May to give some public lectures. I believe that this tour will be a great opportunity to promote tourism in Egypt.
Another lecture that I gave recently was for members of the board from Harvard University, and some other distinguished guests. I was also able to meet Peter Greenberg from the BBC (whom I had met in Los Angeles in 2005 at the opening of the King Tut exhibit) and his group at the Mariott Hotel in Cairo. Also joining us on that occasion were some great Egyptian writers, including Salama Ahmed. Salama, who was my favorite political writer at the El-Ahram Newspaper, is now the editor-in-chief at El-Shorouk Newspaper. My dear friend Tarek Foda was also there, as well as Mohamed El-Ezabi, who writes a daily column in El-Gamhoria Newspaper. I do believe that it is one of the best columns currently being published, due in large part to his beautiful writing style. We talked about the Revolution, and the future of Egypt. The next day, Peter and his group went to Upper Egypt to make a radio program that aired on the 14th of January. They talked some with me on this program.
This week I gave a talk in Cairo to a conference of eye doctors, who came from all over the world. I told them about the DNA and CT-scanning research we have been doing on Egyptian mummies, and how we have gained a great deal of knowledge about the diseases of the pharaohs. One of the members in the group is Dr. William Smiddy, who conducted surgery on my eye in Miami a few years ago.
I also met not long ago with 14 members of the press from Germany and Korea. I talked to them about what happened at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo during the Revolution, and how the young people protected the Museum with their bodies. Although one piece that was stolen, an 18.5 cm statuette of the cat-goddess Bastet, has been returned to the Museum recently, we are still missing around 28 objects. Most of them are bronze statuettes dated to the Late Period (about 500 B.C.).
I explained to the German and Korean journalists about the museum construction and renovation projects that were begun while I was in office, and are still continuing now, The Suez Museum that we worked so hard to beautify, for instance, will tell the story of the Suez Canal, of pilgrims in past eras, and of the trade for which the city of El-Suez is famous. In addition, I told them about the Crocodile Museum that we built next to the temple of Kom-Ombo. I also talked about important sites and monuments that have been made ready for opening to the public, including Abusir, the Hibis Temple at Kharga, and the Serapeum at Saqqara..
I feel that it is very important that I take every opportunity to remind members of the press that in spite of what people around the world hear daily about trouble in Egypt, guests who come here to see our ancient monuments have stayed safe. All the tourists that I have met have enjoyed their time in Egypt since the Revolution. We need tourists to come back in even greater numbers for the sake of our economy, and also for the sake of our antiquities – all the ongoing restoration and other projects that we are undertaking require money. Because of the way the government budget has worked for many years, this money has really come from only two sources-tourists and exhibits outside of Egypt.
I explained to the German and Korean journalists about the Grand Egyptian Museum, with its up-to-date conservation labs, storage magazines, and exhibit facilities. Construction of the main part of the museum itself will start with this coming month. I believe this project is something that all Egyptians can be proud of, as is the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Old Cairo. I told them about the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, and how this will be a great resource and tourist destination when renovations are finished, but we need the return of tourism to make sure that its rebirth can be funded.
In addition to giving talks, I have been writing a great deal – something that I love doing very much. I have written a new book about Tutankhamun which will be published in Japanese, and later will be published for the iPad.
My book on antiquities and the 2011 Revolution is almost finished. I have just finished chapter 13, and I still need to write two more chapters. These two chapters will be the most important ones in the book. I will publish this book first in English, and then in Arabic. At the same time, I am working on a few scientific articles. My work recently came to a temporary halt due to a serious infection in my left ear, which caused me to have problems with balance. This sometimes occurred while I was out with friends. Whenever I have an attack, I have to go home and rest for a while. Overall, though, I am doing well, and I think often about the friends all over the world that I have met on my travels – I hope that everyone is off to a great start for 2012!