Every summer, we sit down as a family and devise our Grand Summer Plan. All kinds of random summer goodness goes onto the list – whatever we hope to see, do or accomplish over those few weeks the kids are out of school. It can be as simple as “eat peach ice cream” or “learn to whistle”. Sometimes a particular waterfall gets added to the list. This year, Ry hit me with a doozy – “I want to see a mummy. Top of the list.” At first I chuckled. My dad’s bedtime stories involved Howard Carter and mysterious tombs. I applied to college with “Egyptologist” listed as my professional goal. Needless to say, seeing a mummy (or pyramid) had been high on my list for many a year, but wasn’t quite in the budget, no matter how many times I put ramen on the menu.
And then… drum roll please… I discovered this quirky little gem in San Jose, about two hours south of Sacramento. A museum devoted to all things Egyptian with a legitimate, honest to goodness mummy! Score one for this mama!
The Rosicrucian is situated in the midst of a residential neighborhood in San Jose, right across from a middle school (I bet their field trips rock!). The entrance is lined with beautiful Egyptian statues, and the grounds hold a meditation park, a miniature maze and a giant senet game with dice you have to roll with two hands. We were hooked already.
The museum itself is fairly small, but absolutely packed with exhibits to drive any 10-year old wild. To the right is the mummy room, with not one but two mummies, along with a mummified cat, crocodile and monkey. We lucked out with a very excited, very knowledgeable docent who really went above and beyond with the explanations and stories. For instance, front and center is a beautifully detailed Egyptian coffin (what sits in the sarcophagus). Apparently someone ordered it from a Christmas catalog in the 1960s, and when it went through shipping, it was x-rayed. Turns out it wasn’t a prop, but an actual coffin from Egypt, with a mummy!
After asking the docent at least 317 questions, the kids were ready for the “burial chamber”. The Rosicrucian has created a darkened tunnel with torches to connect the rooms, and once you enter the chamber, every available wall surface is covered in hieroglyphics.
A new docent awaited us in the burial chamber, and we were enthralled with stories of the afterlife and explanations for how hieroglyphs are read. Since this is the simulated burial chamber, the walls all show the deceased and their journey through the underworld, starting with a recounting of their life and the all important weighing of their heart against a feather. If the heart is weighed down with the guilt of their past deeds, the scales tip and the heart is devoured by the waiting Ammit, a lion/hippo/crocodile goddess. If the heart is as light as a feather, the deceased is welcomed into the afterlife.
Sorry about the dark pictures – camera flashes are frowned upon, of course, and the chamber is lit by torches. You plainly can’t have an Egyptian burial chamber lit with glaring florescents.
Once you exit the chamber, the Rosicrucian has several rooms packed with ancient artifacts from all facets of Egyptian life. There is also an alchemy room with a hands-on exhibit.
If you find yourself near San Jose, the Rosicrucian is certainly worth a visit. This is quite possibly the closest to a mummy this gypsy mama will ever be, and we learned a lot.
Location: 1660 Park Ave., San Jose, California. If you have a GPS, you can enter the address or type in Rosicrucian. There’s a little parking lot in the back, or you can park along the street. If you have a spare hour or three, there is a rose garden a few blocks away – it’s gorgeous. Go there!
Cost: Admission is surprisingly low cost here, especially taking into account the coolness factor if you’ve got a kiddo who desperately wants to see a mummy. Admission ranges from $5 to $9 depending on age, with kids five and under free. It is a smaller museum, but there is a LOT to explore inside, my fellow gypsies!