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With information from Estadão

A historic parade of royal mummies from the New Kingdom (16th to 11th centuries BC) filled Tahrir Square in Cairo last Saturday, 3. The ceremony served as the transfer of 22 pharaohs to The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), their new home. The convoy, which left shortly after 8 pm, consisted of black vehicles adorned with gold and luminous ornaments reminiscent of old funerary boats.

Beyond several police cars, horse-mounted guards accompanied the procession of ancient Egypt’s kings and queens. There was also music by a group of live drums and the Cairo Opera Symphony Orchestra, which gave the soundtrack to the so-called “Golden Parade”.

Tahrir Square and its surroundings have been closed to vehicles and pedestrians, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Upon arrival, the mummies of kings and queens were greeted with 21 cannon shots.

The Egyptians had to follow the parade of 18 kings and four queens on state television, which presented a carefully choreographed opening ceremony. “This grandiose spectacle is yet another proof of the greatness […] of a unique civilization that reaches the depths of history”, said Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi, on Twitter.

In chronological order, Pharaoh Seqenenre Taa (16th century BC) opened the procession, closed by Ramses IX (12th century BC). Several Egyptian artists participated in the event with musical numbers. The NMEC which occupies a large building south of Cairo, partially opened in 2017, will open its doors on April 4. But the mummies will not be on public display until April 18.

Preservation

Discovered near Luxor (south) from 1881, most of the 22 mummies have not left Tahrir Square since the early 20th century. Since the 1950s, they have been exhibited in a small room, without clear museum explanations. The mummies were each transferred into a special tank, named after the sovereign, and equipped with shock-absorbing mechanisms, in an envelope containing nitrogen to preserve them.

At NMEC, they will be displayed in more modern drawers “for better control of temperature and humidity than in the old museum”, Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University of Cairo, a specialist in mummification, told AFP. They will be presented individually along with their sarcophagi, in an environment that resembles the underground tombs of kings, with biography and objects related to the sovereigns.

In addition to NMEC, Egypt is due to open in a few months the Great Egyptian Museum (GEM), close to the Pyramids of Guizeh, which will house pharaonic collections. According to Walid al Batuti, advisor to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, the parade “shows that even after thousands of years, Egypt maintains a great respect for its leaders.

Curse of the Pharaohs

The grand parade, announced by the authorities through online videos, caused a sensations on social networks.

Under the Arabic hashtag #curses_of_pharaohs, many internet users have linked the recent catastrophes that occurred in Egypt to a “curse” that would have been caused by the displacement of the mummies. Within a week, Egypt experienced the blockade of the Suez Canal by a container ship, a train accident that caused 18 deaths in Sohag (south), and the collapse of a building in Cairo that killed at least 25 people.

The “curse of the pharaoh” had already been evoked in the 1920s after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, followed by deaths considered mysterious by members of the team of archaeologists. The curse of the pharaohs or the mummy’s curse is alleged to be cast upon anyone who disturbs the mummy of an ancient Egyptian, especially a pharaoh

See the full parade

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