People visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday. The main hall of the museum was opened on Sunday. WANG DONGZHEN/XINHUA

CAIRO-In a magnificent building with a pyramid structure resting on four columns and with grounds overlooking a lake, the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, or NMEC, in Cairo showcases the Egyptian civilization from the predynastic period to the modern age.

Passing through the main door, visitors encounter a tubelike shiny hallway leading to the Main Exhibition Hall, whose entrance leads down to the Royal Mummies Hall underneath.

Both halls were inaugurated on Saturday evening by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, following a festive parade celebrating the relocation of 22 royal mummies-of 18 ancient kings and four queens-from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo to the NMEC in the Al-Fustat neighborhood a few kilometers away.

Ahmed Ghoneim, executive director of the new museum, described it as “a lighthouse for culture and tourism in Egypt, the Arab world and Africa”.

Ghoneim points out that the size of the main hall is about 2,000 square meters, while the total area of the entire museum covers more than 138,000 square meters.

“We have now 65,000 artifacts but our warehouses can accommodate 100,000 artifacts. Of them, about 1,600 artifacts are displayed here in the Main Exhibition Hall,” the director said.

The main hall showcases artifacts from the prehistoric times through to the pharaonic dynasties, the Islamic and Coptic eras and modern-day Egypt.

Besides pharaonic statues and objects, the main hall hosts a human skeleton dating back 35,000 years and the oldest artificial limb in history, the latter showing the advances in medicine and surgery achieved by the ancient Egyptians, Ghoneim said.

The royal mummies that were moved to the new museum were of the kings and queens of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties, dating back some 3,000 years. They include the mummies of the celebrated King Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut.

The mummies hall will be opened on April 18 to coincide with the International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as World Heritage Day.

“The Royal Mummies Hall will exhibit about 150 pieces, including the mummies as well as their coffins. For the first time, each mummy will be exhibited near the coffin where it was found,” said Sayed Abu el-Fadl, the supervisor of the main hall and the mummies hall.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said that at least 800 tickets were sold on Sunday, the first day that the main hall of the museum was opened to visitors.

With the efforts of the UNESCO and the Egyptian government, the foundation stone of the museum was laid in 2002 and a temporary exhibition hall was opened in 2017.

The 22 royal mummies that were moved in the lavish procession-dubbed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade-were discovered in two cachettes, the first of which was unearthed in 1881 and the second in 1898. Both sites are in Upper Egypt’s monument-rich province of Luxor.

Super design

Walid Ahmed, an Egyptian civil engineer who was taking a tour, described the museum’s design as super. “I didn’t think it will look that impressive,” he said.

Swiss tourist Laetitia Saunier said: “The museum is really amazing.”

Saturday’s procession started with a 21-gun salute, with 22 vehicles modified with ancient themes each carrying the name of the mummy of the king or queen inside.

“The remarkable and magnificent parade shows that Egypt celebrates and honors its ancestors,” Khaled Gharib, professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, said after the parade.

“It is a new museum with a new technology that presents a new Egypt,” the professor said.

Xinhua – Agencies