Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Egypt Day 4: The Ancient Egyptian Museum

In the first book of my favorite mystery series, the Amelia Peabody Emerson series, Amelia meets Emerson for the first time in the museum in Cairo. In The Crocodile on the Sandbank, Emerson, who has a violently explosive temper, chastises Amelia for getting too close to the artifacts, yells at the museum director, and generally makes an enormous scene. It is a hysterically funny scene, not the least of which is a serious concern for the artifacts and history of ancient Egypt being lost through poor conditions and mishandling.

I have a penchant for museums. My children can attest that anywhere there is a museum, they are sure to be dragged to it and forced to endure going through exhibits looking for interesting history treasures. We've breezed through the Louvre, devoured bits of the British Museum, explored tiny Swedish museums, gotten lost in the Metropolitan, and wandered through the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. We are to say the least experienced museum consumers.

Sadly, I do not have photos from the museum because cameras are not allowed inside. But this blog, where a friend of mine is posting photos and journal entries from a trip her grandfather took around the world in 1932, shows a picture of the museum in 1932. Just be sure to scroll down a bit in the entry to see the picture. There are also some wonderful photos of the pyramids, the Citadel, and the Sphinx.

We went through the museum with a guide who whisked us through  at a record-breaking pace. There were certain highlights that she wanted to hit at our request, and time was short. Also, this particular museum is overwhelming just for the sheer number of artifacts on display. While I appreciated seeing so much in such a short time, I missed the enchantment of wandering through displays and coming upon a treasure or artifact that takes your breath away. But I did get to see many of King Tutankhamen's amazing treasures, so I can't really complain.

But first, a word about the general state of the museum. The museum is not in great shape, the air conditioning was dodgy at best, which made me feel concerned about maintaining a good temperature for the artifacts. The labeling system really could be updated, and the security in the museum seemed a little weak. That was terribly disappointing. The museum only charges $10 for admission which is shockingly low. I would have been happy to pay $30 or more for admission, especially if the admission funds would be funneled toward better conditions in the museum.

Some of the highlights are:

1) Walking through the exhibit hall and seeing King Tutankhamen's beds and burial artifacts.
2) Seeing how big the boxes were that contained the mummy--they were massive.
3) Looking at tiny statue of the Pharaoh Khufu for whom the great pyramid of Giza was built.
4) Going through the hall of mummified animals which included mummified, crocodiles, fish, baboons, and cats.
5) Seeing the massive statuary that once graced temples and tombs was really awe-inspiring.

So even though I was annoyed at the poor state of the museum and didn't like being rushed, I still think you should visit the museum if you ever get the chance. If you are a person who enjoys tours, take a tour. But if you really don't like doing tours, then don't take one through the museum. You'll get just as much out of it and perhaps more if you go exploring yourself.


  1. Wow! That sounds so cool! I can't believe you got to see all that awesome stuff. I would love to be able to do that. And you are right. $10 is cheap to see King Tut's stuff. I would expect to pay more. I mean, isn't that kinda why you would go to Egypt in the first place?

  2. So cool! Too bad they don't let you take pictures now!