A visit to the Museum of Egypt in Cairo is the highlight of any trip to Egypt. After a Nile cruise, visiting temples and seeing the pyramids, the marvellous collections becomes truly significant.
This is the most captivating collection of objects you can imagine. I’ve never been much for collecting ‘things’, but I now understand why people become obsessed with possessing these treasures.
A feeling of déjà vu had followed me throughout my travels in Egypt, but that was hardly surprising having seen so many films and documentaries about this fascinating land. However, it was total surprise I felt when the guide pointed out the famous statue of the seated scribe found in Giza. Dating back to the fourth dynasty, he is so lifelike that he looks as though he is about to speak. Staring ahead through his gemstone eyes, his papyrus rests on his lap.
Perhaps even more thrilling were the world’s oldest life-size statues, which depict a beautiful woman, pale-skinned, dressed in a white robe that reveals a shapely bust sits forever alongside her darker husband, whose moustache reveals a military background. These statues form a unit and are images of a prince, probably a son of King Sneferu, and his wife. The convention was to paint a man’s body darker than woman’s skin. Both figures have inlaid eyes and Nofret wears a long sheath dress with a mantle, a wide necklace with concentric rings, and a wig with a headband of rosette designs. Still vibrant and realistic after thousands of years, they terrified the first modern men to penetrate Teti’s tomb.
On another floor, with chiselled cheekbones, powerful arms and dressed in regal attire, a handsome black granite Pharaoh stares into the distance, his flawless features bearing the trace of a smile, his neck supported from behind by a beautiful falcon. It is such a beautiful work, so mysterious.
The Cairo museum has 100 rooms and countless, gigantic and minuscule artefacts. You’ll find everything from sarcophagi and amulets to mummies and jewels and the timeless and thrilling treasures of Tutankhamen.
Some stood for millennia under the scorching sun, others lay buried under the shifting sands. Now they sit, out of context yet still magnificent, in the dusty, neglected halls of the museum, lit only by filthy light bulbs and the scant natural light that trickles through the thick scum on the skylights. Dirty plastic bags and broken buckets and brooms lean against the walls. The mighty crowns of Egypt’s ancient gods are coated with dirt.
Their sad plight will soon end (inshallah) when the new Cairo museum is complete and these and the many thousands of artefacts languishing in warehouses around Cairo are finally displayed in the splendour they deserve.
I will be back when that day comes to explore again in the beauty of this great treasure. I can’t wait!