Thursday, March 31, 2016

Days at the Egyptian Museum : The Tahrir Museum

In December, the Egyptian Museum of Cairo administration announced that it was allowing for the first time photography for free in the Museum.
It was a great opportunity for all photographers in Egypt to go and explore the world's biggest museum of Egyptian antiquities.
I went several times to the Egyptian Museum because it is too big including one time with a group of friends from talented photographers and we took fantastic photos.
The last time I visited the Egyptian Museum was from a long time ago when I was a little girl already.

I only remember King Tutankhamun's mask from that visit and how I was too short to see anything for real.
Luckily, I visited the Museum after the return of King Tut's mask from restoration following the epoxy scandal of last year.
Egypt's Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum of Cairo 

Before sharing photos and speaking more about Ancient Egyptian History in a series of posts, I have to speak about the history of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.  

A Little Egyptian Museum History :

The First Museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities in Egypt was founded in 1835 during the rule of Mohamed Ali Pasha and it was near the Ezbekeyah Gardens "Downtown Cairo" in Cairo. Later that museum was moved to the Citadel.
In 1855, Khedive Saeed decided to give the whole collection of that Museum to the Austrian Emperor of Mexico "Yes, you read it right" Maximilian I. That can give you a glimpse of how Saeed Pasha looked at Egyptian heritage."
Already, Saeed sent Egyptian troops to fight with the French against the Mexican revolution during then.
Now the collection of that first museum is at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

In 1858, during the rule of Khedive Ismail, the founder of Modern Cairo and under the supervision of French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, the true first Egyptian Museum dedicated to ancient Egyptian antiquities was inaugurated on the banks of the Nile in the Boulaq area, Cairo.
Now here are very rare photos of the Boulaq Museum.

The Boulaq Museum in 19th century
The Boulaq Museum "Facebook" 

The Boulaq Museum for ancient Egyptian antiquities
The Boulaq Museum

Inside the Boulaq Museum for ancient Egyptian antiquities
The Boulaq Museum
"King Farouk Facebook page" 

Unfortunately, it was not the perfect spot to build a museum or any building actually as in 1878, the museum was drowned in one of those strong destructive Nile River floods that used to erase villages. Some antiquities drowned and some not.

The remaining antiquities were then moved to One of Khedive's Palaces in Giza aka Giza Palace in 1891 under the supervision of French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero temporarily.

The Giza palace museum facade
The Giza palace was said to be the palace of Khedive Ismail's wives 

Inside the Giza Palace Museum "@Just in Case"

Inside the Giza palace Museum for ancient Egyptian antiquities
The Giza Museum from inside
"Culturas Antiguas"
Its location is said to be near the Giza Zoo.

Ancient Egyptian coffins and sarcophagi at Giza Museum
The Giza Palace Museum in 1899
"King Farouk Facebook page"

In 1897, the construction works started in the New Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Tahrir Square or rather Ismailia Square. It was designed by French architect Marcel Dourgnon.

Dourgon used the Neoclassical style in that huge Museum.
 Here is a very rare blueprint for the Museum.

The blue print of the Egyptian Museum's halls
Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square blueprint "Egyptophile blog"

You can find more about Dourgnon and his Egyptian Museum's design in the "égyptophile" Blog
I think the Egyptian Museum was the biggest museum in the Middle East and Africa in the early 20th century.

In 1902, the Current Egyptian Museum was inaugurated by Khedive Abbas Helmi II.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Facade
The name of Khedive Abbas Helmi II inscribed above the entrance of the Egyptian Museum 

Egyptian Museum inauguration coin
The inauguration coins of the Museum 

I love the little details in the Museum's façade, especially those two statues of Ancient Egyptian goddesses. The statues look like the museum's guardians.

The Guardian of the Egyptian Museum
I call them the Guardian of the Museum 

The Guardian of the Egyptian Museum
The Museum  guardian 

The Mohamed Ali Family Royal crown
The Egyptian Royal Crown has not been changed thankfully

That's the history of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

The Egyptian Museum in 1910s
The Egyptian Museum in Ismailia Square in the 1910s
"@Just in Case"

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1960s
The Egyptian Museum in the 1960s and
I like its paint during then 

The Egyptian Museum of Cairo now

Dr. Khaled El-Anany, the current minister of antiquities was the Egyptian Museum General supervisor when I visited it. He was appointed as the General Museum of the Egyptian Museum in early 2015.
Currently, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo resembles Egypt and its status in everything.

Of course, I will be attacked over this and I will be called a traitor for highlighting what I had seen.
You got the greatest treasures in that place but the whole place seemed to be neglected for a long time.

The Fayoum Portraits section
Yes, there is a section for the famous Fayoum
portraits at the Egyptian Museum 

The Papyrus and Hieroglyphs section
The papyrus hall, I wish they add labels for all those documents 

Old displays have not been upgraded or changed or even cleaned for a long time in some sections.
Bad lighting, dusty display and reflecting glass make photography, true photography hard in that place. Nevertheless, I feel that I gain more knowledge in photography while taking photos in that place.

It kills me that such a beautiful place that can beat the British Museum and MET can end up like that !!
Broken display
No comment except that I pray that it is fixed now.
Yes, King Tutankhamun's treasures are still the talk of the world but there are other treasures that are not less important or beautiful or even more significant for some like for instance the Predynastic artifacts.

You may feel that it is overcrowded but then I feel it has to do with the display arrangements.
I found hand-written signs that I can guess go back to 1902 and some items without labels.
There is no help for special need visitors.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
The main hall of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The gigantic statue in the Middle of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
The amazing royal couple inside the Egyptian Museum's main hall

Part of King Tutankhamun's section
Part of King Tutankhamen's section on the second floor 

I am still wondering how that Museum which used to have millions of pounds as revenues during the good old days of tourism was neglected like that.
I do not understand why the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities does not ask Egyptian and international companies to sponsor the Museum.

Why not ask companies like Samsung or Philips or Sony to give visual and audio equipment for better interactive display.

Jotan can provide new paint for the whole Museum in return for worldwide publicity.
I stumbled online while browsing the Official Facebook page of the Egyptian Museum by accident that there is a project to Revive the Egyptian Museum since 2012 and it seems that it stumbled or rather moving slowly due to Egyptian political changes.

Currently, Tutankhamun's sector on the second floor is being renovated gradually by a German grant.
The renovation will restore the original colours and design of the Museum when it was inaugurated in 1902.
The renovated parts look amazing.

The new renovated King Tut's section in the Museum
After the new paint 

Renovated Tutankhamen's section in Egyptian Museum
It looks even better in reality 

King Tutankhamen's chair
The Tutankhamun chair in the newly renovated part of the section
Notice the reflecting glass 
Renovated King Tutankhamen's section at the Egyptian Museum
 Part of King Tutankhamun's section after renovations  

New Egyptian Grand Museum and a new challenge to the Egyptian Museum of Tahrir Square  

For decades, the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square was the number one Museum in the country.
But in 2002 that was changed as ousted President Mubarak decided to build the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza Plateau to be the biggest archaeological museum in the world. Yes, it is one of his mega-national projects.

The new museum is sited on 120 acres of land approximately two kilometres away from the Giza pyramids. The construction of that new grand Museum started in March 2012 and it is supposed to be inaugurated in May 2018.

The Modern Grand Museum costs about $795 million, mostly from Japanese  Grants currently.
Some collections have been transferred already to the new Grand Museum.
Ancient Egyptian Coffins
Empty ancient Egyptian coffins on the second floor 

To be honest, I am worried and terrified when it comes to the future of that Museum knowing about how the Egyptian governments think especially when the Grand Egyptian Museum is inaugurated.

I won't be surprised to find voices calling for demolishing that museum and selling its land.
Egypt already owns antiquities enough for dozens of Grand Museums across the country from Rashid to Shalateen.

Photographing Akhenaten's Coffin
At Akhenaten section at the Museum 

The Archaic Period section in the Egyptian museum in Cairo
The amazing pre-dynastic section in the Museum on the second floor 

The end of the Old Kingdom section
Ground floor 

The Tahrir Egyptian Museum is in the perfect position for both tourists and locals in the heart of Cairo. It only needs care.

I know that the Grand Egyptian Museum is going to dethrone the Tahrir Egyptian Museum as the biggest and most modernized Museum for Egyptian antiquities in Egypt and the Middle East but still the Tahrir Museum will remain the original museum for me.

The Sarcophagi section from above
An Overview of the Sarcophagi Section in the Museum 

At the Old Kingdom Section
The old Kingdom section 

Queen Hatshesput at the Modern Kingdom Hall
Near the exit, the Modern Kingdom section 

The Sphinx inside the Museum
The ground floor near the exit 

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Personally, I needed that visit or rather those visits to the Museum to remind me how my country is one of the cradles of civilization and how Egyptians endured a lot and yet they survived.

The Museum itself is a witness to all the changes of time in Downtown Cairo in the 20th century and beyond.

A good sign of times is that it regained its old view of the Nile after the demolishing of the NDP ugly building in Cairo.
The Ruins of the NDP
After demolishing the NDP building, its land is said to be relocated to the Egyptian

Quick tips for visits to the Egyptian Museum :

  • If you are Egyptian, you can still go with your camera to the Museum for LE 50.
  • You can also use your mobile phone camera for free in the museum.
  • It is open from 9 AM to 5 PM Cairo local time.
  • Cameras are not allowed in the Royal Mummies chambers.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If you have a camera, take a spare battery and please do not use flash 
  • There are fantastic treasures in other sections aside from King Tut's collection.
  • Here are the Egyptian Museum's official Facebook page and Twitter account.
Wait inshallah for more posts about the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and its amazing collections.  


  1. Do they permit the use of tripod for photography?

  2. I hope they do not tear down this beautiful historic building. But I understand if they need a new generation of technology and people to maintain the antiquities.


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