Egyptian Museum: Mummy Portraits, Lego Sculptures and More


Whenever I visit a new city, I always put its museums at the top of my must-see list. I haven't made it to Cairo yet, but when I do I'll make certain to visit the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, or as it's more commonly called the Egyptian Museum or the Cairo Museum. Here guest blogger Danee Gilmartin, of the new blog MuseumChick, shares her recent experience at the Egyptian Museum and tells you what to expect. Art-lovers, make sure to check out Danee's blog, where she covers not only museums like the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Jordan but art fairs like the Salon du Dessin Contemporain in Paris,too.

Many travelers come to Egypt for the pyramids, but the highlight of my recent trip was the Egyptian Museum. True, it is disheveled and some areas look like they may have been forgotten about but the appearance and mess couldn't distract me from the amazing ancient artifacts.

Cairo Sphinx GP-2

To cover the entire Egyptian Museum, the country's most popular museum, you need most of the day. I've heard so much about its collection: the Mummy Room, King Tutankhamun's treasures and the numerous ancient Egyptian artifacts.

I couldn't wait to get inside and take some pictures to share on my blog. I paid the $12 entrance fee and then saw the sign “no pictures allowed”…bummer. I learned later that pictures aren't allowed in most of Egypt's museums. So, I took my time exploring the sculpture garden (pictured right) and found it to be a great place to get up-close photos of the statues and also a charming place to people-watch while sipping an overpriced soda from the street cart.

Cairo Garden GP I made my way through the main entrance and started exploring the galleries. I found that the museum houses some interesting pieces that may not necessarily be the most popular. Of course, the exquisite 50-lb solid gold mask of King Tut and the well preserved 4000-year-old seated scribes are remarkable, but what I also found intriguing was the Amarna period collection and the overshadowed but extremely important Fayum portraits (mummy portraits) collection.

The Amarna collection is located on the ground floor, sectioned off into its own gallery, and holds the artifacts of the popular and rebellious Pharaoh Akhenaten from approximately 1340 BC. This collection has a distinctly different style and also contains artifacts related to Akhenaten's chief wife Nefertiti, such as statues of the head of Nefertiti and reliefs. Most were found in Amarna (modern day al-Minya, Egypt) during excavations.

Cairo Lego Pharaoh GP1 The collection of Fayum portraits at the Egyptian Museum was brought to my attention by Mr. MuseumChick when I was planning our voyage through Egypt. This section of the museum is relatively quiet and makes for a nice break that gives you time to explore these rarely seen portraits, some of the earliest ever painted, dating from 1 BC to 3 AD during the Roman occupation of Egypt. These portraits were intended for funeral purposes. The majority were done on boards or wood and were usually created for the upper class because not everyone could afford one. The better the artist and the more realistic the portraits meant the more it would have cost the family. The Egyptian Museum has a large collection of these portraits, the highlight being a portrait of two brothers side by side. These brothers resemble each other, both with curly dark hair and similar facial features.

After the serious portion of this visit it was time for a more playful side of the Egyptian Museum. The brand new Children's Egyptian Museum is located in the lower levels of the main building. Here you can amuse the kids (and immature husbands) with Lego sculptures (pictured left) of the original highlights of ancient Egypt with child friendly text and explanations of Egyptian history. You don't need an extra ticket for this part of the museum and even if you are without kids in tow, the Legos are still entertaining.

Planning a trip to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities? Here are some tips that will help you get the most from your visit.

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