I met with Karim, the friend of Jacques-Alexandre and Raphaele, last night. I called him at 6PM and he just cancelled his plans to meet me at 7PM. He took me around (shisha and fruit juice first and then dinner followed by shisha and tea) and helped me plan a bit my trip.
His first advice was to go to Upper-Egypt as soon as possible because the heat will be soon unbearable there. Seeing how hot it is in Cairo already, I think it is a very good idea and so, I am going south tonight taking a night train to Aswan. Karim took me to buy the train ticket and seeing how people where pushing him in the line, I was happy he was here. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get this ticket by myself. If I ever did.
So, today, I checked out of the hotel and went to the Egyptian Museum. The museum is not that big actually. I had expected a bigger monument. The place is packed though. With tourists of course but also with antiquities. I got in for 20 LE (Egyptian pound) ($1 is around 6LE). Actually, I got to lurk around a bit to check-in my camera that was forbidden inside and finally got in.
The first floor is organized chronologically: Old Kingdom, Medium Kingdom, New Kingdom and Graeco-Roman period. There are some great pieces all over the place so it is difficult to make a selection. I really liked the Amarna room with pieces from al-Amarna, capital of Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh, dad of Tutankhamen and husband of the gracious Nefertiti. It is just the style of the statues and murals is so much different that you cannot forget it.
But this first floor is just an appetizer as the second floor is just outshining it. The second floor is organized by themes like animal mummies or models. But it is also home to the most visited collection: King Tut collection. It is just mind boggling to see all these awesome objects that were found in his tomb. There was not too many people around his gold mask and other jewels so I had plenty of time to study them. It is so fine and precise work. So much wealth left in a tomb. I cannot even imagine what we could have found in the tombs of more powerful, longer ruling pharaohs like Ramses II.
I also paid the extra 70 EL to see the royal mummies. I debated for a while to decide if i should pay or not and finally did. You can see 13 royal mummies for that price including Ramses II and Seti. If I remember well the story I learnt some time ago, they were all found together in a cache off the king valley that was created by order of a pharaoh of the New Kingdom that wanted to safeguard the mummies of his ancestors while plenty of tombs had already been plundered. It worked quite well since the cache was only discovered in the late 19th or early 20th century (I don’t recollect exactly). I am still undecided of the worth of paying that much to see them but well, it is amazing to see corpses that are more than 3000 years old and are so well conserved. Also, I can tell you Seti must have been an handsome man while I does not seem Ramses aged well ;).
Going to the Egyptian museum was also a milestone for me since it was the last one of the top 4 Egyptian museums in the world I had yet to see (the others being the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It tops them all easy. Just King Tut section could make one museum by itself. And other collections suffer so much from the comparison while being impressive in their own way that it is a bit sad.
I can tell you I had a great time if you did not guess yet.