Egypt’s royal mummies are on the move, and it’s not their first road trip

A gala parade in Cairo celebrates the golden age of the pharaohs, including one who flew to Paris for a makeover in 1976.

Escorted by Egyptian film stars, singers, dancers, and guards on high-stepping horses, the mummies of 22 pharaohs and other ancient royalty will be paraded through the streets of Cairo on Saturday, moving from the historic Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to their new home in the recently inaugurated National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).

Dubbed “The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade,” this made-for-TV extravaganza along the Nile is designed to celebrate Egypt’s rich heritage and lure visitors back in the wake of a pandemic that has brought global travel to a standstill.

“This parade will make all Egyptians proud of their country,” says archaeologist Zahi Hawᴀss, the nation’s former minister of antiquities. “In a time of COVID, they want to be happy, to feel proud of their ancestors. They will be waiting in the streets to say hello to their kings.”

Most of the mummies date from the New Kingdom (about 1539 B.C. to 1075 B.C.), a golden age of Egyptian civilization. They include 18 pharaohs and four other royals ranging in stature from some of Egypt’s most storied leaders to little-known figures.

The royal celebrities include Ramses II—often styled “the Great” and portrayed as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical Book of Exodus—as well as Hatshepsut, an accomplished builder, forceful leader, and one of ancient Egypt’s few female pharaohs

Less fortunate rulers among the mummies include Siptah Akhenre, who died in his teens and may have suffered from polio, and Seqenenre Ta, whose savage wounds were made by a battle axe, a dagger, a staff, and a spear, according to scholars who CT scanned his mummy.

Other pharaohs had different charms. “Seti I is probably my favorite,” says Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University of Cairo. “He had great taste—and he was dashingly handsome.”

The procession will begin around sunset with a 21-gun salute as the royals take to the road at Tahrir Square. Proceeding along a five-mile route that parallels the Nile, the mummies will pᴀss murals of pharaonic scenes against a backdrop of fireworks and sound-and-light shows.

“The mummies will be transported in protective cases nested one inside the other, like ancient coffins or Chinese boxes,” says Ikram, who was consulted on the move because of her expertise in mummies and the mummification process. “They should travel in complete security.”

The hermetically sealed, climate-controlled cases will be loaded onto military flatbed trucks decorated to look like the funerary barges that once carried deceased pharaohs to their tombs. On their arrival at the NMEC, they will be greeted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and other dignitaries