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EGYPT MUMMIES GOING ON DISPLAY MORE `TASTEFULLY’

SHARE EGYPT MUMMIES GOING ON DISPLAY MORE `TASTEFULLY’

Some of ancient Egypt's most famous leaders are about to return to public life.

Curators at the Egyptian Museum are preparing a special display of 14 pharaohs and queens more than a decade after then-President Anwar Sadat banned a brash exhibition of the mummies, some more than 3,500 years old.Museum officials say the new exhibition, scheduled to open early next year, tries to create a more subdued atmosphere for the wrapped remains, with soft lighting and specially tailored showcases - far less stark than the glass cases and bright lights of the original Mummy Room.

The display will feature such rulers as the six-toed Seti I, Merneptah with his yellow skin and the Rambo of the Nile, Ramses II, said Nasry Iskander, conservation director for the Egyptian Antiquities Organization.

Once one of Egypt's top tourist attractions, the museum's 27 royal mummies were hidden away in 1980 under orders from Sadat, who said the gawking tourists and the undignified display violated religious sensitivities.

Opposition to the closing grew in many quarters.

Egyptologists feared scientific studies on the mummies would come to an end even as technology advanced. Tour operators worried about their pocketbooks. The museum lost income from an entrance fee for the Mummy Room.

Before the Persian Gulf war, roughly 6,000 tourists visited the museum daily, with admission about $3 for foreigners. The number of visitors is still down following the war, and recent figures were unavailable.

The new cases have also been designed to reproduce the mummies' original environment.

Royalty underwent a complex mummification ritual lasting 70 days. The body was dried, anointed and wrapped for burial. Iskander said good mummification and a good tomb produced the best mummies.

"When a mummy was carried into the back reaches of its tomb, it was almost in a world of its own," he said. "The tomb was sealed, and over months and years the oxygen was depleted. Metals couldn't rust, and bacteria couldn't grow."

Recreating a tomb's atmosphere to save mummies has been Iskander's great challenge.