Cairo celebrated the long-awaited opening of its National Museum of Egyptian Civilization with a procession of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies, transporting them across the city to their new home, where they will go on view later this month.
Safely moving the millennia-old remains was a multimillion-dollar affair that involved building special shock-absorbent vehicles as well as repaving the roads along the route to ensure a smooth ride. To maintain optimal preservation conditions, the mummies were put into oxygen-free nitrogen capsules for the duration of their journey.
Each of the 18 kings and four queens had their own gold and blue car, designed to look like the pharaonic boats used to transport ancient royals to their tombs, and featuring the winged sun symbol used by the pharaohs.
The three-mile parade started at the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Egyptian authorities spent months preparing for the event, dubbed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, which involved horse-drawn chariots and hundreds of performers in ancient-style garb.
Although the new museum aims to recapture some of the tourism lost in recent years due to political unrest and the pandemic, there were no crowds on hand to watch the spectacle. The parade route and the surrounding streets were closed for security measures and locals were told to watch the televised broadcast. The filming was orchestrated to block views of impoverished communities with banners, flags, and temporary barricades.
“There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality,” Ahmed Zaazaa, an urban planner, told the New York Times. “The government says they are making reforms, but the vast majority of people in Cairo who live in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.”
The chronologically themed procession started with Seqenenre Taa, who reigned as the 17th dynasty’s last ruler during the 16th century BC, and ended with 12th century BC pharaoh Ramses IX, of the 20th dynasty.
The most famous pharaohs in the parade were Ramses II, of the 19th dynasty, who led the New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, during its most powerful period, for 67 years, and Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled as the second female pharaoh, during the 18th dynasty in the 15th century BC. All the mummies were originally excavated in the 19th century from the Valley of Kings and nearby Deir el-Bahri.
After about 45 minutes, parade ended in front of the new museum with a 21-gun salute, greeted by Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who had inaugurated the main hall earlier that day.
Intended as a nationalist event celebrating Egyptian history, the parade “expresses the greatness of the ancient civilization that provided humanity, and still does, with a unique and diverse legacy, contributing to its progress and prosperity,” wrote Intisar al-Sissi, Egypt’s first lady, on Facebook.
Egypt began building the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in 2002, and the project has faced numerous delays. It began welcoming visitors to view its 1,500 artifacts yesterday. The mummies will be on view in the museum’s royal hall of mummies beginning April 18. Until then, entry to the museum is half price.
See more photos of the parade and the new museum below.
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