After the Giza Plateau with its famed pyramids and enigmatic Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum of Cairo is the next “must see” stop on most tourists’ check lists. This can make it very difficult to have a lot of fun there as you may feel you are jostling others to see the major sights. The good news is that we have all you’ll need to pay a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, see everything and have a lot of fun.
First things first, though. It is important to know a bit about the Egyptian Museum of Cairo if you are going to make the very most of the visit.
A FEW KEY FACTS ABOUT THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM OF CAIRO
Home to more than 120,000 artifacts and obtaining more on a regular basis (note the unearthing of a massive statue of King Psammetich beneath the city in 2017, and the statue’s placement in front of the museum a few short months afterward as an example), it can be overwhelming.
That is why the number one tip for making the most of the experience is to plan on hiring a guide. Whether you are unfamiliar with anything to do with Egyptian history or you are an amateur Egyptologist with very specific goals, the guides are the best way to work around the small amount of signage and difficult floor plans that confuse many travelers.
Commissioned in the 1830s and opened in the early 1900s, it does not have enough room to display all of its collections and many travelers come with specific galleries or sites in mind and end up wasting a lot of time trying to find the objects in question. As an example, there is a single likeness of the pharaoh Khufu in existence. It is housed at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo and stands only 5cm tall. As the builder of the Great Pyramid, his ivory statue is a wonderful thing to see, but few know precisely where to find it in the enormous museum. Guides, however, are well aware of such key items and can be sure to point them out during a visit.
As one traveler explained, there are many spectacular sights, but also “smaller, less flashy items…[that] are some of the museum’s best treasures and almost impossible to find without a guide.” Making it imperative to book a guide well in advance of your arrival.
There is an admission fee to enter the museum, but there is also an extra fee for those who wish to enter the stunning Royal Mummies exhibition (a permanent installation and absolute essential). Of course, many pay a visit for one reason – to see King Tut Ankh Amoun or “King Tut”, and the gallery dedicated to him is actually part of your general entry fee.
A big question posed by many planning to pay a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Cairo is whether or not it is a kid-friendly spot, and the answer is a resounding yes. Just keep in mind that it is massive and contains material from all eras of Egyptian history, meaning you may want to plan a very targeted visit. The experts say that dedicating from two to three hours is a way to “scratch the surface,” and the minimum amount of time to plan on visiting. In fact, most would say that adults traveling in a group or without kids may want to plan on “at least one or two full days at the museum.”
NOTE: Camera policies are updated often and you will want to phone ahead or find out in advance just what the policy around photography inside of the museum is during the time of your visit.
THE MANY COLLECTIONS AT THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM OF CAIRO
And what is it you can expect to see during your visit? It is helpful to understand the general collections offered up by the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. There is the King Tut display that is an essential part of a visit as it features not only the more famous and familiar pieces but many beautifully decorated items, some of which were used by the young king before his death at the age of 19.
As the building has two main floors, it might seem as if you can breeze through, but the volume of artifacts makes that very difficult to achieve. The lower floor features a collection of coins and papyrus scrolls from the ancient world as well as items from the “New Kingdom” era dating from 1550 to 1069 BCE. There are around 40 rooms on the main floor, and the second floor is even more packed with fascinating items.
The second level features material from the last two dynasties of Ancient or Pharaonic Egypt and is also where the massive mummies display is found. There are also gardens that surround the property, with many dedicated to famous archeologists and Egyptologists.
THE FUTURE OF THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM OF CAIRO
Keep in mind that as of June of 2018, plans for a new home for the bulk of the collections in the 100+ year old Egyptian Museum of Cairo are underway. The Grand Egyptian Museum will have its “soft opening” in late 2018 when it opens its Tutankhamun display, which will take up around one-third of the new building’s floor space. With more than a dozen specialized labs dedicated to preservation and restoration, along with climate controlled storage and more spacious display areas, it is due to become the next major stop on most visitor’s trips to the Cairo area.
This new museum will be far outside of the center of the city. The Cairo museum is in the famed, but centrally located, Tahrir Square. This can make traffic difficult and limits the amount of time many visitors dedicate to the Giza Plateau (as many roll a visit to both sites into a single day’s touring). The new Grand Egyptian Museum provides amazing views of the Giza Plateau and the Pyramids as they are less than two miles away. Until the new museum is in full operation, the historical Egyptian Museum in Cairo remains a top destination and one place to marvel at the many treasures this one country contains.