1/26/10

Tutankhamun and Train

the Egyptian Museum

When archaeologist Howard Carter pried open the door to Tutankhamun's tomb in Nov. 26, 1922, all he could utter after being asked if he could see anything in the semi-darkness was a mere "Yes, wonderful things". That was truly the mother of all understatements: before him lay the most magnificent cache of ancient Egyptian arts and treasures hidden for almost 3,000 years. Today, those "wonderful things" are all on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Tutankhamun is such a big draw that it's like what Mona Lisa is to the Louvre.

We spent a half day in this museum. Entrance fee is 60 Egyptian pounds. Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed and we have to check them all in. Unlike museums in Paris, London or New York, the Egyptian Museum is not particularly big but the interior with its glass cases does evoke an old-world-feel. There are over 120,000 items on display (with many poorly labeled) which for an independent visitor might be quite a big task to take all in. Thankfully for us, we had Nancy the Egyptologist to point to us the highlights of the many figurines, statues, colossi, sarcophagus and of course, Tutankhamun's tremendous treasures. When I finally came face to face with Tutankhamun's Death Mask - weighing a grand 11 kgs. of pure gold - my jaw simply dropped.

Tutanhamun's Death Mask
(photo from a post card)

A separate fee is required to see the Royal Mummy Room where ancient royalties are now entombed in temperature-controlled glass cases. Tutankhamun, unfortunately, is not here. Some, like the remains of Ramses II look decently intact he even have strands of hair still clinging to his royal scalp! Beware though, kids and the not-so-kids may find looking at these dessicated bodies uncomfortable. A less 'frightening' display is the section for Animal Mummies - there's a baboon, a dog, a cow, even a crocodile that went originally entombed with a particular pharaoh to accompany him in the afterlife.

in a museum that's bursting at the seams,
workers move another precious artifact


Having been awed by what we saw at the Egyptian Museum made us all the more excited to visit some of the places where these antiquities actually came from. After checking out from our hotel, it's time for us to take the train to Luxor, our next destination 671 kilometers away. There are several train departures but for safety reasons, tourists are only allowed to board the overnight deluxe sleeper trains called Abela Egypt. There are two classes: the 2-berth cost $60 per person while the sleeper seats cost half. We're booked on the sleeper seats which is similar to airplane business class seats.


Our train left Cairo on time at 8 PM and of course, we just don't want to sleep right away for the next 9 hours or so. Waleed led the way as we move from car to car and found ourselves in the so-called Club Car where other foreign travelers are in a socializing mood. As usual, the same questions are thrown in between sips of Heineken: "where are you from?" and "where are you going to next?" Thinking about all the security precautions the Egyptian government has been enforcing, I should have asked: "Are we still a terrorist target in this country?"

at the Club Car

I made it back to my seat and reclined myself hoping to sleep. I could not. It was quite chilly inside the train but I thought about terrorism: what if indeed some extremists decide to ambush this train tonight? Tourist police are everywhere in Egypt but who knows if they will be enough to protect us. And then I remember Tutankhamun, the young king who died at only 19 years old. His death is mysterious, oftentimes fed with speculations that he was murdered due to a power grab. Some 3,000 years later, murders strike the modern world for many different reasons. Just the thought of terror is already murdering me. Enough.

18 comments:

  1. I am reliving my trip from this post. We asked to be taken to the museum of antiquities and this is where the tour guide took us. and what an amazing place this is.

    The Egyptian Railways is kinda fun. We took the first class cabin from Alexandria to Cairo and the facilities was nothing like first class yuck, but the Egyptians are very friendly and nice.

    I wish I had time to go to Luxor and other places too. But I will just have to wait for your posting then.

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  2. Haha, I was thinking about terrorism also. Lalo na kakatapos ko pa lang panoorin (uli) yung Kite Runner. Anyway, enjoy the trip. I'm toying with the idea of joining a group like that if I will travel there.

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  3. Am so excited for you. LUXOR is my favorite place. I really don't know, but the place is fabulous. Visit the valley of the Kings and experience the light and sound show of the Luxor Temple and the city of Thebes. Enjoy and dont worry about terrorism, we were there a year after the Luxor carnage where 18 tourists died but if its your time, then accept it but if you're still alive. Well ENJOY the rest of your trip.

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  4. sidney11:49:00 AM

    I would not be afraid of terrorists but from the curse of Tutankhamun ! Hope for the best my friend... you took huge risks ! :-O

    Of the original team of archaeologists who were present when the ancient tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun was opened, only one lived to a ripe old age. Was this a bizarre coincidence? Or was it the manifestation of a curse that had passed down through the centuries - a curse too sinister, too mysterious and too lethal for the modern world to comprehend? And a curse that is still exacting its deadly toll today...

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  5. pards, mahiwaga kasi yung dala dala nyo, ayan tuloy malayo din ang tinatakbo ng isip mo..;)

    napawow ako dito!

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  6. I'm always fascinated in Egyptian heritage! Regarding the security issues, I guess it's even worse in USA. I went there 2 yrs ago and was always worrying that they find faults on me (who knows?!) and I couldn't enter the country after 20 over hours of flight! LOL

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  7. Looked like you had an enjoyable 9 hour train ride to Luxor. Did the "club car" run out of beer enroute to your destination?

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  8. First time visit! I am so impressed with all the places that you have visited. What a great blog, I will be looking into it more!

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  9. The Nomadic Pinoy7:45:00 AM

    I heard the beaches in Alexandria is quite popular with Egyptians during summer. Luxor is more relaxed than Cairo.

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  10. The Nomadic Pinoy7:47:00 AM

    You'll never go wrong joining any of the trips run by Gecko's, GAP or Intrepid - you'll be in great company!

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  11. The Nomadic Pinoy7:49:00 AM

    After the madness of Cairo, I like the slower pace of life in Luxor and of course, the treasures all around it.

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  12. The Nomadic Pinoy7:55:00 AM

    I've read about that and thought about the pharaoh's curse knowing we will be visiting the Valley of the Kings and said, well, with thousands that have already been there, that would have meant inflicting a hell lot of curses.

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  13. The Nomadic Pinoy7:56:00 AM

    ha ha ha! ikaw talaga sadik!

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  14. The Nomadic Pinoy7:59:00 AM

    You're right Eunice. Especially after the December 25 attempt to blow up an airplane, the US has stepped up security measures at airports all over.

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  15. The Nomadic Pinoy8:02:00 AM

    You know Bert, the beers were actually given by one of the tour leaders who thoughtfully brought a case with him onboard. The train's club car only had limited drinks.

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  16. The Nomadic Pinoy8:02:00 AM

    Thanks for the dropping by Micki.

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  17. I've always wondered about Egypt and security. I know they "escort" a lot of tourists to sights like Abu Simbel, etc. Isn't that actually more obvious to terrorists? Nothing sends out a red flag more than being escorted by the tourist police. Glad you all made it safely!

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  18. Being a photo junkie, I hate it when museums don't allow us to take photographs. I know that photographs damage the exhibits, but that usually is with the flash, eh? But I guess, if too many visitors disobey by taking flash photography, then the museum has no recourse but to ban cameras altogether.

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