I’m lucky enough to work close enough to the British Museum that I am able to pop in on my lunch break, and on Friday I did just that, choosing to visit the current exhibition Egypt: Faith After the Pharaohs. The exhibition traces the history of Egypt from the death of Cleopatra and Mark Antony in 30 BC, when Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, until AD 1171, when the rule of the Islamic Fatimid dynasty ended. It explores how Christians, Muslims and Jews lives alongside each other in the centuries after Pharaonic Egypt, and displays impressive artefacts to illustrate this, many of which have been uniquely preserved thanks to Egypt’s arid climate.
The issue of religious tolerance is a supremely important one in our present-day world and I was fascinated to learn about how members of different faiths lived together, sometimes peacefully, sometimes with periods of violence. The exhibition runs chronologically, showing that in the beginning there was still considerable influence from the old Egyptian gods – for instance, one statue from the first or second century BC shows the Egyptian god Horus – a falcon – dressed in Roman armour. Later Jewish, Christian and Muslim artefacts reveal the influence of Egypt’s history and culture; they were also influenced by one another. What impressed me the most was that, for all their differences, members of all religious communities still had plenty in common – some wooden toys on display are particularly poignant, well-made and preserved, and there are even some items of clothing on display – these tunics were worn by followers of all religions and I was very impressed to see that they have survived for over a thousand years.
This is definitely a worthwhile exhibition, educational and enlightening with plenty of interesting things to see.