The Best Museums to Visit in Cairo

Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is a must-visit according to our local insiders
Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is a must-visit according to our local insiders | © Sipa US / Alamy
Photo of Daisy Dobson
22 September 2021

Few would disagree that Egypt boasts one of the richest cultures in the world. From present-day Islamic and Coptic traditions to the Pharaonic civilisations of yesteryear, this North African country is uniquely fascinating. As the capital, Cairo is home to some excellent museums that protect and showcase the nation’s past and present. Here are a few that our local insiders say you really shouldn’t miss.

The Egyptian Museum by night

Museum
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Egypt, Cairo, Egyptian museum of Cairo
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Millions of tourists head to the Egyptian Museum every year to look at the world’s most extensive collection of pharaonic antiquities. The museum extends over two floors: the ground floor features a chronological journey through Egypt’s 5,000-year history with 160,000 objects, while the upper floor is home to changing exhibitions. These have previously included Tutankhamun’s tomb, divinity statues and implements from everyday life. Mix it up and go for the nighttime viewings.

Recommended by our local insider Yasmin Dowedar

Abdeen Palace Museum

Building, Museum
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Cairo - Egypt - October 4, 2020: Presidency museum entrance with alley in the inner courtyard with old cannons. Facade of Abdeen Royal Palace, located
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Located in the Old Cairo district of Abdeen, the grand Abdeen Palace used to serve as the principal workplace of the president of Egypt. Today it is a museum and home to many sumptuous adornments and paintings. Explore the Silver Museum, Arms Museum, Royal Family Museum and Presidential Gifts Museum. Keep an eye out for audacious gold-painted ornaments.

Recommended by our local insiders Yasmin Dowedars and Engy Haggag Mohamed

Manial Palace Museum

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Cairo. 17th Nov, 2019. Photo taken on Nov. 17, 2019 shows the artifacts displayed during an exhibition marking Suez Canal's 150th anniversary in Manial Palace and Museum in Cairo, Egypt. Marking the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal's opening to interna
© Xinhua / Alamy

Dating back to the Ottoman dynasty, the Manial Palace Museum is located in the El-Manial district of southern Cairo. It is also known as Prince Mohammed Ali Tawfik Palace after the man who had this place built. The beautiful palace is a mix of European, Ottoman, Persian and Moorish styles. The sumptuous furniture and interiors showcase the lifestyle of the Egyptian prince.

The Coptic Museum

Museum
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Facade and decorative courtyard of the Coptic Museum in Cairo. 2BMR2GN
© Ivan Sebborn / Alamy
Much of Cairo’s charm derives from its mish-mash of different religions and cultures. This museum represents the city’s multiculturalism. Founded in 1908, it houses Coptic art from the earliest days of Christianity in Egypt. There’s an elaborate wood-carving section, sculptures from the Ptolemaic period, rich textiles and monastery frescoes. On the first floor, you can find the world’s oldest book of psalms – the Psalms of David – with two original wooden covers.

Museum of Islamic Art

Museum
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interior of the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, Egypt
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Located in central Cairo and built on the site of an old Fatimid mosque, the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums in the world specialising in Islamic art, comprising 100,000 artefacts from various periods of Islamic history. Jewellery, weapons, wood and ivory objects, textiles and carpets showcasing fine Islamic workmanship sit alongside rare manuscripts of the Quran and calligraphy from all over the world. It also houses manuscripts from diverse Islamic sciences including medicine, engineering, astronomy and more.

Recommended by our local insider Engy Haggag Mohamed

Egyptian Textiles Museum

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Moez Ldin Street is one of Cairo’s oldest streets, dating back to the Fatimid dynasty (10th to 12th centuries). Located here is the Egyptian Textile Museum, with the building itself an architectural wonder from the Ottoman period. The textiles within come from the Pharaonic, Roman, Islamic and Coptic periods and cultures, with clothes, bedsheets, mummy covers, cushions and even diapers all featuring to make for a fascinating display.

Gayer-Anderson Museum

Museum
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Egypt, Cairo, Old Town, Gayer Anderson museum, atrium, terrace,
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The Gayer-Anderson Museum was one of the two Cairo homes of British officer, physician and Egyptophile Gayer Anderson. Located in the Sayyida Zeinab neighbourhood, facing the famous Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the museum displays furniture, carpets, textiles and other objects, exemplifying the beautiful domestic architecture of Cairo.

6th of October War Panorama

Museum
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Egyptian Air Force MiG-21 displayed at the 6th of October War museum and memorial to the 1973 October war between Israel and Egypt in Heliopolis Egypt. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© travelpixs / Alamy

The October War Panorama Museum is dedicated to the memory of the 1973 October War, also known as the Arab-Israeli war. The museum displays military vehicles, tanks, aircraft and weapons used during the war. Visitors can also see two documentaries about the war; one of which is screened on a 360-degree rotating platform and depicts Egyptian soldiers storming the Bar Lev Line on the Suez Canal.

Umm Kulthum Museum

Museum
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Aegypten, Kairo, Insel Roda (Manial), Oum Kalthoum-Museum
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This biographical museum is dedicated to one of Egypt’s most famous musicians. Umm Kulthum, given the honorary title Kawkab Al-Sharq, meaning Star of the Orient, is one of Egypt’s most-loved figures. Iconic outfits, instruments and even her letters to politicians are on full display. A short documentary of her life, concerts and contribution to Arabic music plays in the cinema hall, with another section featuring all her music. Take a trip into the golden age of Arab music.

Recommended by local insider Engy Haggag Mohamed

The Grand Egyptian Museum

Museum
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(170106) -- CAIRO, Jan. 6, 2017 (Xinhua) -- A conservator works on an ancient wooden coffin in the Conservation Center of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Cairo Jan. 3, 2017. On a vast area of cliffy land, some two kilometers north of the Great Pyramids
© Xinhua / Alamy

Long-awaited and much delayed, the Grand Egyptian Museum has high expectations to meet when it opens in 2021. On arrival, your first sight will be the 30ft (9m) statue of Ramses II, which certainly sets the tone for the rest of the museum. Never before seen relics of Egypt’s past and the world’s largest collection of pharaonic antiquities will be on show during this adventure through Egyptian history.

A visit to the Grand Egyptian Museum is included as part of our 10-day small-group trip to Egypt, where a dedicated Local Insider will lead you through the most historically important sites in the country.

Rokn Farouk Museum

Museum
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Located in Helwan, the Rokn Farouk museum was originally the rest house King Farouk used when travelling the Nile. It was turned into a museum in 1976. Browse the personal belongings of King Farouk and the original features of the house. It’s a peaceful spot in Helwan.

Recommended by our local insider Yasmin Dowedar

This is an update of the article by Yosra Shohayeb

These recommendations were updated on September 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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