Why you should visit King Tut – the golden pharaoh

I am at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, eyes wide and staring at one of the wonders of ancient Egyptian civilization – the gold funerary death mask of Tutankhamun. This is truly a symbol of ancient Egypt and one of the best-known works of art in the world. It is a breathtaking sight, and will remain one of my most memorable. 

A ‘really’ close family

King Tut was only 19 when he died, after ruling for nine years from 1333 to 1324 BC in the  18th Dynasty, the period known as the New Kingdom. To maintain a family dynasty’s lineage, royal marriages between family members in those days were common. King Tut married his stepsister when he was 13 and sired twin girls who were stillborn. His wife, Ankhesenamun, was Queen Nefertiti’s daughter. Nefertiti was Tut’s stepmother and consequently his mother-in-law. Tut’s mother was his father’s sister and was often called ‘the younger lady’ – the secondary wife, which means that his mother was also his aunt. Tut and Ankhesenamun, therefore, shared the same father, the pharaoh Akhenaten, who reigned for 17 years. It is documented that some pharaohs married their own daughters. Ankhesenamun, for example, was thought to have been married to her father for a short while before she married Tut. From what I’ve just written, you can understand that it’s rather complicated to get one’s head around ancient Egyptian family trees. 

Inbreeding was known to cause malformations within the royal lineage. Tut was born with a clubfoot, a cleft palate and a severe bone disease. 

In 1922, British Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It was hidden for 3300 years. Carter’s discovery turned a boy pharaoh, who reportedly achieved little during his reign, into the most famous of modern times. Most other tombs were plundered by grave robbers, whereas the entry to Tut’s tomb was hidden by debris and remained undiscovered and largely intact. It held over 5000 objects. The tomb became a symbol of national pride for the Egyptians. 

The objects were eventually shipped to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the last of which were delivered a decade after the tomb’s discovery. All of Tut’s artifacts, including the golden mask, will be transferred to the soon to be opened Grand Museum of Egypt nearby.

Since the 1960s, Tutankhamen artefacts have been exhibited worldwide. They are the most travelled and the most popular artefacts in the world. 

What was in King Tut’s tomb? 

King Tut’s mask was 10kg of solid gold, inlaid with semiprecious stones. There were also hundreds of robes, sandals, underwear, an assortment of chariots, thrones, weapons, jewellery and even board games. Tut’s mummy was laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins, with a combined weight of 1.3 tonnes. The outer coffin was made of gilded wood, as was the second coffin, which was overlaid with sheet gold and semiprecious stones. The third and innermost coffin was mummy shaped and made from a massive 110kg of solid gold. The intricate workmanship of these coffins is mind boggling. Inside was Tut’s mummy with the death mask resting on his shoulders. The mummy is now in the Valley of the Kings, where it was originally found.  

In the tomb

I enter the tomb known as KV62, down a staircase and through an entrance corridor into the antechamber, one of four chambers in the tomb. 

At one end of this room is the burial chamber. It’s amazing that, upon discovery, the wall paintings and hieroglyphics were still as vibrant as they were 3300 years ago. 

There has since been some degradation caused by tourism and exposure to the environment. The tomb is a lot smaller and not as ornately decorated as others with pharaoh status. This is because Tut died so young, and it was most likely a rush to get his tomb ready for burial. 

I move to the annex chamber where the mummy of King Tut rests. His head and feet are the only parts of his body that can be seen. Nevertheless, I feel overwhelmed and unexpectedly emotional as I view his mummy. I guess it’s because I’ve heard so much about this pharaoh over the years. He seems to have gained an iconic and revered status. I guarantee that if you asked anyone to name a pharaoh from ancient Egypt, most would respond with the name Tutankhamen. 

Was it worth it?

Absolutely! I feel privileged to have spent 12 days touring Egypt and to experience the wonders of its ancient civilization. The highlight for me was viewing King Tut’s mask and inner golden coffin. 

I would recommend an Egyptian tour to anyone. It’s perfectly safe and currently unaffected by the Gaza war, except that tourist numbers are down. 

A qualified guide is essential to get your head around ancient history and to understand the multitude of drawings and hieroglyphics. Professional guides must complete a four-year course in Egyptology. We did a small group (12 people) Intrepid comfort tour – ‘Egypt Experience’ with our most competent guide Ahmed. 

If you are contemplating heading to Egypt, I would recommend that you spend a little more and do a small group tour. It’s well worth it, and there are many available online. 

Egypt has been an experience like no other and would rate as one of my top destinations.

Have you been to Egypt? What did you enjoy about it? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: The most affordable destinations of 2024

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