More than just Mummies

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by garymarsh6 on September 24, 2009

The Egyptian Museum Cairo.

We visited the Museum in Cairo one afternoon and in fact you could probably spend a couple of days here as there is so much to see. The museum is housed in a building of great halls built by the French in 1908. The halls are absolutely massive and the security is quite tight here obviously because of the vast collection of priceless treasures and also because of the threat to tourists. Before you enter the Museum you have to go through a scanner to make sure you are not armed or carrying something you should not be carrying. All bags have to go through an x-ray machine and finally random searches are undertaken. It is forbidden to take photos in the museum.

They are currently building a long awaited new museum on the outskirts of Cairo to house the exhibition but it is taking a long time to build quite near to the Pyramids. The congestion in Cairo is unbelievable so that would be quite a blessing when it is completed as it is near the ring road.

My main reason for visiting the museum was to see the Tutankhamen’s exhibition. In 1972 when I was a child I remember that an exhibition was brought to London and staged in the British Museum there were lots of photos in the papers and so much publicity about it. I begged my father to take me to see it but alas it was not to be. The queues to enter the exhibition in London stretched for up to a mile each day and in total there were nearly 1.8 million visitors to the exhibition which was opened by the Queen to mark the 50th anniversary of its discovery by Howard Carter. The thing that was of main interest was the funerary mask made of solid gold which most people would recognise belonging to Tutankhamen.

The museum is absolutely vast and contains over 120,000 artefacts some of which are in storage. It is divided into various halls according to which period of history the artefacts come from. So without talking about the rest of the contents of the museum I will tell you about the Tutankhamen display.

We went up to the first floor passing loads of coffins on the way to the great hall where all the King Tutankhamen items were. It is astonishing to see that the hall goes on for ever or so it seems with all the items he was buried with including things that he used during his short life.

There are cases on either side of the room and cases down the middle of the great hall displaying chairs, beds, statues, jewellery, armoury, clothing, shoes, pots bowls, plates, vases, cups, coins and other ornaments. The list is endless.
The displays here are absolutely stunning with lots of gold and other precious metals and stones. Precious woods all highly decorated and painted in gold and other beautiful colours. There were also……… holding the internal organs which were buried separately to the body and only the heart being placed back inside the body. The brain, kidneys liver lungs and bowels were all put in jars or chests after being preserved.

It is amazing to see these small items, they are so beautiful. Over 3200 items were found in total and bearing in mind he died suddenly and at such a young age its amazing how much was put into the tomb. They estimate that the tomb was robbed on two occasions before Carters discovery so there would have been a lot more booty! You can imagine how much stuff must have been present in the tombs of Kings who had lived to a right old age and most of it taken by grave robbers.

What is even more amazing is when you get to the end of the corridor and the massive displays await you. There are massive beds, chariots, the funerary bed, stools, chairs his throne and boxes. All of them highly decorated in gold and other bright colours.

The sarcophagus was inside a set of three gold boxes engraved with lovely designs and funerary passages engraved in them just like the little Russian dolls one fitting neatly inside the other until you reach the outer ornate sarcophagus. The inside sarcophagus is made of solid gold and is beautifully painted with his arms folded holding the insignia of office Inside this would be the boy Kings Body wearing the mask. When carter discovered this they tried to find out why he died they dismembered the limbs, cut the torso in half and as the funeral mask was cemented onto his head they ended up decapitating him.

The sarcophagus and mask takes centre stage in the side room along with all his fine jewellery, rings, earrings and amulets. The mask is in a display case on its own and lit up for all to see in the middle of the room. It looks absolutely magnificent although from the pictures I have seen I would have thought it would have been much bigger, in fact it is fairly small.

The funeral mask was made of solid gold and weighs in at an incredible 24.5 lbs. and is inlaid with precious glass and semi precious stones lapis lazuli. On the front at the top of the mask is a cobra and a Falcon. The eye markings are really defined and lovely looking.

I have certainly realised one of my life long dreams of seeing both the Great Pyramids and the items from Tutankhamen and had I not seen another thing in Egypt I would have been entirely satisfied with these.

I would highly recommend anyone to visit here to marvel at how clever the ancient Egyptian craftsmen must have been producing fine jewellery with fine precision and intricacy with primitive tools.

My one big criticism of this great museum is that with today’s technology and the amount of Students of Egyptology and employees’ working in the museum, the cataloguing of the exhibits is absolutely dreadful. The small typed cards have not been updated from about the 1930’s or so it appears. They have been typed using an old typewriter. I would really have thought they would be on the ball about this. It seems to me that that although they have this wealth of rare valuable historic items they do not seem to take as much care as I would have liked to see. They are irreplaceable and a fine example of mans abilities and skills to produce something of such beauty.

Egyptian Museum
Tahrir Square
Cairo, Egypt
+20 (2) 579 6974

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