Egyptian female Egyptologists are following the footsteps of their ancestors, taking lead and pushing boundaries. Defined as the scientific study of Ancient Egypt one can’t help but be in awe of the Egyptology industry and its female pioneers who have become trailblazers, leading change, inspiring young women that anything is doable. With that in mind, here are five Egyptian Egyptologists that are making ground-breaking efforts.
Yasmine El Shazly
Yasmine is currently Deputy Director for Research and Programs at the American Research Center in Egypt. With a strong presence in academia, she teaches Egyptology at prestigious universities, including the American University in Cairo, Cairo University and AMIDEAST. Yasmine’s previous experience included assistant to the Minister for Museum Affairs and Head of Documentation at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Yasmine’s thesis focused on Deir El-Medina, a major part of the religious life of the inhabitants of the ancient Egyptian settlement.
Yasmine’s story is quite different from those of Egyptologists that fell in love with Egyptology from an early age. Daughter of a diplomat, Yasmine often lived away from home. She felt she had taken history for granted when non-Egyptians knew more about Ancient Egypt than she did. This was Yasmine’s first spark with Egyptology. Later, when established Egyptologist Zahi Hawas came to give a lecture at the embassy is when she knew she wanted to be an Egyptologist. In an interview with Google Arts and Culture, El Shazly opened up about the challenges of being an Egyptian female in a male-dominated field, “I believe one challenge has been having to prove myself in a field that was, traditionally, dominated by Western males. It is very frustrating for me to feel that Egyptians need to work extra hard for their contributions in the study of their own history and culture to be regarded as valuable.”
Monica Hanna is an international figure in the world of Egyptian Archaeology. Hanna is the Founding Dean of the Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Unit at The Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
A firm believer that Egyptian history and antiques are not just for foreigners and tourists but more importantly for Egyptians. Amongst her goals is to raise the ownership level between Egyptians when it comes to their own heritage. Hanna’s work also focuses around protecting Egyptian history from looting. In 2014; she was internationally awarded by the Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) non-profit organization for her brave efforts in exposing the looting of Ancient Egyptian, Coptic and Islamic archaeological sites. A brave woman, Hanna has even gone to the extent of confronting the armed looters herself. When receiving her award, Monica commented, “it means a lot for the cause; it will bring a lot of attention to the problems of looting. It should shed light on the market because if there is enough attention paid to the market [for stolen antiquities], the looting will cease to happen.”
Ola El Aguizy
Egyptian Egyptologist and Emeritus professor Ola El Aguizy has been in the field for over 50 years. Having obtained her Undergraduate and Ph.D. from Cairo University, El Aguizy first started working as a lecturer before becoming an Emeritus Professor and Dean of the department. El Aguizy’s passion for archaeology began as an undergraduate student, where she first specialized in ancient Egyptian languages. Considered an expert in Demotics, she has published over 20 papers on topics such as paleography.
El Aguizy managed to succeed in both the research domain and in her role as Head of the Department, where she cultivated relationships with international academic institutions. Through her role as professor, she also mentors her students and assists them with their academic research. Amongst her most notable work was heading the faculty of Archeology, at Cairo University on a mission to excavate the tomb of Ptah-M-Wia, head of the treasury during the reign of King Ramesses II.
Wafaa El Saddik
Wafaa El Saddik studied archaeology at Cairo University and completed a Ph.D. at the University of Vienna. Interested in the six-day war, El Saddik originally wanted to become a journalist when she first started university. Her interest in archaeology became apparent when she went on an excursion trip to Luxor and Aswan organized by the faculty of archaeology. That trip ended her interest in journalism and started her love for archeology.
El Saddik has managed to unlock several firsts as an Egyptian female in her career. In 1976, she became the first Egyptian woman to direct an excavation. She was also appointed the first female director of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum and held her post from 2004 until 2010. In her book “Protecting Pharaoh’s Treasures”, she tells her journey as a female Egyptologist who is bold and unapologetic when it comes to her career. El Saddik once refused orders from former president Anwar El Sadat when asked to clean the upper part of the Khafre pyramid to match the color of the lower part. Standing up for what’s right, El Saddik filed a report explaining that the stones of the upper and lower segments of the pyramids were from different quarries.
Nora Shawki has been excavating ancient sites in the Nile Delta for almost seven years. It is impressive to see that at a young age she leads her own excavations at sites of the Delta. Alongside her work in the field of archaeology, she is also working with National Geographic. Shawki is shedding light on the non-elite settlements through her Ph.D. joint program at Cairo University and Durham University. In an Interview, Shawki talked about her journey of being a young Egyptian in the field saying, “my work with National Geographic is considered one of the most important phases of my life because they trusted me when I was 25, at the time when everyone was saying I was too young and lacked experience. I consider every excavation an important stage in my life.”
It is inspiring to see the efforts of Egyptian female Egyptologists protecting Egypt’s heritage in different ways. They have certainly left an impact in the field and paved the way for future generations to come.
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