A historic parade of royal mummies began on Saturday from Tahrir Square in Cairo to reach the new home of the 22 pharaohs at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), according to images on state television.
The convoy, made up of black vehicles adorned with golden and luminous patterns reminiscent of ancient funeral vessels, left under tight security shortly after 8 p.m. (local time). In addition to numerous police vehicles, a mounted guard supervises the route of the remains of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt.
The journey of about seven kilometers to the NMEC was to take about 40 minutes, aboard Pharaonic-style tanks.
“The whole world will watch this”, rejoiced the famous Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass.
Tahrir Square, recently decorated with an ancient obelisk and four ram-headed sphinxes, has been closed “to vehicles and pedestrians”, according to the authorities. The Egyptians were able to watch the parade on television or on the internet.
In chronological order, the pharaoh Seqenenre Tâa (16th century BC), nicknamed “the courageous”, led the way, closed by Ramses IX (12th century BC).
Among the most famous mummies are those of the famous Hatshepsut and Ramses II. The reign of Hatshepsut, about 20 years (1479-1458 BC), was marked by an increase in trade. Ramses II, great warrior king and one of the most powerful pharaohs, reigned 67 years (1301-1236 BC).
The event was accompanied by musical performances by Egyptian artists.
The NMEC, which occupies a large building south of Cairo, is due to open on April 4. But the mummies will not be on public display until April 18.
The Director General of Unesco Audrey Azoulay, present in Cairo on Saturday, said in a statement that the move of the mummies to the NMEC was “the culmination of a long work to better preserve them and better display them”. A work in which UNESCO participated.
Discovered near Luxor (south) from 1881, most of the 22 mummies had not left Tahrir Square since the beginning of the 20th century.
Since the 1950s, they were exhibited there in a small room, without clear museographic explanations.
The mummies will each travel in a chariot bearing the name of the sovereign and equipped with shock absorption mechanisms, in an envelope containing nitrogen to preserve them.
At the NMEC, they will appear in more modern boxes “for a better temperature and humidity control than in the old museum”, explains to AFP Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University of Cairo, specialist of mummification.
They will be presented alongside their sarcophagi, in a setting reminiscent of the underground tombs of kings, with a biography and objects linked to the sovereigns.
The macabre nature of the mummies has in the past put off more than one visitor. “I will never forget when I took (Princess) Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, to the museum: she closed her eyes and ran away,” says Mr. Hawass.
Curse of the pharaohs
After years of political instability linked to the popular uprising of 2011, which dealt a heavy blow to tourism, Egypt is seeking to bring back visitors, in particular by promoting culture.
In addition to the NMEC, Egypt is due to inaugurate within a few months the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) near the pyramids of Giza, which will house Pharaonic collections.
According to Walid el-Batoutti, advisor to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, the parade “shows that after thousands of years, Egypt retains great respect for its leaders,” he said on the public channel. Nile TV international.
The grand parade, announced by authorities using online videos, caused a stir on social media.
Under the hashtag in Arabic # malédiction_des_pharaons, many Internet users have associated the recent disasters in Egypt with a “curse” which would have been caused by the displacement of the mummies.
In one week, Egypt experienced the blockage of the Suez Canal by a container ship, a train accident that left 18 dead in Sohag (south) and the collapse of a building in Cairo which resulted in death of at least 25 people.
The “curse of the pharaoh” had already been mentioned in the 1920s after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, followed by the deaths considered mysterious of members of the team of archaeologists.