Within the context of a plan by the Ministry of State for Antiquities to build museums at the country's most significant archaeological sites, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim this week officially inaugurated Egypt's first ever crocodile museum.
The museum is located on the doorstep of the Ptolemaic Kom Ombo temple on the banks of the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.
The museum displays 22 mummified crocodiles of various sizes out of forty to have been unearthed in Aswan. The crocodiles are arrayed on a sand hill inside a large glass showcase, allowing visitors to see how crocodiles passed their days in ancient Egypt.
A collection of crocodile coffins and wooden sarcophagi, along with crocodile foetuses and eggs, are also on display, in addition to stelae and statues depicting the crocodile-god Sobek, bearing a human body and the head of a crocodile. Replicas of Sobek’s original tombs and niches are also on display.
During the opening ceremony, Ibrahim said that most of the museum’s collection had been stored in Kom Ombo except for two stelae and a statue of Sobek borrowed from the Luxor Museum. The most significant artefacts currently on display, he said, were the gold and ivory teeth and eyes that had been inserted into the dead crocodiles following mummification.
Abdel Hamid Maarouf, head of the ministry's ancient Egypt department, noted that the crocodile museum was the third museum to be inaugurated in Egypt recently, after the Imhotep Museum at the Saqqara Necropolis and the Meneptah Museum on Luxor’s west bank.
Mohamed El-Biali, head of Aswan antiquities, explained that Sobek had been worshiped in ancient Upper Egypt, especially in Kom Ombo, where a great temple was built in his honour. Following a crocodile's death, Maarouf explained, it was treated like a god, mummified and buried like a pharaoh, replete with funerary items.
A memorial plaque at the new museum, like the one at the newly-opened Suez National Museum, does not include the names of any ministers or officials, merely a dedication to the "revolution's martyrs."