The Egyptian Museum is a highlight for many visitors to Cairo. There’s no place like it—where else can you see so many Egyptian artifacts in a single place? I LOVE the Egyptian Museum, but I feel obligated to make sure everyone knows that visiting is not without its challenges. The artifacts aren’t well-marked—I can’t imagine making it through without a guide or, at the very least, a guidebook. Guides can be booked in the courtyard outside the museum—supposedly they are “official,” but I can’t vouch for that. Many hotels that cater to westerners can recommend guides, and you can also find guides through travel books, like Lonely Planet and DK.
The exhibits are arranged a bit haphazardly, the lighting isn’t great, and placards—if they exist at all—don’t provide much information about the artifacts. And for photo buffs, I have bad news: no cameras are allowed inside the museum. You must check cameras at a gatehouse in the courtyard, and a bag screening machine and security guards ensure you can’t sneak them in. Phones are allowed, but docents roam the exhibit rooms and can fine you for taking clandestine photos (or make you erase them).
But all that aside, the museum is full of AMAZING artifacts from the Old Kingdom to the period of Roman rule.
Here Are My Top 5 Must See Items at The Egyptian Museum:
(5) Tut Mask. Much of the upper floor of the museum is dedicated to the treasures discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The most famous of these treasures is, of course, his death mask, which can be found in Room 3. The back of the 11 kg, solid-gold mask shows a little wear, but the front is nearly perfect. Room 3 also includes some of Tut’s beautiful jewelry and two sarcophagi, one made of solid gold and one of gold-gilded wood. Egyptologists seem to differ on what killed 19 year-old Tut, though we do know from recent tests on his mummy that he suffered from malaria.
(4) Seneb Statue. In Room 32, you can see the statue of Seneb and his happy family. If you look carefully, you’ll notice Seneb was a dwarf, but the sculptor geniusly placed Seneb’s children below him to hide his short legs. Seneb is seated beside his wife, who hugs him affectionately.
(3) Tut’s Canes. Even though he was still a teenager when he died, King Tut suffered from a number of maladies, including a club foot, which necessitated the use of canes. In the atrium outside the mask room, a case displays some of the more than 100 canes found in Tut’s tomb. The handles of many canes were carved in the shapes of Egypt’s enemies—the round African-head cane is distinct in shape and features from the Asian-head cane, whose figure has a beard and almond-shaped eyes.
(2) Ka-Aper Statue. This cool wooden statue, made from sycamore, is different from everything else in the museum. Ka-Aper was an Old Kingdom priest charged with praying for the dead, and his life-like eyes, made of copper, quartz, and rock crystal, seem to stare back at visitors. Ka-Aper stands with his left foot in front of his right, a sign of power and strength, and his round belly—a sign of wealth—is covered in a straight skirt. Ka-Aper is in Room 42.
(1) The Mummy Rooms. The museum entry fee does not include a visit to the mummy rooms, which costs an extra L£ 100 (roughly $15), but these rooms are a must-see. Each mummy occupies its own temperature-controlled case, and visitors can still see many features, including finger and toenails, teeth, and hair. The best preserved mummy is probably that of the virile Ramses II, who reigned for 67 years and fathered more than 100 children. His long white hair (which may have yellowed some during the mummification process) attests to his age at death.
This guest post was penned by FWTG contributor, Megan Boyd. Megan is an attorney and legal writing professor living in Atlanta, GA. Please visit her blog, Lady Legal Writer.