Imagine that your wealthy, eccentric great-aunt Agnes housed a collection of rare artifacts (purchased on an extended honeymoon with her first husband) in the basement of her substantial country house. She displayed them in odd-shaped curio cabinets with dim lighting and typed up the description of each on yellowed index cards with her manual Smith Corona. That’s pretty much the Egyptian Museum. It’s fabulous and shocking every step of the way. You could go to sleep in a sarcophagus, or sit in a 4,000 year old chair and the guards might not notice, but if you try to take a picture… they’ll be on you like a hawk. You have to see the King Tut treasures to believe them; no description is possible; they are worth the trip.
What’s astonishing is that Tut was a minor Pharoah and died at 19 and his tomb was comparatively small, but it’s the only one found perfectly intact. Hard to imagine what was stolen and disappeared over the millennia.
The museum gift shop and book store were looted during the Tahrir Square demonstrations in 2011 and have not been reopened. The building behind the museum was the headquarters for Mubarak’s political party. It was set ablaze, the fire spread to the gift shop, and damn near set the museum on fire. During the looting several small items disappeared from the museum itself. The burnt-out hulk is still there.
A new museum complex has been underway for years near the Giza pyramids and was supposed to open in 2015. Maybe in 5 years, if then. And it’s hard to imagine how they will move exhibits from one museum to the other in any timely fashion. A few weeks ago curators noticed a problem with the beard on King Tut’s gold and lapis death mask – one of the most recognizable items in the world. Panicked that it might be removed from view, they super-glued it back on.
Oh, and the curse. I downloaded a picture of the four King Tut Alabaster mummified organ containers, and I swear, my iPhoto library disappeared within MINUTES. Jason from Apple can verify that I spent hours with him on tech support trying to figure out what happened. I know what happened. The curse of Tuthankamen.
And here I was worried about security. Yeah, right.