CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – In a resplendent ceremony watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, Egypt transported 22 ancient mummies through Cairo to a new national museum on Sunday, in what was called the Golden Parade.
The 18 kings and four queens were moved from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, where they had been exhibited since the early 1900s, to a new museum six kilometers to the south, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, a vast new facility located in Fustat, Islamic Egypt’s first capital.
The royal procession of performers in traditional costumes and chariots played on nationalist sentiment and Egypt’s historical importance, as those following the event watched the remains of kings and queens more than three millennia-old, slowly parade to their new home.
But forgotten in the fanfare were the Egyptians whose lives have been turned upside down, the collateral damage of a vast and controversial regeneration project meant to renovate Egypt’s Old Cairo.
As the 40-minute parade rolled south from Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Fustat, it passed by the ruins of different residential demolished neighborhoods.
The Egyptian government is bulldozing lower-class districts to establish several tourism complexes with 5-stars hotels, cafes, restaurants, and The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization - where the mummies are now resting.
No official numbers have been released, but rough estimates suggest hundreds of families have been affected.
Middle East Eye talked to former residents in neighborhoods demolished since 2019. While some were offered alternative housing options, others were forcefully kicked out of their houses, arrested, threatened and even ended up on the street.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who received the mummified royals at the newly inaugurated museum, hailed the event as a national success.
Despite the pomp and celebratory mood, many took to social media to criticize the event for prioritizing the celebration of the dead, while the living - including political detainees, and victims of Covid-19 and a recent train crash - were being neglected.
Several commentators accused the government of using the parade to distract from human rights abuses.
"I hope that one day in Egypt, the living will be celebrated with the same grandeur as the celebration of the dead,” said Egyptian writer May Azzam. "If death has majesty... life has rights.”