The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The largest in the world

Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

Exploring Cairo's Cultural Gem: Museum of Islamic Art Highlights

Egypt has been known throughout the ages as the cradle of civilization and the source of history and art in various forms, as it abounds with all kinds of great historical museums, the most famous of which is one of the oldest and most beautiful art houses in Egypt, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, which is the largest Islamic art museum in the world and a haven for the richest display of the cultural and artistic heritage of Islamic civilization.

In this article, we will go on a tour of everything you need to know about the Museum of Islamic Art, so read on and get to know it closely!

History of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

In 1869 AD, during the era of Khedive Ismail, the idea of building a museum that includes Islamic antiquities and arts began, when Frantz Pasha decided to collect a bouquet of antiquities of the Islamic era in the Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah Mosque.
Then in 1899, Hertz Bey decided to build a special building to collect these artifacts, due to the lack of space in the courtyard of the Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah Mosque, which housed 111 artifacts, and settled on the construction of the current building of the Museum of Islamic Art.
But it was then called the “House of Arab Antiquities”, and indeed the foundation stone of the museum was laid in the same year, and its construction was completed in December 1903.

The number of artifacts in the museum reached nearly 3000 in the same year of its opening, then the museum began to receive gifts, and the first senders were the mother of Khedive Abbas Helmy II with a bouquet of distinctive artifacts, followed by Prince Yusuf Kamal, then Prince Muhammad Ali, in addition to King Fuad with a wonderful collection of textiles, and in 1941, King Farouk gifted the house a valuable collection of ceramics.
The name of the museum was changed from “Arab Antiquities House” to its current name “Museum of Islamic Art”, because it contains Islamic artifacts from various parts of the world such as: Iran, Turkey, India, Andalusia, Arabia, etc.

Location of the Museum of Islamic Art Cairo

The Museum of Islamic Art is located in Bab al-Khalq, in front of the Cairo Security Directorate, in downtown Cairo.

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Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

Development of the Museum of Islamic Art

The largest development of the museum in a hundred years came during the era of former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, which lasted about 8 years from 2008 until 2010, at which time the former president opened the museum after the development and held a celebration coinciding with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the museum.

The development of the museum included providing it with the latest security, alarm and lighting systems, as well as arranging the museum’s halls chronologically, in addition to preparing the garden and the surrounding area to suit the archaeological and artistic value of the museum.

An administrative building was built around the museum, along with a museum school for children and a school for adults.

 

The interior of the Islamic Museum in Cairo

The museum has two entrances, each of which is located on the eastern side of the museum, one on the north side and the other on the side side, and the museum consists of two floors, the first of which includes the monuments of Islamic art in Egypt, and the second floor contains the monuments of Islamic art in Andalusia, Spain, and Anatolia.

Museum of Islamic Art Collections

    • The Museum of Islamic Art houses a unique collection of Islamic art dating back to different eras covering about 12 Hijri centuries, which reflects the diversity of Islamic civilization and its development in various parts of the Islamic world, from India and China to Arabia, Egypt, the Levant, and Andalusia.
    • The museum also contains a library with more than 13,000 books and a collection of rare manuscripts in various languages such as: English, French and Italian, as well as other Eastern languages such as Turkish and Persian, in addition to a bouquet of books on the history of Islamic monuments.
    • The museum includes a section dedicated to Islamic art in Egypt, which is the northern wing, while the other section contains the Islamic antiquities of Andalusia and Spain, in addition to a VIP hall and gift shops.
    • The museum also contains more than 100,000 artifacts, including collections that are the most valuable in the world, such as: A valuable bouquet of Iranian and Turkish ceramics, in addition to a collection of metal artifacts and other carpets, the most important of which is the collection of Dr. Ali Pasha Ibrahim.
    • In addition to holdings from some of Cairo’s historic houses, such as: Mrs. Zeinab Khatun, from which the museum contained gold and silver coins, and another treasure called the “Darb al-Azazi” treasure.
    • The museum also includes 10 internal sections that include a variety of artifacts belonging to different eras, such as Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottoman and others:

Manuscripts Department:
The Manuscripts Department at the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest and most important sections of the museum, as it houses a collection of Islamic manuscripts dating back to different eras that reflect the diversity and development of Islamic arts.

The number of manuscripts in the museum is 1170 manuscripts originating from different countries such as Iran, India, Egypt and Spain; some of the most important of these manuscripts are:

  • A manuscript of a Qur’an written on deer bones dating back to the first century AH, belonging to the Umayyad era, and different from what is prevalent today, as it is a Qur’an without dotting or shaping, along with a group of other Qur’ans distinguished by the beauty of their decorations and the accuracy of their writing, which reflect the ingenuity of Islamic art with the beauty of their decorations, including gilding, coloring and binding.
  • The book “Benefits of Herbs” by Al-Ghafiqi, and 70 other types of calligraphy by the great calligraphers, Yaqut Al-Mustasimi and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Rifai.

Timber Department:
The wood section of the Museum of Islamic Art is of great importance, as it reflects the development of Islamic art through the ages, and this section helps visitors learn about the culture and civilization of the Islamic world, as it includes a collection of wooden artifacts, including pulpits, reading chairs, and wooden boxes belonging to princes and sultans. Among the most important artifacts in the wood section:

    • Wooden cornices of the Amr bin al-Aas Mosque dating back to 212 AH.
    • Wood from the Tuluni era, which is characterized by a special decorative style called “Samarra style,” which is a diagonal carving that was popular in ancient Iraq.
    • An antique pulpit dating back to the dynasty of Sultan Qalawun, called the Hijazi “Tata” pulpit.

Ceramics and Pottery:
The MIA’s ceramics and pottery section includes various types of ceramics from the Umayyad, Ottoman, and Fatimid eras, as well as Iranian ceramics and Chinese porcelain.

Department of Metals:
One of MIA’s most popular and well-known sections is the Metals Department, which holds the largest collection of Islamic art made of metal in the world.

The magnificent metal works are indicative of the time period in which they were created; some of the most notable metal artifacts in this museum are:

A copper key in the name of Sultan Ashraf Shaaban, plated with gold and silver for the Holy Kaaba.
An Islamic dinar dating back to 77 AH, which is the oldest in history so far.
A bronze jug belonging to Caliph Marwan bin Muhammad, the last of the Umayyad caliphs.

Glass department:
Islamic glass artists have mastered the art of creating exquisite pieces of art that combine elegance and bright colors, as there are rare pieces of art dating back to the Mamluk and Ayyubid eras, as well as examples of enameled glass and stained glass that reflect the ingenuity of the Muslim artist.

Weapons section:
Due to the role of Muslim sultans and caliphs in preserving Islamic religious culture, the museum preserves the weapons of the most skilled Muslim leaders, such as the sword of the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad the Conqueror at the conquest of Constantinople.

Textile department:
The museum’s textile section includes a collection of valuable wool and silk carpets of Indian, Mughal, Safavid and other origins, as well as textile works from the Tuluni era, known as Fayoum weaving, and the addition weaving that dates back to the Mamluk era.

Department of Science and Medicine:
The science and medicine section shows an amazing combination of science and art and how they blended in Islamic history. The scientific and medical elements in the museum showcase precise details about anatomy, diseases and medical methods used, letters on herbal medicine and pharmacology, as well as anatomical drawings of the human body showing the function of each muscle.

Astronomy and Mathematics:
The section deals with the development of astronomy and mathematics in the Islamic world, highlighting the contributions of Islamic scholars to the development of mathematics as well as the understanding of astronomical phenomena.

The museum contains rare collections of time-measuring instruments such as an hourglass, tools for measuring distances such as the arm, and a brass box that was used by ancient Muslims to determine the qibla for prayer.

Cairo Islamic Museum opening hours

The museum’s opening hours are from 9am to 5pm seven days a week.
Friday’s hours vary from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and then from 1:30 to 5 p.m.

The price of a ticket to the Museum of Islamic Art

The price of the museum ticket is 20 pounds for an Egyptian and Arab visitor, and 10 pounds for an Egyptian and Arab student.
As for the foreign visitor, the ticket price is 270 pounds, while the foreign student is 140 pounds.
The fact that the museum today is one of the largest and richest Islamic museums in the world makes it a major attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Conclusion

Finally, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is a cultural oasis that combines heritage and art, and is a source of inspiration for anyone seeking to understand the beauty and depth of Islamic civilization. By visiting the museum, you will embark on an artistic journey that leaves a deep impression.

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