If there’s one cultural institution you have to visit in Cairo, this is it. With more than 160,000 ancient Egyptian relics on display within its salmon-pink walls – from Tutankhamen’s dazzling death mask to dozens of mummified kings, queens and even family pets – you could easily spend days exploring this iconic downtown museum. As some of its key artefacts are slated to be transported to the Grand Egyptian Museum currently under construction, don’t miss the chance to soak up the classic Egyptian Museum experience while you can.
Part of Old Cairo, the Coptic Museum offers a fascinating insight into Egypt’s Christian roots. Tucked within a complex of stunning churches, this attractive museum houses an extensive collection of Coptic art spanning the early days of Christianity through to the rise of Islam. Decorated with intricate mosaics and mashrabiya screens, the building is a sight in itself, but the real highlight is the treasures within it, from detailed woodcarvings to ancient texts (including the world’s oldest known copy of the Psalms of David), and rich textiles to crumbling frescoes.
3 Mari Gerges
Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, this downtown gallery was Egypt’s first independent arts space and is still among its best. The not-for-profit strives to raise the profile of gifted Egyptian artists by hosting exhibitions, international residencies, workshops and outreach programmes. Drop in to the cool, laid-back space where you can mingle with the up-and-coming faces of Cairo’s art scene. The gallery opened in a converted paper factory in 2016, and regularly hosts contemporary fine art exhibitions, artist talks, film screenings and one-off events.
6 El Nabrawy Street
Located just south of the Coptic Museum, Darb 1718 is a contemporary art and culture hub designed to support the city’s new and emerging artists by encouraging artistic experimentation and providing opportunities to showcase works to Egypt and the world. Alongside exhibiting pieces by local and international artists, the not-for-profit venue hosts workshops, film screenings, live music and mini-festivals, offering locals and visitors a unique glimpse into Egypt’s vibrant contemporary art and culture movement.
Kasr El Sham3 Street
Islamic culture connoisseurs will find their nirvana at this beautifully curated museum, which holds one of the world’s finest collections of Islamic art. Purpose-built in 1902 in the neo-Mamluk style, the museum’s grand current home showcases but a fraction of the 100,000 artefacts in its care, though the selected ceramics, manuscripts, jewellery and textiles on display are all exquisite. The museum reopened in 2017 after an extensive three-year restoration.
Port Said Street
Also known as the Gezira Centre for Modern Art, this museum contains Egypt’s largest collection of 20th- and 21st-century Egyptian art, including works by internationally renowned painters Mahmoud Said and Abdel Hadi Al-Gazzar and the sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar. Find it on the southern fringe of Gezira Island across from the Cairo Opera House. Most of the museum has been closed for renovation since 2011 but the ground floor is still open.
Gezira Exhibition Grounds