The Coptic Museum
The Coptic Museum is a beautiful museum in the heart of ‘Old Cairo’, traditionally the city’s Coptic Christian quarter. It is situated on the ancient site of Babylon, the Roman fortress town which was the earliest part of Cairo. The museum can be found close to Mar Girgis (St George) metro station.
The museum was founded in 1910 by Morkos Smeika Pasha with the aims of providing a home for the many objects which were scattered around Egypt in various monasteries and to provide a means of tracing the history of Christian Egypt. As well as the museum buildings there are gardens and courtyards and the area is surrounded by old Coptic churches. There are six churches, some with their origins as early as the 5th century AD, including the ‘Hanging Church’ of the Virgin Mary and the church of St Sergius (see the Old Cairo page).
The Coptic Museum’s grounds are a peaceful and tranquil place and its airy building is paved with mosaics and decorated with old mushrabiya screens. It houses an extensive collection of objects from the Christian era (AD 300-1000) which linked the ancient Egyptian times to the Islamic conquest of the country. The artefacts on display illustrate a period of Egypt’s history which is often neglected and they show how the artistic development of the Copts was influenced by the pharaonic, Graeco-Roman and Islamic cultures. The museum was renovated in the early 1980s with two new annexes, which with the original aisles, houses the collection of 16,000 artefacts arranged in chronological order through twelve sections.
1 Coptic Cross in the shape of an ankh
2 Coptic fresco depicting Christ & the Desciples
3 Musical instrument used in Coptic ritual
There are beautiful examples of textiles, tapestries and woven icons with intricate designs in religious themes. There are also fine examples of stonework, ceramics and woodwork, including a carving called the ‘Petition of the Rats’ in which three rats hold up a white flag before a cat. Many Coptic texts or scripts are also on display. The exhibits include a bronze eagle found in the Roman fortress of Babylon.
For more details of the exhibits visit the Coptic Museum website.
How to get there
The Coptic Museum is at Mar Girgis Metro Stop, Old Cairo. Tel 362 8766. Opening hours are from 9.00am to 5.00pm daily except Friday. Entrance tickets cost EGP 50.