In Thebes, Egypt, 1,290 BC, high priest Imhotep engaged in an affair with Anck-su-Namun, the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I. When the Pharaoh discovered their tryst, Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun murdered the monarch. As Seti's guards arrive, Imhotep fled while Anck-su-Namun killed herself, intending for Imhotep to resurrect her. After Anck-su-Namun's burial, Imhotep and his priests stole her corpse and travelled to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, where they began the resurrection ceremony. However, they were intercepted by Seti's guards before the ritual could be completed, and Anck-su-Namun's soul was sent back to the Underworld. Imhotep's priests were mummified alive; Imhotep was sentenced to immortal agony, condemned to suffer the Hom Dai curse, buried alive with flesh-eating scarab beetles. He was buried under high security, sealed away in a sarcophagus at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis, and kept under strict surveillance by warriors known as the Medjai; for all humanity would be doomed should he resurface.
Over 3000 years later in 1926, when Dr. Aaron and his crew rrive and meet Evelyn, a Cairo librarian and aspiring Egyptologist and her brother, Jonathan who presents them an intricate box and map which Jonathan says he found in Thebes. After the pair discover the map leads to Hamunaptra, Jonathan reveals he stole it from an American adventurer named Rick O'Connell, currently in prison. Evelyn and Jonathan visit Rick; he tells them that he knows the location of the city because his unit of the French Foreign Legion found the location years ago. He makes a deal with Evelyn to reveal the location of Hamunaptra, in exchange for Evelyn saving Rick from being hanged.
During the boat trip to the city Rick, Evelyn, Jonathan, and our heroes