Tutankhamun Exhibition

July 17th, 2008

The last couple of days my mother and sister were here to visit me and see London, so I’ve been off doing touristy stuff. Yesterday we went to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2 and it’s definitely worth seeing.

Some backstory first though (cause I love talking about myself). I’ve got a bit of a history with Egyptian history. I grew up reading and loving everything about ancient history: Romans, Ancient Greeks, Mayans, Incans, Egyptians, Vikings. To be honest, I didn’t like the history part about it. History is focused on the politics and people, while what I was interested in was all the cultural aspects surrounding those different times. Like the art styles, belief systems, clothes, and other stuff like that (I still love reading myths about the various types of gods; there’s a reason all my hardware is named after a god/goddess). The main reason I wanted to go to the Dutch gymnasium (high school type, if you want to know more about the Dutch education system, there’s a good Wikipedia article) is that you then get Latin and Ancient Greek, plus a great 10 day trip to Rome.

Anyhow, my main love was Egypt. During my second year I studied hieroglyphics as an extra self-defined and prepared course (my school thought some “smart” kids needed more mental stimulation besides the normal easy courses and gave us free reign to whatever extra course we wanted to learn), which, although way more difficult than I at the time had expected, fueled my enthusiasm for all things Egypt even more.

Then for my 16th birthday I finally got to actually go to Egypt for 10 days. I visited Cairo, then took a plane to Aswan and spent a couple of days on a cruise boat to Luxor (only to discover I get very very sea river sick). I got to see a lot of museums, a lot of temple and graves, and of course the Pyramids of Gizeh. I even was contemplating studying Egyptology or Archaeology, but it was my dislike for the politics and actual history that stopped me from choosing that path. That, plus I was practical enough to realise my math and logic skills would be way better suited to computer science (which would also offer much better job opportunities). 

So the Tutankhamun exhibition yesterday was a real treat for me; it kind of re-ignited my passion for the ancient times. You should realise though that Tutankhamun’s death mask and any of the coffins aren’t part of the exhibition. I knew about the death mask (it’s not allowed to leave Egypt anymore), but had expected at least one of the coffins. The other artifacts make up for that though, most of them are gorgeous; my favourite being a golden diadem that was found on the head of King Tut’s mummified body. The quality of some of the pieces is amazing; inlaid stones, intricate details, perfect condition, these objects were buried for more than 2000 years!

The exhibition showcases the life of Tutankhamun and that of his family, explaining the world he was born into. It does a great job of telling a story, without assuming any previous knowledge about it. Unlike some other exhibitions, the artifacts aren’t just put into glass cases in one big giant room and you’re wandering from case to case, not really understanding the context of the objects. Here the exhibition manages to give you the full picture; every room is another chapter of the story and you walk through the exhibition each time learning (and comprehending) parts of Tutankhamun’s life. The atmosphere is mesmerizing and mysterious. The exhibition makes clever use of lighting and shadows, highlighting the artifacts in wonderful manner. There’s a perfect moment right at the start, where you’re suddenly transported to the world of Egypt and it’s secrets. 

For me the £17 entrance ticket was completely worth it and it makes me want to visit Egypt again. Who knows? Maybe next year for holiday?

Tags: Events