Riding on the beautiful golden carriages, regal and majestic, commanding a reverence befitting only the grandest of emperors and empresses, the 22 mummies of the Royal Pharaohs were carried from the Cairo Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization on the evening of the third of April. Looking at the grand parade and its entourage, it was almost difficult to believe that it was the ‘mummies’ of the Pharaohs and not the Pharaohs themselves driving past, who ruled Egypt thousands of years ago.
Interestingly, the importance of the Egyptian Pharaohs has only grown with time in the modern world. For anyone as interested in ancient Egypt as myself, their presence can be felt everywhere as they have a powerful aura. From the magnificent pyramids in Giza and Saqqara to the absolutely breathtaking temples in Luxor and the burial chambers in the valley of the Kings to the universities and research institutions to the artists and artisans of modern Egypt and to the bazaars and souvenir shops filled with their symbols on art and crafts, it seems that everything is still connected to the Pharaohs. They never left the place and in fact remain the custodians of the most amazing secrets of their civilization, their absolute genius, their inexplicable achievements and their boundless knowledge.
It was captivating to see Egypt paying befitting tribute to them in the fascinating Pharaoh’s Golden Parade. The mummies of 18 Kings and four queens were taken in the order of their reign, through the streets of Cairo on a seven kilometer stretch of carefully carpeted road, to the new museum, to be shifted to their upgraded and enhanced chambers in an environment resembling their underground tombs in the valley of the kings and preserved with utmost care in their final resting place.
Most of the royal mummies belonged to the new kingdom which ruled between 1539 BC to 1075 BC. The mummies of the Royal Pharaohs shifted included Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, Seqenenre Tao II, Ramses II, King Seti I, Queen Hatshepsut and many others.
The parade was enchanting, a coming out event for Egypt. After the long and depressing last year the parade was an amazing effort to revive the spirits of the Egyptians and to make them proud of their heritage all over again and become a beacon of hope for a better future.
“A unique global event that will not be repeated,” said Khaled El-Anany, Minister of Antiquities and Tourism.
It was unique indeed for where else can you witness royal emperors and empresses escorted through the streets of their old kingdoms and being saluted by the uniformed guards thousands of years after their death.
The lavish multi-million dollar event had tight security arrangements and no vehicles or persons were allowed on the roads. The parade was beautifully choreographed and flawlessly executed. The dances and performances on the floats on river Nile added magic to the night but the pre recorded songs and documentaries telecasted were also superb.
The President of Egypt, ministers and other officials were present in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and viewed the parade inside on huge TV screens in the central hall where it was televised live. Hundreds of cameras captured the various aspects of the parade and it was an absolutely brilliant telecast watched live by millions of viewers around the world. The event also included the magnificent performance of the United Philharmonic Orchestra led by Egyptian maestro Nader Abbasi and composed by Egyptian artist Hisham Nazih and it included 120 musicians and one hundred singers.
The Royal mummies of pharaohs were received at the entrance of the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization by President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. A twenty one gun salute was presented to the entourage of royal mummies. Each carriage designed like a golden chariot displayed their names in Arabic, English and hieroglyphs. Women dressed in beautiful ensembles, resembling ancient Egyptian courtiers were lined in queues holding flowers to welcome the carriages. Each casket inside the carriage carrying the mummies was carefully filled with nitrogen to ensure maximum protection. The entourage was accompanied by hundreds of horses and motorcycles.
The Royal mummies were carried inside the museum with great reverence and honour quite like a royal entourage returning to their palace.
The parade was undoubtedly a demonstration to the world of the great importance that Egyptians attach to their civilization and the treasures it holds not only for Egypt but for the whole world. Ancient Egyptian civilization and the secrets of the pharaohs will always be a source of astonishment for the world.
Watching the entourage live, I was quite moved to see the carriage of Queen Hatshepsut among others. Queen Hatshepsut, herself was an extraordinary empress and a legend among the pharaohs. Her temple in Luxor is a miracle of construction and one that is awestruck of her majesty just by standing there. To see her name on the golden carriage resembling the ancient Pharaonic boats made it feel like she was inside and aware of the esteem she commanded. Similarly seeing the names of famous Pharaohs like Rameses II and KIng Seti was quite an extraordinary experience.
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization looked spectacular with the decorative lights and the fanfare. It has been build with the support of UNESCO and holds some of the most valuable treasures of Egyptian civilization from the Pharaonic times to the Roman and Muslim eras.
Other than the NMEC, there has been massive restoration work done by the present government on many other important museums, cathedrals, Jewish synagogues and monuments. Djoser’s pyramid has been restored which is again a priceless site. Hanging church of Virgin Mary and Baron Empire palace has also been restored in Cairo. All these efforts by the Egyptian government are extremely commendable and it has been made possible by the personal interest and involvement of President Sisi.
"I invite all Egyptians and the whole world to follow this unrivalled event – evoking the spirit of the great ancestors who preserved the homeland and created a civilization in which all humanity takes pride – to keep on our path that we have started: the path of construction and humanity," stated President Sisi at the inauguration.
Indeed the Egyptian monuments, sites and the relics of old civilizations are a collective heritage that belongs to all of mankind and I am just grateful that they are safer now for the future generation to see and treasure.
* Noreen Haider is a Pakistani writer