As part of a company event in Paris, I was able to see the Tutankhamun exhibition. Until the completion of the Grand Egyptian Museum near Cairo in 2020, a selection of exhibits are currently touring the world. The tour started in Los Angeles, heading on to Paris and will hit other cities like London in the future. Here is a review.
Tutankhamun – Venue & Admission
The exposition is based in the Grande Halle de La Vilette, which seems to be a former market hall. The district has been designed to host cultural events, the Philharmonic Hall, for example is closeby. The next metro station is Porte de Pantin.
The weekday adult admission is 22 Euro. On holidays, school holidays and weekend, the price increases to 24 EUR. The tickets are timed to a 30 minute time slot. The items are in display in Paris until mid September, before they move to London.
Tutankhamun – The Exhibition
Though there are timed tickets, you are allowed into the exhibition by groups of people. Roughly 50 people per shift are watching an introductory movie, which is of course in French, but there are small English subtitles. The first statue you see is typically located at the Louvre (review of Louvre Abu Dhabi) – thus, you will likely not see it in any other exhibition when the Tutakhamun tours through other locations.
Despite this staggered entry of visitors, especially the first exhibition area is extremely crowded. One key reason is that there are not only official tourist groups, but also tour guides, which have an entrance ticket by themselve. Thus, people are extremely concentrated. I hated it and separated from my group due to that.
The exhibits are grouped in topics. The first area is dealing with the Netherworld. You see a lot of items given to the dead for the afterlife. There are items like chairs and headrests which shall comfy the dead’s existance in that area. The second group of exhibits, Danger, is explaining the twelve gates to Netherland equivalent to the twelve hours of the night. They for example include the gatekeepers to these areas.
Guardian explains how after passing the gates to Netherland his bo and his ka (body and soul, roughly) need to reunite to finally really reach afterlife. The guardian statue was to me the most impressing exhibit of the whole collection. The final set of exhibition is the Rebirth. On the one hand, this was the most amazing section to me, as there are so many amulets, figurines and other small items to explore. On the other hand, this is the most disappointing one. Did you also expect to see the sarcophagus? I would have, at least due to the way they market this exhibition. But there are “just” some original pieces of jewelry on a mummy figure in that room. Our guide said that the original sarcophagus is too valuable to be insured and it can thus not be displayed.
After that, there is an additional section, which mainly deals with how Howard Carter found and explored Tutanchamun’s Tomb in 1922. There are some maps and drawings of the area, videos and audio exhibits, but also some more items found in the tomb. Before you leave the exhibition, there is another, not that well-preserved, but huge, statue.
Tutankhamun – Services
The services offered in Paris are quite poor. I only spotted a toilet close to the end of the visit. The toilet was by far too small regarding the number of visitors. There is no dedicated cafe or similar refreshment. The venue offers a few options outside the expo, though.
Of course, there is a gift shop avaialble at the end of the tour. I just checked a couple of items in there and overall felt that the items on sale are rather on the pricey side. There are some quite interesting souvenirs on sale though. In case you are too frustrated that you do not see the original sarcophagus, you may but an original size replica of the head part of it. It looks really great – unfortunately, the bad news is that you need to be able to spent 26,000 Euro for it.
Tutankhamun – My View
No need to discuss – this collection of ancient Egypt items from the Tutankhamun grave is just amazing. It is not that huge, but top notch. The admission is really reasonable. What I am really struggling with is that the exhibition is advertised with the sarcophagus. You will not see that item in the exhibition. Most of the visitors will also not take the 26k Euro souvenir with them. It is really a shame and a somehow negative experience as part of a really great Ancient Egypt time. They should think about reducing the number of groups in parallel, though, definitely.