A major exhibition on Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most powerful and influential pharaohs, was officially inaugurated in Sydney this week in the biggest show for the Australian Museum in 200 years.
A delegation from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities led by Mustafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, attended the ceremony and press conference, the ministry said in a statement.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Waziri praised the Australian Museum for the effort it made in being able to host the exhibition, “Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs,” and called on the people of Australia to visit Egypt to enjoy its rich history and ancient civilization.
Kim McKay, director of the Australian Museum, told the Government News website on Thursday that the Ramses exhibition is the biggest show the museum has hosted in its 200-year history.
“The exhibition has been valued in excess of $1.6 billion, so to transport that to Australia involved chartered aircraft, and not everything coming out in the one shipment to ensure the collection’s protected,” she added.
Opening to the public on Saturday and running until May 19, 2024, the exhibition showcases 182 artifacts from the collections of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities approved the tour in early 2021 for the purpose of encouraging tourism to Egypt.
Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, ruled for 66 years, 1279–1213 BCE, making him one of the longest-reigning pharaohs in Egyptian history. He oversaw the construction of monumental temples, including in Luxor, and led major military conquests during his reign.
Ramses’ sarcophagus, considered one of the most impressive royal coffins from ancient Egypt, will be on display in Australia, offering museum visitors there a rare opportunity. It has previously only been displayed outside Egypt at the Parisian stop of the current exhibition (April to September 2023). The other stops were in Houston (November 2021 to May 2022) and San Francisco (August 2022 to January 2023).
The carved, cedar coffin was discovered in 1881 in Deir al-Bahri, west of Luxor, and features the pharaoh represented as Osiris, one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt.
In recent years, Egypt has stepped up efforts to revive its tourism sector, which was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic followed by Russia’s war against Ukraine. More immediate concerns revolve around the negative impact of the Hamas-Israel war in neighboring Gaza on Egypt’s tourism industry and the country’s overall economy.
In a bid to contain the fallout from the war in Gaza, Tourism Minister Ahmed Issa told Reuters last week that Egypt is offering an extra $500 in incentives per flight, in addition to regular such incentives, for planes landing in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The incentives are aimed at maintaining stable flight connections.
The tourism sector is one of Egypt’s main sources of hard currency. As of October, tourism revenues for fiscal year 2022/23 stood at $13.6 billion, a 26.8% increase compared to the previous year’s figure of $10.7 billion, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.