More than three millennia separate ancient Egypt from the jet era.
But these two chronologically distant eras collided on March 23, 2023, when a state-of the-art Air France A350 took off from Cairo international airport (CAI) carrying the sarcophagus of the great Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, who lived in the 13th C BC.
This special ancient cargo, which travelled in the cargo hold of a regular Air France flight, was bound for Paris, where the 3,000-year-old sarcophagus will be the centrepiece of a temporary archaeological exhibition, “Ramses and the gold of the Pharaohs”. The exhibition opens on April 7, 2023, at the Grande Halle de la Villette in the French capital.
This is the first time that the sarcophagus has left Egypt in almost half a century.
In 1974, the mummy of Ramses II was flown to Paris to undergo restoration work since its preservation was threatened by a fungus and, in 1976, it was exhibited to the Parisian public, drawing crowds to see it.
One aspect of that trip that captured the public attention was the fact that the ancient royal mummy had been issued its own passport. While true, the news sparked a viral meme complete with passport photo.
This time the sarcophagus will travel empty, since it is illegal to take ancient mummies out of Egypt. The exhibition will then embark on a world tour minus the sarcophagus, which will return to Egypt after its French outing, presumably on a similar flight.
Air France shared video footage on its YouTube channel of the sarcophagus arriving at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport (CDG) in a special container.