Editors' Picks

Egyptian Museum

15 Meret Basha, Ismailia, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

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The Egyptian Museum was built in 1900 by the French architect Marcel Dourgnon. Its purpose was to house artifacts collected by the French archeologist Auguste Mariette, whose mausoleum is located in its gardens. (The Temple of Edfu was one of Mariette’s great finds.) The building has a grand façade and faces on to Tahir Square, but the interior has not been upgraded in a century and has air-conditioning in only a few rooms. A new museum is being constructed near the pyramids; it has been delayed for many years but is now slated to open in late 2018 and will house more than double the number of artifacts on display. (The museum’s current collection contains 120,000 items). Be sure to tour with an Egyptologist who can steer you through the maze of antiquities.

Indagare Tip: The best time to visit is either when the museum opens, at 9 am, or at the end of the day, after the crowds have left. It stays open until 7pm, so aim for 4:30 pm Contact Indagare to arrange a tour.

Museum Highlights: On the ground floor, look for the statue of Tuthmosis III and the life-size schist statue of Hathor, the cow goddess. There is also a statue of the dwarf Seneb and his wife and two children. Scholars know from his tomb that he was the royal dresser: the Yves Saint Laurent of his day.

Don’t miss the ground-floor room devoted to Akhenaten, the one monotheistic pharaoh. There are some puzzling images of him with male and female attributes, a statue of him with his wife and children (a rare family scene), a head of his wife, Nefertiti, and the elaborate sarcophagus thought to be that of 18th-Dynasty pharaoh Smenkhkare. Be sure to examine the papyrus paintings on the walls as well.

On the upper floor are Tutankhamun’s (King Tut’s) Treasures. The four shrines encasing Tut’s sarcophagus dominate the main gallery. In the room holding King Tut’s precious artifacts (the boy king’s golden mask, his solid gold coffin, jewelry of gold and lapis lazuli and his crook and flail) can be found. Outside this room are many more objects from his tomb, including weapons, shoes, robes, funerary beds, a parasol, alabaster perfume jars, canopic jars that held his organs, a golden throne, walking sticks and 410 ushabti, which are figures representing servants of the deceased in the afterlife.

Mummies: the room of mummified animals contains a giant crocodile from Kom Ombo, in Upper Egypt, as well as numerous pets, such as dogs and cats, preserved by their owners. Visitors must buy an additional ticket to enter the Royal Mummy Room, but for those not creeped out by viewing the pharaohs’ remains (they are remarkably human-looking, with intact hair and teeth), it is worth the entry fee. The best mummies are those of Hatshepsut and Ramses the Second.

Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley

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