Both Tahrir Square, recently decorated with an old obelisk and four goat-headed sphinxes, and its surroundings have been closed “to vehicles and pedestrians”, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Upon their arrival, kings and queens were greeted by 21 cannons.
The Egyptians were able to follow the parade of 18 kings and four queens on state TV, which featured a carefully choreographed opening ceremony. Several Egyptian artists participated in the event with musical performances.
“This grandiose spectacle is yet another proof of the greatness of a unique civilization that reaches the depths of history”, reacted on Twitter the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al Sisi.
In chronological order, the pharaoh Sekenenré Taá (16th century BC), from the 17th dynasty, opened the procession, closed by Ramses IX (12th century BC), from the 20th.
NMEC, which occupies a large building south of Cairo, opened partially in 2017, will open its doors on Sunday, April 4, but the mummies will not be exposed to the public until April 18.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, present at the parade, said in a statement on Friday that the transfer of the mummies to NMEC was “the culmination of a long effort to preserve and display them better”.
“The history of Egyptian civilization parades before our eyes,” added the leader of the UN organization, which participated in the creation of NMEC.
Most of the 22 mummies, discovered near Luxor, in southern Egypt, since 1881, have not left the museum in the center of Cairo, located in the famous Tahrir Square, since the beginning of the 20th century.
Since the 1950s, they were exposed, side by side, in a small room, without clear museum explanations to the visitor.
The mummies were transported each in a special tank named after the sovereign and equipped with impact absorption mechanisms, in a capsule containing nitrogen to preserve them.
At NMEC, they will be displayed in more modern coffins “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.
The mummies will be presented individually, next to their sarcophagi, in an environment that resembles the underground tombs of kings, and each one will have a biography and objects related to the sovereigns.
After years of political instability after the popular uprising in 2011, which severely affected tourism in the country, Egypt is looking for a way to encourage the return of visitors, in particular by promoting culture.
In addition to NMEC, Egypt is due to open within a few months the Great Egyptian Museum (GEM), close to the pyramids of Giza, which will house pharaonic collections.
According to Walid al Batuti, adviser to the Minister of Tourism and Antiques, the parade “shows that after thousands of years, Egypt retains great respect for its leaders,” he told Nile TV International. The grand parade, announced by the authorities through online videos, caused a sensation on social networks.
With the Arabic hashtag #maldicao_dos_faraos, many netizens associated the recent catastrophes that occurred in Egypt with 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 cargo ship, a railway accident that left 18 dead 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 Tutankhamun’s tomb, followed by the mysterious deaths of members of the team of archaeologists.
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