The greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities is, without doubt, that of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is a place of true discovery and, even after many visits, I continue to make new and delightful discoveries every time I venture into its many galleries.
To be sure, the museum can be daunting in the sheer numbers of its antiquities on show, but there is an order within its layout and it is a dream come true for anyone wanting to study Egyptian antiquities.
However, the negative side is that the environmental and display conditions leave a great deal to be desired. Labels on some exhibits date from early in the century and many items have no labels at all. Guidebooks are available at the museum, although they are limited to some of the major items.
The museum's ground floor follows the history of ancient Egypt. Upon entering through the security check in the building, one looks toward the atrium and the rear of the building with many items on view - from sarcophagi and boats to enormous statues.
Just in front of these you will find an Object of the Month on display. Behind it are some of the most important items from the time of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt some 5,000 years ago, including the famous slate palette of king Narmer - one of the first documents of Egyptian history. Also on show are small masterpieces of sculpture - keep in mind that these are some 50 centuries old. This is an area that should not be missed!
The photographs shown here feature the atrium area and the area to the right of the entrance. From the entrance area itself, turn left and you will find an amazing diversity of small statues from the Old Kingdom - they depict individuals, families, and people at work.
Continuing around the building in a clockwise direction takes you forward in time as you duck into the different rooms. At the far end of the building you will be confronted by material from the time of the heretic pharaoh, Akhenaten.
Keep moving and eventually you will have reached the Graeco-Roman period and walked through more than 3,000 years of history!
Upstairs on the first floor (i.e.second level) are thousands of smaller items from the span of Egyptian history. Of course, everybody wants to see the treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb - these occupy a large area along almost two side of the upper floor. Chariots, gloves, jewellery, the famous mask - many of the antiquities from his tomb are displayed here.
Tutankhamun's tomb contained four gilded shrines nested one inside the other. All four of these shrines are on display in the museum. They are lined up in order of decreasing size. The innermost of these covered a stone sarcophagus which remains in the tomb.
Inside the stone sarcophagus were three coffins - the innermost being made of 110 kilograms of solid gold. Inside that lay the pharaoh himself wearing the famous gold mask (at right). Tutankhamun remains in his tomb to this day.
Two of his three coffins are on display in the same room as the mask, along with stunning jewellery. This room alone can occupy one for a considerable time. The room has been remodelled recently with better presentation.
Obviously, there are usually crowds, although often these lessen toward the end of the day. It is therefore a good idea to leave the Tutankhamun exhibits until later, unless one is short of time.
Apart from the Tutankhamun exhibits upstairs, there are countless coffins, amulets, ushabtis, household items, etc. Some of the Middle Kingdom tomb models of armies, boats and landowners surveying their livestock shouldn't be missed. The human figures almost seem alive! Also upstairs is the Mummy Room where you can come face to face with some of the great rulers of ancient Egypt.