Pulse: Chatter: Tourism: Pyramid Scheme

This month, Philadelphia is braced for the arrival of “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” at the Franklin Institute (and the attendant cross-promotional onslaught, e.g., the King Tut-tini at McGillin’s Olde Ale House). And while the hype may be inescapable, it’s not without reason: This is the final stop on Tut’s four-city U.S. tour, and his first appearance on these shores in nearly three decades. So how did Philly beat out NYC and Boston for the Boy King and the estimated $150 million in economic impact that rides on his tiny, mummified shoulders?

Turns out the fix was in. The Franklin Institute had some serious cred with the firm that was bringing the exhibition to the States — thanks to their work together on the 2004 Titanic extravaganza — and the Institute made an early request for consideration. Still, the final decision largely rested in the hands of the man with the greatest title in all of Egypt — Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass. And where, pray tell, did Mr. Hawass earn a Ph.D. in Egyptology? At Penn, of course, where he studied under David Silverman, who just happens to be the U.S. curator of the Tut exhibit. “With Zahi, we had the inside track,” admits Karen Corbin at the Franklin Institute. Hawass doesn’t apologize for his love of his adopted hometown. “I learned a lot during my time at the University of Pennsylvania,” he says, “and now it’s my time to tell the people of Philadelphia, ‘Thank you.’” No, Mr. Hawass, thank you — the Tut-tinis are on us.