While Jews were celebrating the holiday commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea, a bevy of dead Pharaohs was paraded down the main street of Cairo, echoing Biblical events from nearly 3,000 years ago.
On Saturday, in an event titled The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, the Egyptians moved 22 mummies -18 kings and four queens- with great pomp and flare from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, about 3 miles away in nearby Fustat.
The mummies, mostly from the ancient New Kingdom which ruled Egypt between 1539 BCE to 1075 BCE, were discovered in 1881 and 1898 in two caches in the ruins of Thebes, Egypt’s ancient capital, modern-day Luxor, in Upper Egypt. Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 BC to 1075 BC, according to the ministry of antiquities.
They have been on display for more than a century in the Egyptian Museum. They will go on display on April 18 in the Royal Hall of Mummies of the National Museum. Egypt’s authorities are hoping that the new museum, which opens fully this month, will help revitalize tourism – a prime source of foreign currency for the country that has been lagging in recent years.
Due to the fragility of the preserved pharaohs, they were transported in nitrogen-filled boxes carried on specially rigged vehicles that rode on roads that were repaved to make the journey even smoother.
The 20 on display, from oldest to youngest, are: Seqenenre TaaII, Ahmose Nefertari, Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III, Seti I, Ramses II, Merenptah, Seti II, Siptah, Ramses III, Ramses IV, Ramses V, Ramses VI and Ramses IX.
Despite the fragility of the mummies, the cavalcade was accompanied by fireworks and ceremonial salvos from the assembled military honor guard. This military display raised to mind the significance of the day, which was the last day of Passover, the day Jewish tradition maintains the Jews left Egypt with the entire military hot on their trail, led by Pharaoh in his horse-drawn chariot.
Though there is much debate over the identity of the Egyptian king who oversaw the Exodus of the Jews and was, as a result, killed in the splitting of the Red Sea, many scholars believe it was Ramses II, one of the deceased participants in Saturday’s parade.
Though the Bible does not give a name, one of the more interesting theories is Thutmose II, another participant, who according to Wikipedia “had a brief, prosperous reign and then a sudden collapse with no son to succeed him.” This would conform to a scenario in which the eldest son died in the final plague.