Sometimes it’s good to have flexibility in your plans. Today was supposed to be our day to tour the pyramids outside our doorstep. But when we arrived on the roof for breakfast this morning it was windy with sand blowing everywhere and no visibility. Not a particularly good day for being outside on the plateau.
So instead, we did our indoor Cairo activity – visiting The Egyptian Museum. Not to be confused with the recently opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization or the soon to be opened Grand Egyptian Museum. The one we visited was opened in 1901 and is home to over 100,000 artifacts from Ancient Egypt and early Greco-Roman times. The building is magnificent and located in Tahrir Square – famous for the protests that kicked off Egypt’s revolution during the Arab Spring in 2011. Over 1 million people occupied this small space for three weeks during that time.
With so many artifacts on display and many being moved to the new museums, we were glad to have a guide show us around the treasures.
There were statues, coffins and mummies galore. The kids thought the hieroglyphs were ‘really cool’ and the mummies were ‘gross’. That goes for the animal mummies too.
We saw papyrus thousands of years old but still intact with bright colors.
We got to see the Tutankhamen display including his golden mask and coffin – over 225lbs of solid gold. We couldn’t take photos in the exhibit but found these afterward. photo credit to Virtual Middle East.
As part of Tutankhamen’s tomb he was buried in 4 boxes of wood and gold. We got to see the only one left at the museum as the workers prepare to move it to the new location at the Grand Egyptian Museum. Had we gone a couple days later we might have missed it.
After the museum we were ready for a good lunch – in this case a traditional Egyptian meal including wood grilled pigeon.
Our last stop was at a shop selling papyrus paintings but also providing a demonstration of how the material was made. It was invented by the ancient Egyptians, adopted by the Greeks and used extensively by the Romans and others for centuries until paper came along.
It was interesting to see and quite a simple process for such a valuable resource. After the outer coat of the stem of the Papyrus plant is removed, the fibrous interior is cut into strips and soaked in water. After soaking, the fibers are placed in a layer with a perpendicular layer underneath. Then it was pressed under limestone (instead of the metal press used today). As it drys, the gluelike sap cements the layers together. The result is a smooth, strong writing surface that can be washed and reused.
We returned to Giza and the continued windy conditions at the Pyramids. We made the right call to change plans and had a great day exploring the history of ancient Egypt via its artifacts.