YOU'VE been to see The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. The last Harry Potter seems but a distant memory. The Roboraptor is already getting a little creaky. You need a family day out over the Christmas holidays that doesn't involve shopping or over-eating. Sounds like it's time to visit the Valley of the Kings, or at least the City Arts Centre in Edinburgh.

Ancient Egypt has enduring appeal for audiences, from the boy king Tutankhamun, to the Return of the Mummy. The 1988 exhibition, The Gold of the Pharaohs, with almost 450,000 visitors, was the most popular exhibition in the City Art Centre's history. It is back to the Nile for the venue's current show, Immortal Pharaoh - the Tomb of Thutmose III, a winter blockbuster which is a British exclusive and has been attracting high visitor numbers.

It is not on the enormous scale of its glamorous predecessor; nor is it as glittery. But the exhibition combines priceless period objects from the Museum of Antiquities in Basel and the Kestener Museum in Hanover, with a cracking design and, as its impressive highlight, a full-size and remarkably sturdy replica of the burial chamber of a pharaoh nicknamed the Egyptian Napoleon.

The Tomb of Thutmose III was first excavated in 1898, when it was found in a cliff face in the Valley of the Kings. His sarcophagus was empty; his body had already been discovered some 17 years earlier, and hidden in a cache in western Thebes, to protect it against unscrupulous raiders.

Thutmose III was seen by history to be one of the great pharaohs. Ruling from 1479 to 1426BC, he presided over a period of imperial expansion and an impressive building programme. He inherited his role as a small child, and ruled at first as "co-regent" with the extraordinary female King Hatshepsut. Thutmose was the son of a royal concubine and, in a weird twist of complex family relations, Hatshepsut was both his stepmother and his aunt. When she died, in a move to consolidate his rule, he destroyed all archaeological evidence that she had ever existed.

Happily, the pharaoh's own building programme was not similarly extinguished, for on the walls of his tomb is painted the earliest surviving copy of the Amduat, the ancient book which describes the sun god's descent into the netherworld and his journey through the 12 hours of the night. This book is the key to eternity, an adventure story as well as a complex web of religious symbolism, a necessary descent into the depths in order to be rejuvenated.

The exhibition begins on the upper floors of the gallery, taking you through the period of the New Kingdom and its deeply complex funerary rites and beliefs. In contrast with many Egyptian shows, the design is unfussy, bold rooms painted in single strong colours; objects sitting alone and well-lit in immaculate cases. There are fairly complex wall texts, but the priceless artefacts are still allowed to speak for themselves: tiny deities, tomb stelae and the tiny ba-bird, which was an essential element of the human soul.

For children, the highlights will be two larger and more spectacular objects: an elaborately painted coffin from the 21st dynasty, deteriorated on the outside but richly decorated within, showing the Goddess of the West and the Coffin of Lady Tahai from 950 BC.

In style, this is a huge change from the kinds of King Tut tack and overornamentation that many family exhibition designs favour these days, but then Immortal Pharaoh has impeccable credentials. It is curated by Eric Hornung, professor of Egyptology at Basel, and developed and designed by Factum Arte, one of the great exhibition specialists in Europe.

Factum Arte is expert in both exhibition design and digital preservation. The company's Adam Lowe started as an artist himself and has worked with some of Britain's most prominent artists, including Anita Kapoor and Marc Quinn. The team, based in Madrid, has recently worked on a facsimile of an Assyrian throne room for the British Museum, has digitally archived Goya's Los Caprichos so the set of prints can be preserved and is replacing a lost bronze lion for the Prado in Madrid. Where many exhibition facsimiles are as shaky as the set-form crossroads, this tomb reconstruction is strong and cleverly constructed. There is a children's activity room of exceptional quality and even a pair of small sand pits. The replica Tomb itself gives off just enough sense of dusty history: it is accurately faded in parts, its starpainted ceiling is cracked and furrowed, an accompanying film shows the original

and ekes out the complex issues of conservation in the age of digital reproduction.

The story the Amduat tells, though, is extraordinary, featuring a cast of some 741 deities and a long night's journey in a boat. There are feasts and festivities, dangerous encounters with sharp knives, sorcery and decapitation. In the twelfth hour, the cycle of rebirth and regeneration is finally complete, the sun rises, there are celebrations. In comparison, those cinematic epics you've just sat through are kids' stuff.

Immortal Pharaoh, the Tomb of Thutmose III, is at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until January 8.