Cairo Celebrates Long-Awaited Opening of its National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation
A few days ago, Cairo celebrated the anticipated opening of its National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation with a procession of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies, transported during the three-mile ‘Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square across the city to their new resting place, where they will be displayed later this month.
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. Each of the 18 kings and four queens had their 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.
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.
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, the 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 according to Intisar al-Sissi, Egypt’s first lady, “expresses the greatness of the ancient civilisation that provided humanity, and still does, with a unique and diverse legacy, contributing to its progress and prosperity.”
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. Urban planner, Ahmed Zaazaa observes, “There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality.”
Egypt began building the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in 2002, and though the project faced numerous delays, it has begun welcoming visitors to view its 1,500. The mummies will be on view in the museum’s royal hall of mummies beginning 18 April. Until then, entry to the museum is half price.
June 21, 2021