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The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization offers Egypt's first comprehensive historical timeline from the predynastic period to the Mohamed Ali Dynasty of 1953 AD. While many outsiders have ruled Egypt, it retained its dynamic heritage through the centuries, as many foreign powers merged Egyptian traditions with their own.
My first week after moving back to Cairo was exhilarating and hectic. After a few days of jet lag, it was time to explore the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC). It captured global attention as the new resting place for Egypt’s most famous royal mummies in the highly publicized Golden Mummy Parade in April.
The Pharaohs Golden Parade was a spectacular effort to give the royal mummies a proper relocation with all the respect and grandeur due as the heads of state they were in ancient times. Click on this link to watch some of the extraordinary highlights.
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The Mummy Room
The mummy room is more like a mummy maze with arrows on the museum floor to guide you along in the semi – to a near-dark cavern. One complaint about the old Egyptian museum downtown was the lack of information or labels to educate visitors.
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The NMEC really comes through and provides an overview of each mummy’s life and achievements. These details help you relate to the magnitude of their accomplishments in Egyptian history.
My favorite mummies at the NMEC
Pharaoh Hatshepsut is the queen who became king of Egypt. She ruled for twenty years and brought unprecedented wealth to Egypt through trade. Egypt flourished under her reign, and you can visit her tomb at Deir el-Bahari in the Valley of the kings.
To stand in the presence of such a powerful, magnificent historical figure is overwhelming and inspiring. As a female, her achievements in the ancient world take on a special significance. As a pharaoh, she is considered one of the most cunning and successful of the 18th dynasty.
Queen Tiye was the mother of Akhenaten, grandmother of Tutankhamun, and wife of Amenhotep lll. She was instrumental in kingdom affairs of state and was a royal force to be reckoned with. Queen Tiye wielded power alongside her husband and was a respected diplomat of ancient Egypt.
All accounts of the queen suggest she was a formidable figure in her kingdom. A great sense of respect and humility poured over me as I took in the powerful energy that surrounds her stoic mummy. She bore the legacy of the rebel king Akhenaten, the boy king Tutankhamun and a highly regarded diplomat among royalty.
Queen Ahmose Nefertari was the first great royal wife of the 18th dynasty. She is the mother of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. She was the first to hold the title of Royal God’s Wife of Amun, which meant she was the highest-ranking priestess at the temple of Amun.
Her mummy still has beautiful braids, some of which are part of a wig and some attached to her own hair. I wonder if she ever imagined her own daughter would one day take the throne of Egypt as Pharaoh and usher in an age of stunning growth & prosperity.
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The sarcophagus of Queen Ahmose Nefertari is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I stood dumbfounded, staring up at it for several minutes before I moved on and then returned to take in its splendor once again. It stands an estimated 15 feet tall, and the artwork is exquisite. This artifact is breathtakingly beautiful and will leave you speechless in awe.
Ramses the Great is the famous pharaoh who brokered the first-ever known peace treaty at the battle of Kadesh. He outlived his wife and many of his children, departing at the ripe old age of around 95. He’s also known for his epic building projects at Abu Simbel, Edfu, Abydos, and Karnak. He built more monuments and statues than any pharaoh before him.
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I was struck by his mummy, as you can still see the red-gold tones in his fiery hair hinting at the warrior king’s many battles. I can imagine the stunning vision of Ramses the Great and his flame-red hair whipping in the wind as he rode his golden chariot through the battlefield. What a sight!
The statue of Akhenaten
Akhenaten was the rebel pharaoh who created a new religion in ancient Egypt. I was stunned by the king’s imposing statue. It was something I’ve dreamed of seeing firsthand, and the spectacle left me filled with awe and intrigue. Akhenaten created possibly the first monotheistic religion and raised one God above all others.
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Aten was the sun god and was represented by a single solar disc. Aten is genderless and has no creation myth to support it. Not only did the pharaoh banish all other gods, but he also moved the capital city and created a new art style unlike anything seen before.
Akhenaten worked tirelessly to erase thousands of years of religion, politics, art, and tradition. After his death, the old religion was reinstated, including the priests, gods, and traditional artwork. Archaeologists call the artwork during the Amarna period named after the city he erected in the desert.
Sadly, few artifacts have been recovered from this time period as he was vehemently loathed and his monuments systematically destroyed.
Akhenaten left behind his famous queen, Nefertiti, and his only son, Tutankhamun. He is the pharaoh who will live in history as the rebel visionary who broke the mold of ancient Egypt by shockingly drastic means.
The museum is located in an old region of Cairo called Fustat, about 15 minutes from downtown with a scenic drive along the way.
The museum charges 200 LE for foreigners, which is about $12 USD. The hours are 9 – 5 pm, and they are open seven days. There is a small cafe with juices, water,
pastries and a sitting area overlooking the beautifully gardened landscape.
The museum has a heavy security presence while enforcing masks, and no backpacks or large totes are allowed. You must check any large bags at the reception.
Photography and video
Unlike many establishments in Egypt, there didn’t seem to be any issues or extra fees for photography or video, but you can only use your mobile phone. Sometimes they don’t mind, and sometimes they do. However, you cannot take any photos or videos in the mummy rooms. They will watch you like a hawk – not advisable.
When to go
Try to get there when it opens at 9 am if you can. I arrived at about 12 pm, and it was jam-packed. You can easily see everything and have a second walk-through in the span of 2 hours.
My personal guide, Egyptologist Amany Salem (I highly recommend her for your Egypt travels & tour guide), informed me that there’s more than one floor at NMEC, but the rest of the museum isn’t ready for public viewing. I will update this article as the museum opens more floors. The museum is deliciously air-conditioned, a welcome step up from the old Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is not to be missed. It’s a state-of-the-art museum that offers an inside look at the history of one of the most significant civilizations in the world. Every period of Egypt tells a story unique unto itself, and the NMEC brings it together beautifully.
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