Egypt’s most famous pharaohs and queens – which were buried about 3,000 years ago – are being relocated to a new resting place with a spectacular procession through Cairo.
The lavish parade of 22 ancient royal mummies, including the most famous King Ramses II, went from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo to a massive new museum 5km away.
The historic ceremony, designed to showcase the country’s rich heritage, snaked along the Nile to the newly-opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation at the edge of the city.
It’s hoped the new museum will help reboot Egypt’s tourism sector which has been affected by a decade of political turbulence and more recently has been struggling because of the COVID pandemic.
The mummies were transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic design for the hour-long journey from their previous home.
Roads en route were repaved to ensure the precious cargo had a smooth ride.
The ceremony on Saturday (local time) kicked off with a 21-gun salute and was accompanied by lights and music in front of gathered crowds.
Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BC to 1075 BC, according to the ministry of antiquities.
They include Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only woman Pharaoh who ruled as a man by affixing a false beard to overcome tradition that required women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.
The mummies – 18 pharaohs and four other royals – were originally buried around 3000 years ago in tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site.
The tombs were first excavated in the 19th century.
After excavation, the mummies were taken to Cairo by boats that sailed the Nile.
Some were showcased in glass cases, while others were stored. The remains of Ramses II were taken to Paris in 1976 for intensive restoration work by French scientists.
The made-for-TV parade was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by publicising its ancient artefacts.
The tourism industry has been reeling from political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled the autocratic Hosni Mubarak, and more recently the coronavirus pandemic.
“This parade is a unique global event that will not be repeated,” declared tourism and antiquities minister Khaled el-Anany.
Security is tight in the capital, with authorities closing off major streets and intersections all along the route for the slow-moving vehicles.
Guards on horses and Egyptian celebrities and singers followed the motorcade.
“Again, Egypt dazzles the world with an unrivalled event,” said film star Hussein Fahmy in an official promotional video.
The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade circled Tahrir square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to decorate Cairo’s most famous square.
Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who will welcome the mummies at the new museum, tweeted: “This majestic scene is a new evidence of the greatness of this people, the guarding of this unique civilization that extends into the depths of history.”
Once at the new museum, 20 of the mummies will be displayed, while the remaining two will be stored, according to the ministry.