In Philadelphia, a Pharaoh Escape

Sunday, February 18, 2007

WHAT: "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia.

WHEN: Through Sept. 30

HOW MUCH: $27.50 (Monday-Thursday), $32.50 (Friday-Sunday). Tickets, which are timed and dated, can be reserved by phone (877-888-8587) or through the museum's Web site (

WHY GO: Philadelphia's Franklin Institute is the final venue on the current U.S. tour of the popular Tutankhamun exhibit, which comprises 130 artifacts -- 3,300 to 3,500 years old -- found in the tombs of King Tut, his relatives and other rulers of the time.

Tut famously toured America 30 years ago, drawing 8 million visitors and influencing fashion, dress and popular culture (and inspiring Steve Martin to write the song "King Tut"). But today's exhibit is a "fundamentally different" show, according to Dennis Wint, president and chief executive of the Franklin Institute.

Mainly, there's a lot more to see. It's 2 1/2 times the size of the show from the 1970s and displays not only Tut's treasures but also those of other 18th-dynasty royals who ruled in that turmoil-filled period of Egyptian history.

"You're not just talking about the boy king but about the 18th dynasty, and it provides a much more comprehensive story," Wint said.

Why did Philly make the cut for the tour, which has included stops in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Chicago? Archaeologist Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and the man responsible for bringing the show to the United States, has connections to the city: He received his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. As for the Franklin Institute, the museum's recent expansion gave it enough room to hold the exhibit.

DON'T MISS . . . the dramatic, seven-foot-long Coffin of Tjuya, covered almost entirely with reddish gold and thought to hold one of Tut's ancestors. The miniature Viscera Coffin is fashioned of gold and inlaid with colored glass and semiprecious stones. Used to hold the boy king's mummified liver, the piece serves as one of the show's signature pieces.

The final gallery features results of the CT scans done on Tut's skeleton, which allowed researchers to compile the first three-dimensional pictures of him. For the record, scientists decided he was about 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds and had buck teeth and a recessed chin. The results also suggested that he might have died of a broken leg.

EXTRAS: Can't get enough of Egyptian history? The Penn Museum (3260 South St., 215-898-4000,; $8) is exhibiting "Armana, Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun," which chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of Tutankhamun's boyhood home. . . . Beginning in June, the city's tourism office is launching a "King Tut Treasure Trail" in which participants search for Egyptian-theme sites and prizes. Visitors can go to for the brochure detailing the hunt. . . . The Tut Trolley , featuring images of King Tut, will get you to the museum from Philadelphia landmarks for $2. It will also shuttle you from the Franklin Institute to the Penn Museum. Info:

EATS: Several restaurants are welcoming Tut with Egyptian-theme menus. The Franklin Institute recently opened the on-site Tut's Oasis, which features such appetizers as baba ganoush, hummus, tabouleh and fattoush for $7.50 to $8.50. Entrees start at $17.50 and include braised chicken with pistachios and apricots. Tangerine (232 Market St.), a hip eatery known for its Mediterranean fare, has a fixed-price, three-course meal for $28.60. Choices include chicken skewers with basmati rice pilaf and a chorizo and potato frittata with basquaise sauce.

Lacroix (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq.), in the Rittenhouse Hotel, serves a "Lunch for the Pharaohs" menu for $35. Spiced chickpea and sesame soup is among the appetizers, and entrees include grilled young lamb saddle. And at McGillin's Olde Ale House (1310 Drury St.), the city's oldest continuously operating tavern, you can down a King Tut-tini for $5.50.

SLEEPS: Fifteen hotels have King Tut packages, all of which include tickets to the exhibit. For a complete list, visit If you're looking to spoil yourself, the Four Seasons (1 Logan Sq., 215-963-1500, offers a weekend rate of $365 a night double, while the package at the Ritz-Carlton (10 Avenue of the Arts, 215-523-8000, starts at $399 a night.

On the more economical side, try the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center (17th and Race streets, 215-448-2000,; from about $155) or the Westin (99 S. 17th St., 215-563-1600,; from $189).

GETTING THERE: Amtrak has a special offer for King Tut visitors. Travelers in the Northeast Corridor who book one fare can get the other half off. Use fare code V733 at

INFO: The Franklin Institute (215-448-1200, is at 222 N. 20th St.

-- John Maynard

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