22 Mummies Are Moved in a Glittering Show in Cairo

CAIRO – Downtown Cairo almost came to a standstill on Saturday night as 22 mummies were moved from a museum they had lived in for more than a century to new homes and transported on bespoke vehicles in a glittering, carefully planned procession.

The fanfare – broadcast live on state television and accompanied by a military band, a 21-cannon salute, and a host of Egyptian A-list celebrities – served as something of a grand opening for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which houses the oldest monarchs of the Landes lived were set ashore and an invitation to tourists to return to Cairo after the pandemic.

“These are the mummies of kings and queens who ruled Egypt during the golden age,” said Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquities who oversaw the discovery of tombs that go back thousands of years. “It’s a thrill, everyone will be watching.”

All but many Egyptians.

The five-mile walk to the new museum lay sections of working-class neighborhoods that were deliberately hidden from the parade, evoking the great gap between Egypt’s celebrated past and its uncertain present.

Banners proclaiming the “Pharaohs Golden Parade” and large national flags prevented television viewers from looking into the impoverished areas of Cairo and prevented local residents from seeing the polished television spectacle. At one point, plastic grids at least 10 feet high were mounted on scaffolding to fill gaps in a cream colored wall.

“They set it up to hide us,” said Mohammed Saad, a local resident who stood with two friends a few meters behind a barrier that separated them from the newly swept road through which the ancestral parade would roll.

Two security officers confirmed that no one was allowed to leave the surrounding neighborhoods or step into the streets to watch the parade. “You can see on a screen,” offered one of them.

In a television interview, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt credited President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for seeing the public procession as a way to withdraw tourists after the coronavirus pandemic halted international travel last year would have.

The spectacle also underlined the economic and social divisions in the Egyptian capital.

“There is a tendency to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality,” said city planner Ahmed Zaazaa of the government’s efforts to create a public image. “The government says they are reforming, but the vast majority of the people in Cairo who live in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.”

Egyptian television reported non-stop on the parade preparations and emphasized how the news reverberated abroad. The images were combined with dramatic themed music and a flow of information about the 22 kings and queens who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

The ancient kings who were on the move included Ramses II, the longest reigning pharaoh, and Queen Hatshepsut, one of the few female pharaohs in Egypt.

After sunset, crowds gathered in downtown Cairo, including enthusiastic young families who were bringing their children, hoping to get a glimpse of the historic moment.

“It’s a one-off event. These are our ancestors. “Said Sarah Zaher, who came with three friends.

But many of those who gathered were hit by police barricades and turned back.

A uniformed officer yelled, “If you want to watch, watch the TV.” Disappointed, the crowds withdrew to nearby coffee houses to watch TV or their phones.

Nada Rashwan contributed to the coverage.

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