Opposite the Cairo Governorate Office, at the intersection of Port Said and Mohamed Ali streets, is the magnificent building of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). It is known for the overwhelming architecture of the building and divine historical artefacts.
Over the past few years, the Museum of Islamic Art has demonstrated roughly 4,500 artefacts across 25 Halls, while the rest is in store with the Museum for a timely display to the general public and tourists. It is believed that the Museum houses more than 100,000 artefacts in total, and is the biggest museum of Islamic art over the years. The Kitab fil-adwiya al-mufrada, the Holy Quran, the Mamluk from 16th Century AD, gold Dinar coins dating back to the 14th Century AD, and many more such rare and magnificent artefacts showcase the course of Islamic history restored over the sands of time, making the museum one of the most famous museums of the world.
With such a rich historical collection, the Museum of Islamic Art boasts of being one of the major promoters of Islamic arts and civilization in the world today. MIA is running multiple initiatives to reach the maximum number of national and international visitors to achieve its vision. The overall intent is to recognize the contributions Islamic civilization has made to the heritage and culture across the globe.
History of Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is situated in Bab Al-Khalq, which is also known as the heart of the historic city of Cairo. The huge number of historical artefacts it possesses have been accumulated from countries like India, China, Iran, Egypt etc.
Today, the museum is famous not only for its collection but also for its own origin and timeline.
The foundations of the Museum of Islamic Art date back to the year 1869, when Khedive Tawfiq approved the establishment of the museum.
To transform his words into reality, Frantz Pasha started collecting artefacts and antique items from the Islamic world. All the collected items were stored in the eastern wing of al-Hakem Bi Amr illah's mosque. In the year 1892, The Arab Museum was established in the courtyard of the very same mosque, with Frantz Pasha as the director of the museum.
Khedive Abbas Helmi finally inaugurated the present building of the museum on 28th December 1903. The building, located at Bab Al-Khalq square was then known as House of Arab Antiquities and got changed to Museum of Islamic Art in the year 1951.
Visting Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is a visual treat. One of the facts justifying this statement is that the MIA houses historical masterpieces for nearly all the segments of Islamic Art devised till date.
From beautiful textile embroideries and carpets to carved stones, from glass, ceramic and metallic utensils to manuscripts based on medicine, engineering, horticulture, astronomy, geography etc., the Museum of Islamic Art is a perfect place to visit for history lovers and its admirers.
The museum's collections even consist of wooden and ivory made objects, weapons and jewellery items. Present day, the manuscripts present in the museum attracts historians, researchers and civilians from all over the world. Some of the notable artefacts include the Holy Quran (8th Century AD, MIA No. 24145?), Glass Vessel (7th-8th Century AD, MIA No. 7203?), and the Ceramic Dish (16th Century AD, MIA No. 15858?).
All in all, the level at which MIA witnesses the works from Islamic civilization is sufficient enough for you to travel back in time and experience the expertise and detailing done by artisans of that era.
Library at Museum of Islamic Arts
The Library at the Museum of Islamic Art, situated on the 1st floor of the Administrative Building, is home to a flourishing and rare collection of books and reference works related to Art and Architecture, Islamic History, Antiquities, Medicine etc. You will find the books organised as per different artistic subjects, with overall volumes close to thirty thousand!
The books and manuscripts present here depict the depth and breadth of the knowledge and the skill set possessed by Islamic scholars and artisans of the time. Not only this, these books contain some of the most complex theories and concepts, which applies to the present scenario as well.
Restoration of Museum Building
The year 2003 saw a new phase of development of the museum building with the construction of a three-storey administrative building. The three floors of the building were dedicated to restoration department, the library and the staff offices respectively. A lecture hall was also built next to the restoration department in the museum. The building was opened for general public on 28th October 2010.
The layout of the display halls was changed as well. The right-hand side of the main entrance is dedicated to Islamic art between the Umayyads up to the Ottoman period. The left-hand side of the main entrance is solely for Islamic artefacts and artworks distributed by subjects. These include science, architecture, water, calligraphy, horticulture etc.
Almost one-third of the historical items housed by the museum got damaged from the bombings of January 2014. All the damaged items were sorted out of the debris and sent for restoration, while the building was closed down for its reconstruction.
The donations received from UAE, UNESCO, ARCE, Swiss Government and the Italian Government led to the complete makeover and re-launch of the Museum of Islamic Art during the early months of 2015. Since then, the museum has attracted more and more people from across the globe and has become a major attraction of the city of Cairo.
The schedule to visit the Museum of Islamic Art is as follows:Saturday to Thursday:
9:00 AM to 5:00 PMFriday:
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM to 5:00 PM
How to Reach within Cairo
The Museum of Islamic Art lies in the heart of the ancient city of Cairo. Earlier the museum used to have two entrance gates. The first gate had a beautiful garden along with a fountain. The second entrance gate lies on Port Said Street.
This entrance is characterized by a mesmerizing and luxurious façade opening on to the street. It showcases the highlights of Islamic architecture through the carvings and designs made on it. The beauty of the entrance gate is sufficient enough to assure you that you have reached the Museum of Islamic Art. In case you don't know the route to the museum, you can easily reach there through the following modes of transportation:Car
Since the museum is located in a very congested and older portion of the city, there is almost no availability of commercial parking space owned by the Museum. However, you can easily park your car at the car parking located at Port Said Street. The parking is much closer to the front entrance gate of the museumTaxi
You can easily hop on to a taxi and tell the driver to take you to Bab Al Khalq, Museum of Islamic Art. You may also tell the driver to take you to Mathaf el fann el Islami. Either case you will reach the Museum of Islamic Art.Subway
You may also board a Subway from any part of Cairo city and reach the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) by whizzing past the traffic of the city. For this, please make a note that the Subway stations lying close to the MIA are:
a. Mohamed Naguib (0.85 Km. West of Museum of Islamic Art), Ali Zou Al Fekar.
b. Saad Zaghloul (2100 Kms. South of MIA), Mansour.City Bus Service
One can even reach the Museum of Islamic Art by boarding the City Bus service and get down at Port Said Street Station.
Best Time to Visit
Considering the hot climate of Sahara Desert, I would personally recommend you to visit the city as well as the Museum of Islamic Art during the first or last quarter of the year, i.e. either during January to March, or during October to December.
Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo holds a collection of more than 100,000 historical artefacts and artworks. Some of these collections even belong to 7th Century AD.