Meet Nora Shawki! The Young Egyptian Archaeologist who Worked with National Geographic

History is one of the most fascinating subjects which will always intrigue all those seeking knowledge. And Egyptian history, in particular, is known for being particularly magical and captivating. So, it is never a surprise when an Egyptian decides to delve into this mysterious and enchanting study. In this case it was Nora Shawki, the archaeologist who had a strong passion for ancient artifacts since childhood. Nora realized her dream in a way that can only inspire.

When did your passion for archaeology start?

It started since I was very young and still in school. There was nothing for me to do at the time but read a lot about history and architecture. However, the real beginning was when I was in university and afterwards when I started joining excavations.

What always encourages you to achieve more in your work?

I am always encouraged by the fact that I don’t always have the time to discover a tomb or temple. As many of them are located in the Delta and are surrounded by slums and people living there. In many instances there are people living above the sites.

How did your journey with National Geographic begin?

I received many scholarships before the National Geographic one, but I didn’t expect to get this one. That is because I applied for the position of supervisor of an ancient site, which was part of my studies for my Master’s degree. Nine months later they informed me that I can begin at the site.

What is the story of the latest statue you discovered?

It was before the coronavirus crisis. I was in Sudan in an Ancient Egyptian site and we found a tomb. The tomb contained two skeletons of high society ladies on a bed. This, to me, was very different, because usually in the New Kingdom the deceased were wrapped in the tomb.

Who do you believe was the most influential woman in Pharaonic Egypt?

I personally believe Hatshepsut was one of the most influential women as she was one of the most important leaders. Also, Queen Tiye, mother of King Akhenaten, who was extremely influential as a ruling woman at the time.

In your opinion, what is the difference between studying archaeology in Egypt and the UK?

There are pros and cons for both sides. In the UK the education system is better, especially that they really appreciate Egyptian civilization and artifacts. However, the positive side of studying in Egypt is having the liberty to see everything in person. You can visit the museum and excavations.

What is the most difficult problem you face during excavations?

The weather. The last thing I faced, we were in a tomb and the ceiling fell on us. This happens a lot due to dust storms and it’s totally unpredictable. It’s definitely dangerous especially if you are four meters underground.

What is the biggest challenge you are currently trying to face?

My biggest challenge is with the Ministry of Antiquities, because it only allows inspectors and workers at the Ministry to have the opportunity to have their own site and perform excavations. They do not give the same rights to academics or independent architects. And due to old laws, there is a conviction that the older a person is the more qualified they are, which is not true.

What was the most important station in your life?

My work with National Geographic, because they trusted me when I was 25, at the time when everyone in Egypt told me that I was too young and lacked experience. I consider every excavation an important station in my life.

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