Egypt has long been on my wishlist of places to visit and even if I haven’t gone there as yet, I recently got a sneak peek at that amazing African country, that too in the capital of Silcon Valley.
On 1664 Park Avenue in San Jose, California is a place called the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which takes you back into your history book; into those chapters on the age-old Egyptian civilization. Boasting of around 4000 exhibits in four galleries, this museum claims to be the largest collection of artifacts in the Western Coast of the United States of America.
Nestled in richly green Rosicrucian Park -- with its manicured lawns, fountains and rose gardens amidst several shady trees -- I’d almost forgotten that I was in the US, when I entered the premises of this museum. The tall columns of the buildings in there and the many sculptures that adorn the park, add to the character of the place and make it all the more Egyptian.
The Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose is said to be the only Egyptian styled building to house artifacts of the early Egyptian people. The museum’s assets have been divided into four galleries: The Afterlife, Daily Life and Trade, Kingship and Religion and Shrines. Thanks to the exhibits which included almost everything I could think of, walking through the galleries I felt like I was strolling through ancient Egypt.
As I entered what is called Gallery A of the exhibition house, I was greeted by a golden figure of a young Egyptian Pharaoh. Tall and beautiful, the figure seemed to draw me and take me into another world of another age; a world of mummies and coffins and numerous funerary items. There were the trays in which the offerings for the departed were laid out, the funerary boat in which the dead were transported and other such things. They all seemed to spell out how much the Egyptians revered the dead.
As for the mummies in the museum, I was told that they were all real. What more, the mummies there were not just that of pharaohs, but also laymen, cattle, gazelles, birds and fish. Just as we were gazing at the `hero’ of the museum, a mummy that is believed to date back to over a 3000 years, one of the staff of the museum offered to give us a small talk on the mummification process that these ancient people performed with great care. And I must say that was an insightful few minutes as I learnt much more than I did at the history class in school.
The other galleries went on to say more about the Egyptians, from the kind of utensils they used to the jewellery they wore and from the kinds of chores they did to their places of worship. There were cuneiform tablets and seals and figures of kings and even a statue of Cleopatra. There were models of a beer brewery, a stele of Hammurabi’s code of law and a replica of a step pyramid among others.
The exhibits at the Rosicrucian Egyptian museum were well labelled, and succeeded in enlightening the curious visitor in me. The museum’s website also allows people to download an MP3 audio tour that can play a personal guide during a visit to this palace of knowledge.
I sure left the Egyptian building several volumes wiser than I was when I entered the Rosicrucian Museum.