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Egyptians await procession of royal mummies to their new home

Some 22 royal mummies will be transported in a major royal procession from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat.

In a major historical event, Egypt will transfer on Dec. 4 several royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. In a solemn procession, 22 royal mummies will be transported, including 18 kings and four queens.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities had earlier this year moved 35,000 artifacts to the museum in Fustat. These included the breastfeeding statue and the birth plate from the era of the New Kingdom; a portion of the oldest skeleton of a mummy’s foot that was attached to a compensatory wood part; statues of King Amenemhat III in the form of the Sphinx; a seated statue of King Thutmose III; a statue of the god Nilus from the Greco-Roman period; 50 lanterns dating back to the Islamic era; a mashrabiya, which is an Islamic architecture oriel window enclosed with carved wood; and some stucco windows with colored glass that were removed from the Citadel.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization also exhibits a variety of small statues, amulets made of blue vines, and a red granite statue of the Seated Scribe with his writing tools.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is one of the most important projects carried out in cooperation with UNESCO, to become one of the largest museums of civilization in Egypt and the Middle East. The museum encompasses all manifestations of the wealth and diversity of Egyptian civilization from prehistoric times to the present day. In 2017, Irina Bokova, who was then the director-general of UNESCO, had inaugurated with the then Egyptian minister of tourism and antiquities a temporary exhibition hall in the museum.

Mohammed al-Kahlawi, head of the General Union of Arab Archaeologists, told Al-Monitor, “Egypt is seeking to tap [into] this royal procession of mummies from the Egyptian Museum to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat to promote Egyptian tourism. But the most important thing is to keep the mummies from sustaining any damage during their transfer. All necessary measures must be taken to preserve their integrity. Add to this, the celebration and procession should rise up to this historical event.”

Kahlawi said these mummies are an added value to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization because they have great scientific and archaeological value and will attract tourists. “The General Union of Arab Archaeologists refuses that Egyptian antiquities be displayed at exhibitions abroad with the aim to collect foreign currency, as their transfer abroad exposes them to danger. This happened in an exhibition in Japan when an earthquake affected all the displayed antiquities. A piece of antiquity must always be displayed on its original site.”

For his part, archaeologist and former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass told Al-Monitor that the transfer of the royal mummies is a global event that will dazzle the world. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be receiving the royal mummies upon their arrival at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, he added.

Transferring the mummies to a new location is a positive move, Hawass says, explaining that each mummy will be displayed alongside the statue of the kings and embalming materials.

Sabah Abdel Razek, director-general of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, explained to Al-Monitor that the transfer of royal mummies will be attended by state leaders and public figures, and the event will be reported in all local and foreign media outlets.

The kings and queens of the New Kingdom (18th to 20th dynasties) were buried in their tombs in Theban Necropolis, but the contents of most of these tombs were looted at the end of the 20th dynasty.

Information on the stolen artifacts was collected during the trials of the thieves. Later, priests of the 21st dynasty wrapped the royal mummies — whose tombs were looted and their gold flakes removed — in scrolls and placed them in their own coffins and in new coffins.

Abdel Razek said mummies and looted treasure were reburied in two caches. In a bid to prevent further desecration and looting, priests of the 21st dynasty moved around 40 royal mummies to a tomb known as the Royal Cache located next to Deir el-Bahri, in the Theban Necropolis.

This Royal Cache was discovered in 1881. It contained royal mummies, some of which are now displayed in the Egyptian Museum, including Seqenenre, Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Thutmose III, Seti I, Ramses II, Ramses III, Ramses IX and the queens of Ahmose-Nefertari.

The second Royal Cache was found in one of the side rooms in the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898. It included the mummies of Amenhotep II, Siptah, Seti II, Ramses IV, Ramses V and Ramses VI.

Abdel Razak said the 22 royal mummies to be transferred to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization belong to the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties.

These are the mummies of King Seqenenre Tao II, Queen Ahmose Nefertari, Queen Meritamen, King Amenhotep I, King Tuthmosis I, King Tuthmosis II, Queen Hatshepsut, King Tuthmosis III, King Amenhotep II, King Tuthmosis IV, King Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye (the Great Royal Wife of the Amenhotep III), King Seti I, King Ramses II, King Merenptah, King Seti II, King Siptah, King Ramses III, King Ramses IV, King Ramses V, King Ramses VI and King Ramses IX.

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