The ANM is the latest museum to join the many others present in this coastal city. It is
in a beautiful 3-storey Italian-style building. Most of its exhibits come from other museums
The Alexandria National Museum
has grown in importance these days, and is now
considered one of Egypt's finest museums. It was inaugurated by President Hosni Mubarak
on December 31st, 2003, and is one more addition to the reasons one should visit this grand
old city. The national museum is located in a restored palace and contains about 1,800
artifacts that narrate the history of Alexandria throughout the ages, including the Pharaonic
, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. There are even some more modern pieces, including 19th
century glassware, silverware, chinaware and precious jewels, which provide a sense of the
richness of the court of Mohammed Ali and his descendants. Mummies are shown in a
special underground chamber (basement). Also, some of the items found during the
archaeological underwater excavations in Alexandria are now on the same floor as the
The museum consists of 3 levels -
the basement housing the Pharaonic artefacts, the ground
level displaying the Graeco-Roman treasures, and the 1st floor - containing relics from
Egypt’s Coptic Christian and Islamic heritage, as well as some insight into the valuables
left behind by King Farouk’s family before the 1952 revolution. Making our visit to the
museum akin to a trek through time, we began with a descend into the basement to view
the Pharaonic artefacts. Set out below are some of the pictures taken from this level of the
The museum is housed in the old
Al-Saad Bassili Pasha Palace. He was one of the
wealthiest wood merchants in Alexandria during his lifetime. It is located on Fouad Street
(Tariq al-Horreyya), near the center of the city. Construction on the site was first undertaken
in 1926. The palace covers an area of 3,480 square meters,. It is a white Italian-style
mansion that sits in an expansive garden of rare trees and plants. The palace consists of
four floors and an
which was used during
World War II air raids. The palace was designed by a French engineer who used the Italian
styles in its construction. His three-store palace was
a gathering place for the upper class people of Egyptian society in Alexandria, including
notables such as Egypt’s former Prime Ministers, Ismail Sedqi Pasha and Ali Maher Pasha,
along with many others. This villa was sold to the Americans as a consulate in 1960, and
thereafter in 1997, was purchased by the Ministry of Culture for about 12 million LE. Its
conversion to a museum, including up to date audiovisual equipment, security and fire
protection, cost another 18 million LE. In the preparation of the Alexandria National Museum
, the highest of standards has been adopted, especially in display techniques and in the
design of educational and cultural galleries.
The recent realization
that Egypt's museums were
originally made not to assume an
educational and cultural role, but rather to function as buildings for storing antiquities had led
the Ministry of Culture to begin transforming them into places which transmit to the visitor
a cultural message about the varied creative products of the Egyptian civilization.
The Alexandria National Museum is the first of its kind in Egypt. It is the only one which
narrates the history of the people of Alexandria through antiquity.
Passing through the main gate, one mounts an elegant semi-rounded staircase in view of a
life-size Graeco-Roman Period marble statue of a toga-clad matron. Crossing a small but
luxuriously decorated foyer with two rows of speckled grey marble columns, one enters
the museum proper.
Within, one willl find symbolic colors used, just as they were during Pharaonic time, in a
specific arrangement. One will notice that the Pharaonic section itself features dark blue walls. This
color is meant to portray the journey of the ancient Egyptians to their eternal afterlife. In the
-Roman Period section, objects are set against a sky-blue (marble color) colored backdrop,
romance and a lust for life. As Copts and Muslims share beliefs concerning heaven, the
reserved for artifacts from these religious traditions are painted green.
The artifacts within the museum's collection have not been exhibited in the past. They were
previously in storage in various other Egyptian museums, and therefore come from the
Museum and the Coptic and Islamic Museums in Cairo. Others are from the Graeco-Roman
Jewelry museums in Alexandria, which are closed nowadays for renovation.
Items from the Pharaonic Period span each critical period, including the Old, Middle and
New Kingdoms. Among the masterpieces on display is a statue of King Menkaure, the builder
of the third
pyramid at Giza, a head of a statue of Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) and a head of Hatshepsut, the great
female pharaoh of Egypt. There is also a fine statue of a scribe and several statuettes of
depicted in the midst of daily activities. There are also a number of offering tables, building
statues of deities.
In addition, there is a replica of a tomb, similar to those in the Valley of the Kings on the West
Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), that contains one mummy along with genuine funerary
These items include canopic jars, an anthropoid sarcophagi containing the mummy, ushabti
the deceased’s private possessions. The tomb is meant to provide an overview of the Ancient
Egyptian concept of burial and the afterlife.
Alexandria was a Graeco-Roman city of great splendor, and there is no scarcity of objects
from this period. Among the most noteworthy are the beautifully painted terra-cotta Tanagra
of fashionably dressed Greek women. The figurines stand motionless with styled looks,
wearing hats or veils, and holding children, fans or pets.
From the Roman Period, displays include busts of the Emperor Hadrian and a red granite
statue of Caracala. The collection also includes reports from pioneering scientific studies on
human body undertaken in Alexandria, complete with marble hands, legs and torsos.
A highlight of the museum is a display (on the Graeco-Roman floor) of artifacts raised
during underwater excavations around Alexandria in recent years. To provide a
comprehensive look at this
new branch of archaeology, huge posters feature activities from various underwater sites over the last
few years. Here, one finds some of the most important pieces raised from the sea bed,
including a black
basalt statue of a high priest in a temple of the goddess Isis, lifted in 1998, a 2.2 meter granite statue of Isis
found in May 2001. There is also the granite stela of King Nakhtnebef, which is an identical
copy of the
Naucratis stela, discovered in the
sunken city of Heraklion offshore from Abuqir.
The floor devoted to Coptic and Islamic items has a variety of objects from Egypt's two most
prominent religious traditions. Coptic Christian items include icons of Jesus and the Virgin
Mary and the
Last Supper, as well as tombstones and garments decorated with golden and silver crosses.
the Islamic objects are a collection of 162 gold and silver coins minted in Alexandria,
a number of metal
incense burners, chandeliers, decorated pottery, doors and mashrabiya windows inset with
geometrical ivory ornamentation.
Finally, the lives of Egypt's former royal family is revealed in a collection of magnificent
jewelry, bejeweled gold and silver awards, watches, crystal glasses and vases, not to mention gold
-plated handbags, rings, necklaces and bracelets.
No modern museum is complete without its high-tech restoration laboratory for antiquities
and electronic security system to preserve them, and this museum is no exception. Also,
a hall in the
basement has been transformed into an audio-visual workshop in which visitors can tour the
museum via computer programs that display every item in the museum from a variety of angles.
Use has been made of every available space.
The old garage for the American Consulate's staff has been converted into a lecture hall
and an open air theater for evening performances. The open-air theater can accommodate
an audience of about 800, while the lecture auditorium holds about 150 people.
photography is ok but no flash