“These exhibitions highlight the role of museums as cultural and educational centres, in addition to their natural role exhibiting artefacts,” said Moamen Othman, the Head of the Museums Department under the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Othman explains that “The Grand Trip,” a special exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art in Bab El-Khalq puts on display a collection of 24 artefacts of the Hajj journey from Cairo to Mecca throughout history, from extravagant art to the everyday items of historic pilgrims.
The exhibition features a collection of Orientalist paintings of Egyptian pilgrims traveling to Mecca by land and sea, dating from the 1798 French occupation.
It also includes a collection of camping equipment and weapons used on the trip, which used to take almost a month: daggers, swords, tents and textiles are all on display.
Along with these, visitors can find a collection of lamps, and wooden and copper cutlery from the Fatimid, Mamluk and Mohamed Ali dynasties, which would have been used by pilgrims.
A collection of dhikr (Islamic prayer) manuscripts, part of the kiswa – the cloth which covers the Kaaba, and was historically woven in Egypt – from the reign of Khedive Ismail, and a copy of the Quran which belonged to Walda Pasha of the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya Sufi order are all on show as well.
An ongoing exhibition at Manial Palace showcases a manuscript of the Burda, a 13th-century poem on the virtues of the Prophet Muhammad written by the Sufi mystic Al-Busiri; a rare copy of the Quran written by the renowned Abbasid calligrapher Yaqut Al-Musta'simi; and a distinguished collection of art from hilya works; a genre of Ottoman religious literature that describes the Prophet Muhammad’s appearance and character.
The exhibition also offers a collection of rare paintings showing Mohamed Ali, the 19th-century ruler of Egypt, clothed in an ihram while performing the Hajj.
Kiswa to Mecca
An exhibition at the Royal Carriages Museum in Boulaq puts on show the carriage which was used during celebrations for the transportation of the kiswa from Cairo to Mecca during the reign of Khedive Ismail.
It also includes two pieces of the kiswa itself, embellished with Quranic verses in gold and silver lace.
Visitors can also find a gallery of photos documenting the pilgrimage from Cairo to Mecca a century ago, the weaving of the kiswa and two camels named Mabrouk and Nabil who once carried the kiswa during the festival.