Ismailia National Museum: Uncovering Egypt's Rich History
The Ismailia National Museum, a magnificent testament to Egypt's rich history and cultural heritage, stands proudly as one of the oldest regional museums in the country. Located in the Al-Afrang neighborhood of Ismailia governorate, this esteemed institution opened its doors in 1932, housed within a building that pays homage to the iconic Greco-Roman architecture of Egypt.
Inspired by the excavation of the Suez Canal in the late 19th century, the idea for the museum was born out of the remarkable discoveries made by French archaeologist Jean Cleida. As he meticulously unearthed the surrounding areas, many archaeological artifacts emerged, each offering a captivating glimpse into the Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman eras. It was from this wealth of treasures that the Ismailia National Museum arose, with the noble purpose of preserving and showcasing these remarkable findings for both scholarly study and public appreciation.
Visitors can marvel at approximately 4,000 exceptional objects within the museum's hallowed halls. Among them, a true highlight awaits in the form of a large and exquisitely preserved Roman floor mosaic, a splendid relic dating back to the 3rd century B.C. Its intricate design and remarkable state of preservation serve as a testament to the skill and artistry of the ancient artisans who brought it to life.
As visitors stroll through the museum's serene and captivating garden, they are greeted by an open-air gallery adorned with sculptures and stelae. This carefully curated outdoor space enhances the overall aesthetic experience and offers a unique opportunity to appreciate these artistic masterpieces in a natural setting.
To ensure accessibility for local and international visitors, informative labels are provided in Arabic and English, allowing for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the artifacts on display. This commitment to inclusivity and education further enhances the museum's mission to disseminate knowledge and foster cultural exchange.
The Ismailia National Museum is a timeless monument to Egypt's extraordinary past, providing a window into the vibrant and awe-inspiring civilizations that once thrived within its borders. It serves as a beacon of cultural preservation and enlightenment, inviting all who enter its doors to embark on a captivating journey through time.
Unveiling the Treasures
The Ismailia National Museum boasts an impressive collection of over 6,000 artifacts, of which around 2,000 are on display. These artifacts span various historical periods, providing a comprehensive overview of Egyptian civilization. Visitors can explore the evolution of Egyptian culture and society from the Early Dynastic Period to the Islamic Era.
Ancient Discoveries at Tell el-Maskhuta
One of the museum's highlights is its collection from Tell el-Maskhuta, the ancient city of Pithom, also known as the "House of Atum." This site gained significance during the construction of the Sweet Water Canal, connecting the Nile River to the Suez Canal. The excavation of Tell el-Maskhuta revealed a wealth of artifacts, including statues from the ancient temple of Atum.
Among the notable finds from Tell el-Maskhuta is the statue head of a Libyan official from Dynasty 22. Made of dark red, silicified sandstone, the head depicts a priest wearing a bipartite wig adorned with echeloned curls and a large scarab in high relief. The inscription on the back pillar identifies the leader as belonging to the priest of the goddess Bastet, Wa-ka-ra-men, who played a significant role in the nearby ancient city of Bubastis. This exceptional piece represents the sculptural school of Lower Egypt during that period.
The Enigmatic Sphinx and Other Treasures
Another remarkable artifact at the Ismailia National Museum is a nearly intact sphinx at the entrance. Although initially thought to bear the name of Pharaoh Ramses the Great, further examination revealed that it dates back to the era of King Amenemhat III from Dynasty 12. This maned sphinx and others can also be seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The traces of remodeling to depict a youthful King Ramses II are still visible, showcasing the transformations that occurred over the centuries.
The museum's collection also includes artifacts from other sites, such as the Middle Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Period. One standout piece is a votive stela from the Late Period, discovered in the great temple of Amun at Karnak. This stela exhibits iconography reminiscent of statues from the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods, depicting the god Osiris wearing a simple loincloth and penis sheath, topped with the atef-crown adorned with ram's horns and ostrich feathers. Additionally, the well-preserved block statue of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu, a priest of Amun at Karnak from the early Ptolemaic Period, offers insights into the religious practices of ancient Egypt.
Journey Through Time: Hellenistic and Roman Art
The Ismailia National Museum showcases the wonders of pharaonic Egypt and offers a glimpse into the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Within its halls, visitors can marvel at fine Greek marble statues depicting heroes and divinities like Aphrodite. Life-sized portrait heads of Roman nobles, including Emperor Marcus Aurelius, provide a glimpse into the faces of the past. The museum also features notable examples of small sculptures, bronze figures from the Pharaonic Late Period, and objects representing the minor arts spanning from the first millennium B.C. to the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods.
One striking exhibit is a group of blue, green, or white iridescent glass vessels showcasing the craftsmanship of ancient glassmakers. These vessels serve as beautiful decorative pieces and provide insights into the daily lives and artistic tastes of the individuals who owned them.
Roman Splendor: The Floor Mosaic
A true masterpiece in the Ismailia National Museum is the floor mosaic dating back to the 3rd century A.D. Dominating the main hall, this mosaic presents tragic episodes from Greek mythology, including characters like Ariadne, Theseus, Phaedra, and Hippolytos. The vibrant colors and intricate details bring these ancient stories to life. This mosaic also depicts the "Triumph of Dionysus," showcasing the popularity of this god of wine and revelry during late antiquity. Visitors can witness the fusion of Greek and Roman cultural influences through this artwork.
Preserving Egypt's Cultural Heritage
The Ismailia National Museum is critical in preserving Egypt's cultural heritage. With its diverse collection of artifacts and comprehensive representation of Egyptian history, the museum is a valuable resource for researchers, historians, and art enthusiasts. By showcasing these treasures to the public, the museum contributes to preserving and promoting Egypt's rich cultural legacy.
Plan Your Visit
The Ismailia National Museum welcomes visitors daily from 9 AM to 4 PM. With a recommended sightseeing time of 2-3 hours, it offers ample opportunity to explore the fascinating artifacts and immerse oneself in Egypt's ancient past. Located on Mohamed Aly Street in the Al-Afrang district of Ismailia, the museum is easily accessible to locals and tourists.
As you enter the Ismailia National Museum, prepare to journey through time, unraveling the mysteries of Egypt's ancient civilizations. From the monumental sphinx to the exquisite mosaics, each artifact tells a tale of the past, offering a deeper understanding of the cultural tapestry that shaped Egypt's history. Discover the wonders of the Ismailia National Museum and witness the enduring legacy of Egypt's remarkable heritage.
Hours Of Operation
Open daily from 9 AM-5 PM and from 9 AM-3 PM during Ramadan.
Egyptian: LE 1 (LE 20, students)
Foreign: LE 6 (LE 100, students)
Student rates are available to bearers of a valid student ID from an Egyptian university or an International Student ID Card (ISIC).
Salah Salem St., Al-Afareng, City of Ismailia
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BY TAXI: ask for "met-haf al-Ismailia"
Phone: 002(064) 322749
Please note the museum is wheelchair-accessible and flash photography is strictly prohibited.