CAIRO — Downtown Cairo got here to a close to standstill Saturday night time as 22 mummies had been moved from a museum the place that they had resided for greater than a century to a brand new residence, transported atop custom-made autos in a glittering, meticulously deliberate procession.
The fanfare — broadcast reside on state tv and full with a navy band, a 21-gun salute 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 had been set to land and an invite to vacationers to return to Cairo 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 hundreds 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 had 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 at the least 10 toes tall had been mounted on scaffolding to shut gaps in a cream-colored wall.
“They put it as much as disguise us,” mentioned Mohammed Saad, a neighborhood resident who stood with two associates a couple of toes behind a barrier that separated them from the newly swept street the place the ancestral parade would roll by.
Two safety officers confirmed that nobody can be allowed to depart close by neighborhoods through the parade, or to step onto the road to look at. “They’ll watch on a display,” certainly one of them provided.
In a tv interview, the top 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 reside 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 had been on the transfer included Ramses II, the longest reigning pharaoh, and Queen Hatshepsut, certainly one of Egypt’s few feminine pharaohs.
After sundown, crowds gathered in downtown Cairo, amongst them enthusiastic younger households who introduced their youngsters 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 associates.
However a lot of those that gathered had been met by police barricades and turned again.
A uniformed officer yelled, “If you wish to watch, go watch on tv.” Disillusioned, the crowds retreated into close by espresso homes to look at on tv or on their telephones.
Nada Rashwan contributed reporting.