Cairo Egyptian Museum
In the heart of Cairo on Tahrir Square is one of the largest repositories of historical artifacts – Cairo Museum. The museum’s collection is housed in more than a hundred halls with over a hundred thousand archaeological finds on display. No other museum in the world can boast such a high concentration of exhibits.
History of the museum
The foundations of the richest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world were laid by the French scholar Auguste Mariette, the founder and first director of the Cairo Museum. Fascinated by Egyptology under the influence of his friend and relative, the famous Champollion, Mariette joined the Louvre Museum and in 1850 was sent to Egypt to search for ancient manuscripts.
Instead of searching in library archives, the young Egyptologist enthusiastically began to excavate the Memphis necropolis in Saqqara, as well as in other places. He sent his findings to the Louvre. He was credited with the discovery of the Alley of the Sphinxes and the Serapeum, the necropolis of the sacred bulls of Apis.
Returning to France, Mariette continued to work in the Louvre, but in 1858 the Egyptian ruler Said Pasha invited him to head the Egyptian Service of Antiquities. Upon arrival in Egypt, Mariette waged a vigorous struggle against the plundering of ancient artifacts, not forgetting archaeological research. The Great Sphinx was finally cleared of centuries-old sand deposits under his direction. In 1859, at the request of the scholar a special building for the archaeological finds was built in the Cairo suburb of Bulak. This was the beginning of the Cairo Museum’s collection.
In 1878 the museum building was partially flooded during a flood and many of the exhibits were damaged. After that it was decided to build a new larger building in a safer place and the collection was moved to the palace of the Egyptian ruler Ismail Pasha for safekeeping.
For his services to Egyptology, Mariet was elected a member of several European academies, and the Egyptian authorities honored him with the title of pasha. Auguste Mariette died in 1881. According to his will, the scientist’s ashes rest in a sarcophagus in the courtyard of the Cairo Museum.
The current building was built in 1900 and two years later the museum received its first visitors.
Since then, the museum’s collection has been continuously expanded. However, there were some dark moments in its history. During the Arab Spring in 2011, during a popular demonstration, looters smashed several display cases and stole at least 18 items. The looting was stopped by other demonstrators and the military took the museum under their protection.
It would take several years to go through all the exhibits in the Cairo Museum. Even specialists from time to time find something completely new for themselves in its storerooms. So let us look at the most interesting artifacts that are kept there.
The exhibits of the museum are arranged chronologically and thematically. At the entrance the visitor is greeted by impressive statues of Amenhotep III and his wife Tia. The image of the queen is not inferior in size to the sculpture of the pharaoh, which is contrary to Egyptian tradition.
The first floor holds statues of all sizes from the period from the Pre-Dynastic period to the Roman conquest. Here are also fragments of the Great Sphinx – parts of the superimposed beard and ureus, images of a cobra from the pharaoh’s crown.
Of particular interest are the sculptural images of the ancient pharaohs – the statue of Djoser, the builder of the first pyramid, the only surviving image of Cheops – an ivory statuette, and a magnificent example of ancient Egyptian art – the diorite statue of Pharaoh Khafr. The 10-meter pink granite statue of Ramses II stands out for its majesty.
The funerary artifacts from the tomb of Queen Hetephares, mother of Cheops, belong to the period of the Ancient Kingdom. The tomb was found in 1925 untouched. The findings, including a palanquin of the queen, her bed, precious boxes and jewelry, give an idea of the luxury that surrounded the family of Pharaoh.
A visit to the Hall of Mummies, where one comes face to face with the rulers of Egypt, including the legendary Seti I, Ramses II, Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, the conquerors and builders who left behind magnificent architectural monuments, is an unforgettable experience. The hall maintains a special microclimate, contributing to the preservation of the mummies.
Of great value are the artifacts from the reign of the reformist Pharaoh Ehnaton, who tried to replace the traditional religion of the Egyptians with the cult of the one sun god, Aton. In just a few years Ehnaton built a new capital, Akhetaton, which was abandoned after the death of the pharaoh, and his name was cursed by the priests. All memory of him was destroyed, but in the ruins of Akhetaton many works of art from the era of Ehnaton have survived.
Pharaoh was a reformer not only in the field of religion. Frozen canons of art during his reign were broken, sculptural and pictorial depictions of people and animals are expressive, natural, lack of idealization. It was a real revolution in art. The famous depiction of Queen Nefertiti belongs to this period.
The tomb of Tutankhamun
The jewel in the crown is the collection of objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the only royal tomb left untouched. In all, over 3,500 objects were discovered in the tomb, half of which are on display in the museum halls.
The tomb contained everything that Pharaoh might need in the afterlife – furniture, utensils, jewelry, writing material, even the king’s chariot. The gilded and carved wooden throne, studded with precious stones, is a masterpiece of furniture art. Also on display is a statue of Tutankhamun standing on the back of a panther, his hunting weapons, even the shirt and sandals in which he was buried.
Four wooden sarcophagi are on display in the museum. They, nested inside each other, contained the last one, a gold one, which contained the mummy of the pharaoh. Small golden sarcophagi, intended for the entrails of the deceased, are also on display here.
The main treasure of the exhibition, and perhaps of the entire museum, is the golden posthumous mask of the pharaoh, decorated with azure. The mask is perfectly preserved and perfectly conveys the features of the face of the ancient lord. Tutankhamun’s mask is a kind of a calling card of the Cairo Museum and one of the symbols of Egypt.
A few hours traveling through time past the windows of the Cairo Museum will leave an indelible impression. Even after a cursory glimpse of the incredibly rich collection, it becomes clear why the Cairo Museum is often called the main attraction in Egypt.
Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
Cairo Egyptian Museum is located in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, in Tahrir Square, located in the central part of the city. Its collection of historical treasures exceeds 150,000 exhibits and draws millions of tourists from all over the world every year.
Cairo Egyptian Museum – history of creation.
The famous treasury of antiquities owes its appearance to people who never met in their lifetime. In 1835, by order of Mohammed Ali, who ruled the country at the time, a decree was issued prohibiting unauthorized excavations and exportation of ancient artifacts from Egypt. Prior to this decree, many tombs were looted and priceless artifacts could be purchased on the black market.
Unaware of the ban, French historian Auguste Mariette arrived in Alexandria by steamer in 1850. The purpose of his visit was to acquire ancient manuscripts. Realizing that it would be impossible to take the treasures out of the country, he remained in Egypt, forever in love with the country. He exhibited his first collection eight years later in the museum he opened in Bulak. After a natural disaster in 1878, however, many of the exhibits were badly damaged and some were stolen. The scholar petitioned the government to build a large Egyptian museum to preserve the collection. Ismail Pasha, who headed the government, responded to the request and ordered that the entire collection be moved to his palace for safekeeping while the vault was built.
The French architect Marcel Dunon provided a sketch of the building in the Neoclassical style. After the design was approved in 1900, construction began, which was completed two years later. All the exhibits were transported from Giza and displayed in the new National Museum in Cairo.
The founder of the treasury, Auguste Mariette, was honored after his death to be buried in a marble sarcophagus to the left of the entrance. Above his tomb stands a statue of the scholar cast in bronze. The garden outside the Cairo Egyptian National Museum exhibits findings discovered by the famous Egyptologist. Here visitors can see the obelisk of Ramses II and the red granite sphinx of Thutmose III.
Cairo Egyptian Museum – exhibits.
The artifacts stored in the Egyptian museum are so magnificent that they are of interest not only to connoisseurs of the past, but also to tourists who came to Egypt on vacation. To get acquainted with the numerous exhibits and understand the greatness of ancient civilization, you need at least 4 days.
In Cairo Egyptian Museum, which consists of a huge lobby and a hundred rooms, located on two floors, always noisy and crowded. Visiting each of the halls, you can, as if by time machine, travel to the origins of world civilization. The greatest creations of human hands are collected into thematic collections and arranged chronologically. The oldest exhibits are over five thousand years old, and the youngest cover the beginning of our era.
The first floor of the Cairo Museum.
The Egyptian Museum of Cairo keeps granite, limestone and basalt statues of Egyptian rulers on the first floor. At the very entrance, visitors are greeted by huge statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Tia.
Then you can see the Pharaoh Meekerin, surrounded by the ancient Egyptian goddesses Hathor and Bath. The sculpture of the Pharaoh Khafr, belonging to the fourth dynasty, made of dark-green diorite with thin light veins, attracts special attention of tourists. Some Egyptologists believe that his face is the face of the famous Sphinx, sitting near the pyramid in the valley of Giza.
Here you can also see the figure of Pharaoh Djoser of the third dynasty, who is considered the first builder of the pyramids. His stepped tomb is located at Saqqara near the Giza plateau. On the first floor is a statue of Snofru, the pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, for whom two pyramids were built in Dakhshur: the Broken and Pink, which are not inferior in their grandeur to the pyramids built in the Giza valley.
The skillfully painted limestone statues of Prince Rahhotep and his wife, Princess Nofret, are of no less interest to visitors. Both statues were discovered during expeditions led by Mariette himself.
There is also a separate hall dedicated to Tutankhamun’s father – the Heretic Pharaoh Ehnaton. It contains colossal statues depicting him and Nefertiti, who was his wife.
In addition to the monumental statues there are many funerary slabs, all kinds of vessels and smaller statuettes.
The second floor of the Cairo Museum.
But most of all visitors are attracted to the second floor, which contains treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun and other ancient rulers. The discovery of the tomb of the young pharaoh and the treasures collected in it made an indelible impression on the people of the XX century. It is not so much the number of precious stones and gold that amazes, as the supreme skill of the ancient craftsmen. The gold burial mask of Tutankhamun, decorated with precious stones and rare species of wood, is admired by visitors, and the modern jewelers envy. The weight of this masterpiece is more than 11 kilograms.
With no less skill are the ornaments of the pharaoh – the necklaces made of gold inlaid with turquoise and coral, massive rings and earrings, as well as breast jewelry, decorated with scenes from ancient myths.
Unwilling admiration is a gilded throne of Tutankhamun, decorated with precious stones. On the back there is an image of the pharaoh and his young wife.
In the hall of the ruler there are three sarcophagi on display. It is noteworthy that one of them is cast in gold and weighs about a hundred kilograms.
In a separate room you can see the treasures of Queen Hetephares, who was the mother of the famous pharaoh Cheops. Besides a casket encrusted with precious stones, a stretcher covered with gold sheets and silver bracelets, in it one can see funerary sarcophagi belonging to different epochs and made of different materials.
After viewing the treasures of Tutankhamun, it is worth looking into the next room and see the collection of jewels that belonged to the pharaohs who ruled in the XI-X centuries BC. These pieces are less well known, but no less valuable. There is gold jewelry and the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Psucennes I, encrusted with precious stones.
Tourists with strong nerves can visit the hall, which maintains a special microclimate. Here are the mummies belonging to famous rulers of the country. If a tourist plans to visit the hall with the mummies not in the tour group, he must pay an additional fee. Before visiting must remember one rule – it is forbidden to take photos and videos in this hall of the Cairo Egyptian Museum.