Page update - Sep 3, 2023
Cairo is a very rare case where a museum is the main city's attraction. Now many readers ask, "What about the Great Pyramids?". But they are located not in Cairo, but in nearby Giza.
However, the Cairo Museum will also soon be in Giza. At the end of 2021, construction of a new building of the Grand Egyptian Museum has been completed just one mile from the Great Pyramids. The museum relocation was planned for the first quarter of 2020, but due to the coronavirus pandemic it was postponed to 2021, then postponed again to 2022, and now (this page was updated in September 2023) is already postponed to end-2023/2024.
As of September 2023, the process of moving the exhibits to the new museum is just underway. So don't be surprised that some of the famous exhibits may not be on display. Don't be disappointed, as moving such a large museum can be a long and complicated process.
Hurry and see the classic homely Cairo museum while it's still open.
The prices and other information on this page were updated in September 2023. And the big good news is that as of late you can take photos at the Cairo Museum, but only for an extra fee. Read more details later on this page.
The Cairo Museum houses the world's largest collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. There are more than 120,000 objects in the halls and vaults, which is not much by world standards. By comparison, the largest collection in the world is in the Palace Museum in Beijing's Forbidden City, with more than 1.5 million items.
The first museum of antiquities in Cairo was founded in 1835, when the ruler of Egypt - Mohammed Ali banned uncontrolled export of ancient artifacts from the country. The basis of a collection of the Cairo museum was the finds of the well-known Egyptologist Auguste Mariet, collected from 35 zones of archeological excavations from all Egypt.
The museum building was originally located near the Azbakeya Gardens, but soon the museum was closed and the valuables moved to the Citadel of Cairo for security reasons. In 1858, the Egyptian authorities reopened the museum by allocating a warehouse building in the Bulak district for its needs. The director was Auguste Mariette.
The Bulak area is located directly on the Nile bank and the museum was severely damaged by a flood of the river in 1878. Some exhibits were irretrievably lost. In 1891, the entire collection even had to be evacuated to the former royal palace, where it remained until 1902.
In 1902, this building (pictured near, click to enlarge) was constructed where the Cairo Museum is located until today. It is located in Tahrir Square, the main square in Cairo.
The Cairo Museum is relatively small in size - only 160,000 square feet (15,000 square meters). It seems very cramped by many visitors. This is not surprising, as the building was built in 1902, when the collection was much smaller than it is today.
The most artifact-rich finds came later - Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922, and the royal necropolis at Tanis was discovered in 1939. As a result of these discoveries, the Cairo Museum was overcrowded with exhibits and they were placed in the building as compactly as possible, hence the cramped space.
It is an interesting fact that until 1996 the entire security system of the Cairo Museum consisted of a guard and a door which was closed at night. In 1996, a thief hid in the building overnight and stole some valuable exhibits. Since then, the administration started installing an alarm system and new lighting.
In 2011, the museum was looted during the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. 50 valuable exhibits went missing, 25 of which were later recovered and returned. Looters also destroyed two mummies.
But guided tours have their own disadvantages. And first of all is the time shortage. The tour around Cairo Museum lasts about an hour which is enough just to see the exhibits in a rush.
Getting to Tahrir Square (pictured near, click to enlarge) is easy with the Cairo Metro. You need to take to the Sadat station, which is located in the heart of the city at the intersection the lines 1 (red) and 2 (orange). For the fares and map, read our page "Cairo Metro". You can easily find the Cairo Museum in the square - its pink building is not to be confused with anything else.
You can also take a taxi, especially since taxis are inexpensive in Egypt. Tell the driver the word "Tahrir" and he will know exactly where you need to go. For the cab fares, read our page "Taxi in Cairo, Hurghada, Sharm".
Every day from 9 am to 7 pm. During the month of Ramadan, the museum closes earlier (usually at 3 pm).
The ticket price is 300 Egyptian pounds. Students (meaning children aged 6-12 and students) are 150. Free for children under 6 years old. See the actual exchange rates on our page "Money in Egypt".
There used to be a separate entrance fee to the Hall of Mummies (180 Egyptian pounds). But this hall is no longer there. The mummies of the New Kingdom pharaohs have been removed and are now on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.
Permission to take photos is 50 Egyptian pounds, permission to film is 300 Egyptian pounds. You can film yourself and the exhibits on your smartphone camera for free and security has no claims. The permit is required to take pictures with professional equipment.
A leisurely tour of all the halls will take around 2-3 hours. If you want to take a closer look at your favorite exhibits, plan for 4-5 hours.
The audio guide is available at the ticket office for 20 Egyptian pounds. The audio guide is available in English, French, and Arabic.
If you want to visit the Cairo Museum on your own, choose a time in the afternoon. Tourist groups come there in the morning and there are a lot of people inside. See the photo near (click to enlarge) and you can see the entrance to the museum in the morning. There are only a dozen people in place of this crowd in the evening.
You can't take photos inside unless you've paid for a permit. Cameras and video cameras are not even allowed inside. All bags are screened at the entrance.
If you want to take memorized photos for free, you can do it outside the museum. There are a few monuments near the entrance that tourists love to take pictures with. The souvenir shops sell CDs with photos and videos of the exhibits from the museum.
You can see a small gallery of photos of the monuments displayed at the entrance below.
The Cairo Museum still does not have a separate website. It has been 'under construction' for many years. The official information can only be found on the website of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities at egymonuments.gov.eg
Some exhibits can be viewed outside of the building.
Auguste Mariette is buried to the left of the entrance, with his statue above the grave. If you pay attention to the plaque on the monument to Auguste Mariette, you can see the inscription "Mariette Pacha" (pictured near, click to enlarge). Auguste was highly respected in Egypt, hence the high-profile title "Pacha".
Busts of the most famous archaeologists are displayed next to this statue. Among them: Jean-François Champollion (who deciphered the meaning of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs), Gaston Maspero (discoverer of Deir el-Bahri) and Karl Richard Lepsius (the Prussian archaeologist after whom one of the pyramids is named).
There are only two floors inside the building - the Ground floor and the First floor. There is no point in describing the layout of each floor as groups of exhibits are periodically moved between the halls. We will only say that the Ground Floor contains all the large items such as statues, sarcophagi and slabs. On the ground floor, is the treasure room of Tutankhamun's tomb.
There is also no point in telling about all the exhibits. Let's limit ourselves to a few of the most interesting ones.
In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the only tomb in the Valley of the Kings that had not been looted by ancient robbers. Pharaoh Tutankhamun of the 18th dynasty was buried inside.
The tomb contained several thousand objects, but most famous was the funerary mask made of gold and weighing 22.55 pounds (10.23 kg).
Its image is so popular that it is featured on a 1 Egyptian pound coin and is the visual 'calling card' of the Cairo Museum.
In 2014, this mask had the misfortune of falling off its beard when museum staff took it in to clean it. In 2015, a team of Egyptian and German restorers reattached the beard using beeswax. The mask is now safe and sound.
The only complete statue of Pharaoh Khafra (see the photo), the 4th ruler of the 4th dynasty. Of course, he was more famous for his Khafra Pyramid at Giza than his sculptures.
The Khufu Pyramid is known to all readers, but few know what he looked like. This is not surprising, as only one small statuette of him (see the photo) which can be seen in Cairo Museum has survived.
The Menkaure Pyramid is the third largest in Giza. At its foot in the temple, magnificent statues were found depicting the pharaoh with the goddesses (see the photo).
Ehnaton was a great pharaoh reformer, who tried to introduce monotheism in ancient Egypt. And he almost succeeded. In his capital the city of Amarna, many pictures of him have been found, and the most famous bust of Ehnaton (see the photo) can be seen in Cairo Museum.
Perhaps we will not go further into the description of the exhibits, but leave readers to see all these masterpieces themselves during a trip to Cairo.
- The museum does not accept dollars or euros at the box office. You can't pay with a credit card yet, but hopefully this will soon be fixed. Change your money in advance, read our review "Where and how to exchange money in Egypt";
- Taking photos with a flash or using a laser pointer is strictly forbidden. In Tutankhamun Hall, it is forbidden to take photos, even with a permit;
- On weekends and holidays there may be a lot of people in the museum. It is better to come on a weekday. Weekends in Egypt are Friday and Saturday. For a schedule of public holidays, see our review "Holidays in Egypt".
Read our other interesting pages about Egypt (see the list of the pages below).
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