CAIRO — Downtown Cairo got here to a close to standstill Saturday evening as 22 mummies have been moved from a museum the place they’d resided for greater than a century to a brand new dwelling, transported atop custom-made automobiles in a glittering, meticulously deliberate procession.
The fanfare — broadcast dwell on state tv and full with a army band, rows of dancers and a bunch of Egyptian A-list celebrities — served as each a grand opening of kinds for the Nationwide Museum of Egyptian Civilization the place the nation’s oldest monarchs have been set to land and an invite to vacationers to return after the pandemic.
“These are the mummies of kings and queens who dominated throughout Egypt’s golden age,” mentioned Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquities who supervised the invention of tombs that date again 1000’s of years. “It’s a thrill, everybody will watch.”
Everybody, besides many Egyptians.
Alongside the five-mile path to the brand new museum lay stretches of working-class neighborhoods that have been intentionally hidden from view forward of the parade, a reminder of the jarring divide between Egypt’s celebrated previous and its unsure current.
Banners proclaiming the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” and enormous nationwide flags prevented tv viewers from peering inside Cairo’s impoverished areas and stored native residents from getting a glimpse of the polished, made-for-TV spectacle. In a single spot, plastic screens a minimum of 10 ft tall have been mounted on scaffolding to shut gaps in a cream-colored wall.
“They put it as much as disguise us,” mentioned Mohammed Saad, an area resident who stood with two pals just a few ft behind a barrier that separated them from the newly swept highway the place the ancestral parade would roll via.
Two safety officers confirmed that nobody could be allowed to go away close by neighborhoods through the parade, or to step onto the road to observe. “They will watch on a display screen,” one in every of them provided.
In a tv interview, the pinnacle of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities credited the president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for conceiving of the general public procession as a means to attract vacationers again after the coronavirus pandemic introduced worldwide journey to a halt final yr.
However the spectacle additionally underlined the financial and social divisions in Egypt’s capital.
“There’s a tendency to attempt to present a greater image as a substitute of fixing the prevailing actuality,” Ahmed Zaazaa, an city planner, mentioned of the federal government’s public picture efforts. “The federal government says they’re making reforms, however the overwhelming majority of individuals in Cairo who dwell in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.”
Egyptian tv broadcast nonstop protection of the parade preparations, emphasizing how the information was echoing overseas, pairing the visuals with dramatic theme music and a stream of details about the 22 kings and queens who dominated Egypt greater than 3,000 years in the past.
The traditional royals who have been on the transfer included Ramses II, the longest reigning pharaoh, and Queen Hatshepsut, one in every of Egypt’s few feminine pharaohs.
After sundown, crowds gathered in downtown Cairo, amongst them enthusiastic younger households who introduced their kids alongside in hopes of getting a glimpse of the historic second.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. These are our ancestors.” mentioned Sarah Zaher, who got here with three pals.
However a lot of those that gathered have been met by police barricades and turned again.
A uniformed officer yelled, “If you wish to watch, go watch on tv.” Upset, the crowds retreated into close by espresso homes to observe on tv or on their telephones.
Nada Rashwan and Dawlat Magdy contributed reporting.