1998 Mystery of History – Day 9

Cairo – Museums & mummies & treasure – oh my

Sunday – wake up to the sound of traffic, realise where I am and immediately jump out of bed to look at Cairo in the daylight.

Our room overlooks Tahrir Square right in the centre of Cairo and already the air is filled with what I think is pollution.

We discover it is the sand and haze from the desert, along with pollution from the traffic.  The traffic is incredible, no-one takes any notice of the lights or the lane markings.

Some more views from our room – on the left – The Nile and on the right is Tahrir Square.

We go downstairs and have a lovely buffet breakfast. Lots of yummy fruit – especially apricots – croissants, mushrooms, tomato, toast, juice and coffee. There was something like bacon, but I think it was a type of warm corned meat, nevertheless it was nice anyway.

The hotel staff has told us how to get to the Cairo Egyptian Museum from the hotel – it is a short walk so that is great.

You can see it from our room.  It is the building with the domed roof in the centre of the photo and we decide to spend most of the day there.

Leaving the hotel – and turning right – every cab in Cairo converges on us. Smiling sweetly, no thank you, no thank you, we put our heads down and take off.

On our way to the museum we see armed guards everywhere – these are the Tourist Police.  Along the way, we meet this guy who tells us that we cannot buy entrance tickets to the museum at the museum (oh really?) we have to get them from a place across the road.

Anyway, after talking with him we seemed to have arrived at a papyrus shop – – Rahma Centre Papyrus – after having a cup of hibiscus tea (which we were a bit unsure of in case it was drugged) we are shown how paper is made out of papyrus and we buy a couple of pictures with our names painted on the bottom of them. I am sure that we must have a sign that says ‘Western Tourist Idiots’ tattooed on our foreheads as we fell for it hook, line and sinker. What a hassle but anyway we get to the museum and there are lots of guards with dirty big guns everywhere.

Here’s Kylie and me outside the Egyptian Museum.  WOW !!

We have to buy a photo ticket for photography inside the museum – LE 10 each. The ticket reads ‘outside’ but it is really ‘inside’ – and after going through security screens I just cannot believe I am here – it is all so emotional.

The Egyptian Museum was established by the Egyptian Government in 1835. The present building was built in 1900 by the French architect Marcel Dourgnon and there are now over 120,000 objects on display.  We walk all over the place and make a valiant effort to try and see everything – and I of course take loads of photos.  This is a colossal statue of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his Chief Wife Queen Tiye.

HISTORY LESSON : Amenhotep III appears to have been crowned during the 18th dynasty while still a child.  His lengthy reign was a time of peace and prosperity for Egypt

He built extensively at the Temples of Karnak & Luxor and his mortuary temple – the largest religious complex in Thebes – is situated on the Nile floodplain.  It now lays in ruins but part of it is known as the Colossi of Memnon.  Amenhotep III was the father of Amenhotep IV – later called Akhenaten – the heretic pharaoh. 

His name is also written as Amenophis – that is the Greek version. But when in Egypt – – use Egyptian!

You can take photos for free outside the museum in the grounds but I am glad that I bought the ticket for inside photography.

It is all no flash – – so hope they turn out.  Apparently flash photography in past years has had a detrimental effect on the colours of the objects.

We head off to find the rooms where the treasures of Tutankhamen are kept. We are lucky and there are not a lot of people here at this stage. Although I imagine it will be packed later on.

We see the treasures of Tutankhamen – many are placed in glass cases in the hallways of the museum – e.g. the canopic jars and the statue of Anubis and there is a special guarded room where all the ‘serious’ objects are. This is what I want to see – – –

what treasurers to behold – there is a glint of gold everywhere. It is truly unbelievable.

There are the outer coffins – and the third coffin made from solid gold.   What craftmanship – and all the jewellery. I just can’t believe I am actually standing in front of that incredible mask – I just have to get my photo taken with it. A face of a boy king – very serene but sad.

Cameras are clicking away like there is no tomorrow – we are taking photos of everything until Kylie’s flash goes off by mistake and the guard and his friend Mr. Gun comes over and says to her no flash – no flash.

We note the gun, offer many apologies. and continue on our way.

Eventually after about an hour, it is time to move on but I do not want to leave.  What an incredible place – it’s a place you have to see to believe.

We head for the ‘Royal Mummies Room’ – cost LE40.  There are about 10 mummies in this special room – definitely no photos allowed and no loud talking. Whispering just comes naturally. The royal mummies are in special glass cases that are monitored for humidity and temperature. We are in the presence of so many great Pharaohs and they deserve our respect.

This i a very emotional place and I see Ramses II (Ramses the Great) and was close to tears just looking at his face. We stay and pay our respects for a while and then explore some more of the museum.

However, we have to find the ladies rest room. This is an yet another incredible experience. Before going in we have to give a lady LE1 and she gives us 2 sheets of paper. I wonder what would happen if we asked for more, however, we get to wash our hands for free.

Back to the museum and we see lots of things – the tiny statuette of Khufu, builder of the great pyramid. This is the only statue of him that has ever been found. There are mighty statues of the heretic Akhenaton; sphinxes of Hatshepsut – just too many things to name.

We did miss some things – but the museum is covered in our tour so hopefully we will catch up then.

Coming back from the museum we walk back along the Nile – incredible – we also meet more papyrus artists but we are wise now.

Coming to a set of lights, we wait for them to turn green – nobody else is – so we decide to take Walid’s advice and just run. Big adrenaline rush!!! You will be happy to know that we make it safely to the other side.

Arriving back at the hotel, we have to go through a security check – it’s just like the airport. Up to our room, relax a bit and then because the hotel has a fabulous pool I decide to go for a swim.

Kylie has gone for a massage. It is a lovely hot day – vivid blue skies, dry heat – not humid, and the water in the pool is refreshing. The towels are white and wonderfully soft and I can’t help smiling.

After an hour or so of just soaking up the sun and the atmosphere I go back down to the room. We order dinner from room service as we have to go to bed early tonight as we are leaving Cairo at 5:00am in the morning to fly to Luxor for the start of our Insight Tour.

During our day in Cairo we discover that most of the Egyptian people are friendly and even more so when we tell them we are Australians. I am offered 5,000 camels for Kylie but my motherly instincts get the better of me and I refuse.

Highlight of the day : looking into the eyes of the boy king.

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