Last Saturday night, the streets of Cairo, Egypt were brightly lit with a very unusual celebration – a parade of mummies. Over 20 kings and queens of ancient Egypt were being moved to their new home in a new museum.
For over 100 years, the preserved bodies of many of the ancient rulers of Egypt have been kept in the Egyptian Museum near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. But over time, the museum has become crowded. It has so many items that it can’t show them all.
On Saturday night, 18 kings and four queens who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years ago were carefully moved to their new home in the Royal Mummies Hall at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).
The event, called the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, was a huge deal in Egypt. The government has been planning the event for a long time. There was music, dancing, and fireworks. Horse-drawn chariots joined in the parade, which was lit by special lights.
The mummies were moved in the same order in which they ruled Egypt. They were carried in trucks that had been made to look like ancient golden boats. Each vehicle had the name of the mummy inside written in Arabic, English, and the ancient Egyptian writing called hieroglyphics.
In spite of all the show, moving the mummies was a serious business. The streets for the 3-mile (5-kilometer) trip had been paved to keep the ride smooth. Each vehicle also had special shock absorbers to make the ride even smoother. Inside the cars, the mummies were sealed in special cases to protect them from the air outside.
At their new home, the mummies were met by Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. There was singing and dancing and videos by famous Egyptians. The whole event was carried live on TV and over the internet.
The event also marked the official opening of NMEC, which has only been partly opened since 2017.
But just as importantly, the parade was meant to remind people around the world of Egypt’s famous history. The country hopes that the big show will encourage tourists to begin visiting the country again.
Egypt has long counted on tourists to bring money into the country. In recent years, it has struggled as tourist numbers have dropped. Part of that is because of protests against the government, and the government’s violent response to those protests. But over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has cut the number of visitors far more.
Without much money from outside, the country and its people are struggling. That was a hidden story during Saturday night’s parade. Many local people weren’t allowed to view the parade in person. Several areas along the parade’s path were blocked off by large plastic screens so that the poor areas wouldn’t be seen on TV.
The mummies are now resting inside the NMEC building. Over the next two weeks, scientists will check the mummies to make sure they survived the trip without trouble. The Royal Mummies Hall will open to the public on April 18.
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