The Egyptian museum is the only Museum in Egypt that was built and intended to be a Museum, other museum were palaces and houses and reused as museum.
The Egyptian Museum was a great idea invented by great Egyptologists to house a large number of Ancient Egyptian Monuments excavated from all over Egypt.
The first time that the Egyptians understood the value of the Egyptian monuments dating to The French Expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century (1798-1801) .
Before this period the Egyptian monuments were subjected to be bought and sold. As well as many monuments were given as “gifts” by Egyptian ruler to friends from all over the world or a part of a deal as Mohamed Ali did when he acted in the way that all the Egyptian monuments and gave the famous Obelisk of King Ramesses II to king Louise Philippe king of France which is now standing in the place de la concord in Paris in return for the clock of his mosque the citadel.
The Egyptians did not understand the value of the monuments and mummies were bought by local Egyptians. This indicates that the mentality of the Egyptian at the time of the end of the 18th century, beginning of the 19th century did not completely absorb the importance of the great value of their ancient monuments until the time a person whose name was “Augustte Mariette” .
The history of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Mariette was a French Egyptologist who was responsible for the Egyptian section in the Louvre Museum. Mariette was sent to Egypt on a mission, his mission was to buy some Coptic manuscripts to add them to the collection of the Louvre.
He has a very idea and lost of information about Ancient Egyptian history and civilization, he started excavation in the area of Saqqara where he excavated “Serapeum” of Apis bull and that was a turning point in the life of Mariette. People from all over the world heard about the great excavation of Marriette and at that point after he failed in his mission, because the monks refused to buy him some any Coptic manuscripts, he started his excavations. Mariette asked the French government to stay in Egypt where he started his work with small group of people, he carried out his work in different areas. At the beginning there was no place to put the excavated monuments, the first place was a small room in the building of the ministry of Education at the citadel.
When the time passed the monuments increased in number, they were almost doubled and he discovered some huge monuments, the room was too small to house all these pieces, at that point Marriette began to think in a better way to preserve these monuments, he went to Mohamed Ali and talked to him about his idea of having a special organization responsible for the Ancient Egyptian monuments to be under control of the Egyptian governors , Mohamed Ali refused for two main reasons: the influence of the monuments readers and the gift and deals with the western governors .
Mariette tried to think by him self to preserve these monuments until the time come and there would be an organization for the monuments. He had a huge house in place called “Bolack” where he put a number of these monuments in the garden of his house.
The monuments were exposed to rain, humidity and the tough weather of Egypt, these conditions would affect the monuments badly but there was no other alternative, so he kept the monuments in the garden for a while until a Nile flood happened and the garden of his house was covered with water, many of the monuments were damaged and other were stolen. He quickly collected the rest of his monuments to save them from the flood and this was the point that Mariette decided to build the museum.
The first step was the establishment of an Egyptian organization to be responsible organization of for the Ancient Egyptian monuments which was opened in 1863.
Then a competition was held between engineers, architects from all over the world to design a building to be a museum, the choice were the largest square in the capital (in El-Tahrir Square). The competition was very strong between the French and the Italian architects, but finally the French won. The idea of building the museum was to collect monuments in a building composed of more than one floor. At the end of the competition, they did not want to upset the Italians so the design of the museum was given to the French and the decoration to the Italians.
They started to build the Egyptian museum 1897, and this was the time of “khedive Ismail”, the governor who loved Egypt very much and wanted to make Egypt a copy from very developed countries and cities of Europe, he was educated abroad and he wanted to imitate all the new ideas to Egypt.
It was built in 1897 and was opened in 1901. unfortunately, Marrette died before his dream becomes true and the first director for the museum was “Masspero” his assistant.
The Garden of the Egyptian Museum
The building of the Egyptian museum it self is surrounded by three main streets called after the names of the Egyptologists who helped Mariette in his work and excavation.
- There is a street called Mariette, when you face the façade on your right.
- Actual back, we have “Selim Hasan Street”.
- Masspero Street “facing the façade on your left”
The Cenotaph of Matiette
To the extreme left corner of the garden is the cenotaph commemorating that great personage Mariette pasha, the father of the Egyptian museum.
There is black statue standing, for Mariette, which Maspero, the director of the museum decided to make for Mariette in the garden of the museum looking at the entrance to tell every one that was his dream to see the Egyptian monuments in such great building.
The statue of Mariette is surrounded by small bust statues for the persons who helped Mariette in his work from archaeologists, scholars and Egyptologists.
The Monuments in the Garden
In the garden, there are monuments not arranged according to any archaeological order. They are samples of what is exhibited inside and act as a nice introduction for people visiting the museum; they are made out of hinds of materials that can not easily be affected by humidity, dry weather of Egypt so they can live for generations.