The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is one of the largest and most important museums in the world. The museum contains more than 120,000 pieces from all periods of Ancient Egyptian history. It was designed by the French Architect Marcel Dourgnon and built by an Italian company in 1902 during the time of Khedive Abbas Helmi II.
History of the museum:
The museum was constructed in Azbakiah Garden in 1853. In 1855, the museum’s collection was transferred to the Saladin Citadel. Some of these items have been donated to the king of Austria. They are now in Vienna, Austria, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
A new museum was established in Bulaq, on the Nile River, in 1858. In 1878, this museum suffered a great deal of damage from the floods. Thus in 1891, the museum’s artifacts were transferred to the Khedive Ismaeel royal palace. Then they were transferred to the Tahrir Square Museum again in 1902.
The museum is built on two floors, the ground floor, and the first floor. The ground floor was designed to contain heavy stone pieces as giant statues, sarcophagi, and coffins. The interior design of the museum is affected by the classification of Egyptian history made by Manetho, from the Archaic period to the Greco-Roman period.
The Ground Floor:
The Rosetta Stone:
A replica of the original one at the British Museum, London, England, is the Rosetta Stone inside the Egyptian Museum. The stone was found in 1799 in the City of Rosetta by the officers of the French Campaign in Egypt. It was then turned over to the British because of the French surrender.
In 196 BC, the stone was made of granodiorite. It portrays a royal order to the priests by Ptolemy V. The decree was issued to exclude the priests from taxation and to free the public from the royal palace’s debts. Three separate scripts are carved into the stone: Hieroglyphs (top), Demotic (middle), and Greek (bottom).
The stone, when the French linguist Jean François Champollion deciphered his Egyptian languages, is considered the key to our knowledge of the Ancient Egyptian language and history.
The Palette of Narmer:
The first founder of the union of Upper and Lower Egypt in 3200 BCE was Narmer or Menes. He commemorates his triumph over the Lower Egyptians with this palette. The palette is made of slate and was discovered in Upper Egypt near Edfu in Hierakonpolis.
Each side of the palette is divided into three registers. Goddess Hathor appears on the upper register of the first hand, along with the Serkh emblem of the royal palace. King Narmer is seen wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt in the middle register, attacking his enemies. While the enemies are running off before him on the bottom register.
On the other hand of the palette, Goddess Hathor is seen again in the upper register. The king, accompanied by his sandal bearer, is wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt. The flags of the provinces are borne by four individuals. Two legendary animals twisting their necks in the middle register thought to be a sign of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt that Narmer executed for the first time in history. Narmer is portrayed in the lower register as a bull crushing a fort in Lower Egypt and one prisoner is under his feet as a symbol of triumph over Lower Egypt.
The Statue of Djoser:
Djoser or Zoser is very famous for his Step Pyramid in Saqqara, the first pyramid in history. He was the second king of the 3rd Dynasty and ruled Egypt for about 19 years (2630-2611 BCE). This statue was discovered at the Serdab around the Step Pyramid in Saqqara in 1924. The statue, believed to be the life-size of Djoser, is made of limestone and is about 144 cm. The king is represented seated on the throne wearing the Jubilee Heb-Sed robe.
The king has a small mustache which is unusual to portray kings with a mustache. His eyes were set in precious stones, but they were robbed in ancient times. The name of the king is engraved as Netjer Khet (Divine Body) on the pedestal of the statue.
Triad Statues of Menkaure:
Menkaure is the son of Khafre and the owner of the third pyramid of Giza Great Pyramids. Eight Triads statues of King Menkaure were discovered at his Valley Temple beside his pyramid on Giza Plateau. Only three statues of them are displayed in the museum and some at Boston Museum. The statues depict Menkaure in the middle between goddess Hathor and a provincial goddess.
Room of Queen Hetep-Heres:
Hetep-Heres means the face of beauty. She was Pharaoh Senefru’s wife and the mother of Khufu, the lord of the Great Pyramid on the plateau of Giza. The tomb of Hetep-Here was built beside the pyramid of her husband in Dahshur. Unfortunately, during Khufu’s time, the tomb was stolen. So Khufu built a new tomb beside his pyramid for her. So the treasure in this room was found beside the Khufu Pyramid in her tomb.
The Hetep-Heres room contains an elegant bed, a chair, bracelets, Canopic jars, and the only statue of King Khufu found (less than 5cm tall).
The Diorite Statue of Khafre:
Khafre is the son of Khufu and the owner of the second pyramid and the sphinx on the Giza Plateau. This statue is one of the masterpieces of Ancient Egyptian Art. It was found at the Valley Temple of Khafre beside the Sphinx. The statue is 168cm and made of Diorite. It depicts Khafre sitting on his throne with the Nemes headdress above his head and a false beard.
Sema-Tawy (a representation of the union of Upper and Lower Egypt) is represented on both sides of the throne. The God Horus (falcon) hides behind the head of the king to guard him.
Statue of Re-Hotep and Nefert:
Prince Re-Hotep is believed to be the son of pharaoh Senefru. The statues were like one statue and when they decided to hide them, they broke them, since Khufu forbade the creation of statues for all but gods. The statue was discovered in the tomb of Re-Hotep in Meidum, near his father’s pyramid, by Mariette.
Re-Hotep is represented in brown chrome (men’s color) and with natural hair and a mustache. The prince wears a pendant and rests one of his arms on the knees and the other arm on the chest. Nefert is clad in a white garment and wears a wig. She’s putting her hands on her chest.
Statue of Montu-Hotep-Neb-Hebt-Re:
Pharaoh Montu-Hotep-Neb-Hebt-Re is the founder of the Middle Kingdom (2000-1700 BCE). The statue is made of sandstone and was found by Howard Carter in his temple near Hatshepsut Temple at Deir El-Bahari. The king is as usual sitting on the throne of Egypt, wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt. His hands are crossed on his chest as Osiris, the god of death and eternity. He is wearing the white garment of the Heb-Sed festival and a false beard.
The king is painted in black, the color of death and the afterlife. The king as well is portrayed with a fatter leg; it was suggested that the king suffered from elephantiasis.
The corner of Akhenaton:
Akhenaton is the son of the famous pharaoh, Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy. He is the father of the famous boy-king, Tutankhamen, and consort of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti. He’s very well-known for his latest confidence in Aton. When he converted to Aton, he changed his name from Amenhotep IV (Amen is content) to Akhenaten (beneficial to Aton).
In this room, statues of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and the rest of the royal family differ from the standard Egyptian style of art, known as the art of Amarna. Amarna is about 400 km north of his hometown, Luxor, where Akhenaten established his town of Akhetaten (Aton’s horizon) to practice his new belief freely. As is seen in the sculptures here the main features of this art are the elongated head, large lips, and bellies. Whether this type of art was actual or ideal is still debated.
Let’s go upstairs to the first floor.
Treasures of Tutankhamen:
Tutankhamen is the son of the non-royal wife of Akhenaten, who is called Kiya. At the age of 10, he succeeded his father to the throne and died on his 19th. From his tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, he achieved world renown. The British archaeologist, Howard Carter, found this tomb in 1922. With more than 40,000 objects inside it, it was found to be intact.
In his room in the museum, Tutankhamen owns about 240 kg of gold in the form of a coffin, mask, pendants, and bracelets.
The most important pieces of Tutankhamen’s treasure are:
A solid gold coffin weighs 112kg.
His death mask weighs 11.5 kg.
His golden-color royal throne.
Four shrines in which the golden coffin and the mummy were found.
Several wooden boxes.
Several funeral beds.
Several chairs and thrones.
Treasure of Tuya and Yuya:
Tuya and Yuya were the parents of the powerful Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III. Their tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor was discovered in 1905. It was the first tomb to be found intact before the tomb of Tutankhamen.
The treasure of Tuya and Yuya contains more than 214 items. The elegant coffins and the 20m-long papyrus are the most eye-catching items.
Treasure of Psusennes I:
Psusennes I ruled Egypt for about 47 years (1047-1001 BCE) during the 21st Dynasty, and he is famous for his silver coffin here in the museum. The treasures of Tanis were discovered in 1939 during World War II. Tanis or San El-Hagar was the capital of the 19th nome of Lower Egypt.
Psusennes I really has an exceptional treasure, but the eye-catching things are:
The silver coffin of the king. Silver was much precious than gold in Ancient Egypt.
The golden mask of the king.
The bracelet of the king with his name is engraved in a cartouche.
We’re finishing our tour of the historic Egyptian Museum in Cairo here. There are hundreds of things you don’t want to skip. Lots of statues, sarcophagi, and coffins. A tour of the museum could take the whole day. So don’t forget to set the alarm, or you will be dismissed at the end of the day by the guards.
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is one of the must-see things in Egypt, so we include it in all of our travel packages. Check out our travel packages and trip types here. As well as many of Cairo Day Tours.