Mark Lehner is keeping a close watch on the events unfolding in Egypt.
Lehner, a world renowned Egyptologist who grew up in Minot, has a son in Egypt and a team working at the Giza Pyramids. Lehner travels to Egypt often.
He keeps in contact with his son and his team, although there have been some disruptions in communications for him between Egypt and the U.S. during the recent protests in Egypt.
Lehner has worked in Egypt for many years. He's the director of the Ancient Egypt Research Associates and directs the Giza Plateau Mapping Project.
His team in Egypt is carrying on the excavations at the Giza Pyramids, he said Tuesday. "I talk to them every day when I can get through," he said. He said he didn't have a problem getting through to Egypt until Friday. He said the cell coverage has been restored and it's also possible to get through on land lines when the cell phone coverage is down.
Lehner's two sons Ramsi and Luke, are actors. Their mother is Egyptian. Luke, 29, is in Cambridge, Mass., where he's working on a theater master's program at the American Repertory Theater. Lehner and his wife, a producer for Nova, and their family live in Milton, Mass.
Ramsi, 34, also is an actor. "Ramsi was in Tunisia when the demonstrations happened there working on a feature film project. He's acting in it," Mark Lehner said. He said Ramsi left Tunisia and went to Cairo, and Monday or Tuesday was to go to Qatar to continue filming at a location. "I don't know if he got out. I'm trying to reach him," Lehner said Tuesday morning.
Lehner is considered one of the foremost experts on the Giza Pyramids in Egypt. He went to Egypt first as a tourist in the early 1970s. "I lived there for 13 years and (am) still there half the time," he said. Presently, he's in Seattle doing fundraising.
Lehner was last in Egypt in November. He was going to join his team there shortly after visiting donors on the West Coast and for the opening of the exhibit, "Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science," in the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. He said he's now in Seattle to visit "with major donors like the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and Ed and Kathy Fries."
Lehner said the team in Egypt was in its second week of excavation and he was planning to leave the U.S. Feb. 7 to join them. "But over the last week, since last Thursday, they have not been able to work," he said. He said the team is safe and watching the situation in Egypt. He said they have seen some of the demonstrations but they have not been in any danger.
AERA has purchased property not far from the entrance of the pyramids where it hopes to build accommodations for the team and the archaeology field school that it runs. The organization has a villa there and also rents three apartments for the team.
Lehner said the team includes four Americans and eight Egyptians.
"We do monitor the situation and if we have to get everyone out, it's more than getting Americans out because we have Polish, British, Japanese...," he said.
"I'd like to get over (to Egypt) as soon as possible to be with the team," he said. But on the other hand, he said he can help them from the U.S. by monitoring the situation through the Internet and other media. "They have no Internet at this point," he said.