The Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum is centrally located just off of Cairo’s now-famous Tahrir Square, one block from the downtown Nile River area. It houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Every few years, the museum authorities change whether or not you can bring cameras into the building. You will need to check it with the guards at the front entrance if you do bring one during one of the times when it is prohibited and they find it in the x-ray machine when you enter. However, checking first would be much safer, and if necessary, you could leave your cameras at your hotel instead of walking to the museum, or you could drop them off at your hotel if you were coming from another location.

Before I continue talking about the Egyptian Museum, I want to reassure you that the Grand Egyptian Museum—a newer, nicer, and more modern museum—is being built outside of Cairo near the Giza Pyramids. However, THE Egyptian Museum is still THE Egyptian Museum for the time being. You will, however, understand why I began by stressing the fact that a brand-new and cutting-edge museum is currently in the process of construction when you visit it, which you absolutely must do on your first trip to Egypt.

Although the Egyptian Museum is amazing, many tourists are struck by its age, disrepair, lack of care for the majority of its objects, and poorly labeled public exhibits. If you don’t already know enough to recognize and appreciate ancient Egyptian artifacts without much labeling, hiring a licensed tour guide for a trip to the Egyptian Museum would be very helpful. Although I wouldn’t recommend spending the entire time in the museum with a guide, it’s always nice to have one walk you through some Egyptian history and explain how the many treasures in the building relate to and tell the story of that history for at least an hour or two.

Cheap licensed tour guides may approach you after you enter the museum’s front courtyard and offer their services, just like they did at the Pyramids. The majority of genuine guides speak English, though there are certain guides who speak many other major European and Asian languages as well. They are typically not pushy at all and respond well to a polite “no thank you.”

Sarcophagi, Pharaonic statues, and other hieroglyphic-adorned stone artifacts make up the majority of the museum’s first-floor collection if you decide to explore on your own. The largest and most well-known exhibits of the museum can be found on the second floor. These include the extensive treasures found in King Tut’s nearly intact tomb in the Valley of the kings in Luxor.

This boy king had little historical significance. He was young when he took the throne, ruled for a long time, and died young. He didn’t have any major conquests or accomplishments to his name. However, his tomb in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings had to be rushed because he died so young and unexpectedly, and it was soon covered, built over, and forgotten about. That is, up until 1922, when British archaeologist Howard Carter found it nearly intact.

When Tut’s tomb was finally unveiled in the early 20th century, it literally gave the world an unspoiled look at ancient Pharaonic Egypt, making it one of the greatest finds in archaeological history. Tut’s tomb and all of its preserved treasures opened up the world of ancient Egypt to us in a way that none of the other Pharaohs’ tombs had. Nearly all of the other Pharaohs’ tombs had been robbed and cleared out either centuries ago or in the past. The majority of the antiquities exhumed from Ruler Tut’s burial place in Luxor are in plain view now in the Egyptian Gallery, including his widely popular strong gold entombment cover and his extravagantly bejeweled concentric stone coffins. However, his actual mummy is still in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, where he died.

However, the museum displays the mummies of numerous other well-known Pharaohs of Egypt. They are currently housed in a special collection in the Mummy Room, which is separate from the main exhibits. The museum requires (and charges for) an additional ticket to view this exhibit, but it is actually really cool if you are interested in Egyptian history and mummies because you can get a close-up look at these once-great Pharaohs and see how well their features have been preserved through the ancient art of mummification.

Be prepared to let a guard at the door look inside any bags you brought into the Egyptian Museum when you leave. Evidently, even they concur that many of the exhibits lack adequate security. As you leave, you’ll see two bizarre things on out a brand-new, empty gift shop building with the ruins of a burned-out building behind it (which might be gone by the time you get there).

The museum’s brand-new gift shop was vandalized in the chaos that followed the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011, and it has not yet been restocked or reopened.The former headquarters of the National Democratic Party, the political wing of the Mubarak regime that was toppled, can be found in the burned-out building next to it.As a national symbol of the revolution and a reminder to post-revolutionary government officials of what can happen if they attempt to return to the days of political overreach and abuse of power, it was also looted and burned out during the revolution. However, it remained undisturbed for years.

You might be approached by some men selling papyrus mementos on the sidewalk as you leave the museum’s gates. Even though I usually don’t recommend buying souvenirs from people who approach you on the street, I’ve often found that these people outside the museum’s exit gates are usually nice and don’t try to sell you anything, and their prices are often very good here.