Hawass has denied the allegations but acknowledged receiving $200,000 from National Geographic. “Yes, it’s true,” he said, adding that the deal had government approval. Accusations that he had misused the Egyptian Museum to promote his clothing line were a misunderstanding, he added.
The National Geographic Society declined to disclose the amount it paid Hawass but defended its arrangement with him, calling the relationship important to its educational and scientific mission and to Egypt. The institution was “not involved nor do we have any knowledge, beyond some press accounts,” of the charges filed against Hawass, a spokeswoman, Mimi Koumanelis, said in an e-mail.
Hawass was initially convicted in a case that concerned bidding for the contract to operate the Egyptian Museum bookstore and sentenced to one year in prison, but last year he was acquitted of all the corruption charges against him.
These days, he largely avoids the public eye. He exercises daily at a hotel gym that is being renovated and is closed to others. He is working on several new books. And he attends dinners with an elite circle of friends. “I’m not a rich man,” he said. “I take taxis because my driver gets off at 3.”
An ebb in hostility
But many Egyptians remain unconvinced that Hawass and other former officials are innocent.
Mohamed el-Shennawy, a filmmaker, said that when he took to the streets two years ago, he assumed that Mubarak and his cronies would face swift trials and, maybe, even execution. “When I compare our expectations to what happened, it’s like a man being in love with a beautiful woman who then finds out that she is the complete opposite of what he thought,” he said.
Even those former Mubarak associates who have landed behind bars lead a relatively privileged existence, said Cherif al-Choubachy, a former columnist for al-Ahram, a state-run newspaper, who counts his cousin Zohair Garana, a former tourism minister, among the prisoners. The former elites are held in the same cell bloc, he said, with televisions and access to cellphones once a week.
Mubarak, 84, is at a Cairo military hospital, where he has been transferred intermittently because of worsening health.
Behind closed doors, the elites still speak in the vernacular of the ousted regime, certain that their fate has been unfair. “Egypt is my country,” said another longtime state newspaper columnist on his way home from a dinner party, the fluorescent billboards atop Cairo’s slums flashing by his car window. How could Egyptians have elected the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, he asked. “They’re peasants,” he said. “They are too small to be ruling Egypt.”