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    Map of the Tomb

    360° Tour of Egypt

    Make a Mummy

    Ancient Tomb
    Opened on Live TV

    An Ancient Oasis
    Is Rediscovered

    Producing TV From
    The Middle of Nowhere

    Egypt Has a Long
    History of Grave Robbers

    Disturbing the Dead

    The Pyramids and Sphinx

    Photo Essays
    Cemetery of Anubis

    Tomb Raiders

    Pyramids in Giza

    Cairo Marketplace

    Egyptian Treasures

    Egyptian Pyramids

    Mummy Dearest

    Death Masks

    Related Stories
    Bahariya Circa World
    War II: From English House
    to English Patient

    The Embalming Industry:
    Mummification for Faith
    and Profit

    Bahariya Has Much to Tell
    of Greco-Roman Egypt

    Greco-Roman Egypt Was
    a Culture in Transition



    Map of Bahariya

    Biography: Hugh Downs

    Biography: Zahi Hawass

    Fox Fast Links
    Link to Dr. Hawass' Site

  • Producing TV From the Middle of Nowhere
    By Jonathan Broder
    BAHARIYA, Egypt — When Fox TV airs Opening the Tombs of the Golden Mummies: Live! next Tuesday, audiences will get to see — and ask questions online — about one of the most exciting archaeological finds in years — an ancient necropolis.

    William Tolan/

    And in what might become a new genre of entertainment — call it shock-educational TV — one of the mummies will be unveiled for the first time on a live segment of the broadcast.

    The program is the second time in recent years that Fox has mined ancient Egyptian history for compelling subject matter. One year ago, the network was nominated for an Emmy for its special on new archaeological discoveries at the Pyramids.

    That program, produced by Peter Isacksen, took a full nine months to put together in Cairo and Los Angeles, with the help of Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian government's chief archaeologist and a world-renowned expert on the Pyramids.

    In Opening the Tombs, the animated Dr. Hawass is back again, leading guest hosts Hugh Downs and Bill Pullman and Fox reporter Lisa Guerrero through the excavations at the recently discovered Valley of the Mummies.

    William Tolan/

    But this time, Isacksen and co-producer Leslie Greif were given only eight weeks to prepare the broadcast, and they've been operating under what could be called extreme conditions on location at this desert oasis some 260 miles from Cairo, where 100-degree temperatures are normal this time of year.

    "The challenge is overcoming every possible obstacle," says Greif, a veteran of Hollywood movies and entertainment television. "We're dealing with a different language and a different culture. There are no telephones, no supermarkets, and no hospital. This is a place where the most common form of transportation is a donkey."

    To surmount these obstacles for the $3 million production, Isacksen and Greif turned to Tammy Johnston, a former chief of operations at ABC Sports and one of the most experienced line producers in the business. Within a week of their first conversation last month, she was in Egypt, surveying sites, dealing with local vendors and drawing up lists of the crews, equipment and logistical support needed to film in the Bahariya desert.

    "As a woman, it's a little more difficult for me," the 39-year-old Johnston said. "When I walk into a room with one of my male colleagues, the Egyptians just assume the men are calling the shots. But once I start to talk money, they figure out pretty quickly that I'm the boss."

    William Tolan/
    Tech manager Luther Fisher and cameraman Ken Ludlow set up a shot over the Sahara

    Operating initially from an office in Cairo, Johnston resolved the donkey problem by hiring a fleet of Egyptian drivers and vehicles. To get around the single telephone line servicing the entire oasis, she brought in several satellite phones and two satellite uplinks for live broadcasts. And to power their lights, cameras, fax machines and a full-sized office printer, she imported dozens of gasoline-powered generators.

    In total, more than one million pounds of equipment has been flown in to create a TV studio "in the middle of nowhere," Johnston says.

    "In every place you work, you pick up a little — even if it's just another level of patience," said Johnston, who has worked in China, Hong Kong and Japan. "It makes the next place easier."

    To direct the show, Greif hired Steve Beim, an experienced director of live sporting events at ESPN. And to supervise production in the field, he borrowed news producer Pam Brown from Fox News.

    For housing, feeding and caring for the 141-member crew, the producers have taken over the three guest houses in Bahariya, brought over their own chef from Los Angeles and set up an American-trained staff of Egyptian doctors, paramedics and nurses in a mobile clinic.

    Dan Stein, a veteran Hollywood production chef, arranged for daily supplies of ice, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat through the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo.

    William Tolan/
    Director Steve Beim: That's a wrap!

    But when he arrived in Bahariya last week to set up ahead of the crew, Stein found a filthy field kitchen with no screens, two ovens that barely worked and a sleepy local staff. Stein fixed the screens himself and drilled his assistants on the importance of a clean kitchen, making them wash their hands, the floors and counters as often as five times a day.

    Now Stein is producing three meals a day for the crew, with the simple but valuable promise that "No one gets sick."

    The fluidity of the production is also evident in the script, which is changing daily as Dr. Hawass make new discoveries. The location of the show's dramatic live final scene — when a mummy is unveiled on camera — had to be changed and the script rewritten when Hawass informed the filmmakers of a major new mummy discovery.

    Greif refuses to disclose any details of the discovery, hoping to build up suspense for the broadcast.

    "I can only tell you that the man inside the mummy is dead," Greif said. Then he added wistfully: "Just think of the ratings we would get if he were alive."