I love museums but the idea of travelling en masse with a bunch of people fills me with dread. Invariably I want to linger at items that no-one else is interested in and those that are explained in depth often don’t hold a lot of appeal to me. Not so at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Currently housed in a beautiful old colonial building, which has outgrown its function, the museum is home to the largest collection of Egyptian antiquity and is arranged by kingdoms.
We started at the old Kingdom which took in the reign of Menkaure approx 2490 to 2472 BC. Our Egyptologist guide gave us so much information it was impossible to take it all in but visually we started to learn the history of Egypt.
The chambers and hallways were full of people .
This statue was fairly normal for an Egyptian statue
until you looked at it from the side
and then the rear. The Falcon symbolised the Eye of Horus and the God Ra and denoted divine kingship.
Dwarves were held in high esteem in ancient Egypt and there were several dwarf gods. Indeed, dwarfs still seem to be fairly common in Egypt as we saw more than I have seen anywhere else in the world whilst we were in Egypt.
From the Old Kingdom we moved to the Middle Kingdom 2100 -1650 BC
These are ancient but roger and I brought one that looks identical to the middle right.
Then into the New Kingdom 1650 – 1070 BC
Examples of the inside of the tombs depicting the passage of the afterlife, the workers (not slaves as commonly thought but craftsman held in high esteem) and every day life.
We progressed up to the upper level
and found coffins
intricately carved pieces of ivory.
Probably the best known of Egypts antiquities is King Tut (Tutankanem) head piece. In Egypt he is seen as a very minor king and almost not worthy of mention. To us however, he is the epitome of Egypt being the only tomb to have been found intact in the Valley of the Kings and is surrounded by the mysterious deaths of those who entered. Photographs were forbidden inside but there was a small vantage point outside the room where I could see the head piece and I couldn’t resist getting a shot despite it not being a great one.
Rooms full of mummies. They had to be kept at specific temperatures and humidities to preserve them for generations to come.
Even though thousands of years old I still felt a pull of the heartstrings when I saw the size of this little mummie. The earliest mummies were done naturally by putting them in shallow graves in the dessert where The hot dry sand quickly removed all moisture from the body. However, when they started to use coffins they found that those placed in the coffins before the sand did not preserve as well and they started mummification procedures which involved embalming and wrapping in linen strips.
There were artists who did some beautiful portraits.
and the extreme opposite
and the boat that would take the deceased into the afterlife.
We only had an afternoon at the museum and it really wasn’t enough to see everything. For me a full day would have been better but I’m sure that museum buffs could easily fill in two days. We’d seen the pyramids and having seen the museum I felt that I had a greater understanding of the sights that I would see in the days to come.
The museum is moving however, and will soon close at this location. A world trip of the artefacts is planned and if it happens to be on at a museum near you I recommend a visit. I’d hate to be the person packing this lot up. It has been here since 1857 when the Egyptian government saw it as a way to keep the artefacts safe and in the country where they belonged. It has become too small and some items never see the light of day. Protecting them from the elements is also an issue and hence the purpose built grand museum of Egypt located at Giza (near the pyramids). Being purpose built it has climate control and interactive displays and much more. Of the 50 hectare site the building will occupy more than one third of it and for the first time will display the entire contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
I will probably never see this new museum but I’m glad to have seen this old one.