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Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road

A Grand Old Lady

Today I pay tribute to one of the world’s great museums, The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt. The pink building was formerly a royal palace built in 1901 by an Italian construction firm and appears somewhat out of place as she stands proudly over Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Celebrating her today is important because for many years now her replacement buildings, yes two, have been under construction and are set to open later this year and into 2020 and as of this writing the grand old pink palace is still open, though the exhibits are being moved daily.

Why did I love this place so? Because from the moment I walked in I felt as if I were in an archaeological dig! Housing some 120,000 artifacts of the ancient world she had a look and flavor all her own. I will be grateful for air-conditioning and better plumbing, more security and greater viewing by larger crowds. Yet, the smell and feel of antiquity will be gone; the grit in the air and the dust on the floor replaced by sani-clean filtering. The massive marble staircase, worn by the tread of millions of feet climbing to the second story overlook will be a sleek, quick moving elevator. Showcases with poor quality glass and structure that could easily be damaged and contents stolen by even the most inept of thieves, now with bullet proof glass removing me just that much further from antiquity.

It was my second time to visit the old palace in November 2010. Hearing talk of new construction and the opportunities to display even more of its vast warehouse of art and objects was indeed thrilling. And yet, as with all modernization, something is always lost, I sighed to myself and tried to make the most of my time there. Little did I, or we know, that she lived in the shadow of imminent danger.

It was six weeks later on January 25th, 2011 a national holiday that the Egyptian Revolution gained traction in the most prominent place in Cairo, Tahrir Square. As the conflict raged on, the Museum was broken into. She survived with 2 mummies and 50 artifacts stolen, not because of police or military protection rather because the Egyptian people surrounded the palace for her safety and preservation of her story and theirs.

I’ll miss that old museum but once again so very grateful that she welcomed me to come and see her treasures for myself.