Egypt: How the Heritage of Tutankhamun Serves Cultural Diplomacy

Egypt is lending its Tutankhamun historical treasures to the world’s most renowned museums

March 21st, 2019
Elisa Vallette, News from Berlin

To celebrate the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Egypt gives the world an opportunity to see one of its major ancient treasures. Indeed, 150 objects discovered in the Tutankhamun tomb will travel to 10 different cities, before returning to Egypt definitively.

In 1922, the British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the nearly intact tomb of Tutankhamun, a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. The son of Akhenaton became pharaoh at the age of 9 years old and died around 19 years old, probably from paludism and bone disease. Therefore, the pharaoh reigned only for 9 years from 1332 to 1323 BC. However, the discovery of its tomb, full of treasures, made him famous. Today, Tutankhamun’s name is well-known around the world.
The collection from Egypt shows the personal objects of the young pharaoh, from gloves to sandals. The ancient Egyptian civilization believed in immortality after death, therefore the mummy should have everything to survive during his journey to the afterlife. The anteroom that Howard Carter discovered before the sarcophagus had more than 700 objects: clothes, arms, jars full of beer and food, games, music instruments…

The opportunity for Egypt to lend some of these ancient treasures to the world, came up while major historical collections are being transferred from the museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. This museum is still under construction and should open in 4 years. In the meantime, Tutankhamun’s treasures will travel around the world. 

This generous lending is an act of cultural diplomacy. Egypt is promoting its cultural heritage abroad and hopes to regain a positive image among the international community and public opinion. The country, whose economy relies on the tourism sector, wishes to re-attract foreign tourists after terrorists’ attacks. The incomes generated by the international lending of Tutankhamun’s collection will finance the restoration of major archaeological sites as well as the construction of the future biggest archaeological museum in the world: The Grand Egyptian museum near the Giza pyramids.

The Minster of Egyptian Antiquities has called IMG, a company specialized in international events, to support the logistics of the collection’s tour around the world. Paris is the second stop, after Los Angeles. The collection will travel to ten metropoles in total, including Zurich, Sydney and London. The tour should stop in 2024.

FedEx has organized the transportation between Los Angeles and Paris. Two flights transported the objects in highly secured boxes. The collection is estimated to be worth 800 million dollars. The golden mask, made of 11kg of solid gold, stayed in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo since an Egyptian law prohibits its displacement. The mummy and sarcophagus also stayed in Egypt as they are too fragile and precious.

The exhibition in Paris “Toutankhamon, le trésor du pharaon” taking place at the Grande Hall de la Villette will start this week-end, March 23rd until September 15th. This special exhibition of treasures from Egypt will be completed with a presentation of the modern days "Tutankhamun-mania" expressed in decorative arts, fashion, advertisements, and even in Beyoncé’s concerts.

The visitors in the lucky ten cities should be amazed by these old treasures and become more willing to go to Egypt to explore more of its beautiful historical and cultural heritage sites. Thanks to this act of cultural diplomacy, Egypt should benefit from an increase of tourists in the years to come and a renewed positive image among the international community. 

Happy journey to Tutankhamun’s treasures around the world!


News from Berlin