The Egyptian Museum is a must-see for everyone who goes to Cairo, and it is located in the central district near Tahrir Square in the main section. The neoclassical building, designed by French architect Marcel Dornon and built by Italians Giuseppe Garozzo and Francesco Zavarani, stands out for its unique architecture and bright pink color. Stepping into it is like stepping back in time, not only because of the things you can find there but also because of the unique architecture and furniture. In 1902, it was opened.
History of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Before telling you about the exciting collections and artifacts preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we want to tell you its history. But also the future one, since it hasn’t finished being written yet. Exciting prospects will allow this Museum, rich in history and culture, to expand, exhibiting all the finds it preserves in the best possible way.
The first Egyptian Museum in Cairo
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo was not always found in Tahrir Square. The Egyptian government built the first Egyptian Museum in 1835, in the Bulaq district, just in front of the Gezira island.
With the construction of the Museum, Egypt was thus able to protect in the best possible way the antiquities and the finds that were extracted from the numerous archaeological sites of the country. As a result, the unregulated and savage export of the artifacts stopped.
In 1858 the first part of the Egyptian Museum was opened, containing finds and collections that were weed by the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette, who worked for Isma’il Pasha.
Soon, the narrow spaces of the first Museum were no longer sufficient to house the numerous finds brought from the archaeological sites.
The situation soon became untenable with the Nile flood of 1878, and the Egyptian Museum needed a new,w location.
In 1891, the Museum found a new home in Giza, in the palace of Pasha Isma’il, also known as the Giza Palace. However, this building did not have enough space to keep the archaeological finds.
For this reason, an international competition was announced to give the Egyptian Museum a new suitable location to house all the collections.
The competition was won by the French architect Marcel Dourgnon, who, together with Francesco Zafrani and Giuseppe Garozzo, began to build the current Egyptian Museum in Cairo, in Tahrir Square.
Egyptian Museum Today
The Egyptian Museum of Cairo, which we know today, resides in a building that perfectly reflects the canons of neoclassicism. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo was only inaugurated in 1902, in Tahrir Square, the most important in the capital.
Despite being very famous worldwide, this Museum does not have enormous dimensions. Its collections are concentrated on two floors with a rectangular plan, which is then divided into different rooms that open from an atrium in the center and are connected by corridors.
On the Museum’s ground floor, the itinerary follows a chronological order of the Great History of Egypt. In contrast, on the first floor, the exhibits are divided according to the thematic area they belong to. But we will see later in detail how the collections are divided between the various floors.
Unfortunately, in 2011 during the demonstrations of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Museum suffered damage. In fact, due to the numerous riots among the population in Tahrir Square, the Museum suffered some injuries, such as damage to some mummies. Fortunately, thanks to the international and national authorities, some have been found and well restored, and today, we can go back to admiring them inside the Museum.
Today, the museum houses over 12,000 visible exhibits, including sculptures, ceramics, ancient objects of daily use in various materials, reaching up to prehistoric times, as well as a rich gallery that tells the story from ancient Egypt to the present day, without calculating the mummies, which can be visited in a particular room, and all the artifacts not yet exhibited which are found in the Museum’s massive warehouses.
What to find inside the Egyptian Museum :
The Museum contains the most important artifacts in the world from Pharaonic times. This collection includes about 120,000 artifacts, many monuments, including the contents of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and most of the mummies found after the nineteenth century.
The artifacts come from the beginning of the Old Kingdom, around 2700 BC, and the time of the Greeks and Romans.
It would be easy to get lost in the Museum’s exhibits because they are so large and furnished old-fashioned, which adds to the Museum’s romantic charm. It is helpful to know that the museum building has two floors.
On the ground floor, you can learn about the history of Egypt, from the ancient kingdom to the Greco-Roman era. The Gallery starts on the right side of the entrance and goes in a circle.
If you follow this path, you will learn a lot about the history of ancient Egypt, which is good.
- Room 43 – Atrium
- Room 48 – Ancient Dynasties
- Rooms 32, 42, 47, and 48 – Ancient Empire
- Room 26 – Montuhotep II
- Rooms 16 and 21 – Sphinxes
- Room 12 – Hathor
- Room 2 – Royal Tombs of Tanis
- Room 22 – Amarna
- Room 10 – Ramses II
- Room 34 – Greco-Roman
- Rooms 46 and 56 – Royal Mummies
- Rooms 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 35, and 45 – Tutankhamun Galleries
- Room 4 – Jewels of Ancient Egypt
- Room 2 – Tombs Royals of Tanis
- Room 14 – Portraits of mummies from the Greco-Roman era
- Room 34 – Pharaonic objects
- Room 43 – Yuya and Thuyu
- Room 53 – Animal mummies
- Room 37 – Models of the Pharaonic Armies
- Rooms 27 and 32 – Middle Empire
The plans and the subdivision of the finds
Once you have crossed the Egyptian Museum in Cairo entrance and passed the security checks, you will be under a majestic dome. This also marks the beginning of our visit itinerary to better orient ourselves among the rich exhibition, walking through the atrium where sculptures from various eras are kept.
Furthermore, you will follow a route to be visited chronologically on the ground floor to better divide the various collections and finds. You will go from the Middle Kingdom to the New, up to the Old Kingdom. Furthermore, still, on the ground floor, groups reach up to the Greek and Roman eras.
At the beginning of your visits, on the ground floor, you will find the critical limestone sculpture of Zoser, one of the oldest exhibits held by the Museum. Opposite, however, you can observe a faithful reproduction of the Rosetta Stone, a fundamental discovery of Egyptology, which made it possible to interpret the hieroglyphs.
You will observe impressive funeral boats and a rich collection of sarcophagi, among which the most important belonged to Psusennes I, in 1000 BC, on which you can still see the goddess Nut sprinkled with stars, a celestial deity. The Old Kingdom collection is inside rooms 46 and 47, where you can observe the impressive sculptures found in Luxor.
The Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, begins with the statue of Pharaoh Mentuhotep Il. In room 22, you can observe the reproduction of the layout of a funerary room. At the same time, inside the Amarnian Gallery, you pass through the period of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, where you can also observe the famous portrait of Nefertiti.
In the Gallery dedicated to the Late period, you can observe the colossal sculptures of the head of Ramesses II. you were then reaching the Greek-Roman period with the arrival of Alexander the Great. Lastly, inside room 44, you can observe the Lost and Found artifacts recovered from illegal trafficking.
After you visit the ground floor, you can move towards the staircase on the south side, reaching the Tutankhamun gallery on the first floor of the Egyptian Museum, where you can buy a ticket to visit the Hall of the Mummies.
The first room you call is room 43, where you find the artifacts discovered before 1905 when Tutankhamun’s tomb was brought to light. Here, you can see sarcophagi, carts, and furnishings used during funeral rites, after which you can move on to the next rooms, where you can observe reconstructions of life during the Middle Kingdom.
You arrive in room number 14, which houses mummies dating back to the Greco-Roman period, indeed less exciting and not well preserved like those in the Royal Mummies Room, which you can always see on this floor.
Various rooms are dedicated to the pharaoh Tutankhamun, such as 45, 35, and 15, which preserve statues of the child pharaoh, who died at the age of only 18, it is assumed.
Here are preserved various artifacts that were inside his tomb as protective symbols, such as the numerous images for funeral rites called ushabti, in addition to the multiple boats that should have accompanied the pharaoh of the world of the dead and three beds in the shape of an animal intended for its rest in the afterlife.
The Collections of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
For the ancient Egyptians, statues played a fundamental role for different reasons. For this reason, inside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, you can observe numerous examples of this art form, with sculptures from the archaeological site of Giza and all over Egypt.
The oldest statue you can see inside the Museum is that of Djoser, from Saqqara, representing the life-size pharaoh.
Another significant sculpture represents the head of the 5th dynasty pharaoh Usekaf. In short, there is no shortage of statues to observe at the Cairo Museum, which can fill our day.
The Greco-Roman finds
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo contains finds from every place in Egypt, above all, from every era. Here you can also observe necessary evidence of the Greco-Roman period, which began in 332 BC. with the arrival of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great.
One of the most important finds from this period that you can observe inside the Museum is the fresco depicting Oedipus, located inside the cemetery of Tuna El-Gebel, where numerous tombs and funeral homes were also discovered, dating back to this period.
But that’s not all; you can also observe sculptures and mummies from this period, as well as everyday objects and other faithful reproductions, which allow us to get to know this historical moment, certainly less known in popular culture but still fascinating.
The precious value of the content for the Egyptian Museum:
On the other hand, the first floor is set up differently. A big part of the first floor is devoted to the things in Tutankhamun’s tomb. His unbeatable funeral mask, which has been kept in perfect condition, is one of the most impressive. The room with the treasures found in the royal tomb of Tanis is also on the first floor.
The Royal Mummy’s Chamber is another highlight of the Museum. Because it is so unique, you must buy a separate ticket to see this part of the Museum. Inside, you can see the mummies of essential pharaohs like Ramesses II, Seti I, and Egypt’s holy queen, Hatshepsut. This is why it is recommended.
The Museum has so much to see and do that it might be too much. Also, most of its contents have not been cataloged or reorganized since the first time they were put together, which was more than a century ago.
Because of this, some exhibition sections give very little information about the exhibits, and the information is in many different languages, such as French, English, Greek, German, and Arabic.
Visitors often complain about how bad they are, so we suggest hiring a guide if you are an Egyptologist or want to learn more about Egyptian culture. The costs are reasonable, and you will know much about the country’s history.
Tips for the Egyptian Museum
Many of the Museum’s items haven’t been moved or rearranged since they were first put together over a hundred years ago. Because of this, some sections don’t say much about the context of the artifacts, so it’s best to have a professional guide with you.
Discover other Museums located in Cairo
1- The Coptic Museum
The Coptic Museum contains a unique collection of artwork and artifacts from the history of Coptic Cairo. It includes the world’s most extensive collection of Coptic art and cultural relics and shows how Egypt and the rest of the world changed during that time. Before the advent of Islam in Egypt in the seventh century, Coptic Christianity was the main religion when the Romans ruled it.
The history of Christianity in Egypt is unique and exciting, and the Coptic Church is still fighting hard to protect it. Its history shows how different cultures and religions interacted, such as the gods of ancient Egypt, the paganism of Rome and Greece, the beginning of Christianity, and Islam.
In this Museum, you will learn that the basic shape of the Christian cross and the Egyptian ankh are similar in purpose.
2- Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum contains an extensive collection of artifacts made of wood, plaster, metal, ceramics, glass, crystal, and textiles from different eras in Islamic history and worldwide.
The Museum contains 4,400 artifacts, and approximately 100,000 are currently on display. The Museum of Islamic Art is a cultural landmark in Cairo and is believed to be one of the largest museums in the world.
Compared the Egyptian Museum, not many tourists go to the Museum, but the view is worth it. The Museum is located in Cairo, in Bab El-Khalq Square, and you can drive or take a tour bus to get there.
3- The New Great Egyptian Museum
The structure of the GEM will be monumental but, at the same time, straightforward, maintaining an architecture reminiscent of ancient Egypt, also due to its location near the Giza Necropolis. Indeed, the building will have a triangular base, aligning perfectly with the backdrop of the Pyramid of Menkaure and Cheops.
The collections will be distributed over 24,000 m 2, including a museum dedicated to children, an area for conferences, gardens, and a center devoted to restoration.
The exhibition will include finds from warehouses throughout Egypt, but the essential collection will be the entire collection belonging to Tutankhamun’s tomb and 22 mummies of Queens and Pharaohs.