Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, is known for being home to one of the famous Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – The Great Pyramids. Lining the banks of the Nile River, the city contains innumerable ancient treasures. Preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic history, Cairo is nicknamed ‘The City of a Thousand Minarets’ for its preponderance of stunningly beautiful Islamic architectures, rich history and culture.
Celebrating the long-awaited opening ceremony of its National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, the Cairenes welcomed 22 of their age-old, dead kings and queens with a lavish, multimillion-dollar spectacle procession.
On April 3, a grand procession took place in the capital to transport the mummified remains of 22 ancient Egyptian royal pharaohs – 18 kings and four queens. The five-km procession started from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, where these mummies rested for decades, and continued to their new home where they were being shifted, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. The grand golden and black coloured floats that carried these mummies were decorated in their ancient style resembling a glitzy war chariot.
Also Read: How Were Mummies Made in Ancient Egypt?
Discovered near Luxor from 1881 onwards, these 22 mummies have since then been moved multiple times until they were finally laid at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. But over time, due to the increasing number of archaeological findings, the Egyptian Museum started to lose its ability to fully preserve the artefacts placed in it due to lack of space and proper maintenance facilities. This prompted the government to construct new museums, including the Grand Egyptian Museum and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC). “In their new home, they will occupy slightly upgraded cases, with temperature controllers,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.
The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade transported the royals in chronological order. Seqenenre Tao II, ‘the Brave’, who reigned over southern Egypt about 1,600 years before Christ led the procession. Following his chariot was Ramses II, dubbed Rameses the Great, who led Egypt into prosperity during his reign in 13th century BC. The golden line-up also included Queen Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful women who ruled ancient Egypt. The procession closed with the 12 century BC pharaoh, Ramses IX.
Emblazoned with the name of their allocated sovereign, each mummy sat inside a nitrogen-filled box. The purpose of the gas was to protect these mummies from exposure to oxygen and prevent them from decomposing during the 45-minute journey. These gold-coloured carriages were also equipped with shock-absorbers to ensure none of these precious cargos are accidentally disturbed by uneven surfaces. The route was also completely repaved for the occasion, to keep the journey smooth.
Following the transports, these ancient rulers underwent 15 days of laboratory restoration before making their public debut on April
Many scholars expressed unhappiness with the idea of mummies being displayed for the public, arguing that exhibiting the bodies might desecrate the dead. On the other hand, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay who witnessed the parade said, “This raises emotions that go much further than the mere relocation of a collection – we will see the history of Egyptian civilization unfold before our eyes.“
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