Glitzy parade of 22 mummified pharaohs fills Cairo streets

Twenty-two mummified kings and queens were paraded through Egypt’s capital city of Cairo on April 3, each “float” resembling a glitzy war chariot.

The 18 kings and four queens were moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, located about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away, BBC News reported. The parade proceeded down the River Nile and included royalty from the 17th to the 20th dynasties of ancient Egypt, which took place between 3,500 and 3,100 years ago, CBS News reported.

Each mummy sat inside a nitrogen-filled box atop a decorated vehicle, which was equipped with shock-absorbers, BBC News reported; the nitrogen was intended to protect the mummies, since exposure to oxygen can cause decomposition. The parade route had also been repaved for the occasion, to minimize jostling. 

Related: In photos: ‘Cachette of the priests’ discovered in Luxor 

The vehicles lined up in order of each ruler’s reign, starting with the 17th-century ruler Seqenenre Taa II; the lineup also included the famous pharaohs King Ramesses II and Queen Hatshepsut. Most of the mummies were originally discovered in the late 1800s in modern-day Luxor, the site of ancient Egypt’s capital, Thebes, which is home to the royal burial site called Valley of the Kings.

“They have already seen a lot of movement in Cairo and before that in Thebes, where they were moved from their own tombs to other sepulchres for safety,” Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, told BBC News.

When the mummies were first transported from Thebes to Cairo in the 19th century, those transporting the preserved bodies had to fool customs officials by labeling the containers as “salted fish,” archaeologist Zahi Hawass told CBS News. After initially being placed in the Bulaq Museum, the mummies were moved to the Egyptian Museum in 1902; there they stayed until the parade on April 3, 2021.

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The mummies will now be housed in the Royal Hall of Mummies in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and the exhibit will open to the public on April 18, BBC News reported. Two of the 22 mummies, Queen Meritamun and Queen T, will be placed in storage, but the remaining mummies will be on display.

“The new showroom is more like a one-way circle maze. All the walls are black, with spotlights on the mummies,” Sayed Abu-El Fadal, a spokesman for the NMEC, told CBS News. “It is designed like the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.”

Not all scholars agree that mummies should be on display, but instead argue that exhibiting the bodies desecrates the dead. Read more at BBC and CBS News.  

Originally published on Live Science.

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