Monday, September 11, 2017

Days at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo : Mariette Pasha's Tomb

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo does not only include the Sarcophagi and mummies of ancient Egyptians who died thousands of years ago, but interestingly it includes the tomb of its original founder: Auguste Mariette Pasha.

Tomb of Mariette Pasha at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo
Mariette Pasha Tomb at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo 

Just outside the museum on your way to the exit, you will find a big statue standing over a fancy Art deco sarcophagus, surrounded by a semi-circular memorial topped by busts of men.

That's the tomb of French archaeologist Auguste Mariette Pasha "1821-1881" and the curators of the museums following him

Frenchman August Mariette was the first curator of the first true Egyptian Museum in Egypt as well the founder of Egypt's first official Egyptian department of Antiquities aka the Supreme council of antiquities aka the Current ministry of antiquities.

The big irony is that Mariette Pasha was not the founder of the Egyptian Museum in its current location but he was the founder of the true Museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities under the supervision of the Egyptian department of antiquities.

A bigger irony is that Mariette Pasha had his own racist views about modern Egyptians but his tomb was in Egypt and looked after and respected by those Egyptians. 

Auguste Mariette Pasha
Auguste Mariette Pasha in Egypt
in the 19th century smoking a very long pipe 
Historically, the first Museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities was founded in 1835 during the rule of Mohamed Ali Pasha. It was built near the Ezbekeyah gardens in Cairo. Later, it 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.
Already, Saeed sent Egyptian troops to fight with the French against the Mexican revolution during then.
Now the whole Egyptian collection of that first museum is at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

In 1858, under the supervision of French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette and with the support of Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo was founded in the Boulaq area on the banks of the Nile  In 1878, that Museum drowned in a flood of the River Nile.

Not only Egyptian antiquities drowned by the flood but also Mariette Pasha's notes and drawings drowned too.
Mariette Pasha and his work were significant in Egyptian archaeology whether in Egypt or Sudan.

Before his death in 1881, Mariette made sure his countryman Gaston Maspero would replace him as the head of the Egyptian department of antiquities.

He also demanded to be buried in the garden of the museum in a fancy sarcophagus like the Ancient Egyptian kings whom he dedicated his life to studying. He got his wish after his death. Mariette Pasha was buried in the garden of the Boulaq Museum.

Mariette Pasah's tomb in Boulaq museum
Mariette Pasha's tomb at Boulaq Museum "Facebook" 
The Egyptian department of antiquities also made a statue of him to commemorate him in the most ancient Egyptian way I would say.
The statue was made and put in Boulaq Museum.
Mariette  pasha  statue
The inauguration of the statue at
the Boulaq museum "Facebook" 

In 1891, after Mariette's death by two years, the remaining collection of the Egyptian Museum drowned in the flood and was moved to a former Royal Palace in Giza aka Giza Palace.
The remaining collection did not move alone because August Mariette's tomb moved with it and he was buried at Giza Museum.

Mariette Pasha's tomb in Giza Museum
The tomb of Mariette Pasha in Giza Museum.

During the rule of Khedive Abbas II, the current Egyptian Museum was inaugurated in 1912

As a sign of gratitude by Maspero, Mariette's tomb was moved to a new location.
The new tomb was more sophisticated than just an art deco sarcophagus especially the statue of the pioneer Egyptologist was placed over the tomb.

Mariette Pasha tomb in Cairo
An old photo of the tomb at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The original design was more ancient-Egyptian influenced.

Mariette Pasha meorial
The original design of the memorial "@So2rate"
But it ended up like that

Mariette Pasha statue overlooking the museum
"@ JustinC4se Twitter account"
Later, the busts of famous Egyptologists as well famous museum curators were placed on the semi-circular memorial around the sarcophagus.
Tomb of Mariette Pasha at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo
Mariette overlooking the Egyptian Museum of Cairo

No doubt that Egyptians owe a lot to both Mariette Pasha and Maspero despite their views about modern Egyptians. 
Mariette Pasha
Mariette in an Arab attire
Next time when you go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, do not forget to visit Mariette Pasha's tomb before you leave.

Mariette Pasha's tomb at the Egyptian museum in Cairo
Bad iPhone photo for the Memorial 


  1. Thanks for this post of the importance of Mariette to the museum! :-)

  2. The caption under the second picture is highly inaccurate
    He never lived in the 18th century
    1821-1861 is in the 19th century
    Enjoyable read thou

    1. Thank you so much for spotting this mistake :)


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