I always feel proud whenever I visit the Egyptian Museum which is situated in the heart of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. I always feel as if I am about to enter a sanctuary, temple, or sacred place.
I feel this pride as soon as my feet touch the ground outside the Egyptian Museum, and see the beautiful pond that is located in the museum’s courtyard, not to mention the ancient statues and coffins of Egypt’s Pharaonic Kings and Queens.
The first statue to catch one’s eye [in the Egyptian museum] is the huge statue of King Amenhotep III, who was the husband of Queen Tiye and the father of King Akhenaton.
There are a huge number of antiquities on show in the Egyptian museum, to the point that there is not enough space for each individual antiquity to be exhibited as befits its importance and stature. However the museum has its own characteristics which distinguish it from all other museums in the world. Some people have dubbed the Egyptian museum as being akin to a warehouse for antiquities, and it is true that if we wanted to ensure that each antiquity or exhibit was displayed in the manner that befitted it, the Egyptian museum would need to be at least three times its current size.
The issue of the huge number of antiquities on show in the Egyptian museum is an old one that was even raised by Gaston Maspero, the first French director of the Egyptian Museum. Commenting on this, Maspero said “if one of you visited any Egyptian house after a hundred years you would find that the Egyptians have utilized every space on the walls to hang pictures of members of the family, generation after generation, until you could hardly see the wall for the sheer number of pictures.”
He added “the Egyptian museum is nothing more than an expression of the Egyptian reality.”
Egypt – and I do not say the Egyptian Ministry of Culture alone – is currently developing and constructing the world’s largest cultural project, namely the Grand Egyptian Museum which is being constructed in the shadows of the Giza Pyramids. All of Egypt’s Pharaonic treasures will be transferred from the Egyptians Museum in Tahrir Square and other museums throughout the country to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. However the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square will remain open and be converted into a museum of art, and a number of ancient Egyptian statues, paintings, and sarcophagus’s will remain on exhibit there, in addition to other antiquities that have influenced Egyptian art such as the statue of Pharaoh Khufre with the Falcon-god Horus or the Ra-Hotep and Nofret statues, in addition to other famous and incomparable ancient Egyptian statues.
The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square is famous not just for the well-known antiquities on display in its halls and wings, and the stories and information that can be found on each antiquity on exhibit, but also the huge number of artifacts and antiquities that are stored in the museum’s underground vaults. Some of these antiquities have been stored there for hundreds of years, and nobody can be sure what priceless archeological treasure might be discovered amongst these stores. These antiquities are the results of the first archeological digs in various regions of Egypt, and they were transferred to the Egyptian Museum for safekeeping, as the museum’s vaults were the safest place for antiquities at the time.
There is also an ambitious project to record all the antiquities in the Egyptian Museum, including those on exhibit and those in the museum’s vaults.
I am extremely proud that we have a group of young archeologists who are working to discover and catalogue the antiquities in the Egyptian Museum’s vaults; this is a grand effort for civilization and enlightenment.