The oldest mummified marine creatures in Egypt reveals “trade secrets”
Ismail, son of the city of Naga Hammadi, Qena Governorate in Upper Egypt, has been working for 33 years in mummification operations, as he moved to work at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Hurghada in the Red Sea Governorate as a mummification agent, which is the oldest institute in Egypt and the Middle East, and includes rare marine mummies, and some Extinct ones.
Allam Ismail, speaking to Sky News Arabia, says that he has been working in embalming marine organisms since 1987, after joining the Marine Science Museum in Hurghada, in which he moved to reside after that, explaining that he thus became the oldest mummified specialist in this field after learning the profession at the hands of former Some of them died and others reached the legal age of pension long ago.
He added, “It is a job and experience, it took a while and entered the industry,” explaining that this profession needs someone who loves to work in it because there are many challenges that many cannot bear, pointing out that he now teaches 3 others who recently joined the work because he will be out this year on retirement.
The mummification processes include all marine organisms, especially rare or already extinct, headed by sea brides, sharks of all kinds, sea birds, and turtles, some of which date back to the thirties of the last century.
Evolution of embalming techniques
According to Allam, there has been a great development in the mummification process since the thirties of the last century until now: “Every profession has development and we invented new and better needs,” explaining that the primitive method consisted of skinning the marine organism and cleaning the abdomen with a substance called “borax” and then filling with gypsum and then stitching.
This method has many drawbacks, as he explained that the weight of the object mummified with gypsum is heavy and difficult to transport, in addition to that the gypsum causes the organisms to lose their natural colors, which made this process completely fade in recent years.
And the mummification process turned to a new method, which is the use of other materials such as rice straw, cotton, foam and sponge.
On the time required for the mummification process, Allam added that this is determined by the size and type of the marine organism and the number of the team, adding that it took 15 days to mummify a whale of the dolphin species 5 meters long and weighing two tons, explaining that it began with skinning and removing the meat and abdomen and was filled with sawdust and was displayed During 2020.
During more than 30 years, Allam succeeded in embalming nearly 100 samples of fish, sharks, birds and others of various sizes and shapes, adding that the largest marine creatures that mummified him were the mermaid and the whale of the dolphin family.
Learn the profession
Allam was not lucky enough to complete his education, which was limited to an intermediate qualification, but his love for the profession of taxidermy made him distinguished and gave training courses in the art of mummification of marine organisms to local delegations from Egyptian governorates, chiefly Port Said, and also foreign delegations from Pakistan.
There are no schools or institutes to teach mummification in Egypt, according to Allam, who believes that this profession is inherited by one generation to another, and there are no places to teach this profession, explaining that he learned the profession from 8 people who were among the great embalmers in the last century, “No one learns the profession. She needs someone to love her. ”
He points out that there are people who cannot accept the profession because fish often have an unpleasant odor that is difficult to bear due to the state of rotting, or their skin is subjected to decomposition, but it needs to be embalmed because it is rare or threatened with extinction.