Thursday 24 July 2008

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs

Today we were back at the O2 again (after our brief passage through from pier to bus station yesterday). This time we were off to the 'O2 Bubble' to see the Tutankamun exhibition. The tickets cost £15 each (they are more expensive on Friday through Sunday) and it was actually particularly good value for money.

We arrived and made our way through the queueing area and up the escalators to the entrance. From here we were shepherded into a viewing area (no seats!) to see a short introductory film. From here you could make your way through the various exhibit halls which make up the exhibition.

The exhibition was beautifully imagined and realised. The displays were perfectly lit, each room with just the right amount of exhibits. The information was located at several locations on each display (above and below the case as well as within the case). There were some amazing bits, such as the room with life sized replica columns and the room with replicas of the murals from burial chambers. The whole experience was extremely 'cinematic' in that it was 'moodily' lit and quite dark for most of the time - to the extent that I got lost on several occasions. It was informative and beautifully presented. These were the good things.

Of course there were some not so good points. The whole system for traversing the exhibition was extremely flawed. Far too many people were allowed in one 'sitting' and every room was over-crowded. It is unfortunate that we decided to go in the first week of the school holidays. Whilst there are undoubtedly many youngsters who are interested in the history of Ancient Egypt there are also a lot who are not, many of whom seemed to be visiting the same time as us today!

The biggest disappointment was the fact that the famous death mask of Tutankhamun was not included in the exhibit. Despite the fact that this features prominently on posters, the website and a lot of the souvenirs you will not see it at the O2 (apparently it is no longer allowed to leave Egypt). I did know this in advance of my visit today (I remembered reading about it before the exibit opened) and if you read the FAQs on the website it does confirm this. However, I'm sure that most people didn't read the FAQs or remember the news from the time and were extremely dissapointed at the end of the tour instead of seeing the death mask to find themselves in the gift shop!

After this we had lunch in McDonalds. It amused me deeply whilst having my lunch to find the 'nutrional advice' on the side of my fries and burger. Not only was I informed of the percentages of my RDA of various things (calories, fat, salt, etc.) but there was a dotted line to indicate 1/3 of the RDA to enable me to plan my balanced diet (that is what my burger said, anyway!). I know that McDonalds have tried to shed their fast food image over the last few years and do now sell some healthier options - but I can't think that anyone could possibly claim that a burger and fries in anyway could be seen as part of a balanced diet... after all, the only vegetable in evidence was the pickle!