Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
Although many people think that the police system in Egypt was established by Mohamed Ali at the beginning of the 19th century (when he massacred the Mamluks, took control of the whole country and founded modern Egypt) history proves that Egyptian police existed for many centuries before Mohamed Ali.
Egypt has had some form of a police system since the beginning of the Old Kingdom of the Pharaonic era. When King Menes, in some stories called Narmer, unified Northern and Southern Egypt the need for having a system to regulate the process of dividing the water of the River Nile among the Egyptian peasants appeared.
Therefore, the king and his men thought of establishing a police system that had only one mission in the beginning which was to divide the water of the River Nile equally among different Egyptians. The position of the head of the police system in the Old Kingdom was so critical that the vizier of the King or the Pharaoh had to be assigned to this task. With time passing by many other tasks and missions were added to the police like protecting the public institutions, the follow up of the employees and the officials who work for the government and dismiss anybody who is proves to be corrupted, and the guarding of the Pharaoh himself through having special strong men who had only one task which was to protect the king against any sort of threat.
Eventually he position of the Head of the Police became one of the most important positions in ancient Egypt and he was always chosen with special care by only the king himself.
Among the most important tasks that were added to the missions of the ancient Egyptian police was to protect the tombs and burial places of the royal family and the king. Ironically, this was the same mission that the Egyptian antiquities polices do today but of course with different tools and methods. Among the most important achievements of the police of ancient Egypt that was recorded in history was during the New Kingdom when the head of the police who was called “Semho” was able to protect King Tutankhamen against a conspiracy to assassinate him in the first age of his reign.
The relation between the Egyptian police and the Egyptian people was always friendly as the people knew that the policemen are assigned to protect them and their belongings. This idea was clearly described in the ancient Egyptian manuscript when a letter that a father has sent to his son during the period of the New Kingdom was recently found. The father advised his son to “have the policemen in his street as his best friend, don’t make him angry, give him some of the goods you have when there is a celebration or a holiday, and always ask him to pray with you.”
Despite the good and friendly relations of ancient times, relations with police became worse during the Ptolemaic period. The policemen that were always chosen from the Egyptians became the Greeks and the Egyptians regarded them as foreigners whose real aim was to collect as much money as possible. However, circumstances changed at the end of the Ptolemaic period in Egypt as the Ptolemies and then the Romans assigned some Egyptians as policemen and this helped the police system to function in the better way in general, although the leadership of the police remained under the Roman authorities.
When the Moslems entered Egypt in 641 A.D., Egypt witnessed a radical change in the notion of the police system. The Arabs had their own vision concerning the work of the police that appeared with the name “the night watchers” during the reign of Omar Ibn El Khattab, one of the first caliphs that came to rule over the Arab world after the death of the prophet Mohamed.
During the ruling period of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, the Fourth Caliph to come after the prophet Mohamed, the activities of the police were more organized the whole system was called the “owner of the police” and he was chosen from the elite sector of the community. The head of the police during the Islamic period in Egypt was an extremely important position and he was regarded as the deputy of the Caliph himself.
The police system has not changed a lot during the subsequent periods of the Islamic period in Egypt, except when the police were divided into two categories, one to protect the people of Cairo and the other to protect the people of Al Fustat, during the reign of the Fatimids in Egypt. This system remained as it is until the Ottomans took control of Egypt in 1516 when general state of lawlessness spread all over Egypt especially with the quarrels and clashes taking place between the Ottomans from one side and the rest of the Mamluks from the other side. This conflict between these two powers was the main reason that allowed the French invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte to enter Egypt easily and this state of lawlessness never disappeared until Mohamed Ali came to rule over Egypt in 1805.
Mohamed Ali started to regulate the work of the police system in Egypt and the tasks of the police during his reign became even more and it began to take the form of the modern police we know today. In addition to protecting public buildings and associations, new departments and missions were added to the police system. This included the customs police and the secret police whose missions was to disguise in the clothes of street vendors, monitor the movements of the wealthy men who oppose the government of Mohamed Ali and his royal family and send reports to the higher authorities of the government.
The first decree to be taken to prevent the policemen from using violence against the people of Egypt was in 1858. When Khedive Ismail came to power in 1863, he called two Italian officers and made them form the police system. This was the first time ever the word “police” appear in Egypt. This word is actually Latin and it has got some Greek origins and it means civilization and urbanization and a city can never be civilized without its inhabitants feeling secure while living in it.
The Police Museum in the Citadel was officially opened in the year 1984 and the building of the museum was actually the military prison of the citadel that was transformed into the police museum via a decree from former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The most remarkable feature that attracts the eye of the guest, while he climbs the stairs to enter the Police National Museum in the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, is actually the large stone statue of a lion to the right-hand side seeming as if it guards the museum.
The first passageway of the Police Museum displays some portraits of the ministers of Interior that came throughout the modern Egyptian history. There are some photos of the ministers starting from the beginning of the 20th century till the recent people that were responsible for the interior affairs of the country.
The first hall of displays in the Police Museum hosts a number of weapons that were used by the Egyptian Police in different eras of the Egyptian history. This includes a large wooden stick that was used as a shield during the Pharaonic period.
The displays of this hall include a large collection of modern weapons like guns and pistols that were mainly manufactured by the British who used to import a lot of their products to Egypt during their occupation of the country at the beginning of the 20th century.
The role of the Egyptian Police was not only to protect the inhabitants against the threats of thieves and thugs. The Police in Egypt has played a major role in stimulating the people to achieve the revolution of 1952 after the sever clashes the Egyptian police had with the British forces that were occupying Egypt in 1952 in Ismailia, one of the Egyptian cities that are located on the Western shores of the Sue Canal in 1951
The next hall of the Police Museum illustrates the battles that took place in Ismailia in 1951 through many real photographs of the officers who participated in this battle, a number of paintings, and some of the weapons used in the battle.
Next, the guests enter the most interesting section of the Police Museum, located in the citadel in Cairo, which is the crime and criminals hall. This section includes the photos and the stories of a number of the most famous criminals in Egypt. The most notable exhibit of the Police Museum would be the photos of Reyya and Sakina, most probably the most well-known criminals in the modern history of Egypt. With more than three movies, a play, and a television series telling their story, these two sisters were among the sneakiest, worst murderers that Egypt ever witnessed.
The two sisters used to live in Alexandria at the beginning of the 20th century and were working as the head of a large gang of prostitutes. Reyya and Sakina used to welcome women in their house, murder them with the help of their husbands, and then bury their victims in a courtyard that was located inside their house. The two sisters succeeded in killing more than 30 women before being caught. The Egyptian Police of Alexandria has spent a long period of time in order to discover the secret of the two sisters and the police was able eventually to capture them. Even during the long investigation process, it was very hard for the general attorney to prove that the two sisters were responsible for the murders.
Although the displays of the Police Museum in the Saladin Citadel in Cairo are not as massive as some other museums, the museum is always worth a visit, especially since it is so close to other amazing sights insight Saladin's Citadel such as the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, the Military Museum, and the Gawhara Palace Museum.
Daily from 8:30AM-4:30PM
Included in the entrance to the Citadel
BY BUS: Bus numbers 174 and 173 stop at Midan Salah ad-Din, in front of the Citadel
BY TAXI: Ask for "al-al-ah"
Please note: the museum is not wheelchair accessible.