A grand parade conveyed 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies in special capsules across the capital Cairo on Saturday to a new museum home where they can be displayed in greater splendour.
The convoy transported 18 kings and four queens, mostly from the New Kingdom, from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat, about 5km to the southeast.
Authorities shut down roads along the Nile for the elaborate ceremony, designed to drum up interest in Egypt’s rich collections of antiquities when tourism has almost entirely stalled because of Covid-19 related restrictions.
As the royal mummies arrived at the museum, which was officially inaugurated on Saturday, cannons fired a 21-gun salute. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stood by as the mummies filed past on vehicles bedecked with golden pharaonic motifs.
A performer dressed in ancient Egyptian costume awaits the start of the parade of ancient Egyptian royal mummies departing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Photograph: Getty
Performers in ancient Egyptian garb at the start of the parade. Photograph: Getty
Heads of the UN cultural agency Unesco and the World Tourism Organisation were also present at the ceremony.
Each mummy had been placed in a special capsule filled with nitrogen to ensure protection, said Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass.
They were carried on vehicles designed to cradle them and provide stability.
“We chose the civilization museum because we want, for the first time, to display the mummies in a civilised manner, an educated manner, and not for amusement as they were in the Egyptian Museum,” said Mr Hawass.
The Obelisk of Ramses in Tahrir Square illuminated for the parade. Photograph: Getty
The Obelisk of Ramses II (surrounded by four ancient sandstone sphinxes extracted from the Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor) in Tahrir Square. Photograph: Getty
Archaeologists discovered the mummies in two batches at the complex of mortuary temples of Deir Al Bahari in Luxor and at the nearby Valley of the Kings from 1871.
The oldest is that of Seqenenre Tao, the last king of the 17th Dynasty, who reigned in the 16th century BC and is thought to have met a violent death.
The parade also included the mummies of Ramses II, Seti I, and Ahmose-Nefertari.
Fustat, the home of the new museum, was the site of Egypt’s capital under the Umayyad dynasty after the Arab conquest.
“By doing it like this, with great pomp and circumstance, the mummies are getting their due,” said Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo.
“These are the kings of Egypt, these are the pharaohs. And so, it is a way of showing respect. – Reuters