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Occasionally updated personal site and blog

Cairo museums

Benefits of a downtown hotel: Can walk to the first few attractions to visit without having to figure out public transport, or haggle with taxi drivers.

First up: Museum of Islamic art.

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A beautiful, recently renovated museum showcasing art in the islamic style (think lots of calligraphy, floral and geometric designs rather than pictures) from lots of different regions and time periods.

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Recently renovated? Ah yes – the sign with the red dot in the picture above says “This mark signifies exhibits restored after the bombing of 2015″… Apparenly that bombing targeted the police headquarters next door, but the museum was caught in the blast.

Things have been politically…volatile in recent years – although I saw no sign of unrest.

The only military presence I saw was a somewhat surreal battle tank standing in front of a bank that had long queues – no idea why, did not want to ask, since “never get involved with people in uniforms carrying guns” is one of the more universal travel instincts.

But you realize the impact of political turmoil in all sorts of little things – taxi drivers proudly pointing out that this is where the protests happened when crossing liberation square (which on normal days is just a giant, traffic-choked roundabout), or the plan for replacing the ageing Egyptian Museum with a grand new one being delayed indefinitely only because it was championed by the previous regime.

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Just one more beautiful carving from the museum of islamic art.

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As far as I cant tell, it’s the exclusive job of the two ladies sitting in the far corner to hand out a carefully measured three sheets of toilet papers to people entering the restrooms.

 

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Aaaah, a well-earned respite in the local overpriced Starbucks clone. Cairo is the kind of place that makes you wish teleporting was a thing – teleport in, wander around in wild-eyed wonder soaking in the sights, sounds and smells, and then two hours later when you’re overwhelmed teleport out to more familiar surroundings. Since teleportation has not been invented yet, I’ll take “overpriced coffee with A/C for rich hipsters” as a local Western escape.

Side note: People smoke in cafes and restaurants, everywhere. Seems really weird that that was happening at home not so many years ago.

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The Egyptian museum – not A egyptian museum, but THE egyptian museum, the big one, the grand-daddy of em all. Pretty much every famous piece of Egyptian art (that did not end up at the Louvre or British museum) is here – the most important statues and artworks from tombs, temples and excavations all over Egypt.

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Pretty much every single piece here would be a treasured centerstone of any art museum anywhere in the world. There’s just soooo much here – you inevitably end up going “yup, another priceless statue that’s thousands of years old, just like the other few dozens”.

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Some of the collections are a little less..ahem…organized – feels like some archeologist returning from a dig a hundred years ago just dumped a bunch of stuff in vitrines, and then never got around to going through it again. Combined with ongoing repairs and renovations, it feels a bit like digging through Indiana Jones’ attic.

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Nope, not the famous one – King Tut’s mask is here, too, of course, but you cannot take pictures there. But as I said, there’s plenty of almost equally magnificent more of any kind of egyptian artifact.

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Though I did sneak in this picture in the royal mummies gallery. Even more creepy in real life than it looks here.

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On the way back to the hotel, just one of the many stores selling surprisingly racy lingerie in a conservative country. Let’s say things are extremely diverse here, in everything from luxury to poverty, skin color between almost european and deepest African, architecture from impressive to depressing, and everything else.

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