Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Right Place at the Right Time–Egyptian Museum Cairo

Timing is everything when you travel. And those who travel know it.

Arriving on the one day each week a recommended restaurant is closed or on the day that an employees’ strike or a national holiday has closed a local attraction can be a major disappointment when you’ve got your sights set on that particular experience.

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Egyptian Museum, Cairo
On the other hand, there is no joy like realizing that your timing was perfect, as was the case with our visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  We lucked out and visited during a rare period (Dec. 1, 2015  – Jan. 7, 2016) when cameras were allowed to be used inside. (No one is sure why the Antiquities Department loosened the rules; some say it was part of a nation-wide effort to increase tourism and others, more skeptical, say it might be a precurser to allowing cameras but charging a fee to use them.)

Whatever the case, this shutterbug was one happy gal! Without further adeiu let us take you through the Museum, housed in the same stately pink building since its opening in 1902 at the north side of Cairo’s Tahrir Square:

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Interior looking towards Entry Door - Egyptian Museum - Cairo

The Museum itself is somewhat a relic. Some items are still displayed in the vitrines they were placed in when the Museum opened. Some have type-written (as in typewriter) information cards.

P1030501Some of the display halls were so dimly-lit they felt spooky; so dark you couldn’t see the displays or read information. It would have made a great setting for an Agatha Christie novel.

There are certainly splashier and more-modern Museum’s in the world, but the somewhat musty charm of this place only added to the feel of ‘antiquities’ and it seemed a perfect home for the some 100,000 objects housed in its 15,000 square meters of space.


Around 3100 BCE the kingdoms of Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the North merged into a single state

The Old Kingdom 2649 –2134 BCE
The Middle Kingdom 2040 – 1640 BCE
The New Kingdom 1550 – 1070 BCE

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The grandeur, the size was stunning - Egyptian Museum, Cairo
At every turn there was some jaw-dropping display with an incomprehensibly old date.  We’d bet that even the most die-hard ‘not-interested-in-Museums’ of you out there would be blown away by a visit here. From the largest, like the statuary above, to the smallest, like this intricate necklace, there was something incredible to leave the viewer shaking his/her head. How did they create with such precision and detail so many thousands of years ago?

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This necklace's detail was stunning - Egyptian Museum - Cairo
One of the most remarkable things about our visit was how empty the Museum was - a sad commentary on the impact of terrorism and political upheavals in recent years. Again, as I wrote about the Pyramids, there were no crowds during our visit. We often had entire display rooms to ourselves.

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Sphinxes - Egyptian Museum - Cairo
These grey-granite sphinxes were created for Pharaoh Amenemhat III (1855 – 1808 BC) and one couldn’t help but be struck by the intricate carving and design done so long before computers - for that matter, before paper and pencils.

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Sanab - Egyptian Museum - Cairo
One of my favorite displays was of Senab, and Egyptian dwarf, chief of all the Palace dwarfs, who was charged with the care of the Palace wardrobe.  With his wife, Senetites, at his side, his two children stand where his legs should be had he been of normal height.

Another who doesn’t get a lot of acclaim – at least not like King Tut – was the one identified as:

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"House of the Toilet" Egyptian Museum - Cairo
While researching this after our visit, I found little information about that particular position but did learn that the English had a “Groom of the Stool” who was considered the ‘most intimate of an English monarch’s courtiers’.

Moving on. . .to the New Kingdom. . .

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Royal Bed - Egyptian Museum Cairo
How’s this for a bed frame?  Still not quite sure how they got in and out of it.

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Chariot - the real deal Egyptian Museum - Cairo
Thoughts of Charlton Heston and Ben Hur came to mind when we got to the chariot displays – only these weren’t movie props, these were the real thing!

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Oh the gold jewelry. . .Egyptian Museum - Cairo 
The jewelry room was astounding – the workmanship and details simply amazing. The photos above from the left, show a head crown, a ring and a collection of gold bracelets.

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Death Mask - King Tut Egyptian Museum Cairo
And then we arrived at perhaps the most famous of the displays: Tutankhamun (King Tut) Galleries, with some 1,700 items filling much of the first floor. King Tut was the young New Kingdom Pharaoh who ruled from 1336BC to 1327BC.  The items on display were buried in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

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Casket and body armor King Tut - Egyptian Museum - Cairo 
While mercifully King Tut’s remains are still in the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, pretty much everything else is on display from his death mask, to the caskets to the body armor in which he was buried.

Several of you have asked if we visited the new state-of-the art museum for which construction began in 2002. There is no ‘new’ museum yet. It was begun during the time the former-now-disposed President Hosini Mubarak led the country. The Grand Egyptian Museum was to be on the Giza Plateau, about two kilometers from the Pyramids and Sphinx. Since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution ousted Mubarak the fate of that project so closely tied to the former president has been uncertain. 

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New paint job just completed in this hallway - Egyptian Museum - Cairo

As Lonely Planet guidebook advises, “In the meantime, enjoy the fresh paint job here in the Downtown Egyptian Museum – that’s likely the only real improvement in antiquities exhibits that tourists will see for awhile.”

Thanks again for taking a walk through history with us today.  We know your time is valuable and appreciate that you spend a part of it with us.  Happy and safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

49 comments:

  1. Oh boy you are indeed lucky to find that rule loosened. Likewise the front of the museum is without tourists. How could that be?

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    1. Terrorism and political upheaval reports in the media have done a lot in suppressing tourism. . .there are no crowds, a perfect time for a tourist to visit!

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  2. What a treat to be allowed to take photos in there, if it's not usually allowed!

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    1. Yes, and especially when we didn't plan it that way; always a special treat when something nice like this happens. Thanks for stopping by. . .

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    1. You know, King Tout was interesting but the older items from the Old Kingdom, vs. his "new" kingdom were even more mind-boggling.

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  4. This brings back my years of teaching Egyptian history to 6th graders. I loved the Egyptian unit and the projects the kids would create.

    What an awesome time you must have had.

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    1. It was simply amazing! Thanks for stopping by today~

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  5. I love that the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a relic. It is that fact that makes it one of my favorite museums. The world is taking the charm out of museums and turning them into books with charts and things. I like those old-time cases.

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    1. I am with you Carole, like I said, it could have been a great backdrop for an Agatha Christie murder mystery. . .its ambiance was incredible

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  6. The actual Egyptian Museum is a must see when visiting Cairo. A lot of artifacts to make sure one visit almost isn't enough. You should definitely take out enough time you could also just stroll around and experience the extremely ancient building along with the bored looking security guards that may be very entertaining.

    Kochi to munnar taxi

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    1. You are correct James, the security staff blended in well and the old building's architecture warranted a stroll just for the sake of looking at it. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. It's a pure joy to visit this important and very interesting historical place! So much history details to discover; lots of historical aspects in those rooms - but empty of tourists like you said at the moment of your visit! Lucky indeed!! and so lucky to have pictures, too...
    I love to visit museums, memorial houses, too, every time I travel and every time is something to learn about...
    So, so thankful for these images and for the amazing walk shared with all of us through your camera lens!
    Greetings in january!

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    1. Hi Alexa, I share your love of the historical aspects of a place and can't imagine traveling and not experiencing a bit of the past as well as of the present! Thanks for stopping by, I enjoy your observations!

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    2. Thank you so much! It's a pleasure to observe things around us and to have the chance to see wonders... I gladly agree!
      Best regards as always!

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  8. Oh my! I guess that the Egyptian museum in Cairo was bound to have some fantastic displays. Thank goodness you could take photographs. Having such dark and old rooms and displays surely would add to the appeal.

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    1. It really was one of, if not, the high point of our visit and I hadn't really given it that much thought prior to our trip there. It is so incredibly filled with wonderment that I can't imagine visiting Cairo and not going to it, camera or not!

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  9. So happy to read and see pictures of the Egyptian Museum. I was in awe when I visited. Our tour guide made our experience even better. I didn't have a lot of time to take a detailed looked at the exhibitions (that is the bad part of being on a tour group). The guide focused the experience on the Tutankhamun treasure. I would really want to go back and take a second look.

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    1. Ruth, thanks so much for the comment and so glad you share my awe of the place. We also have that Ying/Yang view of taking a tour; while you learn much you also miss a lot that you might like to discover on your own. In either case, tour or individual, one trip to this place isn't enough!

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  10. Hi Jackie. My first comment disappeared into cyber never never land. I love the Egyptian Museum and all its quirks. In 2004 when I was there, you could take photos. Although, I'm not a big fan of crowds of people taking photos in museums, I can remember being quite 'click happy' when I was there :) Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Thank for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. If tourism continues to tank perhaps they will again relax the rules and allow cameras inside. And I can relate to 'click happy' . . .I couldn't take enough photos and with so few tourists it was easy to get next to the displays instead of taking a photo that also has the back of six or more humans in it! Thanks for hosting #TPThursday Nancie - a fun linkup!

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  11. Fabulous! It's amazing to see the antiquities of Egypt pictured in your post and think about how ancient they really are. Your visit looks like it covered a well-deserved several hours and I imagine your mantra was "WOW" during a lot of it. And how incredible to wander those vast rooms alone ... Anita

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    1. It was pretty amazing to look up and realize that you were in a salon by yourself surrounded by these incredible pieces. I only wish we'd have gone back a second time while we were there! Make sure you stop by the Museum if you get to Cairo, Anita!

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  12. This is a great museum. The displays are wonderful.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Rajesh! Have a good weekend.

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  13. Hello Jackie and Joel,
    How fortunate for us that you were allowed to photograph the museum. What incredible artifacts and how special to have been able to trek through the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
    Helenx

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    1. I can't imagine visiting this place and NOT taking photos. Our timing, for once, worked out!

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  14. I'm so glad that they allowed photography so that you could show us what it looks like inside. I can't wrap my head around that being an actual, genuine, ancient Egyptian chariot and not merely a movie prop. I'd love to see all this, especially the King Tut relics. What an amazing experience this must have been.

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    1. It was pretty incredible to think this is the real thing and not some movie prop! I could spend far more time in that place! Thanks for stopping by Michele~

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  15. How fortunate to be able to bring in your camera! Thank you for sharing. I love that odd bed in particular, but I'd enjoy all of this. #PhotoFriday

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    1. Yes, the bed was definitely a Wonder of the Ancient World - wondering how they got in and out and stayed in it during the night. Thanks for the visit Karen!

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  16. How lucky! We were there in April of 2015 and there were no photos. I had the same thought about that bed! pretty but uncomfortable. was there no mattress? God forbid you roll over in your sleep, that would be an uncomfortable way to wake up.

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    1. It would have driven me nuts to have seen all of that and been unable to take a photo - hope the Ministry of Antiquities decides to relax that rule for good!

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  17. Jackie, You are lucky! I love that exhibit...it's amazing stuff, especially the mummies and King Tut!

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    1. We didn't even get to the mummies, Corinne, and will have to save that for the next trip! Hopefully there will be a next trip! Thanks for the visit -

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  18. Hello, what a wonderful museum to visit. You were so lucky to be allowed to use your camera. I like the Royal bed! Wonderful collection of images. Have a happy new week!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Eileen - have a great week yourself and continued happy travels!

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  19. A wonderful tour of a fascinating exhibit! I've seen King Tut's head dress when it was in a special exhibit in Los Angeles. It is amazing, the intricate details that they were able to achieve so long ago. We visited Ephesus in Turkey and were amazed at the fact that they actually had indoor air conditioning and heating...as well as indoor plumbing...and even today we use the concept of indoor plumbing and sewage in the same manner that they did over 2000 years ago. The world is a magnificent place!!!

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    1. I so agree that the world is such an amazing place, both the old, ancient world and our current one! Thanks for the visit.

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  20. A blogger's dream come true to be able to take pictures in the museum! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, this shutterbugs was one happy gal!!! Thanks for stopping by Amy!

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  21. Stunning exhibits at the Egyptian Museum! I saw King Tut when the exhibit came to the States in the 1970s and was thrilled. We have a small museum in San Jose with wonderful Egyptian artifacts, but nothing like what you've shown me of the Cairo museum.

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    1. It is such an amazing place that I am surprised they aren't promoting it more. . .but then again it is on the now sadly notorious Tahrir Square! Sigh. . .

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  22. Thanks so much for including your post in this weeks "Through my Lens"

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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    1. And as always, thanks for hosting "Through my Lens" it is a great linkup and I hope others reading these comments will follow the link above and take a look at it!

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  23. Thank you for sharing these wonderful things! Fascinating necklace!

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    1. Oops, don't know how I missed this comment earlier, but thanks so much for the visit and taking time to comment. Hope you'll be back often!

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  24. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the history. A great tour of the museum!

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    1. Hey there, how goes life in the South Pacific?

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