Philadelphia’s Loews Hotel offers VIP tickets for Cleopatra exhibit

If you’re set on seeing the Cleopatra exhibit in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute, save some time and money by booking a hotel package that throws in a pair of VIP museum passes.

Regular admission to “Cleopatra: the Search for the Last Queen of Egypt” can cost up to $29.50 per ticket, but the two VIP passes (which are undated and untimed) are actually worth more than the combined $59 face value. Since these front-of-the-line tickets are currently only offered through hotel partners, being able to skip the line is literally priceless.

Details: This Loews Hotel package, which starts at $189 per night, includes one night in a deluxe room at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, two VIP passes to the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute, and access to the Fels Planetarium (worth an extra $15.50 per person). The VIP Cleopatra package is valid until Jan. 2, 2011, when the special exhibit closes.

[Image Credit: Lisa Godfrey/The Franklin Institute]

Cleopatra exhibit premieres in Philadelphia

Cleopatra was the last great pharaoh of Egypt, and its most famous. Her name is synonymous with beauty, mystery, and power, yet not much is known about her. Her enemies erased most details of her life and even her tomb is lost.

Two teams of archaeologists have been searching for clues about the enigmatic woman, and the treasures they’ve found are the subject of a major exhibition opening tomorrow at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia called Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt.

Cleopatra VII, who lived from 69-30 BC, was the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals in 304 BC. She was also the last pharaoh of an independent Egypt. For a time she was the lover of Julius Caesar, but she changed allegiances (and beds) to join forces with Mark Anthony to carve out an empire of their own. Julius Caesar’s successor Octavian defeated them in battle and they took their own lives, and Egypt became part of the Roman Empire.

The exhibition showcases more than 150 artifacts never seen before in the United States, from giant statues fished from the sea to a government document that may include a note written by Cleopatra herself. The artifacts come from two different excavations. One is run by Dr. Zahi Hawass at the temple of Taposiris Magna, about 30 miles west of Alexandria. Hawass believes this may be the final resting place of the famous lovers.

The other excavation is directed by Dr. Franck Goddio, a French underwater archaeologist who has explored the harbor of Alexandria and the coast of Egypt and discovered Cleopatra’s palace and the two ancient cities of Canopus and Heracleion, which had sank into the sea after a series of earthquakes and tidal waves nearly 2,000 years ago.

The exhibition takes on an ancient subject with modern technology, including multimedia exhibits and a chance to interact with social media such as Twitter and Foursquare while seeing the displays. Following the links gives the visitor more information about Cleopatra and a discount coupon they can send to their friends.

Neither team has found solid evidence for the location of Cleopatra’s burial place, so Egypt’s most alluring woman will retain some of her mystery for the time being. Their finds, however, have thrown new light on the life and times of one of Egypt’s greatest female pharaohs.

Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt will remain at the Franklin Institute until January 2, 2011, before heading out on a tour of North America.


Pylon from Cleopatra’s temple raised from the sea

Archaeologists have pulled a massive pylon from the bay of Alexandria, Egypt, that was once a part Cleopatra’s royal complex.

The pylon, a pillar of red granite measuring 2.2 meters long and weighing nine tons, formed part of the temple of Isis and stood right next to Cleopatra’s mausoleum in the year 30 BC. These and other building sank into the harbor during a series of earthquakes more than a thousand years ago.

Unfortunately it looks like Cleopatra’s mausoleum doesn’t contain Cleopatra’s body, so don’t expect some Generation-X Howard Carter to supply us with another treasure of Tutankhamen. It appears that priests took her body inland so she could rest beside her lover Marc Anthony in some unknown location.

The block is interesting in that it shows an Egyptian style despite the fact that Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. By Cleopatra’s reign (51-30 BC) Egypt had been under heavy Greek and Roman influence for centuries. Apparently the famous female pharaoh wanted to keep an Egyptian identity, as can be seen in this statue of her as an Egyptian goddess.

The pylon and other artifacts from the sunken royal district may end up in a planned underwater museum that Egypt wants to build in Alexandria. Archaeologists have discovered a whole city graced with 26 sphinxes, countless statues and fragments of architecture, and ancient shipwrecks.

Don’t wait until the new museum is built to see Alexandria. There’s plenty more to experience in one of Egypt’s most interesting cities.