If you’ve ever been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and looked at the labels describing its many Egyptian artifacts, you would think they were all discovered in Europe. The Rogers Fund, gifts of Edward S. Harkness, gifts of the Egyptian Exploration Fund (a group of wealthy English travelers and adventurers) and the museum itself, among others, are thanked for bestowing such an expansive collection of antiquities to visitors of the Dawn of Egyptian Art wing. Apparently, the dawn of Egypt came when Europeans arrived to witness it.
At 9:30 am on mid-July day, the Met was already filling with tourists and their cameras. After a very long year living in Cairo, I went into the Egyptian art wing hoping to find another reason to be impressed by this ancient part of the world where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. I wasn’t disappointed.
The wing is a shrine to all that is beautiful in Egypt’s history, and tourists come to pay pilgrimage. Egyptians with “Call me Dave!” or “Hi, I’m Peter!” pinned to their chests speak with Queens, a New York borough, and New Jersey accents. They lead large groups through the warrens of the exhibit, weaving biblical history into their explanations of certain objects and antiquities.
Each item is carefully displayed. Walls have been lovingly shellacked to house the small shards of a mural that once decorated the inside of a tomb. They are spaced far apart from each other; curators and Egyptologists have filled in the lacunae with simple line drawings that illustrate the complexity of the mural. A large plaque below the piece explains where it came from, who discovered it, what the hieroglyphs mean and why these paintings were created in the first place.