The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I went to the "Treasures of Tutankhamun" exhitibiton in Fort Lauderdale yesterday. As the title of this post suggests, the experience was a mixed bag. The original plan was for me to take my dad to the exhibition as a Christmas present. I had talked with my ex-wife, Bekki, over the holidays and she said that it sounded like something she'd like to see, too. I told her that she was welcome to come along. I ordered tickets for the three of us last week, including a Senior ticket for my dad, since he's over 65.

Well, on Friday, my dad called me and told me that he had bronchitis and was as sick as a dog. He wasn't able to go, which was disappointing. I called Bekki and told her that we had an extra ticket if she knew someone 65 or older who wanted to go. Alas, she didn't, so I ended up eating the cost of the ticket.

We met up as arranged at 10:00 yesterday morning and drove across Alligator Alley to Fort Lauderdale. I'd gotten the driving instructions off the Ticketmaster web site, and I also pulled the map up on Mapquest. I knew exactly where I was going, and we had no problems at all finding the parking garage across the street from the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, where the exhibition is taking place.

The weather was ugly, very ugly. It rained hard most of the drive across the state. Fortunately, we both brought umbrellas. By the time we arrived, it was only drizzling in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We got there around 12:30, about two hours early, and the plan was to have some lunch and then look around the trendy Riverfront area, which has cafes, restaurants and shops.

We went into the Museum box office to get our tickets at Will Call, and then I discovered that I'd left the paper on which I'd written down the ticket order number in the car. I had to go back across the street to get it. As I went out the door, the skies opened up and it began to pour down rain. Having an umbrella doesn't help much when the rain is blowing in diagonally. I went back to the car and got the paper, then went back across the street. In that short period of time, puddles about two inches deep had formed along the curbs by the crosswalks. By time I got back inside, my legs and shoes were soaked from the driving rain and puddles.

I got our tickets and then we went back out into the deluge to find lunch. We ended up having subs at Quizno's. Well, I had a sub; Bekki had a salad and one of those SoBe energy drinks in a pastel purple flavor. I think it was raspberry-blueberry, but I wouldn't swear to it. Then we went and looked around a couple of the eclectic shops nearby, before going to the Museum's gift shop to look for souvenirs.

Finally, the time for our entrance approached. Bekki didn't want to go up the stairs (she broke a leg a dozen years ago and doesn't like stairs), so she took the elevator. I took the stairs and waited in the line that snaked up to the door. I made it inside a little after 2:30. She was waiting inside, wondering what had taken so long.

A word of advice: If you go to see this exhibition in Fort Lauderdale (or Chicago or Philadelphia, when it comes to those cities), be sure to pay the extra $7 per person to get the audio tour headset. The narration goes into a lot of detail about many of the objects on display. Bekki told me that she felt bad for the people who didn't have the headsets, because they were missing out on a lot of information.

The other bad thing, besides my dad not being able to go, was how crowded the exhibition was. There were a LOT of people moving through the halls, and it took us about and hour and a half to make it through. I would have liked to have gone through on a day when there perhaps half as many people in order to be able to move from item to item more quickly.

The Treasures themselves, however, were dazzling. The Boy King got a splendid send-0ff into the afterlife. Who says "You can't take it with you"? Tutankhamun did. It would be hard to go into a lot of detail about all of the items I saw, or rather, it would take too long. One of the most amazing items a saw was a child's chair, with a woven seat that looked like it was made of something similar to cane. It was more than three thousand years old and still intact due to the dry climate of Egypt.

The most visually stunning item was probably the golden mummy case. This one didn't belong to Tutankhamun, however. Also dazzling was a golden dagger which was found on Tutankhamun's body, as well as the golden crook and flail (with detail in faience, carnelian and glass) that were his symbols of authority, and the golden head-dress with the heads of a cobra and a vulture at its crown. There was a large ointment jar showing Tutankhamun trampling on the heads of Nubians and Syrians. There was a little game board for him to use in the afterlife, which was engraved with hieroglyphs telling how powerful he was (slightly intimidating if you were playing against him, as the narration pointed out).

There were many little shabti statues, which were engraved with spells from the Book of the Dead so that they would stand in for their maker in the afterlife if the gods demanded difficult labor. The shabtis were made from a variety of different substances, including clay, stone, copper, faience and gold.

"What is faience?" you ask. Faience is a glazed non-clay ceramic material, typically made from quartz, and the characteristic bright blue-green color comes from copper used in the glazing process. There were numerous faience items on display; especially common were the large ankhs which were the symbol for "life."

Also interesting were a number of symbolic model items that were expected to magically become real in the afterlife, including jars, toy boats and even a non-working camp chair. There was a glass headrest of the type that Egyptians wrapped with cloth and used instead of pillows when they slept. This one had a spell from the Book of the Dead to protect the mummy's head.

There were also several alabaster canopic jars, which held the entrails of the body when it was mummified. One of Tutankhamun's canopic jars bore a disturbing resemblence to Michael Jackson, which I pointed out to Bekki. Maybe it's the other way around, though; perhaps Michael Jackson was using it for his model for plastic surgery. Either way, it was kind of creepy.

All in all, we had a good time. My pants had even dried out by the time I finally got home. My shoes were still damp.