Cairo is an amazing destination for visitors seeking to soak up the cultural wonders of Egypt, from Pharaonic antiquities to Islamic Cairo with its myriad historic mosques and madrasas, to the unique architecture of Coptic churches in old Cairo. Meanwhile, Cairo is also home to an abundance of museums that house an unbelievably rich trove of cultural treasures. Here’s a list of some of the must-see museums in Cairo that are not to be missed.
The Egyptian Museum
The historic Egyptian Museum in the heart of Tahrir Square is the oldest and by far the richest museum of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, housing the fabulous treasures of King Tutankhamen including his legendary Gold Mask, an unparalleled mummy room that includes the remains of the legendary King Ramsis II, and a collection of impressive statues like the colossal Statue of Amenhotep III. While some of the artifacts in the museum are gradually being transferred to the new GEM, the Grand Egyptian Museum is expected to open its doors in 2020, the museum in Tahrir remains home to Egypt’s biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, including artifacts and jewellery from the royal tombs of Thutmosis III, Thutmosis IV and Amenophis.
The Egyptian Museum is open every day from 9 AM until 5 PM.
The Coptic Museum
Situated in the heart of Old Cairo, the Coptic Museum houses Coptic art from the earliest days of Christianity in Egypt to the early Islamic period. The building, which was founded in 1908, is admired for the elaborate woodcarving in all its galleries as well as for the rare treasures it houses. Arranged in chronological order over twelve sections, 16,000 artifacts shed light on the Christian era while linking it to the Pharaonic, Greco Roman and Islamic periods. It houses a collection of the rarest manuscripts of the Qur’an, as well as collections of rare carpets, inlaid woodwork, ceramics, coloured glass windows, textiles and jewellery from all over the Islamic world.
The museum welcomes visitors every day from 9 AM till 4 PM.
Museum of Islamic Art
Originally constructed in 1903 during the reign of Khedive Abbas Helmy II, the Museum of Islamic art underwent a major renovation and modernisation and reopened its doors in 2017. Classified as the greatest Islamic museum in the world, among its 4,500 rare Islamic artifacts beautifully displayed among 25 halls expertly lit for optimum preservation and viewing. It houses a collection of the rarest manuscripts of the Quran as well as collections of rare carpets, inlaid woodwork, ceramics, coloured glass windows, textiles and jewellery from all over the Islamic world.
Open every day from 9 AM until 4:30 PM
Situated amidst the biggest open Islamic museum in Cairo, El Moez Street, the Textile museum is the only one of its kind in the Middle East. The museum features rare textiles from the Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. Organised in chronological order, the museum follows the biggest historical events and societal norms of Egypt through scraps of fabric. The collection includes clothes, bed sheets, mummy covers, cushions and diapers. On the other hand, the museum also has statues that depict daily activities from different eras as well as dress codes of various men, women and servants.
Open every day from 9 AM till 5 PM.
Adam Henein Museum
Commemorating the work of Egypt’s most prominent sculptor, the Adam Henein Museum showcases the artist’s “life of creativity” as well as his ever-growing collection of work. Located on the Mariouteya canal, the museum is a gift from the artist himself to the country. It houses several of his most-celebrated pieces of work, including his reinterpretation of global subjects such as motherhood and prayer, as well as some ancient-Egyptian symbols of Pharaonic kings and hieroglyphs. Henein was decorated in 1998 by the Egyptian government for leading the team that worked on the restoration of the Great Sphinx.
Open from Friday to Tuesday between 11 AM and 4 PM.
Aisha Fahmy Museum
This picturesque art and culture hub was originally built as a palace for Princess Aisha Fahmy, the daughter of Ali Pasha Fahmy, the head of the army during King Fouad’s reign. The Aisha Fahmy museum is currently managed by the Ministry of Culture’s Fine Arts department, which is set to use the palace as a launchpad for young artists. Built in 1907, the 2,700 square-meter palace takes visitors on a colourful journey through elaborate stained glass windows to a distinctive Chinese room and the princess’ pastel bed chamber, all under a rich ornamented ceiling. The museum serves as distinctive backdrop for exhibitions of exceptional pieces of art as well as musical concerts.
Open from Saturday to Thursday between 9 AM and 9 PM.
Abdeen Palace Museum
Commissioned by Khedive Ismail, this palace was built in 1863 as alternative government headquarters to the Cairo Citadel. Built over a period of 10 years, and consisting of 500 suites, Abdeen palace is one of the most sumptuous palaces in the world. Aside from the rich gold ornaments and paintings, the palace houses a distinctive collection of clocks with decorations in pure gold. Today, the palace grounds house the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, the Presidential Gifts Museum and, most recently, the Historical Documents Museum. Among the historical documents it contains is the imperial Ottoman “firman” which established the rule of Mohamed Ali and his family over Egypt.
The palace is open from Saturday to Thursday between 9 AM and 3 PM.
Located inside Cairo’s famous zoological garden, the Zoological museum is celebrated for being the only museum in the Middle East and Africa for rare and extinct animals, such as the Reem Deer, Sinai Leopard and the Abu Moussa bird. The three-floor museum houses hundreds of mummified mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. At the entrance, guests are welcomed with a complete skeleton of a whale and an assortment of mammal skeletons. The hundred-year old museum also houses a 3000 year-old mummified crocodile that was found inside a Pharaonic tomb.
Open from Wednesday to Monday between 10 AM and 3 PM.