The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade (Mohamed Mokhtar, Egypt, ITP Senior Fellow 2019)

Written by Mohamed Mokhtar, Curator, Abdeen Palace Museums (Egypt, ITP Fellow 2015, Senior Fellow 2019)

I am thrilled to write to the ITP network about this exceptional event: the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade which was held on the 3rd of April 2021 in Cairo. The event was not only about the movement of Egyptian royal mummies but also the inauguration of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in El Fustat in Old Cairo, which I worked for 12 years as a curator. The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to its final destination in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Performers Ancient Egyptian costumes lead the The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade

The parade included 22 royal mummies and 17 royal coffins dating back to 17th, 18th 19th and 20th dynasties. 18 of mummies were kings and 4 were queens, which belong to the Ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BC to 1075 BC.

The mummies were originally buried around 3,000 years ago in secret tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site. Both areas are near the southern city of Luxor in the south of Egypt. The tombs were first excavated in the 19th century. After excavation, the mummies were taken to Cairo by boats that sailed the Nile. Some were showcased in glass cases, while others were stored. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Egyptian Government thought about moving the Royal Mummies to NMEC and to design a new hall to exhibit each and every mummy with their coffin, in addition to other belongings found for each king and queen.

King Ramsees II was among the Royal Mummies Parade

The preparation for the parade took months to ensure that all the details were done in a good manner. The logo of the parade was inspired by ancient Egyptian beliefs as it consisted of the sacred scarab and the falcon wings, symbolising eternity and resurrection. The colours chosen were dark blue and gold, representing ancient Egyptian deities. According to ancient Egyptian belief, the gods have skin made of gold and hair made of the precious stone, Lapis Lazuli.

The carriage carrying the mummy of the pharaoh Amenhotep I (1225-1504 BC) advances as a part of the parade of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies.

The mummies were transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic designs for the hour-long journey.

Before the arrival of the royal mummies at NMEC, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Khaled el Enany, gave a brief explanation about the Core Exhibition Gallery to the President of Egypt Abdel-Fatah El Sisi, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, and the Director-General of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Zurab Pololikashvili.

The Minster explained that NMEC is one of the largest international museums, as well as the only museum of its kind in Egypt, the Arab world, the Middle East and Africa. It includes all the manifestations of the richness and diversity enjoyed by the Egyptian civilization during various eras starting from pre- historic eras to the present time and he confirmed that the royal mummies transported in the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade will be housed in a new hall in NMEC labelled Royal Mummies Hall.

 The mummies will undergo 15 days of laboratory restoration before they are showcased individually in their new home, in an environment reminiscent of underground tombs. The Mummies Hall will receive visitors from 18 April 2021, which coincides with World Heritage Day.

Tahrir Square in front of the Egyptian Museum adorned with King Ramses II obelisk and four sphinxes

The parade started with the opening of the Egyptian Museum main gates to the special decorated vehicles which carried the royal mummies, decorated with their names inscribed in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as well as in Arabic. Horse carts roamed the area in front of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, which was adorned by a 19-meter-high Ramses II obelisk surrounded by four sphinxes. The brave Egyptian knights are moved with pride in the breath taking Pharaohs’ Golden Parade. The parade featured a moving performance by the United Philharmonic Orchestra, which included 120 musicians and 100 singers performing a new composition by Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih. 

The United Philharmonic Orchestra performing during the ceremony of Pharaoh’s Golden Parade

The show was also accompanied by outstanding dances staged in major tourist destinations and epic archaeological sites such as the Grand Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, and the Pyramid of Djoser.

The 22 Royal mummies started their last magical journey roaming the Cairo streets. The parade was greeted by Egyptians who came to see their Kings and Queens moving to NMEC. A ceremonial 21-gun salute was performed upon the arrival of the royal mummies at their new residence.

Core Exhibition Gallery opened in NMEC during the Pharaoh’s Parade

From April 4 and until April 17, a 50 percent discount on the price of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization ticket is granted to Egyptians and foreigners to visit the Core Exhibition Hall [Main Hall].

I would like to thank all my colleagues and friends in the Egyptian Museum and in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization for their wonderful efforts to bring this event to the level befitting of the civilization of Egypt.

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