Egypt staged a spectacular parade to celebrate the transport of 22 of its ancient royal mummies through the capital, Cairo, to their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Crowds gathered on Saturday to witness the multi-million dollar spectacle of the 18 kings and four queens making the 7 km (four mile) journey to their new resting place.
Under high security, the mummified remains of the pharaohs and other members of the royal family were transported in temperature-controlled crates loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic motifs for the hour-long journey from their former home. in the ancient Egyptian museum.
The vehicles were designed to resemble the ancient ships used to transport deceased pharaohs to their graves.
‘What a night’
The “Golden Parade of the Pharaohs” was broadcast live on the country’s public television and other satellite channels, as well as on official social media platforms.
Salima Ikram, head of the Egyptology unit at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the show was “extremely moving.”
“In a way, people are very proud of what they see,” she said. “So while there was some major expense, I think the return may be pretty good in the long run.”
Archaeologist Nigel Hetherington shared the enthusiasm. “What a night, absolutely amazing – just wants you to be in Egypt,” he told Al Jazeera from Cumbria in the UK after following the proceedings online.
“When these mummies were transferred to the museum after they were found, of course we have photos and the like, but that’s not the same as actually being a witness. It truly is a momentous occasion, ”said Hetherington.
“You can imagine they’ve been working on it for a very long time and I think they succeeded – there was the show but we also felt it was all done safely; obviously, they are irreplaceable royal ancestors, so all the necessary precautions had to be taken.
Most of the mummies belong to the Old New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BC and 1075 BC, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.
Among them were Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only female pharaoh – who wore a false beard to overcome the tradition requiring women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.
The mummies were originally buried around 3,000 years ago in secret tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the nearby site of Deir el-Bahri. Both areas are close to the southern city of Luxor. The graves were first excavated in the 19th century.
After the excavations, the mummies were taken to Cairo by boats that sailed on the Nile. Some were displayed in display cases, while others were stored.
The remains of Ramses II were transported to Paris in 1976 for intensive restoration work by French scientists.
‘Proof of greatness’
The parade made for television was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by showcasing its ancient artifacts.
The tourism industry has been rocked by political unrest following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
“With great pride, I look forward to welcoming the kings and queens of Egypt after their trip,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on Twitter shortly before the debates began.
“This grandiose spectacle is further proof of the greatness … of a unique civilization that extends into the depths of history,” he added.
The parade circled Tahrir Square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to now decorate Cairo’s most famous square.
“Once again, Egypt dazzles the world with an unparalleled event,” movie star Hussein Fahmy said in an official promotional video.
Once at the new museum, 20 of the mummies will be on display, while the remaining two will be stored, according to the ministry.