(Cairo) History can be arbitrary. I write from my hotel room on the 16th floor of the Sheraton, overlooking the Nile and the wailing cries to prayer are projected throughout the city from speakers somewhere in the distance.
Today I visited the rather tired looking neoclassical Egyptian Museum, since 1902 the home to some of the worlds oldest documents recording human existence. I got the impression that Rasha, my guide today, had a personal affection for some of the objects. She told me the history as one would a family story. Her tales were about misbehaving Queen’s and over-ambitious Kings – and others whom history just scratched off of the map.
Although there is a wealth of monuments and sculptures from a variety of eras here, it is the collection of the objects found in King Tutankhamen’s burial site that is the pearl of the collection, the apex, the crown-jewels; it is, after all, the only royal pharaonic grave-site to have been found intact.
As brilliant as the objects are, King Tutankhamen, apparently was not much of a ruler, by Pharaonic standards anyways. The objects he left us, though, were indeed beautiful. There was stunning jewellery, furniture, gilded statues, chairs, beds and even folding beds. He left us his mummy and the stunningly beautiful mask that was placed on his motionless head. My, he even left us his underpants. He didn’t leave them for us but for use in his after-life. Poor guy, saved up for his whole life only to have underpants plastered in the Egyptian Museum for the entire world to see! What would he think now?
In fact he only ruled a few years, won no great battles and constructed no key monuments in his brief nine year rule. In the years after his tenure his name was even wiped off of the list of bona fide kings, apparently he wasn’t much remembered let alone liked.
But today Tutankhamen has become most famous because of a historical error. In 1922 American archaeologist Howard Carter found his grave, and the only reason why it was intact was because King Ramses V built his own pyramid right on top of Tutankhamen’s. Imagine that, a greater man built his grave on top of yours. But your possessions were saved because of it. And his fame has been echoed around the world because the big guy burry’s his goods on the upper floor. His great trophies were stolen, yours were not. The conclusion is that Tutankhamen wins out because of the simple whims of history.
I guess the conclusion is not to take it all so seriously – because the joke may be on you in the end. Take care to watch where you build your little pyramid in the sand.