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The Museum of Islamic Art: A Journey Through Time and Space

Jun 9

Imagine stepping into a majestic building that feels frozen in time - one that tells a story of the rich cultural heritage of Islamic civilisations that have flourished over centuries. Nestled on the banks of the River Nile, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is a treasure trove of art, manuscripts, and artefacts that will take your breath away. This museum is a journey through time and space, where you'll discover the beauty and complexity of Islamic art and architecture that still inspire awe and admiration in visitors worldwide. Come with us as we explore this cultural gem in Cairo and uncover its fascinating history and treasures.



The Mission of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo

Are you a lover of Islamic art and civilization? Look no further than the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo! With a mission to display, preserve, and interpret Islamic artefacts, the museum hopes to reach a maximum number of national and international visitors. Education programs, scientific research and collaborations, and fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of Islamic contributions to world heritage in the arts and sciences are also key priorities. By encouraging dialogue and increasing tolerance and mutual understanding among people, MIA aims to become a major centre for the study and promotion of the arts of the Islamic civilization in the world. [1][2]



History of the Museum and Its Collections

When exploring Cairo's rich culture and history, many visitors tend to gravitate towards the grand museums of Ancient Egyptian art. However, a hidden gem is often overlooked: the Museum of Islamic Art. The museum was founded in 1881 by a decree from the Egyptian government, which authorized a group of European preservationists led by the Hungarian architect Max Herz to gather detached fragments from historic structures in Cairo that had fallen into disrepair. These items formed the foundation of the museum's collection, which has since expanded to include artefacts from the 7th to the 19th century and from regions throughout the Islamic world.

In 1903, the museum moved to its current building in Bāb Al-Khalq Square, designed by Alfonso Manelesco in a neo-Mamluk style, and was renamed the Museum of Islamic Art in 1952. By 2003, the museum's collection had swelled to over 100,000 objects, necessitating a renovation and reorganization of the space. This seven-year project, completed in consultation with the Islamic art department of the Louvre and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, culminated in the redesigned museum's opening in 2010. The new space displays only a small selection from the entire collection, with one wing devoted to Egyptian exhibits and another to art from the rest of the Islamic world.

Some of the museum's notable artefacts include the oldest Islamic gold ever found, dating back to the 7th century, several rare manuscripts of the Quran with decorated borders in golden ink, a restored Mamluk mosaic fountain, and an engraved ewer or jug thought to be from the grave of the last Umayyad caliph. Visitors can also view enamel lamps from old Cairo mosques, beautifully decorated Persian manuscripts, and a stunning collection of woodwork, ceramics, and textiles from around the Islamic world.

The museum has 25 galleries that house some 4,500 artefacts, with thousands more in storage. The right wing of the museum features art from across Egypt displayed chronologically from Umayyad, Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk to Ottoman, providing visitors with comprehensive knowledge of the empires that have ruled Egypt. On the other hand, the left wing features thematic exhibits of art from across the Islamic world on topics like science, daily life, gardens, calligraphy, and coins.

The museum boasts a beautiful neo-Mamluk facade on Port Said Street, where modern-day buildings have overtaken old villas. It often goes unnoticed by tourists, but those who make the taxi ride into Bab Al-Khalq are rewarded with one of the world's most impressive Islamic art collections. If you're an art and architecture lover, you can easily spend a few hours wandering the galleries of rare woodwork, colourful ceramics, and historical curiosities. The Museum of Islamic Art is Cairo's most underrated museum and is worth a visit. [3][4]



Recent Rehabilitation and Development Efforts

The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo has undergone recent rehabilitation and development efforts to enhance visitors' experience. The museum's mission is to preserve and interpret Islamic artefacts and educate national and international visitors. Its collection comprises artistic achievements from metalwork to calligraphy, ceramics, and textiles to show the contribution of Islamic civilization to world heritage in the arts and sciences. The MIA aims to encourage scientific research, develop education programs, promote dialogue, and increase tolerance and mutual understanding among people. Aspiring to be a major centre for studying and promoting Islamic art and civilization globally, the MIA is committed to providing a personalized experience to its visitors.

The MIA has introduced the first museum mobile application in Egypt, which can be downloaded for free from Google Apps. The trial version enables visitors to access exhibition halls' information, learn more about the museum's history and artefacts, get directions to the museum, and get notifications on workshops and seminars. Researchers worldwide can also contact curators directly for assistance. The final version will launch soon, offering many more advantages and options. Additionally, the museum has developed a special guide for children that uses cartoons to showcase the greatness of Islamic civilization and its contribution to mankind. When it opens, visitors to the Children's Museum can take the tour, expanding their understanding of Islamic art.

The MIA saw a major setback when a terrorist incident occurred in front of the Cairo security directorate and destroyed the museum in 2014. UNESCO then launched an international campaign, "United with Heritage", in May 2015, in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, and Secretary-General of the Organization, Lafrankovn, visited the museum recently to stand on the latest developments for the rehabilitation and development of the museum project as it prepares for its reopening. Dr Bokova commended the fast completion of the development of the museum and the new exhibition halls, calling them an international museum project. Her visit is a testament to the great international attention the MIA project enjoys.

The MIA team has been working hard to restore the museum to its former glory. The museum boasts flagship architecture by I. M. Pei and interiors designed by Wilmotte & Associés, demonstrating its commitment to preserving Islamic artefacts' authenticity. The museum hopes to reach a maximum number of international visitors, showcasing the artistic achievements of the Islamic world. It is an invaluable contribution to the study of Islamic art and culture and demonstrates the commitment to preserving the heritage of the Islamic world. As such, the MIA aspires to be a significant centre for studying and promoting the arts of Islamic civilization worldwide. [5][6]



Notable Artifacts and Collections

Are you an art and architecture lover looking for a hidden gem in Cairo? Look no further than the Museum of Islamic Art. With one of the most extensive collections of Islamic artefacts in the world, the museum takes visitors on a journey through all periods of Islamic history. The vast collection includes finely carved woodwork and some of the most magnificent artefacts, from delicate ceramics to rare manuscripts. Notable possessions include a Mamluk key to the Ka’ba in Mecca and a textile bearing the oldest Kufic inscription.

As you enter the museum, you’ll be awed by the beautiful neo-Mamluk façade adjacent to the National Library of Egypt. Be sure to start your journey at the introductory gallery, which features highlights such as a centuries-old Quran and an ethereal Mamluk glass lamp. With 25 total galleries housing 4,500 artefacts, there is plenty to explore. Don't miss enamel lamps from old Cairo mosques, decorated Persian manuscripts, and a gorgeous collection of woodwork, ceramics, and textiles. You'll also find rare manuscripts of the Quran with decorated borders in golden ink, along with pieces from across Cairo and further-off lands like India, Afghanistan, and Iran.

If you're interested in a chronological journey through Egyptian history, head to the right wing of the museum. Art from around Egypt is arranged by period, from Umayyad, Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk, to Ottoman. Use these galleries as an introduction to the art you'll encounter at various historic mosques around the city. The left-wing has thematic art exhibits from across the Islamic world on topics like science, daily life, gardens, calligraphy, and coins. This museum section also features some incredible pieces from Turkey and Iran. Be sure to take a break in the breezy outdoor courtyard, although there is sadly no café.

Remember posted signs and visitor instructions as you explore the Museum of Islamic Art. Please don't touch any exhibits or showcases or use audio players. Flash photography, tripods, and monopods are not permitted without permission from the concerned authority. And while private photography is allowed after paying ticket fees, please refrain from taking photographs or video recordings of other visitors or staff. Appropriate attire is requested, and large bags or luggage are prohibited inside the museum.

The Museum of Islamic Art provides an incredible journey through time and space. As you wander through the galleries, you'll encounter an awe-inspiring collection of artefacts worldwide. Not only will you understand Islamic history, but you'll also gain an appreciation for the beauty and artistry of the Islamic world. Don't miss this Cairo hidden gem. [7][8]



Admission Fees and Visitor Guidelines

Are you planning to visit the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo? Here's what you need to know about admission fees and visitor guidelines. The Museum of Islamic Art is considered one of the world's biggest and most extensive collections of Islamic artefacts. To enter the museum, foreigners must pay EGP 120 for adults and EGP 60 for students, whereas Egyptians and Arabs only need to pay EGP 20 for adults and EGP 10 for students. The ticket window closes at 4:00 pm, except for Fridays, Saturdays, and public holidays. Seniors aged 60 and over, special needs visitors, orphaned children, and public school trips for primary and preparatory schools have free admission.

Once inside, it's important to follow the visitor guidelines. For instance, please do not touch any exhibits or showcases. Food and drinks are prohibited in the galleries, except for small water bottles. Smoking is prohibited throughout the museum. Please refrain from using disorderly, disruptive, or offensive language or actions. Please be mindful of others when using your cell phone and keep it quiet. Audio players are not permitted throughout the museum, while flashlights and laser pointers are not allowed to ensure the safety of the exhibits.

Appropriate attire is requested, and visitors are advised not to lie down on seats or the floor or remove their shoes. Please follow all posted signs and visitor instructions. Private photography is permitted inside the museum after paying ticket fees. Still, visitors are asked to refrain from taking photographs of other visitors or staff as it may violate their personal rights. Taking video recordings with cell phone cameras in the galleries is prohibited unless you have paid the appropriate ticket fees. Taking photographs and video recordings for commercial use, such as for TV, cinema programmes, advertising, or documentary clips, is permitted only after obtaining permission from the concerned authority and paying the daily rate.

In case of an emergency, obey the instructions of the museum staff. If an earthquake occurs, move away from large sculptures, display cases, and other objects that may fall. If you're a student of Art Faculties, please conduct yourself appropriately while sketching or taking notes. Pens and pen markers are prohibited in all galleries, and only pencils may be used in taking notes or sketching. Sketchbooks exceeding 18 x 24 inches are not permitted, and visitors are requested not to hinder visitor traffic flow in the galleries by blocking visitors or walking paths. Large bags, backpacks, luggage, or parcels larger than 40x40cm are not permitted into the museum, so it's best to leave them behind.

Visiting the Museum of Islamic Art is a journey through time and space, where you'll witness some of the most magnificent artefacts from all periods of Islamic history. You help preserve and protect this rich cultural treasure following the visitor guidelines. [9][10]