Mummies of Egypt’s royal pharaohs emerged from their tombs Saturday and were paraded across Cairo streets to a new home. What sounds like a movie plot was part of a lavish celebration of Egypt’s heritage and a scheme to move some of the country’s most valuable treasures to a modern high-tech facility. The mummies of Ramses the Great and 21 other pharaohs were part of “The Pharaoh’s Golden Procession,” a widely awaited celebration arranged by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The parade path led them from the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square to their new residence, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in al-Fustat, Egypt’s first Islamic capital.
“This glorious scene is fresh proof of [the Egyptian] people’s glory, the keeper of this remarkable civilization with origins in the depths of history,” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Twitter.
“I invite all Egyptians and the whole world to join this unrivaled gathering, which evokes the spirit of the great ancestors who maintained the homeland and built a civilization in which all mankind takes pride, and to continue on the path that we have begun: the path of construction and humanity.”
According to Egypt’s Ahram Online, along with the 22 royal Egyptian mummies, 17 royal sarcophagi were also carried in the procession, which marched along the Nile River and was followed by chariots and horses.
Sarcophagi are stone coffins that are often embellished with statues and inscriptions. Mummies include Ramses II, Seti I, Seqenenre, Tuthmosis III, and four queens: Ahmose-Nefertari, Tiye, Meritamun, and Hatshepsut.
The march was preceded by 21-gun salutes and was accompanied by a military band. The mummies were carried in specially decorated cars with their names written in both ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Arabic. The couchettes holding the mummies that took part in the parade is discovered in two couchettes. The first, tomb TT320, was found in 1881 at Deir El-Bahari in Luxor’s West Bank.
The 22 royal mummies are all from the New Kingdom, a period when tombs were constructed underground with secret doors to keep grave robbers at bay. The parade’s aim was to transport Egypt’s 18 kings and four queens, along with their coffins and possessions, from their previous home at The Egyptian Museum. The royal mummies were prepared by a team of 48 people headed by Dr. Mostafa Ismail, head of conservation at the NMEC’s Mummies Conservation Lab and Storeroom.
According to CNN, the survival process entails putting each mummy in an oxygen-free, nitrogen capsule “which will keep it preserved without being destroyed from the effects of humidity, particularly when we’re talking about bacteria, fungi, and insects.”
The capsule is encased in a soft plastic that distributes friction and dampens vibrations during transportation.
When the mummies arrive at the NMEC, the show devices will be held under the same conditions as the nitrogen capsules, “because there will be no shock for the mummy when we take it out of the box and place it in these units,” Ismail says.
Each mummy will be accompanied by any possessions found alongside them, including their coffins.
CT scans will also be shown, revealing what is under the covers and any fractures of bones or ailments that plagued the royals.