Cleopatra became a queen at the age of seventeen. She romanced two very powerful Romans named Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and had children with both of them. When the Romans were on the verge of conquering her beloved city of Alexandria and Egypt was about to collapse she committed suicide, reputedly by the bite of a poisonous snake.
With history like this why don’t we know more about Cleopatra? There are two reasons: when the Romans conquered Egypt they destroyed anything with Cleopatra’s likeness on it and subsequent earthquakes and tidal waves destroyed the ancient city and buried the treasures …until now.
Cleopatra: The Exhibition at the California Science Center is the only West Coast showing of the exhibit which consists of over 150 different artifacts excavated from the Port of Alexandria in 1996 after a 20 year expedition. Exhibit items include statues some as tall as 16 feet, jewelry, everyday items like bowls and coins of all shapes and sizes. An interesting component of this exhibit and one that makes it more “real” for kids is that next to many of the exhibit items there is a photo of the item as it was found, covered in seaweed and sand, in the port.
How to Visit the Cleopatra Exhibit with Kids
The Atmosphere. The majority of the exhibit is in a darkened area where people speak in hushed tones. While there are two interactive, hands-on activities that the kids gravitate towards it is not a “kids’ exhibit”. Kids need a certain attention span to view the exhibit – the one toddler I saw was having a tough time taking it all in while keeping quiet.
The Content. Visitors receive audio guides and listen as Cleopatra narrates 15 numbered audio stations. Cleopatra’s life is like an ancient warrior telenovela and she recounts it as such. At 6, my daughter understood that Cleopatra had “boyfriends” and I didn’t go into more detail – she didn’t need to know more and I was hoping she would come away with the “big picture” which she did.
Time. I visited with my 6 and 9-year-old and we spent about an hour and a half in the exhibit. This was at a decent pace and had I been by myself I would have spent another 30 minutes looking at the exhibit in more detail. At the end of the exhibit, outside the darkened area, there is a hands-on activity for kids that show them how the Egyptians moved the stone blocks to build pyramids – this ended up being my kids’ favorite part of the exhibit.
The IMAX / Cleopatra Combo. The 7-story IMAX Theater is thrilling for kids no matter what they are seeing. We watched Mysteries of Egypt narrated by Omar Sharif before we went into the exhibit. This provides a good introduction to ancient Egypt as Omar Sharif and Kate Maberly from the Secret Garden, bring ancient Egyptian history to life. After watching the movie, it’s an easy transition to the exhibit.
Cleopatra Exhibit Details
Dates: Open through December 31, 2012
Tickets: Purchase Cleopatra tickets online or at the museum box office as single tickets, an IMAX combo or an Endeavor combo. Single tickets are $19.75 for adults and $12.75 for kids ages 4-12
Kristi and received complimentary admission to the IMAX movie and the Cleopatra Exhibit for review purposes. She was not compensated for this post.
Kristi Marcelle is a travel writer and regular contributor at Ciao Bambino. She loves planning travel adventures with her family, a good glass of wine at the whining hour and the Green Bay Packers. Follow her on Twitter.