Few would disagree that Egypt boasts one of the richest cultures in the world. From present-day Islamic and Coptic traditions to the Pharaonic civilizations of yesteryear, this North African country is uniquely fascinating. As the capital, Cairo is home to some excellent museums that protect and showcase the nation’s past and present. Here are a few that our local insiders say you really shouldn’t miss.
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Founded in 1858, and now known as the Egyptian Museum, the Cairo Museum houses artifacts from over 5,000 years of history. It includes relics from the ages of the pharaohs, and displays mummies from the royal houses of Egypt.
The Egyptian Museum is one of the best places to visit in Egypt on luxury tours. It is known worldwide as the home of King Tutankhamun, and among the more than 120,000 pieces on show in the museum, it proudly displays almost 1,700 iconic pieces from the tomb of King Tut himself, including the solid gold mask that covered the young pharaoh’s head. The impressive mask weighs in at over fifty pounds of solid gold, and is a wonder to behold.
The classic museum also has on show granite figures of the legendary Queen Hatshepsut, as well as colossal statues of Amenhotep IV (King Tut’s father) from Karnak Temple. You can also admire a small but fine collection of Fayoum portraits from the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
Inaugurated with a world-class parade in April, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Fustat has gained international recognition and national appreciation and pride due to its spaciousness, multi-services areas, and artifacts exhibited.
Manial Palace Museum
Dating back to the Ottoman dynasty, the Manial Palace Museum is located in the El-Manial district of southern Cairo. It is also known as Prince Mohammed Ali Tawfik Palace after the man who had this place built. The beautiful palace is a mix of European, Ottoman, Persian and Moorish styles. The sumptuous furniture and interiors showcase the lifestyle of the Egyptian prince.
The Coptic Museum
Much of Cairo’s charm derives from its mish-mash of different religions and cultures. This museum represents the city’s multiculturalism. Founded in 1908, it houses Coptic art from the earliest days of Christianity in Egypt. There’s an elaborate wood-carving section, sculptures from the Ptolemaic period, rich textiles and monastery frescoes. On the first floor, you can find the world’s oldest book of psalms – the Psalms of David – with two original wooden covers.
Museum of Islamic Art
Located in central Cairo and built on the site of an old Fatimid mosque, the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums in the world specialising in Islamic art, comprising 100,000 artefacts from various periods of Islamic history. Jewellery, weapons, wood and ivory objects, textiles and carpets showcasing fine Islamic workmanship sit alongside rare manuscripts of the Quran and calligraphy from all over the world. It also houses manuscripts from diverse Islamic sciences including medicine, engineering, astronomy and more.
Egyptian Textile Museum
This little-heard-of museum resides in the heart of Moez street, amidst some spectacular old Islamic buildings. It displays textiles from the pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and and Islamic eras of Egypt.
Amongst some of their notable pieces, they have pharaonic diapers (?), bed covers of female pharaoh Hatshepsut, Coptic tunics and prayer clothes from the ancient Coptic cemetery of El Bagawat and beautifully embroidered Islamic ‘qiswa’.
National Museum of Alexandria, Alexandria
It is a wonderful underwater museum in Alexandria, Egypt, known far and wide for its unique architecture and collection of historically important artifacts. The artifacts show the evolution of Egyptian society and people through various eras. Many of these artifacts belong to the Coptic era, the Islamic era and the present day Egypt. It is quite interesting to compare centuries old Egypt with the modern day Egypt.
There are two things which have made this museum so famous. First is the tomb which is an exact replica of ancient tombs in the Valley of Kings. Second is the underwater exhibition of artifacts.
The Nubian Museum, Aswan
The museum is one of the lesser-known museums in the Egyptian country but houses some very unique historical pieces. It has a modern architecture and was built in 1997 as a part of UNESCO’s International campaign in Egypt. The museum is home to the artifacts and pieces which were salvaged by UNESCO during the construction of the high dam. It has over 3,000 pieces which show the slow but steady evolution of Nubia. The museum was established to showcase the history and culture of Nubia.
Luxor Museum in Luxor
Like the Cairo Museum, the Luxor Museum is part of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and both can be found along the banks of the mighty Nile River.
The Luxor Museum is home to the mummified remains of two pharaohs, as well as items found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, and while it’s true that the Cairo Museum houses a larger collection, the Luxor Museum presents its artifacts in a stunning modern environment that appeals to the modern visitor.