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When thinking of places to take children in London, the Saatchi Gallery might not be first on your list. Currently though, it is home to an incredible, educational exhibition called Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. Presenting a plethora of treasures discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb, this is a fantastic way to encourage interest in Ancient Egypt. Better still, audio guides are on hand to explain each exhibit. Children enjoy the independence of listening to the bits that interest them and parents enjoy the artefacts without answering constant curious questions.
About the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London
It is one hundred years since Howard Carter’s discovery sparked worldwide ‘Tut mania’. To celebrate, the Saatchi Gallery is hosting an exhibition of the largest collection of Tutankhamun’s treasures ever to travel outside of Egypt. Presented by Viking Cruises, the exhibition was put together by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and IMG. It features over 150 artefacts from the tomb. Sixty of these are outside of Egypt for the first time ever.
Whilst the artefacts have been travelling around for some time now, this is the last opportunity to see them before they return to Egypt. A Grand Egyptian Museum is currently being created. It will be an archaeological, historical and scientific study centre covering around 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. It will be located near to the Giza pyramids beside the Giza Plateau UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
As you would expect, all historical artefacts currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery will return to Egypt to be housed in the Grand Museum. Perhaps that’s why this tour is so popular. In every destination, hundreds of thousands of visitors have flocked to see it. It opened yesterday in London to sold out crowds and over 250,000 tickets have already been purchased. Unless you are planning a visit to Egypt soon, I would highly recommend visiting Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.
Visiting Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh with children
We headed to the Saatchi Gallery on Friday for the press launch. After a long journey, the girls were quite hyper when we arrived in London. We grabbed lunch in a café nearby and chatted to the girls about the importance of being on their best behaviour. I was quite worried about going to the Saatchi Gallery with little ones. Hundreds of priceless exhibits. Members of the press trying to enjoy them and prepare their stories. And my children running around, causing chaos.
Thankfully, it didn’t turn out like that. As soon as we arrived, we were all welcomed. Staff handed us an audio guide each and told us how they worked. There’s a number above selected exhibits that you can punch into the audio guide to hear more information about that piece. This was surprisingly fascinating for the girls, who both chose to listen to much of the information as we were going round.
Before looking at the artefacts, visitors are treated to a short video. Starting with Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb in 1922, the video moves on to talk about Tutankhamun himself. It then invites the audience into the exhibition to journey through the afterlife with the famous Pharaoh.
The treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb on display in the Saatchi Gallery
Slightly misleadingly, the most iconic photo of the exhibition is of a gold and blue glass coffinette. It is a spectacular piece that, in photographic form, can be mistaken for Tutankhamun’s famous death mask. In fact, the death mask is not on display. It doesn’t travel outside of Egypt due to being both delicate and revered.
Nonetheless, the artefacts that are on display are fascinating for adults and children alike. They’re arranged in order of the way they were thought to be required by the dead for their journey into the afterlife. We were all enthralled by the story of the water boy who unearthed the steps to the tomb. He was photographed wearing a necklace discovered among the treasures inside. This changed the fortune of him and his family, who never had to work again. Instead, he spent each day holding his photo and telling tourists that he had found the tomb. When he died, his son took over the mantle.
Among over 150 exhibits, each of us related to something different. Lia was fascinated by the child-sized furniture thought to have been made for Tutankhamun when he became King of Egypt aged just nine years old. I loved the silence and drama of the 10-foot tall stone statue of Tutankhamun in the last room of the exhibition. Libby was enthralled by the Wishing Chalice and explanations of the importance of magic in Ancient Egypt. My husband was drawn in by the story of the trumpet found in the tomb that has been blown only a few times since its discovery. Each time, conflict has broken out within days. It will never sound again.
What you need to know about visiting Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh
- How to get tickets: For more information about the exhibition and to book tickets, head to the Tutankhamun London website.
- Ticket price: You may have seen in the media that the ticket price has been criticised, with some tickets costing up to £37.50. However, children’s tickets are cheaper and the price does depend on the day of your visit. I tried to get tickets for the exhibition when it was in Liverpool but it had sold out months in advance. It strikes me that if you are interested in Ancient Egypt, the ticket price isn’t unreasonable. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the artefacts without travelling to Egypt, which is clearly far less accessible for most of us.
- Is Tutankhamun’s death mask on display at the Saatchi Gallery? No, don’t be mislead by the photo of the coffinette that looks very similar to the death mask. The only place you can see the death mask will be in the Grand Egyptian Museum when it opens.
- How long does it take to see Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh? We were advised that walking around the exhibition would take between 60 and 90 minutes. In fact, we were in there for over two hours. My husband and I agreed that if we hadn’t had the children with us, we could have spent longer there. We did see people rushing through rather more quickly, but if you are genuinely interested in the artefacts and want to read about them and the story of Tutankhamun, I would advise allowing at least two hours.
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