Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Re-Opening, Cairo: After 6 years of restoration, Al-Azbakiya National Theatre is back to life

To the rhythm of Egypt’s folk music and tanoura dance, the National Theatre in Al-Azbakiya district in downtown Cairo resumed welcoming visitors after six years of closure for restoration.

The theatre from outside after restoration

Thousands of journalists, TV presenters, photographers, artists, actors and actresses flocked to the theatre to participate in the ceremony announcing the re-opening of the National Theatre.

Upon the invitation of Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab opened the theatre and toured around the several halls and sections to inspect the work after completion. He also visited the theatre’s art museum, where old photos of the theatre are put on show, as well as the lecture hall, the library and the information centre.

A group of ministers, including Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou, Minister of Youth Khaled Abdel Aziz, Cairo Governor Galal El-Said and Minister of Local Development Adel Labib, as well as top governmental officials, escorted the Prime Minister in his tour.

The main stage of the theatre
During the ceremony, Mahlab told the attendees that Egypt has now a very important vision for culture and art, as it is the country’s “soft power”. He said Egyptian artists have always been sending important messages to the world along the span of the nation’s history. 

Minsiter of Culture Asfour pointed out that the construction of the National Theatre coincided with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and today its re-opening coincides with the digging of the new Suez Canal path.

Asfour added that the National Theatre was the first theatre to be built in the Al-Azbakiya Gardens in Cairo. Its history dates back to the 15th century when the gardens served as the pleasure grounds for Mameluke Cairo, a leisure zone that contained lavish palaces around a central lake. When the French expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, the gardens became the site of a theatre, built to entertain the French army troops.

The second floor of the theatre after restoration
When Mohamed Ali Pasha became Egypt’s khedive, he filled in the lake. During the later reign of Khedive Ismail, a theatre once again appeared on the site, at first a small venue on the southern side of the gardens, used to stage performances by the famous Comedie Française during the celebrations that marked the inauguration of the Suez Canal.

In 1885, the theatre, known as the Al-Azbakiya Theatre, hosted its first performances by an Egyptian theatre group. By 1935, the National Egyptian Group had been formed under the leadership of poet Khalil Motran, but was disbanded in 1942 as a result of its anti-British performances. Following the 1952 Revolution, the Al-Azbakiya Theatre became the National Theatre. In early 2000, the theatre was officially put on Egypt’s Heritage List for its unique architectural style and its more than 100-year-old edifice.

During the opening ceremony, Mahlab and Asfour awarded 24 actors who started their career in the theatre for their efforts. Actors Hussein Fahmi, Ezzat Al-Alayli, Mahmoud Yassin, Samiha Ayoub, Rashwan Tawfik, Soheir Al-Morshedi and Mahmoud Al-Hedini were among the honourees.

The restoration work of the theatre started in 2008, immediately after the whole building was gutted by fire as an electrical short circuit had triggered an explosion in the air-conditioning system. The whole building was then devastated by the blaze.

The entrance hall of the theatre
The main hall was sodden with the water of fire extinguishers, the main stage’s curtain had been totally destroyed, and the red velvet of the seats had been charred, as had the building as a whole. The wooden backdrops had gone up in flames, and the dome of the main auditorium, or George Abyad Theatre, named after the celebrated Lebanese actor, had a large hole in it, made by firefighters as they struggled to contain the blaze.

Today the theatre is back to its original authentic look. The restoration work had been carried out according to the latest technology and had been assisted by old documents of the theatre provided by the Ministry of Antiquities and photographs of plays taken in its heyday during the early 20th century.

Ahmed Fouda, the engineer in charge of the restoration project, explained that returning the theatre to its original look was a great challenge as it contains unique collections of antique sets, artefacts and paintings.

Mohamed Abu Saida, head of the Cultural Development Fund at the ministry, pointed out that the fire in 2008 had a severe impact on the one-storey administrative building neighbouring the theatre. “The building was ramshackle,” he said, adding that the committee in charge of restoration had decided that converting it into a museum to display the theatre’s treasured collection of photographs of old plays would be the best way to save it for future generations. “This required the consolidation of the building, the construction of another floor on top of the first one, and covering the original facade with a new glass one,” Abu Saida said.

The ceiling of the stage
He went on to say that this design aimed to reflect the original building on the new one’s mirror glass facade, in order to provide visitors with a new view of the old edifice. He added that the design was in line with the development plan of the surroundings carried out by the National Organisation for Urban Harmony. 

According to this plan, the original entrance of the National Theatre on Al-Gomhouriya Street became the new main entrance and the existing one on Al-Ataba Square is closed. A “cultural path” was formed joining the National, Puppet and Taliaa Theatres, containing an open-air theatre, a music kiosk and the water fountain that was removed several years ago.

The theatre consists of two auditoriums, the main one bearing the name of Lebanese actor George Abyad and the small one named after famous Egyptian actor and director Abdel-Rehim Al-Zorkani. The complex also has a hall for rehearsals, a smaller building for actors’ dressing rooms, an administrative building, a youth theatre and spaces for the Puppet and Taliaa Theatres.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Exhibitions Abroad: Egypt’s Sunken Treasures to be exhibited in Europe

The Supreme Council of Antiquities have agreed to hold an exhibition entitled ‘Egypt’s Sunken Treasures’ in Paris, London and Berlin, which will run for one year.

President of the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, Franck Goddio requested to hold the exhibition for €600,000, with the addition of €1 on each ticket after the number of visitors exceeds 100,000.

The exhibition will display objects from the underwater excavations of the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM), conducted since 1992 in Alexandria and Aboukir Bay by Franck Goddio, in co-operation with the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt.

Ahmed Sharaf, head of the Museums Sector, said the exhibition will feature 293 artefacts, which have been selected from several museums in Egypt.

Eighteen pieces will be from the Egyptian Museum, 22 from the Greco-Roman Museum, 31 from the Alexandria National Museum, 15 from the Museum of the Library of Alexandria, and 207 pieces from the Department of Underwater Antiquities.

Al-Damati said in a statement that the ministry has insurance to protect the artefacts in the exhibition against any kind of damage, loss, theft, or confiscation, including cases of natural disasters, wars or emergency reasons. 

“The cost of insurance for the exhibition is more than $150 million,” said Al-Damati.

The exhibition will promote tourism in Egypt and strengthen cultural ties between Egypt and the European Union countries, and the revenue will help towards the lack of income at this time, according to the minister.

Sharaf said that the first exhibition will be at the Arab World Institute in Paris from September 2015.
Photos by Christoph Gerigk
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Tutankhamun in Tokyo

News: Museums and Underwater Archaeology

Underwater Cultural Heritage evolves in this facet of modern archaeology, in the form in which is exhibited in the specialized museums. The archaeological remains of marine origin require very specific museographic projects, mostly related to the contextualization of the wrecks and their way of being shown to visitors to the museums. The origin of the underwater archaeological treasures must determine the way in which they are exposed and not another.

We believe that they require a teaching Museum scenery very specific and respectful with the form of the find, which push visitors to cross the barrier of our natural terrestrial habitat, to “dive” in the seabed and discover its history well. So far, the museography of the archaeology of marine origin was distinguished by the storage and public exposure of dozens and dozens of amphorae and anchors, dozens of appliances, all surrounded by graphic reproductions of seabed (some truly mediocre) or not even that: storage cabinets and point.

Cristoph Gerigk
All this “scenic decoration” was and is one more than questionable taste. These compositions mimetically generalized Museum itself and Museum also, we must add the absence of environmental conditions appropriate for the conservation of archaeological objects, nearly all of them are elements that have rested in the Middle Marino for hundreds of years or more. The woods are materials which suffer most from the lack of adequate treatment in many museums outdated, being able to observe deterioration. But same thing happens not in all the museums of underwater archaeology.

These outdated museographies were gradually evolved over time. Those who laboured to repeatedly describe with the use of dull panels in the majority of cases, what were the boats and their trade routes, the world of sailing and its cargo, would change in parallel to the consolidation of the science of scientific underwater archaeology. This evolution is not only characterized by the development and application of a methodology itself and updated, but considering that the historical value not focused exclusively on casual discovery or the value of the object, but not could detach from the context of archaeological work. The archaeological site is a moment in time and should be displayed as well.

In addition, the development of new technologies applied to the didactic Museum, has provided professionals make a huge qualitative leap when it comes to show the visitor the contextualization of the challenges archaeological submarines. We must insist in saying that a museography that exhibition discourse does not focus exclusively on own display of the object, as it is usually done generally should be applied in underwater archaeology museums. Objects should be displayed always in a contextual way and on appropriate scenery (including light and sound), with all of the material records concentrated on the same site and, if it could be, with the remains of the vessel in the case of the shipwrecks. These are the changes, in a radical way, proposed to design a new modern approach to educational museography applied to the field of underwater archaeology.

The Swedish Vasa Museum
An example of this new current methodological approach is what is being done in Sweden, for example, musealizando in-situ the remains of the Galleon Wassa, sunk in the year 1628, and exposed in their known Wasamuseet which opened 24 years ago (Norse carry us much benefit). Another very good example of Museum located in the place of the finding would be that of the Viking Museum in Roskilde in Denmark (more Nordic), also proposed construction of viking ships (even for children).  Another example of display on-site is the Mary Rose, a warship from the 16th century preferred by Enrique VIII and which sank in 1545. The remains were found in 1971 and were taken between 1979 and 1982, being later exposed in what is the current Museum in the same port of Portsmouth (England) and which has been completely renovated.

In what has to do with the Mediterranean, was instrumental in what began to do in the coasts of Turkey years ago (not only are the Nordic), that not only strengthened the application of a revolutionary scientific archaeological methodology in the excavation, but proposing in addition all a new approach to contextual museography for finds. Example of this new methodology is the exhibition of the wreck of medieval Serçi Limany, already in the mid-1980s. These remains were exposed under the proposal of an all together, museografiado in a single space. Are the original remains recovered from the seabed on a metal stand and around this anchor artificial objects that were of the crew got ready.
New Museum of the ship Mary Rose in Portsmouth, England

In this way, the display of the remains of a ship from the 11th century, is monographic form with its elements and all your localized and contextual, information that allows us to perfectly know how they were those boats that made the trade route between the ports of Alexandria and Byzantium, along the sirio-palestina coast. There are more examples. Finally, we can mention very good works on Museum for underwater archaeology as archaeological museum of Marsala in Tripani (has horrible website) and the Hecht Museum of Haifa in Israel, the latter with the exhibition of a Phoenician ship which includes all the regalia found, explaining the methods of construction of these boats that constantly crossed the Mediterranean at its time of levante to the West and vice versa.
Mugla Bodrum Museum,Turkey

Also mention the Museum of Mainz (Germany), which has rebuilt two ships from the III and IV century (has the remains of five boats in total) discovered in 1982, serving to explain to visitors the foundations of the Navy maritime military in the area of the Rhine towards the end of the Roman Empire.

 All of these examples that we have pointed out have been a breakthrough on the traditional museography which before was “objects”, for now cause educational experiences that go beyond the passivity which produces the observation of a Cabinet full of belongings. These are what could truly be called “museums of site” that is absolutely what you need a museography as specific and complex.

A museography of the Underwater Cultural heritage is not only integrated, is also contextual, informative, educational, that feels committed to the society that seeks knowledge at your leisure and who, in addition, It invites the visitor to protect this important legacy of humanity, basic to preserve our historical memory that has lain at the bottom of the sea.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

News: Falling ruble keeps Russian tourists off Egypt's beaches

The slide of the ruble is keeping Russian tourists away from Egyptian beaches and halting the nascent recovery of a tourism industry already suffering from three years of turmoil, industry insiders say.

The demand from Russian vacationers is down 40 percent this December compared with last year as spending a holiday in Egypt becomes more expensive, Ehab Wahdan, GM of the Egypt office of Moscow-based tour operator Tez Tour, said of his company's business.

The worst hit places are Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, the most popular destination for Russian tourists, particularly in the winter months when Egypt offers a warm climate at relatively affordable prices. Russians are the largest single tourist group in Egypt, making up about a fifth of foreign vacationers in the country in the past four years, as well as 60 percent of tourists to the Red Sea, according to official data.

“Everyone in the business here is at breaking point,” said Aly Nouh, owner representative at Movenpick in Soma Bay near Hurghada, one of the biggest tourist spots on Egypt's Red Sea coast. “No other nationality can fill the shoes of the Russians; they constitute a clear majority of the tourists in Hurghada.”

The ruble lost more than 50 percent of its value this year on the back of declining oil prices and economic sanctions from the West. It currently trades at around 60 to the dollar.

Short-lived recovery
Egypt’s LE49 billion ($7 billion) tourism industry began recovering in 2014 after plummeting in the second half of 2013 due to the bloody violence that followed the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi. The 2.7 million tourists who visited Egypt between July and September this year generated around $2 billion, a 70 percent increase over the same period last year which saw 1.6 million tourists generating $900 million.

Red Sea destinations in particular saw something of a comeback this summer as many European nations lifted warnings against travel to Sinai, imposed following a terrorist attack on a tourist bus in February 2014.

But Moscow's economic woes may handicap this recovery
"Our occupancy is down to 25 percent now, if that, and we are charging as low as $32 per person per night," said Sayed Kassem, owner of hotels in Hurghada. In September, when the ruble was trading between 37 and 39 to the dollar, Kassem says his hotels were still offering double rooms for $60-70 a night, with occupancy of up to 90 percent.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, however, took note of the decline during his visit to Hurghada last week, and tasked the cabinet with finding a solution to encourage Russian tourists to return, Cairo-based daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

One in seven Egyptians
Employing one in seven Egyptians, tourism is one of Egypt's main sources of foreign currency. According to Central Bank data, tourism generated $9.7 billion in the 2012/13 fiscal year -- almost double the revenues from the Suez Canal. "The sector is dying," Kassem said, citing mounting costs of energy and food, as well as tax hikes on substances like alcohol.

Egypt’s government in July issued a spate of fuel and electricity price hikes, along with tax increases, in an attempt to shore up the state’s coffers and tackle a widening deficit.
Source: Ahram Online

Re-Opening, Luxor: Egypt reopens tomb as tourism falls

Minister increases public access in attempt to reverse post-revolution slump.

A wall painting from Nefertari's tomb
Egypt plans to reopen the royal tomb of Nefertari, a wife of Ramesses II (who reigned from 1279BC to 1213BC), on a regular basis after it was closed for eight years because of concerns over the condition of the site’s wall paintings.

The burial site in the Valley of the Queens was opened for ten days in mid-October to celebrate the 110th anniversary of its discovery by the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli. Speaking at an event in London last month, Egypt’s minister of tourism, Hisham Zazou, proposed that the site remains open. “I want to make sure [this period] is expanded, so it is open every month,” Zazou said, adding that the tomb would be open one week a month to a limited number of tourists. Access was restricted to 150 visitors before it was closed in 2006.

Egypt’s tourism industry has suffered since the 2011 revolution, with just 7.1 million visitors from January to September this year, compared with 14.7 million in 2010, according to Zazou. Although tourism has increased in resorts around the Red Sea, numbers remain low at cultural sites. Egypt’s authorities now hope to attract visitors back to the Nile Valley by opening new archaeological sites.

Nefertari’s tomb is renowned for its colourful paintings showing the queen with deities, but the remarkably well-preserved works quickly deteriorated after the tomb’s discovery due to rising humidity levels and associated salt damage, partly brought on by the breath of tourists. From 1986 to 1992, the Getty Conservation Institute used emergency conservation measures to stabilise the works. The tomb reopened in 1995, but renewed concerns led to its closure to the public in 2006, although the antiquities ministry continued to grant access for private tours.

The Getty has monitored the tomb regularly over the years, and according to a spokesman for the institute, there has been “no apparent deterioration as a result of visitors or due to humidity from visitors”. There has been physical damage, however, which the Getty has “ascribed to filming in the tomb”.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

News, Cairo: Number of October Tourists Increased by 79.5% - CAPMAS

CAIRO: The number of tourists visiting Egypt increased by 79.5 percent in October 2014 compared with October in 2013, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt’s official statistical agency.

In its monthly report for tourism statistics issued Saturday, CAPMAS indicated that one million tourists visited Egypt in October 2014, compared to 558,700 in September 2013.  In September 2014, the number of tourists visiting Egypt decreased to record 884,000, compared to 997,000 tourists in August.

The tourism sector saw a sharp decline in the number of inbound tourists during the months of July and August 2013 due to deadly dispersal of pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square that killed at least 650 people following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July.

The ouster of Morsi was followed by travel warnings on Egypt set by many European and North American countries. The October report indicated that the increase of the visiting tourists could be due to the improvement in the security situations as some foreign countries have lifted travel ban to Egypt. 

“Eastern Europe recorded the most areas for sending tourists during of October 2014 by 47%, followed by Western Europe by 30.4% and the Middle East by 14%,” the report read.

According to the report, tourists in total spent 9.8 million nights in Egypt during October 2014, compared to 3.9 million nights during the same period of 2013. Egypt’s tourism sector, which represents 11 percent of the country’s GDP, has been suffering from ongoing shocks ever since the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

14.7 million Tourists visited Egypt in 2010, compared with 9.5 million tourists who visited the country in 2013, according to CAPMAS. Despite a few instances of apparent recovery, continuous instability, political turmoil and a lack of security have remained challenges to the sector.
    Source: Cairo Post – By/Rany Mostafa

News, Cairo: Sale of El-Baron Empain's Palace is a Rumour - Egyptian Government

Reports surfaced Wednesday claiming that El-Baron Empain's historical palace in Heliopolis was sold to Nasser Social Bank.    
El-Baron Empain's historical palace
An Egyptian official denied on Thursday widespread reports claiming that El-Baron Empain's palace in Heliopolis has been sold. On Wednesday, many Egyptian newspapers said  that Nasser Social Bank bought the palace, a report that created a lot of controversy. The news turned out to be unfounded, with Mostafa Amin, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities assuring Ahram Online that the reports were media-created rumours.

Amin explained that what was actually sold is a house in Helipolis on El-Sawra street, and that the cause for confusion was that it was originally owned by El-Baron Empain’s family.

“The palace cannot be put on sale because it is on Egypt’s Antiquities List which is protected by law 117 passed in 1983 and its 2010 amendments,” asserted Amin. He went on to say that the palace was under the possession of the housing ministry but that in 2009 it was transferred to the antiquities ministry as it was on Egypt’s antiquities list for Islamic and Coptic monuments according to a 1993 ministerial decree.

Eldamaty during his inspection tour
On Thursday, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty embarked on an inspection tour around the palace to visit different halls and give the go-ahead to continue its 2010 restoration project planned in collaboration with a Belgium mission; the project came to a halt after it lost its budget following the 2011 revolution.

During the tour, Eldamaty told Ahram Online that a month ago the ministry carried out a minor restoration and consolidation of a number of the palace’s decorative elements and sections facing architectural challenges. He went on to say that the ministry is reviewing the Belgian restoration plan and studying the palace’s architectural aspects in an attempt to provide a complete restoration project that will allow for future use.

Eldamaty also announced that revenues from ceremonies held at the palace’s garden would be allocated to the restoration budget.

El-Baron Empain’s palace was built in 1906 as the residence of Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain who came to Egypt in 1904 to construct a railway line linking the Nile Delta city of Mansoura to Matariya on the far side of Lake Manzala.

French architect Alexandre Marcel built him the palace in the Avenue of Palaces (now El-Orouba) and he was inspired by the Cambodian palace of Angkor Wat and the Hindu temple of Orissa. Marcel designed a variety of human busts, statues of Indian dancers, elephants, snakes, Buddhas, Shivas and Krishnas in the palace. Marcel's colleague, Georges-Louis Claude, designed the palace’s interior.
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Re-Opening, Cairo: Manial Palace to reopen in mid-February

Manial Palace is to reopen to the public in February after ten years of restoration work... written by Nevine El-Aref
Manial Palace
At the southern tip of Roda Island stands Manial Palace, an exquisite example of early 20th century architecture

Built in 1901 by Prince Mohamed Ali, the son of Khedive Tawfiq, it was an attempt to revive the Islamic architectural style in opposition to the European style commonly adopted for the royal family's palaces.

Some 50 labourers, archaeologists and cultivation experts are hard at work to meet the deadline. The official reopening is in mid-February after ten years of restoration.

In 2005, the Ministry of Antiquities started restoration work on the palace, which includes removing of the encroachments made on the palace gardens since early 1960s by the Egyptian General Organisation for Tourism and Hotels (EGOTH) which transformed the palace garden into a hotel.

It also includes the consolidation and re-erection of the gypsum false ceiling, constructed in 1945 to reduce the weighting load of the large copper chandelier on the original ceiling of the throne hall. This ceiling collapsed in 2004.

The Golden Hall
Fine restoration work to all decorative elements at the palace has been also executed as well as the development of the palace's galleries, laboratories and garden. 

Today, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty embarked on an inspection tour around the palace to check upon the work being achieved and to solve any problems that could stand against the palace official opening.

During the tour Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the palace regained its original look and it would be open in mid-February which coincide with the centennial of Khedive Abbas Helmy II's leaving Egypt's throne.

During the opening ceremony, said Eldamaty, a lecture is to be held about Khedive Abbas Helmy II in an attempt to honour his efforts to develop Egypt because during his reign he ordered the construction of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and the Museum of Islamic Arts in Babul Khalq in downtown Cairo.

Manial Palace is a huge palace with a rare botanical garden, exquisite halls and several detached buildings, all bearing a blend of Fatimid and Mameluke styles tinged with Ottoman elements, and drawing also on Persian, Andalusian, Syrian, and Moroccan taste.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Review: Mummies around the World

An Encyclopedia of Mummies in History, Religion, and Popular Culture……by Matt Cardin, Editor

Perfect for school and public libraries, this is the only reference book to combine pop culture with science to uncover the mystery behind mummies and the mummification phenomena.

Mortality and death have always fascinated humankind. Civilizations from all over the world have practiced mummification as a means of preserving life after death—a ritual which captures the imagination of scientists, artists, and laypeople alike. This comprehensive encyclopedia focuses on all aspects of mummies: their ancient and modern history; their scientific study; their occurrence around the world; the religious and cultural beliefs surrounding them; and their roles in literary and cinematic entertainment.

Author and horror guru Matt Cardin brings together 130 original articles written by an international roster of leading scientists and scholars to examine the art, science, and religious rituals of mummification throughout history. Through a combination of factual articles and topical essays, this book reviews cultural beliefs about death; the afterlife; and the interment, entombment, and cremation of human corpses in places like Egypt, Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. Additionally, the book covers the phenomenon of natural mummification where environmental conditions result in the spontaneous preservation of human and animal remains.
 Matt Cardin
Is an instructor at McLennan Community College in Waco, TX. His published works include the books Dark Awakenings and Divinations of the Deep as well as numerous articles and essays in various publications, including ABC-CLIO's Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend, and Popular Culture. He holds a master's degree in religious studies and a bachelor's degree in communication.

Short Story: When a Pharaoh flew to France

Ramses II is considered the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian empire.

Colossus of Ramses II in Luxor Temple
He fought the Hittites, signed the world’s first peace treaty, undertook an unparralled building programme, had more than 100 children and reigned over Egypt for 67 years. Ramses II was born around 1303 BC and died in 1213 BC, also known as Ramses the Great, he was the third pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of Egypt. Nine more pharaohs took the name Ramses in his honour, but none equalled his greatness.

He was said to have lived to be 99 years old, but he probably died around 90 years old, which is a remarkable achievement in the modern world and was extremely rare in ancient Egypt.

In ‘Chronicle of the Pharaohs’ by Peter Clayton, he sums up Ramses stating that, “During his long reign of 67 years, everything was done on a grand scale. No other pharaoh constructed so many temples or erected so many colossal statues and obelisks.

No other pharaoh sired so many children. Ramses’ victory over the Hittities at Kadesh was celebrated in one of the most repeated Egyptian texts ever put on record. By the time he died, aged more than 90, he had set his stamp indelibly on the face of Egypt.”

The mummy was treated for a fungal infection in Paris
As with many very old people it is believed that Ramses was crippled with arthritis and walked with a hunched back for the last decades of his life.

When he died Ramses was buried in KV7, in the Valley of the Kings, but looting and tomb-robbing, led to his body being moved. Each move was carefully documented on the wrappings of his mummy.

In 1881, the mummy of Ramses II, along with those of more than 50 other rulers and nobles, were discovered in a secret royal cache at Dier el-Bahri. Ramses’ mummy was identified based on the hieroglyphics, which detailed the relocation of his mummy by the priests, on the linen covering the body of the pharaoh.

Gaston Maspero, the French Egyptologist, who unwrapped the mummy of Ramses wrote, “On the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimetres in length.

Statue of Ramesses II at the British Museum
White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used during embalment…the moustache and beard are thin…The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black…the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.”

Microscopic inspection of the roots of Ramses’ hair proved that the king’s hair was originally red, which suggests that he came from a family of redheads.

This is significant as in ancient Egypt people with red hair were associated with the god Seth, the slayer of Osiris, and the name of Ramses II’s father, Seti I, means “follower of Seth.” In 1885 his mummy was moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

In 1974 Egyptologists noticed that the mummy’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and decided Ramses needed to go to Paris for examination. The pharoah was issued an Egyptian passport that listed his occupation as ‘King (deceased)’. The mummy was received at Le Bourget airport, just outside Paris, with full military honours befitting a king.

Mummy of Ramses in Egyptian museum in Cairo
In Paris, it was found that Ramses’s mummy was being attacked by fungus, for which it was treated. During the examination, scientific analysis revealed battle wounds and old fractures, as well as the pharaoh’s arthritis and poor circulation.

After treatment, the pharaoh was flown back to Egypt where he belongs and now rests in the mummy room of the Egyptian museum in Cairo.

But the story of Ramses doesn’t end there, as in 2006 French police arrested a man who tried to sell what he claimed were strands of hair and tiny pieces of funeral cloth from the mummy of Ramses on the internet.

The man, identified as Jean-Michel Diebolt, a postman, had allegedly obtained the pieces after his late father, who had been a French researcher, analysed the body of the 3,200-year-old mummy back in the 1970s when the mummy was in Paris receiving treatment.

“I am selling a lock of hair that belonged to Ramses II,” the advert on the internet read. “A team of four researchers, including my father, were given the task of analysing the hair, resins, pieces of bandage at the CEA Grenoble. 

Ramses temple at Abu Simbel
one of the many building programmes by the pharaoh
As proof, I can provide a copy of the results of these analyses . . . I must be the only person in the world to possess such samples.”

Police seized a number of small plastic sachets and boxes containing minuscule samples of hair and cloth that he alleged came from Ramses.

In 2007 Egyptian antiquities official Ahmed Salah travelled to Paris to retrieve the stolen items, thirty years after being stolen. “It was wonderful mission. I felt very great when I had the lock of hair of Ramses II in my hand,” he said.

The small tufts of hair were displayed alongside pieces of linen bandages and 11 pieces of resin used in the mummification of Ramses and his son in a glass display case. The greatest of all the pharaohs now rests peacefully and serenely in the Egyptian museum in Cairo.