My 3 days trip to Egypt ended with an epic visit to the National museum of egyptian civilization in Cairo, the new resting place of 22 royal mummies including 18 Kings and 4 Queens.
The admission fee to the museum is just 200 egyptian pounds which is the equivalent of 10$, an insignificant amount for the wonderful treasures hosted inside. Plus it comes with an unbelievable view over the capital city.
The resting place of Queens and Kings of ancient Egypt
The most visited place of the museum is undoubtedly the mummies hall, a long corridor decorated with black marble, a bit sinister at the first glance but nevertheless misterious and intriguing. Here I came across few of the most prominent Pharaohs of the time including the Queen Hatshepsut, Ramesses II (who rulled for 67 years) and Thutmose III.
Unfortunately photography is strictly prohibited, most probably in an attempt of keeping the veil of mistery intact for the future visitors or just to potect the well conserved bodies from undesirable flash of modern devices. The mummies are kept inside of glass coffins side by side with their sarcophagus at a temperature bellow 21 degrees Celsius. What is truly impressive is the well preserved features of the royal bodies including their nails, veins, toes and in some cases even the hair or bones deformity produced by poliomyelitis or a traumatic death.
The royal mummies were transported from King’s Valley (Luxor) to Cairo just an year before my visit (April 2021) most of them being sailed away on the Nile and then carried with extreme care on the streets of Cairo towards the museum in one of the most beautiful parade the country and the modern world has ever seen.
Mummies are often associated with deadly curses and premonitions and few voices are even blaming the concomitant victims of a train crash and a building colapsing in Cairo on the undesirable movement of the royal mummies from their choosen resting place to a modern museum under the public view.
Papyrus, the miracle plant of ancient Egypt and other treasures
The museum features other important artifacts including sarcophagus, miniature mummies of infants, ancient jeweleries, ancient papyrus (the first form of “paper”), blocks of hieroglyphics (the first form of writing), few sample of bread dating thousands of years before our time and a series of tools used by the ancient egyptians in agriculture or in other daily activities.
The ancient egyptians seems to be the first ones to invent not only the writing using hieroglyphics but also the first form of paper called papyrus. Papyrus is a plant that growns abundantly alongside the Nile and it was considered a sacred plant for two reasons: its stem that resemble a pyramid and its crown resembling the sun rays, the symbol of Sun God: Amun Ra. Ancient egyptians didn’t leave a clue on how the plant was transformed into paper like material as this was regarded as an important state secret, however modern experiments unrevealed the mistery and is now explained in detail to every tourist visiting the papyrus shops across Egypt.
The plant is cut into long tiny layers that are pressed in order to remove its own water excess then placed in a bowl filled with clean water for a week. Next comes the drying up process and the final result: the papyrus that can be used for writing and drawing.
I couldn’t leave this shop without buying two beautiful handmade paintings on papyrus that cost me 150$ and what is special about these is the fact that they glow in the dark and while one of them is completely changing its form, the other keeps its initial message.
The tree of life
In the first painting the Tree of life is represented by an Acacia tree hosting few birds that symbolize the different stages of human life: infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood and maturity. Three of the birds are facing East as this was considered the beginning of life, the place from where the sun rises every morning while the last one is facing West, the place where the sun is resting every night, anticipating the approach of death. In the dark, the painting gains different connotation, a black cat. Cats were so special in ancient Egypt that those who killed them even by accident were sentenced to death.
The secone papyrus painting that I have purchased is the beautiful scene of the final judgment and the moment when the deceased’s heart is weighted across the feather of Matt (the goddess of truth and justice). The painting doesn’t change in the dark, being a constant reminder of the importance of keeping a pure heart even when nobody can see you.
Stay true to your heart! Someone up there is watching.