The Egyptian Museum: Cairo, Egypt
|by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist|
Last modified 03-31-2011
PassPorter.com > Articles > International Travel > General Travel
The world is full of amazing museums, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit our fair share of them.
Some of them are interactive heaven for youngsters, others are dedicated to specific areas of interest, while some are real gems for history lovers. Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is definitely one that falls into the latter category.
The Egyptian Museum dates from the late 19th century, just a few years after an organisation was created to supervise and monitor all the archaeological excavations taking place across Egypt. The museum grew at a frightening pace, as more and more antiquities were uncovered, and that’s continued over the intervening years. Today, the Egyptian Museum, putting it brutally, is far too small to properly display all the amazing treasures it contains. The top attraction at the Egyptian Museum is the section devoted to the treasures that came from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, and understandably so. We had already seen some of these items when the tour came to London a few years ago, and that was breathtaking. Having had that introduction, I honestly thought I knew what to expect. How wrong one can be!
A solution is at hand, but sadly it seems it is still some way off. A new, and much larger, Egyptian Museum is due to be built at Giza, near the pyramids, to help deal with the problem. Sadly, despite promises that it would be open by now, many opening dates have already passed, with little work undertaken on the site. When we passed by, all that had been done was some excavation of sand, so it seems that it’s still some time off.
For the moment, the only Egyptian Museum remains at its original site, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the now internationally famous Tahrir Square, where all the demonstrations against Muburak’s reign took place, earlier this year. Fortunately, despite early horror reports of looting, very little inside the museum has been damaged, which is a relief indeed, as it’s home to an unbelievable collection.
The second we walked into the rooms housing these treasures, my breath was literally taken away, such was the beauty of what was laid out in front of us. As you enter, you’re watched over by two life-size statues, made of wood, and finished with black resin and gilding. It’s appropriate, as they were the first things that greeted Howard Carter when he first discovered the tomb.
Immediately in front of us were thrones, again wooden, but looking exquisite in their gold leaf finish. Each was decorated with animals who would protect the young king on his dangerous journey into the afterlife. This theme carried on with the funeral beds, one of which had the head of a cow, another with the head of a hippo, and the final with the head of a lion. Each would play their role in helping to protect and support the pharaoh.
The room showcased everything that a King would need in his next life, including tiny mummies of all his slaves. The lower servants had tiny mummies, all complete with full detail on them, of no more than six or seven inches tall. As you moved up the servant chain, through supervisors, the mummies became taller. All in all, there must have been 200, just waiting to help the pharaoh in any way they could.