Historically Significant Places to Visit: The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Historically Significant Places to Visit: The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The Egyptian Museum located in Cairo, Egypt is the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. In total, the museum houses over 120,000 items. However, only a percentage of these are on display at any one time, the rest of the items are held in onsite storage rooms. The museum was originally founded in 1835 on a different site. By 1858 the contents of the museum had to be moved as the original building could no longer hold the growing number of artifacts. In 1878, the museum suffered irreversible structural damage from a Nile River flood. At this point all the artifacts were moved once again, this time to a temporary location in the city of Giza. In 1902 the museum’s contents were moved to their permanent home in Tahir Square in Cairo. The building is of a Romanesque style. This location has remained the home of the Egyptian Museum since. Egypt is a country whose history dates back approximately 6000 years. The museum does its best to represent all of Egypt’s various time periods. It has so many artifacts that seeing every one of them while allowing 60 seconds for each would take nine months! Typically, Western tourists travelling to Egypt are the most fascinated by the museum’s mummified remains of important pharaohs which date back thousands of years. The Royal Mummy Room contains a total of 27 mummies. Currently, there are nine of them displayed. Recently discovered and put on display is the mummy of the famous Queen Hatshepsut (r.1479-1458 BC). All the artifacts, sarcophagi, statues, and relics found in the museum are displayed on two stories. There are many galleries, all of which are packed with ancient artifacts from Pharaonic times. It may be impossible to see everything with one just one visit. Travelling to the Egyptian Museum requires a fair amount of planning to ensure seeing as much of the complex as possible .

Egyptian Museum in Cairo

What to See and Expect When Visiting the Egyptian Museum

The admission fee into the museum is priced at roughly $10 per adult; students are admitted for $5. It should be noted that this charge only entitles a guest to enter into the museum. Visiting various rooms within may carry an additional fee. For example, entrance into the Royal Mummies Room costs roughly $16.50 per adult, $8 for each student. There are no guided tours available, only guide books which are included in the price of admission. No cameras are allowed into the building. However, the museum offers three types of cameras to be rented out by its guests. A standard camera (without flash) for amateurs costs about $1.65 each day. A much more advanced camera (also without flash) for professionals is priced at about $29 daily. Strangely, renting a video camera is more inexpensive than renting the advanced photographic camera. Video cameras are available for about $16.50 daily. The museum is open each day from 9am-5pm; it does close for major Muslim holidays. Its location is about 10.5 miles from the Cairo International Airport.

Guests enter the museum only after being subjected to a security check. Once inside, visitors are greeted with an atrium containing sarcophagi, gigantic statues, and ancient boats. Directly in front of entering visitors is displayed the “Object of the Month” which is typically a smaller artifact such as ancient coins or pottery. The complex is organized chronologically moving in a clockwise fashion. As such, the first important items on display are from the period of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, or 5000 years ago. Here is where one can view the famous Narmer palette which depicts King Narmer (c. 3100 BC) with the insignias of Upper and Lower Egypt. This artifact has given rise to the theory that the two kingdoms were unified under his rule. This theory is hotly debated by contemporary Egyptologists. In this area of the museum guests may view many small statues dating from the period known as the Old Kingdom (c. 3000 BC). These ancient sculptures mostly depict common individuals, families, and people working various occupations such as farming and foraging. Travelling clockwise throughout the building takes one forward in time while entering a myriad of different rooms. At the end of the first floor is an area dedicated to King Tutankhamen’s father, the famous pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BC). Akhenaten is famously remembered for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism, opting instead to guide his kingdom toward solely worshipping the sun god Aten. This new school of religion did not survive past Akhenaten’s rule; many of his loyal followers were executed upon his death. Future pharaohs regularly describe Akhenhaten as the enemy of the kingdom. After viewing this exhibit guests make their ways up to the museum’s second level .

The building’s second story offers tens of thousands of small artifacts that span the entire course of Egyptian history. Occupying two walls of this story are items related to King Tutankhamen. On display here are ancient chariots, clothes, jewelry, and the young king’s famous golden mask. A large portion of antiquities from Tutankhamen’s tomb are able to be viewed in this section. His tomb contained four magnificent gilded shrines placed one inside the other. All four of these shrines help comprise the museum’s portion dedicated to the king. One can find them on display lined up in order of decreasing size. Within Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus were a total of three coffins, the largest, weighing over 240 pounds of solid gold belonged to him. His body has never been removed from its tomb. The other two coffins in the sarcophagus are not as ornate. They were constructed using gilded wood while not being nearly as large; they are human-shaped, offering just enough space for which the bodies to fit. Most believe that these two other coffins contained servants that were meant to continue serving the king in his afterlife. They were most likely killed for the purpose of being buried with him. Apart from all the items related to King Tutankhamen on the second floor are numerous coffins, ushabtis, amulets, and other household items commonly used during the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC). Either floor contains artifacts from the New Kingdom period (1550-1069 BC). Guests may find that items from this period are rather disorganized as they can be found within exhibits more focused on the Old and Middle Kingdoms. On both floors there are extensive collections of ancient papyrus and coins used throughout Egypt’s antiquity. Not only does the museum house history, it is also historic in its own right.

King Tut in Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

Tutankhamen's Golden Mask

Source

Pivotal Figures Relating to the Creation of the Egyptian Museum

The museum was initially founded by the Egyptian government in 1835. However, this museum was quite tiny when compared to the one existing currently. The Egyptian Museum, as it has been known since was founded on a different location in 1858 by a French archeologist named Auguste Mariette. His tomb is located in the garden of the current complex. The construction of this building was faulty as it was not prepared for withstanding the destruction caused by a flooding of the Nile River. The building that represents the museum today was constructed in 1902 under the leadership of Khedive Abbas Il Hilmi Bey (r. 1892-1914). The exterior of the building has remained the same since its inception. However, the complex’s interior has been subjected to many changes, both structurally and organizationally. Recently the structure has seen much strife from Egypt’s revolution in 2011; some of the museum’s smaller items were not brought to safety in time to avoid destruction from angry anti-government rebels

Conclusion

The Egyptian Museum located in downtown Cairo, Egypt is the perfect place to visit for anyone who is interested in the long and illustrious history of Egypt. Not far from the Cairo International Airport, the museum represents the ideal site for travelling families. It marks the perfect starting point for guests that are either on their first trips or those who are simply unknowledgeable in the field of Egyptian history. The museum offers the opportunity for a short 1.5 hour visit or several visits over the length of an entire vacation. Moreover, the reasonable fees attached to seeing the complex are well worth their prices. The museum has recovered from the country’s revolution of 2011 and it is once again maintaining its consistent operating hours. Egypt’s transitional government has recently started a campaign to encourage visitors back to the museum.

Egyptian Museum part 1

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Comments 4 comments

happyturtle profile image

happyturtle 4 years ago from UK

I have always wanted to visit this museum and see Tutenkhamen. Great, informative article.


shai77 profile image

shai77 4 years ago Author

Hello happyturtle! Thank you for reading. I'm glad you found the article informative. Yes, the King Tutenkhamen exhibit is the most complete due to his popularity. Interestingly, his popularity dates way back to the time of this rule (r.1341 – 1323 BC) when he reversed the kingdom's religion back to polytheism after his father first guided the kingdom toward monotheism under the sun god Aten. Thanks again!


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

good page shai77 for anyone visiting Egypt and Cairo.

I've been to this museum once, and of course you're right - it does really require more than one visit to do it justice. Particularly interesting I think are the everyday artifacts found in the tombs which show how people lived - things like chairs and headrests, toys and games.


shai77 profile image

shai77 4 years ago Author

Thank you for reading Greensleeves Hubs! I couldn't agree more with you, the artifacts depicting the lives of the common people are fascinating. In the study of history it's important to research how all classes lived. In ancient Egypt there were few classes with what we might call today the working class making up the bulk of the entire population. Therefore, understanding the lives of the masses allows for better understanding of the society as a whole.

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