Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Visiting the Treasures of Ancient Egypt;

On Monday, 16th April 2007, my wife & I went to the Bahrain National Museum (BNM) to get a glimpse of the King himself. The ‘buzz’ around Bahrain was that he was residing at the BNM and was admitting visitors.

Wow, I thought, his royal highness ‘King Tutankhamen’, right here in our back yard. It’s going to be so cool to see artefacts thousands of years old. I was sadly disappointed.

We walked into the museum entrance and stopped at the reception to get our tickets. “Salam u Alaykum” (‘Peace be upon you’ or ‘Hello’) I said. There were four men standing behind the counter (reception). They responded with ‘Alay Kum Al Salam” (‘peace be upon you’ or ‘Hello’).

“Tad karatain low samaht” (two tickets please).

We were told that the local BNM exhibits cost BD -/500 and the ‘PHARAOHS’, the exhibit that we were here to see cost BD 5/- . It has been publicised that just bringing the ‘Pharaoh – Treasures of Ancient Egypt’ exhibit to Bahrain has set back the Government of Bahrain around USD 1.5M. (I do not know if there is any truth to this) but I know that the government of Egypt would never lend its exhibits for free, this is a cash cow that they have been gleefully milking for years.

My wife’s eyebrows rose, “What? How Much?”

One of the guys behind the counter smiled and jokingly said that my wife probably thinks the BD 10/- that I going to pay would be better spent by taking her out to the dinner.

Hum, there’s a thought; Dinner or thousand year relics, “which one should I choose?”. This was a no brainier, I thought; I should have listened to his advice.

I paid for two tickets, got them and we walked into the museum’s hall way. A special section had been setup to the immediate right which led to the entrance of the ‘PHARAOHS’ exhibits.

Even before you walk into the entrance, the X-ray machine which has specially been brought in for this exhibit can been seen in the door way. My wife places her purse on the belt at one end, and it comes out the other, not beeps.

We walk in.

As soon as I took my first step, the guard standing at the entrance cries out “Mamnooh al Tasweer”!

“What the Hell? No Photographs!”
Only then do I see the side on the wall that reads ‘No Photographs allowed’, both in English and Arabic.

My wife and I are dumbfounded. To visit an exhibit like this but not be able to take photographs.

Aaaaahh the BD 10/-, Mother F&%$^&!

Too late to change our minds now, so we continue to walk in and the immediate thing that comes to mind is, ‘It’s rather dark in here’!

The lighting makes it difficult to read the labels below each exhibit, so I had to squint a lot; and not all the pieces on show are worth mentioning; there were some tiles, a large chunk from some pillar with hieroglyphics, some rings, earrings, necklaces, etc.

Out of all the items that were on display, the mentionable ones are;

1) The statue of a man sitting down with his legs folded and a baboon sitting on his head. [I do not know the name on the label],
2) The rather large statue of a pharaoh from head to elbow, with a long slender face and pop out ears, and a long gotee; wearing the usual CORBRA pharaoh wig, it was cooooooooool, a shame that I could not take a photo,
3) The Cover of a ancient toilet – toilet seat (yuck, I wonder who sat on it, maybe Cleopatra, heheheheheh),
4) A pharaoh’s Pet Cat’s grave,
5) King Tut's sarcophagus, the coffin was cool, but I wanted to see the King Tut himself,
6) Some beaded necklaces,
7) A wooden bed (it was OK),
8) And the Golden Mask, Niceeeeeeeeee…

We do the rounds, both downstairs and up and then walk out, not completely satisfied.

So the question here is, ‘Why is the exhibition so low key?’
I am sure that there are much more better pieces out there that were not brought with the exhibits.

Sheikha Mai definitely intended on exposing the Bahraini community to some of the greatest Egyptian artefacts and treasures, and I thank her for that. I just wonder what went wrong during the discussions for the Egyptain government not to want to bring all the other goodies, was it more money? Was it the Security?

Overall, my wife and I still enjoyed the exhibit.

I wonder if we can convince the Egyptian government to lend us the SPINX, maybe a PYRAMID or two, just for the three day F1 in 2008, hummmmmmm.