Saturday, November 17, 2007

King Tut

'Everywhere the glint of gold… Wonderful things!' And that's only the gift shop.

King Tut has come to London, to the O2 Bubble, once known as the Millenium Dome. It's easy to get to but when you arrive at North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee line there's only one sign pointing you to O2 and it points you the wrong way! Ignore that sign and look for the brightly painted pyramid and head towards that. A covered walkway takes you to the Dome.

Inside the Dome there are no signs either, so turn right and go past all the Starbucks and trendy eateries and past the ice-skating rink. Once in the queue, they will ask if you want to buy the audioguide at £4. It's worth it. Omar Sharif, an Egyptian actor, narrates the show in his velvety, accented voice.

Entry is timed which means the rooms never get too crowded, though there is a sheeplike element to tourist shuffling from one room to the other. And the exhibition itself? Very satisfying. The rooms are dramatically lit with a nice ambient soundtrack and all the display cases are designed for maximum viewing from all angles. The objects are wonderful and there are just enough of them. Any fewer and you'd feel cheated, but more would exhaust you.

My favourite part was identifying the name T-U-T on so many objects: loaf-of-bread, quail-chick, loaf-of-bread. That's how you spell Tut in hieroglyphics. I loved the gold relief of Tut in his chariot, with a little ankh symbol running behind to protect him. I loved the staff in the shape of a Nubian captive. I loved the wooden statue of a girl swimming; she's lost her duck. I loved the jewelry, in that distinctively Egyptian combination of turquoise, orange carnelian, dark blue faience and gold. The star piece -- a little coffinette for Tut's liver -- is beautifully displayed and the video screens behind show details you might not notice.

Finally the gift shop, full of outrageously expensive items like a Tut key ring for £5 and a £35 book to the exhibition. I splurged on a deliciously tacky King Tut Tissue dispenser. You pull the kleenex out through his nose, (reminding you of the method of extracting the brains from the nostril during preparation of a mummy). I also paid a pound to get a mechanical scribe to print my name in hieroglyphics. On the back of the sheet is a handy guide to hieroglyphics. And if you are really keen you can buy a Zahi Hawass hat! It looks like Indiana Jones' hat but this is the hat worn by the real Egyptian archaeologist who wrote the guide book.