Centrally located on the edge of Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum is hard to miss on any tour of Cairo. Opening in 1902, it was purpose-built to house the antiquities of Ancient Egypt. Inside is the greatest collection of Ancient Egyptian archeological history in the world. There are over 120,000 artifacts, including the contents of Tutankhamen’s tomb and most of the mummies that have been discovered since the 19th century. The museum’s exhibits span from the beginning of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (approximately 2700 BC) through the Greco-Roman period.
The building consists of two floors. On the ground floor, you can follow the history of Egypt from the Old Kingdom up through the Greco-Roman period by turning left at the entrance and looping around the museum. This provides a good background for most of Egypt’s ancient history. Upstairs the museum is organized thematically with a large portion of the area taken up the exhibit of the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb, including his famous funerary mask. Also upstairs is the room dedicated to the beautiful jewelry discovered in the Royal Tombs of Tanis. Another highlight of the museum, the Royal Mummy Room, requires the purchase of a separate ticket. Inside you can see the mummies of some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, including Ramesses II, Seti I, and Egypt’s only queen, Hatshepsut.
The museum has so much to offer that it can be overwhelming. It suffers from the fact that much of the contents have not been relabeled or reorganized since they were first arranged in their cases over a century ago. The result is that some sections provide very little context for the artifacts and labels are shown in a variety of languages—French, English, Greek, German, and Arabic. The difficulty of navigating the exhibits is a common complaint by visitors and a good reason to have a guide with you.