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Drink Like an Egyptian

If you're old enough to remember the U.S. King Tut Tour from the '70s, you likely remember the utter mayhem surrounding the event - and the resulting Egyptian-inspired crapola, including "gold"-dipped costume jewelry in the shape of ankhs and badly beaded sandals. Naturally, since I never made it to the actual tour, I desperately wanted both. ( In my defense, I was naught but a wee lass... I also desperately wanted braces and eyeglasses.)

This time around, however, Shan and I weren't about to miss it. Friends Jac & Michael live in L.A. and offered to escort us two bumpkins to the eee-vent an' put us up fer the evenun. Thankee kindly!

The exhibit is mind-bending. The privelege of looking at something 3,000 years old was worth every cent of the $30 per ticket price. There is an ancient chair, beautifully inlaid with expensively imported woods, the feet of which are carved into lion's paws, that still has the delicately woven netting of the seat perfectly intact. The ability of the golden objects to transport you to a different time and place, picturing the tiny hands carefully cutting and polishing tiny lapis lazuli stones for later inset into a pectoral plate or kingly amphora - are nearly magical.

"The museum cattle herders do their job well: The crowd never thinned...It was artful, in a way - a carefully choreographed madness."

We all also agreed that the secondary spectacle was the organization of the show itself. After parking, you walk to a giant white tent in front of the museum. There your tickets are taken, you're branded with your time slot, and penned. You wait. You moo with your friends. You wait some more. No snacking while standing in your pen. You shuffle forward, trading elbows with your penmates and trying not to get run over by pushy wheelchairs. You wait. You shuffle. You control your urge to clock that *$@&ing wheechair lady in the head. You move into a holding pen with a better view - ooh, you can see the museum's front doors now! You wait. You - finally! - move into chute of the museum. From there, you are funneled into a dark, black room with a couple hundred of your closest friends, some of whom have obviously forgotten the Rules of Basic Hygeine. A movie starts. It's Tut! And it's narrated by the vaguely Middle Eastern and yet non-threatening Omar Sharif.

Then, almost as if you were at Disneyland, the curtain rises and there's an illuminated bust of the Boy King, the target for the ensuing stampede. You can almost hear the projector reset itself as the curtain slams shut behind you. You push into the first antechamber of the actual show.

Literally, most cases were at least four people deep: You had to be a contortionist to read the exhibit summaries, grab glimpses of the actual objects and manage any degree of public decorum. Most threw in the towel after the second case: As Shan said, "It was impossible to avoid elbow-to-boob contact," which in my mind might actually help sell the event to a certain otherwise disinterested demographic: See Tut. Touch Tits.

The museum cattle herders do their job well: The crowd never thinned, neither as I moved ahead nor dropped behind. (And never, ever was as relaxing as this picture appears, at the right.) It was consistently claustrophobic. It was artful, in a way - a carefully choreographed madness.

And the ultimate purpose of it all was made abundantly clear, when at the conclusion of the exhibit - just as your craving for fresh air and solitude is at its most desperate - they unceremoniously dump you into the The 22nd Century's Hellhole of Modern Crapola: The Souvenir Shop.

And there, in the orgy of modern capitalism, you come face to face with (I shit you not) King Tut ragdolls, King Tut keyrings, King Tut post-, playing-, note- and thankyou-cards, King Tut shot glasses (pictured at top), King Tut truffles and ah, yes... "gold" plated ankhs and badly beaded sandals.

Isn't it nice to know that at least souvenirs enjoy eternal life?

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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >