x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

At the feet of pharaohs

The tale of the Pharoah's toe is a timely reminder to Egyptians that today's politics won't always seem so vivid as they do now.

The power and accomplishments of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt remain visible today, thousands of years after their reigns. Indeed, the Great Pyramid at Giza was the tallest structure on the planet for 4,300 years.

But as another historical giant, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, reminds us, all men - however great - have but feet of clay. In the case of Amenhotep II, son of Thutmose III, pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, ruler of a vast empire, it is the lowly toe of his mighty right foot that could not stand the ravages of time. Last week, the toe simply fell off.

The mummy in the Egyptian Museum has now been repaired, after archaeologists concluded the damage was caused by a disturbance in the humidity-controlled case where Amenhotep is interred. The toe has been reattached and His Majesty's stately slumber continues.

As Egypt went to the polls yesterday to vote on a draft constitution, and the country continues to be racked by political uncertainty, it is easy to lose sight of more permanent values. The treasures of ancient Egypt have meaning for all humanity, fragments of a barely understood history. After the devastation and looting during the revolution, it is well that Egyptians remember that they are the curators of an ancient civilisation.