The Antique Khana of Egypt

It was back in 1902 on the Good Land of our graceful Cairo - El Mahrousa - when our ancestors' treasures finally found a home to settle. The idea of a museum for Pharaonic antiquities, however, was born earlier in 1835 in El Azbakeya  during the reign of Mohamed Ali Pasha. The contents were then moved to a storage room in the Citadel, and later to an old royal palace in Boulaq through the efforts of the Great French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. After moving to another palace in Giza, it finally settled in Khedivate Egypt, when Khedive Abbas Helmi II ordered to build a museum for the Ancient Egyptian antiquities in Tahrir Square, which was then known as El Ismaeeilia Square (after Khedive Ismaeel, the father of the Khedivate Cairo architecture).

The current building, which Egyptians used to call the Antique Khana (the antiquities' chamber),  was given its "neoclassical" style by French Architect Marcel Dourgnon. It was built over a period of five years, opening its doors to the visitors for this first time on Saturday, November 15, 1902 to become the world's first edifice built with for the purpose of being a museum, according to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

For over 110 years the Museum has been home to some of the Pharaohs' greatest treasures. But little did the Khedive and Dourgnon know that this building that carries history of the greatest of times would witness the epic of the Egyptian people's revolutionary movement that started a few years earlier, a few streets away by Colonel Oraby between 1879 and 1882. Since then Tahrir square, where the Museum stands, has witnessed a century of fighting for freedom.

This 107 chamber building features over 160,000 antiques, telling stories of 5,000 years of the great history of the Good Land. The rich building carries stories on the inside and the outside. Take a voyage on the solar ship, walk through its chambers, you'll experience greatness in Ramsis II, unity in Narmer, justice in Ma'at, wisdom in Thoth, resilience in Horus, ladyhood in Isis, and intelligence in Anubis. 

On the outside you'll be carried through a hundred years of recent history's Legend of Osiris; the world-old fight between good and evil. It's those streets of Tahrir Square that carry history of the 1919 Revolution against the British occupation, the 1946 demonstrations against occupation and monarchy, the 1972 students uprising calling for a war against the Israeli occupation in Sinai, the January 25, 2011 Revolution against corruption and calling for justice, the June 30 protests against the Muslim Brotherhood, and many other tales in between.

A part of "Egypt, the Good Land" Project
Written by: Mariam Saleh
Photography by: Mahmoud Gamal El-Din
Full photoset found here


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