CAIRO – Some blame the “curse of the pharaohs” for a number of unfortunate incidents in Egypt over the past few weeks, including the giant ship that blocked the Suez Canal for about a week until it was liberated on Monday.
Even so, many were expected to turn on their televisions for the grand parade of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies as they were brought through the capital, Cairo, on Saturday. Officials urged people to stay off the streets because of the coronavirus restrictions.
Authorities blocked roads along the Nile for the lavish royal procession known as the Golden Parade to spark interest in the North African country’s rich collections of antiquities when tourism stalled almost entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The convoy carried 18 kings and four queens, mostly from the ancient New Kingdom, in shock-absorber vehicles and specially nitrogen-filled capsules to ensure their protection.
The national treasures traveled about 3 miles from the Egyptian Museum, which opened in Tahrir Square in central Cairo in 1902, to their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat – the site of the Egyptian capital under the post-Umayyad dynasty arab conquest.
Moving the mummies restarted talk of a pharaoh’s curse, especially on social media, after the ship blocked the Suez Canal, a train wreck killed dozens of people late last month and a building in central Cairo collapsed.
“Death will come on fast wings for those who disturb the peace of the king,” was the warning on Tutankhamun’s tomb before British archaeologist Howard Carter opened it in 1922.
Members of his expedition later succumbed to unusual accidents and deaths, fueling the myth of the curse, though archaeologists and scientists now say they were likely linked to exposure to dust and germs in the sealed caves.
Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass denied the rumors.
“Before the mummies go for a walk in the streets of Cairo today, things happened in Egypt: the boat in the Suez Canal, the trains also had an accident and a building collapsed. Everyone says it’s the mummy’s curse, but I say it there is not a curse of the mummy, “he told NBC News. “The curse is good for television, films, and newspapers, but it’s not true. There is no curse at all.”
Instead, Hawass said that local and overseas tourists will be able to see the “secrets” of each mummy for themselves once they are on display.
“The parade is very important not only for Egypt but for the whole world as 22 kings will magically walk the streets of Cairo,” he added.
Download the NBC News App for breaking news and politics
Archaeologists discovered the mummies in two batches in 1881 and 1898 in the complex of the mortuary temples of Deir Al Bahari in Luxor and in the nearby Valley of the Kings.
The oldest mummy in the group is that of King Seqenenre Tao, the last king of the 17th dynasty, who lived in the 16th century BC. BC ruled. and is said to have met a violent death.
The parade will also include the mummies of Ramses II, Seti I and Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, who were responsible for military expeditions, trade networks and the construction of huge monuments and artistic creations.
“In this way, the mummies are due with great pomp and circumstance,” Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, told Reuters. “These are the kings of Egypt, these are the pharaohs. And so it is a way of showing respect.”
Charlene Gubash reported from Cairo and Adela Suliman from London.
Raf Sanchez and Reuters contributed.