It is my last day in Cairo and I have decided to check out the museum in the city centre, which is a must for anybody interested in history. It is the large pink building in the top right of this picture and is just off Tahrir Square, which has been the centre of most of the large scale demonstrations over the last year in Egypt.
Friday is the holy day in Islamic culture and as a consequence it is the day that supporters of ousted President Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood choose to make their voices heard each week.
All of which means that there will almost certainly be the weekly unrest here later today, and as a consequence all the entrances to the square have been blocked by armoured cars and tanks to prevent anything untoward entering the area.
Discovering this I am in two minds about going in at all, but it is the only way to get to the museum so I strolled up to one of the check points.
All the members of the army on guard are looking a tad edgy and everyone is checking out the surfer in board shorts as I approached the officer in charge.
He spoke English, which was a result, and I explained that I wanted to see the museum and all the Egyptolgy exhibits inside. I could tell that he didn’t think me being in this neighbourhood was a particularly good idea, but I explained it was my only chance to see the museum and that I was not planning on sticking around for long.
Reluctantly he agreed to allow me to enter the square but insisted that he check my back pack to make sure that I was not planning on any mischief.
No problem I thought until he went through my bag, in which I had forgotten I had left my trusted Swiss Army penknife! Pulling it out of the bag he was less than impressed, and I’m thinking there may be trouble ahead!
As a consequence I was surprised that he then let me into Tahrir Square, which was deserted as you can see, but more so that he let me keep hold of my knife for the visit!
The square itself was eerily quiet with the shops all boarded up and barely a soul in sight, so I took a few pictures of the scene and all the military vehicles before strolling on to the museum. (As an aside I should tell you the square descended into rioting later, with tears gas, stone throwing and baton charges carrying on well into the night.)
Once at the museum I was delighted to discover that there was nobody else there. It is one of the world’s foremost exhibits of ancient culture and I enjoyed walking peacefully around the two floors of artifacts which are as much as 6,000 year old.
Most impressive of the exhibits was the one for the boy king Tutankhamun. I would show some pictures of all the impressive chariots, jewellery, weaponry, boats, stone carvings, etc but you are not allowed to take cameras into the building.
This is a stock image of Tutankhamun’s burial mask, which will give you a flavour of how it looked. It gave me a few ideas about what I might do with my beard. However I think I will probably pass on sporting a similar vulture and cobra headdress. (Whilst at the museum I discovered they were the respective symbols of the Upper and Lower kingdoms of Egypt, which had been united under the pharaohs.)
It was all very impressive and I could see that you would have had plenty of work as a stonemason in ancient Egypt, but the reality was that with all the recent upheaval the museum looked a bit unloved and dirty.
It actually had a number of items looted during the Arab Spring uprising, but upon hearing this and fearing for their culture the Egyptian people themselves formed a human chain around the building refusing to let anybody in or out until the museum was properly secured.
Having strolled around the museum for a couple of hours I thought it was a good idea to be on my way before the inevitable trouble started.
Thanking the very polite gentlemen in armoured cars and tanks, I strolled through the soldiers and police checkpoints before starting the short walk across the Nile back to the safety of my hotel.