Printer version at www.luxor-westbank.com

Luxor: The return of two kings

It was a heyday for Luxor. Tuesday, 9th of March, 2004. TV teams rolled up. Journalists from Egypt and all over the world - based in Cairo as reporters working for news agencies and newspapers - showed up. Really a heyday for Luxor - but it turned out to be a PR-flop as well.

We are talking about the return of two mummies. We are talking about Ahmes I (ca. 1570 - 1546 BC). He was a king mentioned in books about Egyptian history mostly as the one who drove out the Hyksos only. Then we are talking about Rameses I (ca. 1293 - 1291 BC), the founder of the dynasty of the Rameses. Both are the first royal mummies shown to the public in Luxor. Now you can visit them in the annex of the Luxor Museum.

It could have been a heyday for Luxor. But except invited VIPs and journalists unfortunately nobody knew about the event. Certainly on that day there were banners in some five-star-hotels, at Deir el Medina and at the temple of Hatshepsut just telling "9th of March: The Return of the Royal Mummies". But who could make head or tail of it? No location, no time was mentioned. So the tourists missed a big event. Really a PR-flop. Even everything was exactly planned.

We followed Rameses after his arrival. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photographs and follow Rameses on the journey to his last home.

The mummy of Rameses I was reloaded near Mubarak Square onto a white old banger of pharaonic style. Then the coach moved slowly to the temple of Karnak. Here already some dignitaries were waiting. Like Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Sabri Abdel Aziz Khater, Director of the SCA department responsible for museums, Genreal Dessouki El Banna, Governor of Luxor, Holeil Ghaly, Head of Luxor and Upper Egypt Antiquities, and so on. The ceremony was exactly planned and at least following the timetable.

Starting again at the temple of Karnak the coach with the wooden coffin decked out by the Egyptian flag was following the old procession way during the feast of Opet down to the river Nile, where a Dahabeya was waiting. With this boat then Rameses was sailing up the river to the Luxor Museum. Here already another coffin with Ahmese I was placed. During this trip Rameses was accompanied by invited guests only, policemen, journalists and children. Now also some tourists strolling around witnessed the event. But surpised and helpless they asked: "What the hell is going on here?" As we said before, it was a flop of public relation.

After the arrival at the museum the coffins were brought into the new extension which is not open for the public yet. There at first Ahmes found his new resting place in a plexi-glass showcase, later on also Ramese in a room beside. "This was maybe the biggest event since the museum was opened in 1975," Director Mme Sana Mohamed Ali said.

Why only Ramese had a journey around the town? "He came back from the USA last year but Ahmese was all the time in Cairo," Mohamed Assam Abdel Sabour, the General Director for Luxor and Upper Egypt in the SCA explained. And then he marked out: "It is very important to have the mummies in their original place. This will make the museum more attractive."

Rameses on the wrong tracks

The history of the mummies of Rameses and Ahmes (his tomb probably is located in Dra Abu Naga but not identified until today) is a turbulent story. Because it was the time of grave-robbing around 1000 BC priests hided them together with some other 40 royal mummies in a secret tomb in the cliffs near the temple of Hatshepsut to protect them. In the mids of the 1800s Ahmed Abdel Razul discovered this shaft and began selling off mummies and other pieces he found. So he did around 1870 with the mummy of Ramese. It is said that he sold it for seven Egyptian Pound - at this time the yearly salary a government official earned - to a Canadian physician who gave it to the Niagara Falls Museum.

Over the years the museum crossed and re-crossed the border between Canada and the United States several times. And for long time nobody knew that there was a royal mummy. Till in 1980 the German Egyptologist Arne Eggebrecht visually examined it and said, it is the mummy of Ramese, but he couldn't give the last proof.

In 1999 the Niagara Falls Museum closed and the collection including the mummy was bought by the Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta. The heads of this museum decided to bring the mummy back to Egypt. In 2003 it arrived in Cairo, now it stays in Luxor.

When in the secret shaft in the western hills of Luxor only the empty coffin of Ramese was found, scholars were able to identify the mummy of Ahmes there. Since this time the mummy was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Even the mummy of Ramese I is not finally identified, Luxor has two more important attractions. But now it's on the officials to let the tourist know ... (Text Wolfgang Sliwka)