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Samir Raafat
Jordan Star, December 11, 1997

CAIRO -- One of crankiest stories yet to come out of Luxor is that the November 17 massacre where 58 tourists and four Egyptians lost their lives to six terrorists in the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, was the consummation of Pharaoh's Curse. Hadn't it coincided practically to the week with the discovery of King Tut Ankhamen's burial chamber some seventy five years ago? And wasn't it known to everyone in the 1920s that several persons present at the discovery had died under bizarre circumstances!

Indeed, one could call the last few weeks Pharaoh Revival season. Before the carnage, plans were underway to celebrate in November and December of this year, the 75th anniversary of the discovery of Tut Ankhamen's burial chamber. A happening which took place in November 1922, and kept the entire world in suspended animation. In London, The Times which had obtained exclusive rights to reporting the discovery, churned out titillating episodes each day. Since then, the Boy King, who reigned over Egypt between 1361 and 1352 BC, has been the source of unraveling mysteries

Publicity buildup aside, King Tut is today the single most popular trademark for Ancient Egyptian civilization. By the looks of it, the bias is about to spill over into the next millennium. Everywhere, as free economies globalize, expand and contract, King Tut continues to be merchandised any which way one can. From serious books and academic CD-ROM's, to holograms, coffee mugs and T-shirts. Tut is everywhere. He was even the subject of an international dispute in a multi-million dollar case of pirated logos. But long before these tacky displays appeared on the kitsch horizon, the media had already devised ways of keeping the Boy King legend alive. The earliest break came in April 1923 when one of the tomb's two discoverers - Lord Carnarvon - died at the Cairo Continental-Savoy Hotel from mosquito bite complications.

Almost before anyone could shout "Leave King Tut alone" the word had spread to the corners of the globe that the British peer's demise was the work of Pharaohs Curse. Henceforth, anyone who had been anywhere near King Tut Ankhamen's tomb the day it was discovered, and who happened to die within proximity of November 1922-24, the unofficial reason of death would invariably be, Pharaoh's Curse.

Proponents of the curse theory went as far linking the cold blooded murder of Ali Fahmi, Egyptian scion of a landowning family, to the sarcophagus opening. "Pharaoh strikes again" screamed the agitated dailies. Fahmi had allegedly been in Luxor in 1922 attending the historic opening of King Tut's tomb. The following year he was fatally wounded by his European wife at London's Savoy Hotel. Soon enough books supplemented the exhilarating editorials with fresh tidbits. Yet no one bothered to verify that the murderess had also terminated her previous husband. He had never come to Egypt or heard of King Tut!  

As though to disprove these tall tales from the crypt, while touring the recent Tut Ankhamen exhibit at the British Council in Cairo, I discovered per chance a photo taken circa 1924 depicting my great-uncle - Chamsi Pasha - standing in front of the tomb of Sethos II at Luxor's Valley of the Kings next to Howard Carter and Monsieur Pierre Lacau, the then-director of the Egyptian Antiquities Department. I can vouch Chamsi lived to be 77 dying in 1962 following a brilliant political career. So much for pharaoh's curse!

Early last November, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the discovery of Tut Ankhamen's burial chamber, a French archeological team headed by Alain Zivie uncovered a most revealing Ancient Egyptian tomb in Sakkara a few kilometers south west of Cairo, not far from Memphis the sometime administrative capital of Ancient Egypt. Digging into rock below a modern day guest house and cafeteria, the French team discovered what appeared to be at first an Ancient Egyptian nobleman's tomb. A more thorough examination and -- bingo! The underground chamber revealed this was no mere nobleman's place of rest but was the tomb of Maya the divine wet nurse, a beautiful noblewoman whose highborn breasts had been suckled by the Pharaoh God, Tut Ankhamen. Engraved on the adjoining tombs' walls were members of the late 18th Dynasty nobility including priests, grandees, the chief of the royal treasury, ambassadors and three generations from a family of royal painters.

At a December 7, 1997 press conference held at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Zivie explained that this latest discovery was only the beginning. The French Egyptologist expected further consequential revelations to come out of Maya's near intact tomb. For instance, we may finally uncover who was King Tut's biological mother as opposed to his well known Divine Parenthood. Although we know King Tut was born in Tel al-Amarna and that he was reportedly the son of Amenhotep III (an earlier 18th-dynasty king), to this day no one determined who exactly gave birth to the Boy King.

Another unknown which might soon be cleared concerns the court painters depicted on the nearby murals. Are they the same ones who decorated the wonders that survived from that turbulent period? Many questions some of which are about to be answered.

Alain Zivie, meanwhile, too absorbed by what is in store for him the coming days, could not be bothered with King Tut's Curse.

Seventy five years since the discovery of the Boy King's burial chamber and the world is still spellbound by the mysteries of his enigmatic reign.

  • Wednesday, November 22, 1922. Having been summoned by Howard Carter who is onto something big, Earl of Carnarvon arrives from London with his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert. They check into Cairo's Continental Savoy Hotel.
  • Thursday, November 23, 1922. Carnarvon and daughter depart for Luxor.
  • Friday, November 24, 1922. Rubbish and debris cleared from in front of tomb presumed to be that of minor pharaoh.
  • Saturday, November 25, 1922. Carnarvon and Carter examine tomb's outer chamber.
  • Sunday, November 26, 1922. Reginald "Rex" Endlebach arrives at King Tut Amkhamen's tomb in Luxor and stands in for his boss, Monsieur Pierre Lacau, the French Jesuit who replaced Gaston Maspero in 1913 as Head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department.
  • Wednesday, November 29, 1922. Twenty guests including Lady Allenby attend private opening of the outer chamber of King Tut Ankhamen's tomb.
  • Thursday, November 30, 1922. Tutmania makes its debut when, by prior agreement with Carter/Carnarvon, Arthur Sidney Merton of The Times of London begins reporting from Luxor what will become the longest-running news saga.
  • February 16, 1923. With several important officials in attendance, last sealed door is opened leading into the King's burial chamber.
  • February 18, 1923. King Tut Ankhamen's tomb visited by the King and Queen of the Belgians.
  • February 19 - 25, 1923. Tomb temporarily accessible to press and public.
  • April 5, 1923. Carnarvon dies in Cairo coinciding with black-out of the entire city.
  • September 1923. Ali Fahmi, 23, murdered at Savoy Hotel, London.
  • February 12, 1924. Opening of King Tut's sarcophagus witnessed by high-ranking officials including Chamsi Pasha.
  • February 1924. Death of French-Canadian Professeur La Fleur hours after visiting King Tut's tomb . Myth of Pharaoh's curse reinforced.
  • March 2, 1939. Carter dies in London.

From: Rose Stock
Subject: King Tut Fever
Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 2:26 PM

I just finished reading your article and decided to write you and let you know that my 700 students, grades kindergarten through fifth, have the King Tut "FEVER"! I am the art teacher at Bashaw Elementary School and I am teaching a unit on Ancient Egypt focused on King Tut. Many of the students and their parents continue to go to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to see King Tut's TREASURES at the Museum of Arts, Fort Lauderdale. The students at Bashaw are definitely keeping the boy king ALIVE!!! Rose Stock

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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