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Cairo/Midan Tahrir

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Africa : North Africa : Egypt : Lower Egypt : Cairo : Midan Tahrir
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Midan Tahrir (Arabicميدان التحرير, "Liberation Square", also commonly known as Tahrir Square) is the name given to the large public square at the epicentre of modern Cairo and - as a city district - to the streets and institutions located nearby. The Egyptian Museum, the American University in Cairo, the Arab League and the Hilton and Intercontinental Hotels are all located within this district, as are several important government offices (including those for the renewal of visas, etc.) The Cairo Metro also has its main nexus under Midan Tahrir, and a great many buses and taxes make Tahrir Square a key part of their services.

Understand

Orientation

The relatively open vista of Tahrir Square affords the confused traveller a great opportunity to look about and gain some bearings within the bustling city center.

Perhaps the most prominent building bordering Tahrir Square is the now somewhat jaded-looking Nile Hilton, located between the Square and the Nile Corniche. Immediately to the north, and perpendicular to the hotel is the unmissable Egyptian Museum in reddish-pink stone. South of the Hilton Hotel stands the dingy Arab League Building and, somewhat further south-east, across the busy thoroughfare of Sharia Tahrir, the brutal Stalinist edifice of the Mogamma Building (housing 18,000 employees of the Egyptian bureaucracy, together with the most convenient offices for visa renewal). From here, Sharia Tahrir heads due west to cross the Nile over the Tahrir Bridge and into Gezira (the island suburb), and beyond to Giza and the Pyramids (several miles away - don't attempt to walk!) Next to the Mogamma Building is a small but attractive Mosque of Omar Makram, in which many state and business funerals are held. Only slightly further south can be found the Intercontinental Hotel.

Bordering Tahrir Square to the east is a sizable frontage of large office buildings and stores, topped with neon signs. The campus of the American University of Cairo lies across the busy Qasr al-Ainy.

Get in

Midan Tahrir is served by the Sadaat metro stop and micro buses and other forms of public transport from virtually all of Cairo.

Get around

Probably one of the easiest ways to negotiate the busy Tahrir Square area is to use the interconnecting underground pedestrian tunnels linking the Metro station with various points in and around the Square. This can save a great deal of time and prevent much negotiation of crazy traffic and the ongoing remodelling of the Square itself.

See

The Egyptian Museum

Statue of Old Kingdom monarch, approx 4,500 years old

The Egyptian Museum [1] (officially, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) on the northern edge of Midan Tahrir is one of the world's great museums. An extensive building and massive collection of Egyptian antiquities, the Museum (also commonly referred to as the "Cairo Museum") is truly a destination in its own right,with at least 136,000 items on display; hundreds of thousands of additional items languish in the museum's basement storerooms and are added to each year with ongoing excavation and discovery.

Plans are now well advanced for the transfer of the main collection to a new Grand Egyptian Museum within the vicinity of the Giza Pyramids. Hopefully the new location will be more user friendly - instead of the current poorly-labeled and documented nature of many prime exhibits.

The museum is an outgrowth of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, established by the Egyptian government in 1835, in an attempt to limit the looting of antiquities sites and artefacts. The museum first officially opened in 1858 with a collection assembled by Auguste Mariette Pasha, the French archaeologist employed by Isma'il Pasha to organise the collection. After residing in an annex of the Bulaq palace of Ismail Pasha in Giza from 1880, the museum moved in 1900 to its present location, a neoclassical structure on Tahrir Square in Cairo's city centre.

There are seven sections within the museum that are arranged in chronological order. They are as followed:

1. The first section houses Tutankhamon's treasures. 2. The second section houses the pre-dynasty and Old Kingdom monuments. 3. The third secion houses the first intermediate period and Middle Kingdom monuments. 4. The fourth secion houses the monuments of the Middle Kingdom. 5. The fifth section houses monutements of the late period and the Greek and Roman periods. 6. The sixth section houses coins and papyrus. 7. The seventh section houses sarcophagi and scrabs.

More than a million and half tourists visit the museum annually, in addition to half a million Egyptians

Highlights

Cairo Museum: Funerary mask of Tutankhamun
  • Objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamun, Upper Floor - discovered in 1922 and gradually revealed over the next few years, many of the objects from the tomb of the "boy king" were brought to the Egyptian Museum for display. A small number of objects found their way into foreign collections, whilst several - including the inner sarcophagus and the body of Tutankhamun himself - remained in the small tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The most famous objects from the tomb are the funerary mask of Tutankhamun and the inner coffin. The mask is made of solid gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, cornelian, quartz, obsidian, turquiose, and colored glass. The inner coffin is made of solid gold. It is 74" long, 20" wide, and 20" high. The king is shown as Osiris holding the crook and flail, traditional symbols of kingship. NB: A significant number of items from the Tutankhamun collection are currently on tour to museums in Europe and North America. The complete collection of items found in the tomb has yet to be fully documented. It took almost ten years for the founder of the tomb, Howard Carter, to finish excavating the tomb. The current permanent housing for the Tutankhamun collection is in the basement of the Cairo Museum but there are hopes to move it to a downtown location soon.
  • The Royal Mummies, Upper Floor, separate admission charge of LE 70, no photography allowed - many of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom period and later are dispayed here in the Royal Mummy Hall, which is at the corner of the first floor lobby. There are mummies of eleven kings and queens that are kept in temperature and pressure controlled glass cabinets on display. Unfortunately, the Royal Mummies are not even identified by the name or the period to which they belong to and other cronological information.
  • The Narmer Palette, Entrance Lobby
  • Jewelry There is a large collection of Egyptian jewelry on display in the museum. Egyptians were concerned with creating harmonious forms and color combinations. To a large extent the majority of Egyptian jewelry was made with gold and semi-precious stones. Silver was used but it wasn't nearly as popular as gold in the creation of jewelry. The majority of the jewelry found on display in the museum were found on the mummy of Tutankhamun himself.

Buy

A bookstore and several small gift stores are open during museum hours within the main entrance hall to the museum. Note that the prices are often somewhat inflated. Be careful also that the proprietors do not pass on a dusty, grimy equivalent of the display copy you think you are purchasing...

The Egyptian Museum Library was created in the year 1902. The library specializes in ancient Egyptian civilization. The library is considered to be one of the most important libraries that specializes in this study. Not everybody is allowed to borrow books from the library. The only people that are allowed to borrow books are researchers and students of the Highest Council of Monuments. The Highest Council of Monuments supervises the library. There are only select people that are allowed to read in the library as well. These people are researchers and students in the Highest Council of Monuments, after-graduate students of faculties and the institution of monuments, and foreign researchers and students. The library contains 42,500 books, magazines, and periodicals in many different languages. Twenty to thirty magazines and periodicals are added to the library each month.


Admission: The admission for the mummies room is as follows: adults LE 40, children LE 20 General admission is adults LE 20, children LE 10. There are also separate prices for people wishing to take photography. For amateurs with a photographic camera without a flash, the admission is LE 10. For professionals with a photographic camera without a flash, it is LE 175. For someone with a video camera it is LE 100. For television it is LE 1500 plus LE 100 for managerial fees, and LE 50 per hour for using the electrical current. The times for admission with any sort of photography is from 9 AM to 2 PM. If you do not abide by these admission times, then you will not be able to bring a camera into the museum with you. There are three separate checkpoints that have x-ray machines. There is one outside the courtyard, then there is one before the steps of the museum and a third right inside the doors.

Do

  • Attend one of the illustrated lectures on Egyptology, art and culture at the offices of the American Research Center in Egypt [2], close to Tahrir Square at 2 Midan Simon Bolivar (known locally as Midan Qasr al-Dubara), Garden City, tel +20 2 794 8239, fax +20 2 795 3052, mailto:arce@internetegypt.com . Lectures are held every Wednesday evening at 6pm during the academic year, open to all visitors, admission free.

Eat

Midan Tahrir affords a large number of very convenient dining options for the traveller...

Fast Food

Directly opposite the gates of the American University in Cairo (AUC) in the south-eastern corner of the square are to be found all the central Cairo branches of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.

Budget

Mid-range

The basement of the Annex to the Hilton Hotel on Tahrir Square has a large number of internationally-flavoured eateries in a mall-type setting, everything from Egyptian, to Thai, to hamburgers... Prices are reasonable and the setting comfortable.

'Cilantro',31 Mohamed Mahmoud St., opposite AUC. Hang out with the chic AUC students at this modern coffee-chain. Sandwiches, salads etc. are also served. Wi-Fi available, credit cards accepted.


Sleep

King Tut Hostel Sharia Talaat Harb, opposite McDonalds. Good, well-run hostel with private rooms available. At 40EGP a night for a private single room with AC, it's hard to find better value in Cairo. The staff are amiable and competent, though hardly conversationalists. There is a comfortable lounge. 40EGP single room, with AC and breakfast.

  • the Nile Hilton [3], tel 02-5780444/5780666, fax 02-5780475 - located on the western edge of Midan Tahrir, close to the Egyptian Museum, and built on the site of the former barracks of the British garrison of Empire days. This branch of the Hilton chain was the first major international hotel to be built in Cairo after the war. Very convenient for transport connections, for the Egyptian Museum and for Downtown.
  • the Semiramis InterContinental Hotel [4], Corniche El Nil, tel +20 2 795 7171, fax +20 2 796 3020, mailto:cairo@interconti.com - opened in 1987, the Semiramis is one of Cairo's premier hotels
  • Conrad Cairo, 1191 Corniche El Nil, 20-2-580-8000, [5]. A 24-story hotel located along the Nile.

Contact

Stay safe

Be extra careful crossing the roads in and around Tahrir Square. Egyptian motorists drive fast and don't always obey red lights.

That said, Tahrir Square is arguably one of the safest areas in which to stay and visit, being full of heavily-guarded government offices, the American University of Cairo, international hotels and cultural institutions (some may argue, of course, that this makes the area more of a target for terrorism and unrest.....) Also, Tahrir Square is a frequent gathering spot for "intellectuals" to stage political protests, which sometimes can become violent. It is an area to be avoided during protests.

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