CAIRO The center of Cairo came to a close stand on Saturday night as 22 mummies were moved from a museum where they had stayed for more than a century to a new home, transported on top of custom-made vehicles in a procession glittering, meticulously planned.
The noise, broadcast live on state television and complete with a military band, a salute with 21 guns and a host of famous A-list Egyptians served as a grand opening of the species to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization where the oldest monarchs of places on earth and an invitation for tourists to return to Cairo after the pandemic.
These are the mummies of kings and queens who ruled during the golden age of Egypt, said Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquity who oversaw the discovery of tombs dating back thousands of years. It’s a shock, everyone will watch it.
All but many Egyptians.
Along the five-mile path to the new museum lay working-class neighborhoods that had been deliberately hidden from view before the parade, a reminder of the stark divide between the celebrated Egyptians of its uncertain past and present.
Banners proclaiming the Golden Pharaohs’ Parade and large national flags prevented television viewers from looking inside Cairo’s slums and kept locals from gaining a glimpse of the sleek spectacle made for TV. In one place, plastic screens at least 10 feet[10 m]long were mounted on scaffolding to close gaps in a cream-colored wall.
They set him up to hide us, said Mohammed Saad, a local resident who stood with two friends a few meters behind a barrier separating them from the newly crossed road where the previous parade would pass.
Two security officers confirmed that no one would be allowed to leave the surrounding neighborhoods during the parade, or take to the streets to watch. They can look at a screen, one of them is offered.
In a television interview, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities praised President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for conceiving the public procession as a way to attract tourists after the coronavirus pandemic banned international travel last year.
But the spectacle also highlighted the economic and social divisions in the Egyptian capital.
There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality, said Ahmed Zaazaa, an urban planner, about governments’ public image efforts. The government says they are making reforms, but the vast majority of people in Cairo living in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.
Egyptian television broadcast uninterrupted coverage of the parade preparations, highlighting how the news echoed abroad, pairing visuals with dramatic themed music and a stream of information about the 22 kings and queens who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
Ancient kings on the move included Ramses II, Pharaoh with the longest reign, and Queen Hatshepsut, one of several Egyptian female pharaohs.
After sunset, crowds gathered in downtown Cairo, among them enthusiastic young families who brought their children along in hopes of seeing a historic moment.
It’s a once in a lifetime event. These are our ancestors. said Sarah Zaher, who came with three friends.
But many of those gathered were met by police barricades and turned back.
An officer in uniform shouted: If you want to watch, go watch on television. Disappointed, crowds flocked to nearby cafes to watch on television or on their phones.
Nada Rashwan and Dawlat Magdy contributed to the report.
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