I love museums. For me, there is something special in being able to stand and look at things, real physical items, collected from around the world and across the years. Of all the museums I have visited over the years, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (officially the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) is one of my favorites. It is an old-school museum. No interactive exhibits. No app on your smartphone to guide you around. No 3-D Imax cinema. Just a bunch of rooms crammed full of interesting stuff.
The Building
The museum building was constructed in 1902 and you can feel the weight of history as soon as you walk inside. It is a big, solid, stone building with high ceilings, thick walls, stone floors, and huge columns. The paint is peeling in some places, some of the exhibits are dusty, and the lighting is poor in some galleries. Somehow, these all work together to complement the items on display. The museum is about history - the newest items on exhibit are probably two thousand years old - and the building is a perfect setting for the exhibits. The building has character and exudes a sense of grandeur that wraps the items on display in a feeling of antiquity and time.
King Tut
The museum has over 120,000 pieces in its collection (only a small fraction of which are on display) but there is no question that King Tut is the star of the show. The most famous piece is his 23 pound, solid gold burial mask, but there are hundreds of other items recovered from his tomb in Luxor. Some of my favorites are the solid gold caskets that held his vital organs (lungs, liver, intestines, and stomach), the alabaster box which held the small caskets, and the gold-inlayed bed stored in his tomb for his use in the afterlife.I was fortunate to be able to visit the King Tut exhibit during the period when cameras were allowed. As of the summer 2016 the museum had banned photos in the King Tut gallery.
Other Items
The museum traces the history of Egypt from the earliest days to the Greek and Roman periods.
The Future
The Egyptian government is planning to open the (long-delayed) Grand Egyptian Museum near the pyramids of Giza in 2022. The museum is billed as the largest archaeological museum in the world and will house the most important collection of Egyptian artifacts, including the items from King Tut’s tomb. I hope the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which runs the museums, will find a way to keep the existing museum open. I am sure the new museum will be a fantastic facility, but it won’t have the dust, chaos, patina of history that make the current museum, and Cairo itself, so fascinating.
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