Transit and business passengers at Cairo International Airport who do not have the time to visit Egypt’s unique archaeological museums and sites will be able to see some of Egypt’s history from this week when two museums were inaugurated by the minister of tourism and antiquities at terminals 2 and 3.
Passengers waiting to complete their journeys will also not have to spend so much time shopping in the duty free or sitting reading a book, as they can now use the time to find out more about ancient Egyptian civilisation and admire some of its distinguished treasures.
At Terminal 2, a 100-square-metre museum has been established to display a collection of 304 artefacts showing the different forms of art that have developed in Egypt from ancient Egypt through the Graeco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic eras. The museum also highlights Egypt as a cradle of the three monotheistic religions.
The artefacts were carefully selected from the storage galleries of the Egyptian Museum and the Coptic and Islamic Museums as well as from the Al-Gawhara Palace Museum at the Cairo Citadel and the Kafr Al-Sheikh Museum.
Moemen Othman, head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, explained that the artefacts were displayed chronologically and thematically. The museum is divided into six themes. The first is about kingship in ancient Egypt showing the roles that kings played in the progress of the country and the prosperity of its civilisation, dazzling the world for centuries.
The second theme is the afterlife in ancient Egypt displayed through a collection of canopic jars to preserve the internal organs and daily life objects such as clothes, jewellery, amulets responsible for the protection of the deceased, and food.
Arts and sculpture in Graeco-Roman Egypt is the third theme. The art of sculpture had reached perfection in this period, and it is shown in several statues such as the bust of an unidentified man from the third century CE. Coptic art is on display through icons and the portraits of saints, such as one showing the saints Cosmos and Damian with a silver shell-shaped halo encircling their heads from the 18th century.
A collection of daily life objects decorated with verses from the Quran represents the Islamic era. Among these is a ceramic ewer and basin from the 19th century and a Mameluke lamp.
Egypt’s modern history is also presented in the museum through items from the Mohamed Ali family era, such as a gold pocket watch decorated with a portrait of the khedive Mohamed Ali, a small 19th-century gold frame with a painting depicting the portrait of a princess, and a gold chest pin studded with gemstones attributed to queen Farida, the wife of king Farouk.
The museum includes pieces highlighting Egypt’s role as the cradle of the monotheistic religions that have flourished in the country in peace and harmony.
The museum in Terminal 3 was initially allocated a 60-square-metre area in 2016, but this was later expanded to 150 square metres. Among the museum’s most prominent exhibits are two well-preserved mummies, one from the Roman era covered in a gilded mask and decorated with colourful drawings. The other comes from the Late Dynastic Period and depicts a man in the Osiris position, his feet together and his arms crossed at the wrists over the centre of the chest.
Othman said that one of the most important pieces on display was a bronze statue of the winged goddess Isis wearing the two horns of Hathor with the sun disc between them. The exhibits include a group of canopic jars from ancient Egypt, pieces from the Islamic and Coptic periods, and a group of portraits from the Late Dynastic Period.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the opening of the museums as a way of promoting Egypt and its great civilisation and cultural tourism. They would give passengers a glimpse of Egypt and its ancient treasures, he said.
The minister of civil aviation said that if the new experience proved successful, it would be implemented in other airports in Egypt, especially those located in touristic governorates.
Archaeological museums at all Egyptian airports could be an influential and important factor in attracting tourism and help to make the achievements of the country’s civilisations better known to benefit the Egyptian economy.
To encourage travellers to visit the museums, tickets have been set at low prices. Tickets for foreign visitors are $3 or LE50, and they are LE25 for Egyptians.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly