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Basel gears up for the coming of the pharaoh

A wooden bust of Tutankhamun will be one of the treasures on display. Basel Museum of Ancient Art and Ludwig Collection/Egyptian Museum Cairo

Anticipation is mounting as Basel’s Museum of Ancient Art prepares to open its much-awaited exhibition, “Tutankhamun – The Golden Beyond”.

This content was published on March 1, 2004 - 15:56

Around half a million visitors are expected to view the funerary treasure from the Valley of the Kings and organisers have been deluged by demands for tickets.

The exhibition will display more than 120 pieces from Tutankhamun’s tomb and other royal tombs from the 18th dynasty (1530-1292). The artefacts were last seen in Europe more than two decades ago.

Tutankhamun was the boy king who ascended to the throne at the age of nine and reigned until his death nine years later.

His tomb and its countless splendours were unearthed in 1922 by the British Egyptologist, Howard Carter.

The tomb, which had been left virtually untouched for 3,300 years, contained four gilded shrines nested one inside the other.

Solid gold

The innermost shrine contained three coffins, one of which was made of 110 kilograms of solid gold. Inside it lay the pharaoh himself, wearing the famous Gold Mask.

Although the exhibition will not include the Gold Mask - regarded as a national treasure in Egypt and no longer lent out abroad - it will feature 50 of the most important artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

“So far everything is going smoothly,” said Koni Rohner, head of security at the museum.

“The objects are currently being packed up and will arrive in Switzerland sometime this month, though we can’t say exactly when for security reasons.”

Timed entry

Tickets for exhibition have been on sale since February over the internet and via a call centre. They are being issued with a precise date and entry time.

The number of visitors will be counted by an electronic turnstile which will lock once the safety limit has been reached.

Everyone will first pass through an “Introduction Room”, where they will be able to take in some historical background about the treasures.

The show’s organisers hope that these measures will be sufficient to avoid the lengthy queues often seen outside Paris’s Louvre Museum.

Standing in line

But it is not yet clear how well the museum will be able to accommodate a mix of individual visitors, school groups, as well as guided tours.

Prospective visitors have already complained about the long waiting times to buy tickets at the call centre.

Basel’s tourism office says it has been swamped with enquiries about the exhibition, with many visitors opting for an all-inclusive package that includes travel costs, accommodation and exhibition tickets.

“Demand has been very high, especially from western Switzerland, Germany and France,” says Basel Tourism’s Alain Burger. Requests for information have also been received from Belgium and the Netherlands.

swissinfo

Key facts

The exhibition runs from April 7 to October 3.
The treasures on show are between 3,500 and 3,300 years old.
They include a number of the most important pieces from Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Many are made of gold, which symbolised rebirth in the afterlife.

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In brief

Tutankhamun was a boy king who died in his late teens and remained at rest in Egypt's Valley of the Kings for over 3,300 years.

His tomb was discovered in 1922 by the British Egyptologist, Howard Carter, who had been searching for the tomb for a number of years.

Today, the tomb still contains the pharaoh's remains, hidden from view inside the outermost of three coffins.

He is the only pharaoh still residing in the Valley of the Kings.

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