Ramses Exhibit Unaffected by U.S.-Egyptian Tensions
PROVO, Utah (AP) _ An exhibit of priceless antiquities from the reign of Ramses the Great makes its U.S. debut Friday, and organizers hope it will be a ″message of goodwill″ between the United States and Egypt, whose relations have been strained since the Achille Lauro hijacking.
The Egyptian Museum’s exhibit, ″Ramses II: The Pharaoh and His Time,″ is scheduled to run through April 5 at Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University. It will then be displayed at the World’s Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia, before going to Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn.
Organizers of the tour say the exhibit of artifacts from the time of Ramses II, who is believed to have been pharaoh during the biblical Exodus, is even more spectacular than that of the King Tutankhamen exhibition, which drew hundreds of thousands of people during its U.S. tour several years.
The Ramses exhibit includes temple shrines, sarcophagi and an 8-ton statue of a falcon guarding the young child Ramses, delicate pieces of jewelry, ornate instruments used to apply cosmetics, workmen’s tools, pottery and papyrus pieces.
″Tut did not have any 8-ton pieces,″ said Wilfred C. Griggs, a BYU professor of ancient scripture who helped bring the exhibit here.
″We have the whole range - that’s the thing that makes this more spectacular than Tut. That was one man’s burial tomb. This runs the gamut of Egyptian culture.″
Griggs said the exhibit would be a ″message of goodwill″ that transcends anti-American sentiment spreading through Egypt that followed the U.S. interception of an Egyptian airliner carrying the four Palestinians accused of killing an American tourist during the Achille Lauro hijacking.
″Obviously the Egyptians see this exhibit as a chance to recognize our common inheritance,″ Griggs said. ″I hope people don’t lose their heads over critical incidents - and I realize it is a critical incident - but one has to look beyond.″
Ibrahim el-Nawawy, director-general of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization’s museum sector, said negotiations for the exhibit would not have been affected even if they began after the hijacking.
″Our relations are more solid than to be affected permanently by such a crisis,″ said el-Nawawy. ″We never considered withdrawing the Ramses exhibit.″
However, Egyptian Prime Minister Ali Lutfi Mahmoud Lutfi and Ambassador Abdel el Reidy say they won’t be able to attend the exhibit’s Friday’s opening even though they had once expressed such an interest. Lutfi, who was recently appointed prime minister, cited the need to become more acquainted with his new position.
The most senior official attending will be Ismail el Moeti, consul-general from the Egyptian consulate in San Francisco.
The university has spent more than $1.5 million to bring the exhibit here, Griggs said.
The collection has been insured for $35 million, and security surrounding the Monte L. Bean museum has been bolstered. The artifacts are under heavy guard in alarm-fitted and climate-controlled display cases.
More than 20 officers have been added to the campus police force, and trucking the exhibit from the Salt Lake City International Airport to Provo involved SWAT teams and the FBI.