Majestic Cairo parade as mummies move museum

AFP / Khaled Desouki

A grand parade will convey 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies in specially designed capsules across the capital Cairo on Saturday to a new museum home where they can be displayed in greater splendour.

The convoy will transport 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 south-east.

Authorities are shutting 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.

Each mummy will be placed in a special capsule filled with nitrogen to ensure protection, and the capsules will be carried on carts designed to cradle them and provide stability, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said.

"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," he said.

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 will also include the mummies of Ramses II, Seti I, and Ahmose-Nefertari.

Fustat 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." 

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