The Egyptian Museum: The Final Resting Place

Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂  Today, most families in the US will probably have Turkey for dinner together with family and friends.  The start of the festive season, it also marks the end of yet another busy year full of developments and happenings.   What better day to mark the end of my posts on Egypt.  Today, I end my journey to Egypt with the final resting place for most of Egypt’s great treasures: The Egyptian Museum.

After thousands of years of history, the final resting place for most of the Egyptian treasures is not located in the Valley of the Kings, nor inside Great Pyramids.  Instead, their final resting place is inside the Egyptian Museum or somewhere in a box in its basement.  First opened in 1863 my guidebook tells me that the museum had to move twice before settling at its current building in which it has been housed since 1902.  Even then, it is still not large enough to accomodate all the treasures.

Upon entering the Egyptian Museum you immediately understand the need for a larger museum.  Having been to many museums around the world, you see beautiful and significant treasures in large spaces of their own.  They become the centrepiece occupying a single wall or perhaps the focus of a large room. 

Spotlights shine on the Mona Lisa at the Louvre which is encased in glass and visitors are stopped by a wooden railing that prevents one from getting too close.  The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire sits in a glass case on a beautiful velvet cushion at Vienna’s Schatzkammer (Treasury Museum).  The exquisite Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian is in a glass case of it’s own surrounded by security cameras.  At the Egyptian Museum, however, there are so many priceless objects and too little space that everything looks like it has just been placed there for storage.

Upon entering, you are greeted by a hall that is immediately surrounded by all these wonderful treasures of Egypt.  There is so much to see you feel like there is a slight overload of information.  I also somehow feel like I’ve travelled back in time.  Objects are displayed for all to see, but there are few spotlights and hardly enough space for any one piece to shine out.   The guide takes us to see valuable objects that are in glass encasings, but there is no special spotlight and the description is on a typed piece of paper.  Amazing, the description themselves must have been written before the time of computers.
The most exquisite part of the collection though is the collection of objects found inside King Tutankhamun’s Tomb upon excavation at the Valley of the Kings.  The fact that the tomb escaped looting was attributed to the fact that it lay beneath another tomb and looters did not expect to find another tomb.  Lucky for us for now we can see the wonderful tresures of King Tut.  Although King Tutankhamun reigned for only ten years before his untimely death I have to say the treasures are just breathtaking. 
Inside a specially secure room, the most valuable item of King Tut’s Tomb is on display: the Golden Mask.  This mask is not like the ones we wear on halloween or to parties, it is mask made of solid gold.  This golden mask covered the mummy of King Tut and was discovered under layers of bandages.  11kgs (24.5 lbs) it is probably one of the most expensive and valuable treasures in this world. ( Especially at today’s soaring gold prices where it costs over a thousand dollars for an ounce of gold!)  Wow…  I walk around the mask and take a deep breath. It’s beautiful and without blemish.  Semi-precious stones decorate the golden mask and the eyes look out at you as if it were alive.  I look at it and take it all in.  The craftmanship is amazing. How skilled these ancient egyptians were. I also note that this supposedly is how the 19year old King Tut looked like thousands of years ago.  Eerie.
Lining the walls of this room are equally beautiful pieces of golden jewelry and precious stones that were discovered in the tomb.  The bracelets have beautiful scarabs and pendants are designed with the magical Eye of Horus which supposedly has protective powers.  I love the colours and the shape of the jewelry.  I wish I could own a piece, but I can only grab onto the glass case and drool.  Girls can never have enough accessories.
Outside, the display is equally breathtaking.  There are golden chariots, golden box encasings that covered the tomb, and a number of other objects that were totally unexpected.  There was a wooden bed with woven rattan like material that look extremely modern.  It wasn’t only the fact that it had a woven weave to it, but the fact that it had a portable bed and had hinges! Now can you imagine that thousands of years ago?
There was the headrest that looked like modern day Japanese pillows that lifted your neck off the floor so that your hair would not lose its shape.  There were the jewelry boxes that had sections and even a nice cylinder for storing bracelets.  There were portable bathrooms.

There were even wine bottles.  Of course they weren’t made of glass like today’s ones, but they were made of pottery shaped in such a cone-line way so that the wine would not have sediments.  On the bottle, were engraved the names of the vineyards, the year in which the grapes were harvested and the owner.  Amazing.  Now there are no longer any vineyards in Egypt, the climate and religion has changed.

I go into the special section for the Royal Mummies and peer at the remains of Egypt’s great pharaohs.  Their mummification process is still a mystery.  I see hair, nails and skin of those who lived thousands of years ago.  They bare their teeth out at me.  I see one whose face looks like she was in pain.  I am told perhaps this is Hatsheptsut.  This takes me back to my younger days in Belgium where the museum there too had a mummy.  I remember looking at the toenails sticking out from under the bandages and being awed by it.  Now decades later, I am still in awe.

If I have the opportunity I would of course go back to Egypt.  I would go back to once again wander amidst the treasures at the Egyptian Museum and explore the streets of off smaller villages along the nile.  I would spend a night out in the Sinai desert with the camels and visit the Bedoin people.  Egypt was a place that once everyone wanted to go in its days of glory.  The Greeks came to Alexandria and the Romans too had their say.  Egypt was the centre and symbol of civilization thousands of years before our time.  Salam Malakum.

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