Unveiling Wonders: Why The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization Belongs on Your Bucket List

Dr. G. McIver
3 min readJun 3, 2024
photo by ©GillianMcIver all rights reserved

The new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is outrageously amazing

Firstly, the architecture is beautiful. It’s a striking building with lavish landscaping and, in the middle of crowded Cairo, a wonderful sense of space. It’s also full of facilities: theatre, a Roman-style amphiteatre, cinema and all kinds of rooms for different functions. But none of that is important once you see the exhibits.

For a long time there was just one ‘Egyptian Museum’. I wrote about it a few years ago, and it is still 100% worth visiting. The new NMEC simply adds to Cairo’s greatness. But archaeology is a major pursuit in Egypt and after all Ancient Egypt lasted over 5000 years so there is penty still to dig up. The old Museum simply could not contain it all, and too much was in storage. It was decided to build TWO new museums. The other one, still not fully open, is the Grand Egyptian museum (GEM) over in Giza. This one will be fabulous too.

But NMEC is interesting because it's not simply a museum of Ancient Egypt. Instead, it really does display the course of Egyptian civilization from prehistory to the turn of the 20th century. It shows how Egypt truly is the only land with an unbroken history of continual territorial integrity and a sense of nationhood. This doesn't mean the museum is a monument to nationalism - it simply makes the viewer understand what Egypt is, and how to genuinely appreciate it. This is important for tourists, many of whom visit in order to see the Pharaonic stuff and don't know how to understand the rest. NMEC integrates the Pharaonic, the Greco-Roman/Coptic, the Islamic, and the modern all together to give a strong sense of 'Egypt'.

The other fabulous thing about NMEC is the way it treats mummies. I’ve always had a hard time with the portrayal of the dead in museums. I’m not against it per se, but I often find it a bit disrespectful. I don’t like seeing gaggles of kiddos screaming at the sight of a mummy. It’s not educational. At NMEC they have put the royal mummies of the pharaohs in a separate, subterranean gallery where each pharaoh and each era gets a proper explanation. The character, history and main events in the reign of each pharaoh are described, and the mummy, sarcophagus and other items displayed tastefully. I came away with a great deal more understanding of how Ancient Egyptian history unfolded.

Upstairs the main gallery is organised very well. It is huge and took a long time to explore, but it’s set up so well it felt comfortable and airy. Everything is explained comprehensively. There is no dumbing down but it is all accessible. The range of artifacts is astonishing. There is also a Textile Gallery.

The Museum is also an important centre for conservation. The Antiquities Receiving Unit is a vital centre for the preservation and care of historical artefacts located in the centre of NMEC. Here, skilled conservators provide these treasures the first attention they need by carefully receiving and re-examining them. Every artefact is painstakingly documented before being sterilised in the anoxia unit to guarantee its preservation for future generations.

So yes, the NMEC is definitely a bucket-list destination. It will never disappoint!

NMEC is open daily from 9–5 and additionally from 6:00 PM — 9:00 PM on Fridays. To find it, I normally just take a Uber, but you can walk from Mare Gergis Metro station if you want to explore Coptic Cairo first. The Museum has a gift shop and a nice cafe.


Originally published at http://theartraveller.com on June 3, 2024.



Dr. G. McIver

Author. Thing-Maker. Philosopher-King. Nonfiction author. Playwright. Writing coach. Editor.