Stage set for Egypt’s pharaonic ‘Golden Parade’

Mounted ceremonial policemen stand in waiting along the parade area near the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, in the center of Egypt’s capital Cairo on April 3, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
CAIRO, Egypt — The mummified remains of 22 pharaohs, including Egypt’s most powerful ancient queen, were to be paraded through the streets of Cairo on Saturday, in a procession to a new resting place.اضافة اعلان

Under the watchful eyes of security forces, the mummies will be moved seven kilometers across the capital from the iconic Egyptian Museum, where most have resided uninterrupted for over a century, to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Dubbed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, the 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style.

The interior ministry said both pedestrians and vehicles would be barred from Tahrir Square, site of the current museum, and other sections of the parade route, ahead of the 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) start.

“The whole world will be watching,” said Egyptian archaeologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who will commentate as the event unfolds live on state television.

Seqenenre Tao II, “the Brave”, who reigned over southern Egypt some 1,600 years before Christ, will be on the first chariot, while Ramses IX, who reigned in the 12th century BC, will bring up the rear.

Another great warrior, Ramses II, who ruled for 67 years, and Queen Hatshepsut, the most powerful female pharaoh, will also make the journey.

The gold-colored carriages will be fitted with shock absorbers for the 40-minute trip, to ensure none of the precious cargos are accidentally disturbed on Cairo’s roads.

‘Raises emotions’

Discovered near Luxor from 1881 onwards, fascinating new details of the pharaohs’ lives -- and deaths -- are still emerging.

A high-tech study of Seqenenre Tao II, involving CT scans and 3D images of his hands and long-studied skull fractures, indicate he was likely killed in an execution ceremony, after being captured in battle.

For their procession through Cairo’s streets as night falls with no rain forecast, the mummies will be in special containers filled with nitrogen, under conditions similar to their regular display cases.

Lines of floodlights were visible opposite the gated entrance to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization early on Saturday afternoon.

The new resting place consists of sleek, low-rise buildings topped with a pyramid amid expansive grounds.

The mummies will be showcased individually in their new home, in an environment redolent of underground tombs. 

They will also be signposted by a brief biography.

Upon arrival, they will occupy “slightly upgraded cases,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

Temperature and humidity control will also be enhanced.

The “museum has what it takes to preserve [mummies], the best laboratories... It is one of the best museums we have,” Waleed El-Batoutti, advisor to the tourism and antiquities ministry, told state television.

‘Curse of the Pharaoh’

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization opened its doors to limited exhibits from 2017 and will open fully on Sunday, before the mummies go on display to the general public from April 18.

In the coming months, the country is due to inaugurate another new showcase, the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza pyramids.

It too will house pharaonic collections, including the celebrated treasure of Tutankhamun.

Discovered in 1922, the tomb of the young ruler, who took the throne briefly in the 14th century BC, contained treasures including gold and ivory.

A so-called “curse of the pharaoh” emerged in the wake of Tutankhamun’s unearthing in 1922-23.

A key funder of the dig, Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning months after the tomb was opened, while an early visitor likewise died abruptly in 1923.

With the planned parade coming only days after several disasters struck Egypt, some have inevitably speculated on social media about a new curse provoked by the latest move. 

The past days have seen a deadly rail collision and a building collapse in Cairo, while global headlines were dominated by the struggle to refloat the giant container ship MV Ever Given which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week.

The parade came the same day as the Suez Canal Authority announced that a shipping traffic jam caused by the container vessel accident has been cleared.

The mummies’ re-housing “marks the end of much work to improve their conservation and exhibition,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who will attend Saturday’s ceremony.

“This raises emotions that go much further than the mere relocation of a collection -- we will see the history of Egyptian civilisation unfold before our eyes.”