CAIRO — With its dark-walled and dimly-lit open rooms, the crypt-like Royal Mummies Hall at Cairo’s new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) was opened to visitors for the first time on Sunday, displaying 20 mummies of Ancient Egyptian kings and queens.
The showcased mummies were among the 22 transferred earlier in April from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo to the NMEC in a remarkable parade.
The opening of the magnificent mummies hall coincided with the International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as the World Heritage Day.
“We have planned to open the Royal Mummies Hall on the World Heritage Day after restoration of the mummies,” Fayrouz Fekry Selim, deputy director for management and operation, told Xinhua at the museum.
“The turnout of visitors today is high. Three Germans were the first to tour the Royal Mummies Hall after its opening,” Selim added, noting that the museum has received more than 150,000 visitors since the inauguration by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on April 3.
The mummies belonged to 18 kings and four queens that ruled Ancient Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
The Royal Mummies Hall is located beneath the Main Hall. It is reached by a downward stairway at the entrance of the Main Hall of the museum.
Once inside, visitors can follow the direction arrows on the floor to go through the passages, tour the entire hall, and see all the mummies, most of which are showcased next to the coffins they were found in.
The first mummy that visitors encounter is that of King Seqenenre Taa II, followed by those of Queen Ahmose Nefertari, King Amenhotep I, King Thutmose I, King Thutmose II, Queen Hatshepsut, King Thutmose II, King Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV.
The rest of the mummies include those of King Ramses II and Queen Tiye, which amazingly still have head hair in a good condition of preservation.
“It was beautiful and very impressive to see all those mummies from such a long time ago together in one area,” Judith Adriaanse, a young lady from the Netherlands, told Xinhua after she visited the Royal Mummies Hall.
She added that she has been working in Egypt for six months and will bring her parents to visit the museum.
Another Dutch visitor Thomas said that he was amazed by the conditions of the mummies.
“They all have pretty nice, fair white teeth,” the young man said with a smile. “We’ve only heard about the names of those pharaohs, but it’s pretty cool to see all of them in one place.”
Although 22 mummies were moved to the NMEC, the Royal Mummies Hall accommodates 20, which are currently in display. The other two mummies will be exhibited in rotation with others, according to Mahrous el-Sanadidy, a senior curator at the museum.
“The area of the Royal Mummies Hall is 850 square meters. It exhibits 20 mummies, 12 coffins and some of the special belongings of Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV,” Sanadidy explained, stressing that the royal mummies are the pride of the new museum.
The NMEC’s foundation stone was laid in 2002 and its temporary exhibition hall was opened in 2017, through joint efforts of the UNESCO and the Egyptian government.
The total area of the museum is approximately 138,600 square meters. The Main Hall, whose area is about 2,000 square meters, exhibits artifacts from the prehistoric times, the pharaonic dynasties, the Islamic and Coptic eras until modern-day Egypt.
“What I saw is unbelievable,” said Mohamed Saada, a senior architecture student, after he visited the mummies hall. “It really makes me feel proud of being Egyptian.”
By Mahmoud Fouly (Xinhua News Agency)