The superbly curated exhibition features 182 priceless artefacts.
Naguib Kanawati, Distinguished Professor of Egyptology at Macquarie University, once said Australians were more interested in Egyptology than the Egyptians themselves, and this theory is about to be tested with the opening of Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs at Sydney's Australian Museum.
Launching the exhibition, Dr Mostafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said he hoped a million Australians would attend the exhibition. And with more than 100,000 tickets pre-sold, it's off to a great start.
Ramses the Great reigned from 1279-1213 BCE and is known as a builder of cities and monuments (many to himself), a conqueror of lands, and the creator of the first peace treaty, a copy of which adorns a wall at the United Nations headquarters in New York. He lived 92 years on the planet and for thousands more - and counting - in the afterlife, as many of the displays attest.
This is considered to be the most important Egyptian antiquities exhibition ever to visit Australia and should be at the top of your pyramid of things to see in Sydney this summer/autumn. In addition to the 182 priceless artefacts, this superbly curated dive into ancient Egypt also features individual audio tours, public lectures, a scene-setting animation of the times from 3000 years ago, a cinematic depiction of the Battle of Kadesh and a very cool VR experience, in which the ancient goes hi-tech.
The VR show is as impressive as the specs are incomprehensible. For those who understand these things, it features state-of-the-art Positron Voyager cinematic motion chairs with 59-degree pitch range, unlimited yaw and haptic feedback, high-resolution tethered 4K HP Reverb G2 Headsets, RTX 2080 graphics, a scent dispenser and surround sound. It runs for 10 sensory minutes and the animated spirit of Nefertari, the favourite of the pharaoh's eight wives, who between them bore him more than 100 kids, helps you evade evil spirits, guides you through a dust storm and shows you around the temples of Abu Simbel (and its four 20-metre-high Ramses statues), as well as her own intricately decorated tomb in the Valley of the Queens.
Cheering her on all the way, you will be thrilled when Nefertari is finally reunited with her love, notwithstanding his slightly jarring American accent. Their affection is multi-dimensional (thanks to the VR wizardry) and you will find yourself hoping they get a virtual room to catch up on some long-overdue consorting.
FIVE MORE MUST-SEE EXHIBITS
1. Ramses' coffin is the star of the show. This extraordinary, exquisitely carved and inscribed cedar sarcophagus is a work of inestimable value, and Sydney is just the second city outside Egypt to see it.
2. The limestone colossus of a standing Ramses wearing the striped headdress of a king and a false beard.
3. The 46-centimetre-tall gold mask of King Amenemope, composed of thick sheets of gold and featuring a royal cobra on his forehead.
4. The ostracon (pottery slab) depicting Ramses IV in a chariot, grabbing terrified enemies by the hair.
5. The animal mummies. The ancient Egyptians were cat people but they also mummified other animals to ensure their everlasting integrity.
Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs, Australian Museum, Sydney; November 18 to May 19; adults from $38, children from $25, VR experience $30. australian.museum
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