Bringing Egypt to the tourists

We may not be close to the Nile or have the ability to feel the sands of the Sahara desert, but we do have access to Themuseum in downtown Kitchener and its eye-opening exhibit on ancient Egypt.

Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, and when his sponsor Lord Carnarvon asked, “Do you see anything?” Howard Carter answered, “Yes. Wonderful things.” The golden shrines that held the sarcophagi of King Tutankhamun shown on the second floor of the exhibit, would leave you saying the same thing.

The pieces that line the two floors of the exhibit contain replicas of artifacts found in the Pharonic, Greek and Roman, Coptic, and Islamic museums in Cairo.

 The pieces range from a bust of Alexander the Great to Islamic pottery, to Ancient Roman coins,  to Pharonic canopic jars that held the organs of the dead.

Among other treasures, two out of the four shrines, each of which are the size of a room, are showcased on the first floor of the exhibit.

While it is prohibited for the real body of King Tut to leave Egypt, the Royal Ontario Museum has generously lent Themuseum an actual mummy. Those who visit on the day of the reveal will have a chance to put their name in a draw for a paid visit to Egypt to see the real artifacts of King Tut’s tomb.

The creator of this exhibit,  Tarek Ragab, first proposed to his uncle, Dr. Ragab, to make replicas of the entire tomb in the 1987; $5 million later, the entire tomb had been precisely replicated. In 1992, the replica tomb was opened at the Pharaonic Village by the First Lady of Egypt at the time,  Suzan Mubarak.

One week later,  extremists began attacking tourists in Upper Egypt. Sales dropped and the large investment of money, time, and knowledge began to waste away.

Dr. Ragab, the sponsor of the tomb, asked Tarek, “How will we get our investment back?” Ragab answered, “If the tourists will not come to Egypt, we will take Egypt to the tourists.”

The exhibit first travelled to China. From there, it was invited to represent Egypt in 1993 for the World Expo in Toronto. It took three freight carriers to bring the entire replica over, and once it reached Canada, Tarek’s uncle suggested keeping the exhibit abroad.

Since 1993, the exhibit has visited Japan, Canada, USA, Puerto Rico, Poland, Venezuela, and Panama, and has now it has returned to Canada and will be staying at Themuseum until January 2015.

When asked as to the choice of this museum, Ragab mentioned that David Marskell, CEO of Themuseum and Laurel McKellar, director of programs and exhibitions, were key factors to bringing the  Unwrapping Egypt exhibit to Kitchener.

Ragab also commented that his wish was that the younger generation would come to love Egypt through the exhibit and one day visit Egypt to learn more. He insisted that Egypt was no longer a place to fear, and that, instead, its history and culture were something to see.


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