The level at which so many places of cultural significance in our capital are ignored is truly sinful. When the words “Cairo” and “sightseeing” come up in the same sentence, the only museum that comes to mind is the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Tahrir Square. No other museum is ever thought of or even mentioned.
Cairo is in fact, as you would expect of any other ancient city, home to many museums covering a diverse range of Egypt’s history. Some even cover subjects you would have never guessed, like natural history. Importantly, they’re all interesting and feature fascinating exhibitions and displays, and all deserve to be visited.
Museum of Islamic Art
Arguably one of the finest museums in the world, it boasts some of the most amazing artefacts from across the Islamic world which include ornaments, manuscripts, and textiles. It’s also one of the oldest in the world. The Khedive Tawfiq decreed that a museum of Arab art be established in 1880. The current building was completed in 1902 and has 25 halls showcasing thousands of artefacts from the golden age of Islam in Egypt and across the Muslim world.
Official website: www.miaegypt.org
Address: Port Said Street, Bab El Khalq.
Opening times: Saturday – Thursday (9:00am – 5:00pm). Fridays (9:00am – 11:30am; 1:30pm – 5:00pm).
Egyptian Geological Museum
This is the first museum of natural history to open in Africa and the Middle East. It was established as part of the Egyptian Geological Survey in 1904. It showcases a collection of ores, rock, and minerals that were mined by Egyptians dating back to the predynastic era. It’s also host to Egypt’s most famous meteorite, Nakhlite, which is speculated to be from Mars. Other exhibitions include the famous Fayum vertebrate fossil collection, which was the first to be showcased at the museum, and fossilised flora and fauna dating back to prehistoric Egypt.
More info: www.touregypt.net/geo/
Address: Masr-Helwan Agricultural Road, Zahraa Masr el Qadima, Masr el Qadima.
Opening times: Saturday – Wednesday (8:30am – 2:30pm)
In 1930, it was decided that the palace of Princess Fatma, daughter of the Khedive Ismail, was to be turned into a museum dedicated to the history of agriculture in Egypt. Apparently it was the very first of its kind in the world. This is probably the most diverse and interesting museum on this list. Of course, it documents in intimate detail the agricultural history of Egypt from the predynastic to modern eras. However, it also doubles as a museum of natural and social history. On display are the many skeletons of livestock Egyptian farmers have kept over the millennia. Thousands of species of birds and insects native to Egypt expertly preserved are also showcased in glass displays. What’s perhaps the most fascinating feature here are the wax displays depicting everyday village life in Egypt across the ages. The life-size wax figures are seen very accurately in a number of scenes such as traditional weddings, farmers’ markets, and bread making.
Official website: www.agrimuseum.gov.eg
Address: Ministry of Agriculture Street, Dokki.
Opening times: 9:00am – 2:00pm
After gaining approval from Pope Cyril V, the Christian-Egyptian politician Marcus Simaika Pasha founded the Coptic Museum in 1908 for the purpose of studying and displaying the entire history of Christianity in Egypt. This is one of the more extravagant of Cairo’s museums. Situated in the middle of pre-Islamic medieval Cairo, the surrounding area is filled with many other Coptic monuments and ancient churches, such as the Hanging Church of the Virgin Mary (Pictured). The museum itself is sort of like the Christian counterpart to the Museum of Islamic Art. Housed within are thousands of pieces of Christian artefacts and ancient artworks. Its many halls include motifs and stone carvings from ruins, ornaments, pottery, textiles, and manuscripts.
Official website: www.coptic-cairo.com/museum/museum.html
Address: 3 Mar Girgis Street, Old Cairo. (Close to the Mar Girgis metro station).
Opening times: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Egyptian National Military Museum
This is the official museum of the Egyptian Armed Forces and was established in 1937. In 1949, it was moved to its current location in the Haram Palaces of the Cairo Citadel. The museum showcases the history of military forces based in Egypt from the Pharaonic period all the way up to the 1973 October War. There’s a hall for each historic period, among them the Islamic and Ottoman periods. Every major war that Egypt participated in in the modern era also gets their own dedicated hall, including the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the 1956 Suez Crisis. Artefacts on display include ancient weaponry and chariots, cannons and modern artillery, uniforms, and jet fighters used in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.
Address: Inside the Cairo Citadel on Salah Salem Road.
Opening times: 9:30am – 4:30pm