Difference between revisions of "Cairo/Midan Tahrir"
Revision as of 20:00, 13 January 2008
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.
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.
Midan Tahrir is served by the Sadaat metro stop and micro buses and other forms of public transport from virtually all of Cairo.
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.
The Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum  (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
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.
Midan Tahrir affords a large number of very convenient dining options for the traveller...
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.
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.
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.
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.