The Agriculture Museum in Cairo
by Seif Kamel
Agriculture has played a major role in the Egyptian history and always affected the lives of Egyptians from the days of the pharaohs up to our modern time. There is much truth in the famous saying: Egypt is the gift of the Nile. This is because the Nile is the major source of water used in agriculture in Egypt. Therefore, because of agriculture's ancient and continuing importance to Egyptian life, during the 1930s the Egyptian government decided to build an agriculture museum. The museum was built during the period of King Farouk to mainly serve two purposes. These are to provide information agricultural and economic knowledge and to record the history of agriculture over a long period that extends form prehistoric to modern times.
The palace of Princess Fatma, daughter of Khedive Ismail, was chosen to house the museum in November, 1930. The Ministry of Agriculture made a lot of changes in the palace to make it suitable as a museum. The museum was first opened on 16 January 1938 and was the first museum of this kind in the world.
The facade of the old palace was adorned with engravings and other decorative designs of plants and animals, and additional buildings, all designed in the style of the original palace, were constructed to serve various functions. The grounds of the museum are huge, covering about 125 thousand square meters. The actual buildings occupy 20 thousand square meters. More than 15% of this space is occupied with gardens that contain a lot of different flowers and plants, including trees, bushes, rare plants, green areas and greenhouses, in addition to two pharaonic gardens. It also has a cinema hall, a lecture hall, a library, laboratories for reparation, maintenance, embalming, preserving and storing. The museum is located in the well known area of Dokki in Cairo. One can spend an hour walking around its walls. When the entrance is finally unearthed, one will be stunned to find that the ticket cost only 10 piasters (the price of a small match box), but one will have to pay the enormous sum of another 20 piaster to carry a camera inside.
The museum contains ten halls or what might be considered subsidiary museums. Some of them are open for visitors, while others are closed for maintenance, and still others are under construction or not ready to be opened yet. One of the most interesting halls is the New Museum of Ancient Egyptian Agriculture and the Museum of Acquisitions. Unfortunately these halls are not opened yet.
Another of the most fascinating halls is the museum of bread. It includes information about bread in Egypt since ancient times. It contains old, interesting pictures of different agriculture aspects such as pictures of peasants, waterfalls, and agriculture tools. All kinds of bread that Egyptians eat from different regions are displayed in the main hall of the museum. The most popular Egyptian pastry (the Meshaltet patty) is also displayed there. Maps and statistics that show the development of bread are also on display.
The second hall of this museum contains a display of different gadgets used in the baking of bread. A cleaning machine, used to filters the wheat and wash it before baking it is on display. Then, there is a display of various kinds of baking ovens both old and more modern. There are small models of workers baking bread as well, and all kinds of Egyptian wheat are displayed in this museum . Obviously, bread has played an important role in Egyptian life from the most ancient of times until the present.
The Museum of Plant Wealth contains all kinds of field and orchard items. It consists of two sections. The first one is field crops, which includes samples of grain crops, oil-producing crops, leguminous crops, sugar crops and fiber crops with an emphasis on the most up-to-date scientific methods of increasing productivity.
The second, orchard section includes samples of all kinds of fruit and vegetable, medicinal and aromatic plants and some types of wooden trees. Information for each fruit and vegetable is written under it to inform the viewer. The hall also includes ways of enhancing the seeds and protection against insects and pests. And like all the other halls of the museum, different pictures of the Egyptian agriculture life are included on the walls.
The Arab Hall is a specialized section for rural and Bedouin agriculture and trades. It was opened Sunday 30 of July 1961 during the rule of Gamal Abel Nasser. It also shows the customs and traditions in Syria, as well as Egypt. When completed, the museum will include displays on numerous other Arab countries. The most remarkable thing is the statues shown all around the hall. They are actual human size and they seem so real that one feels they would suddenly begin speaking. The Scientific Collection Hall includes scientific collections sorted according to scientific classification and partly sorted according to the history of agricultural elements and development. The area is in two floors.
The ground floor is mainly associated with the farmers life. Inside this hall, one will feel almost like one is inside the Egyptian country side. Statues are all over this hall displaying most of the Egyptian farm jobs like pottery and glass making. The farm market is also represented with all its aspects. In addition, there is information on prevalent diseases in the Egyptian countryside and means of dealing with them. Various land topics, such as formation, projects of land reclamation and improving and protecting it against deterioration. Various methods of irrigation are also displayed.
The upper floor includes displays of animal wealth, animal and poultry products and means of manufacturing them. Collections of embalmed local and migratory wild birds in their natural habitats are displayed as well as a collection of insects and rare luminous bugs (terflies). Another new museum, which may in fact not yet be completely opened, focuses on cotton. It traces the history of Egyptian cotton since its introduction by Mohammed Ali. The museum includes rare manuscripts and decrees concerning cotton, rare, embroidered cotton textiles from ancient times, illustrations, information and samples of old extinct types of cotton as well as the most recent species.
Also included are exhibits displaying models that illustrate growing methods and the various processes of spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing. It should be noted that cotton has played a most important part in modern Egyptian history. The museum has a wonderful garden area all about the complex itself, which seems to be a relaxing place to stroll about. And while the museum is indeed interesting, it is unfortunate that some of the most important halls are currently not open. Doubtlessly, when the other halls are open, and especially the New Museum of Ancient Egyptian Agriculture, the museum should become a much more visited site by Tourists.
The New Museum of Ancient Egyptian Agriculture, soon to be opened, will trace the history of Egyptian agriculture from prehistoric times to the end of the pharaonic period. Its design will. It will use the latest scientific museum methods for lighting the and exhibiting the various displays. It includes laboratories for repairing, storing and maintenance as well as the latest system of recording, documenting and saving information using modern computer technology. This new part of the overall Agriculture Museum will have two stories.
The first story will be devoted to implements for hunting and agriculture field and orchard crops, including some that date back seven thousand years. The second floor will have displays of animal wealth including exhibits of fossilized animals and birds that ancient Egyptians once caught, including ducks, geese, cranes and the ibis. There will also be a display of Apis bulls.
Various Types of Wheat
Different Kinds of Bread
Model of an Old Style Egyptian Bakery
Old Style Egyptian Bread Oven
A Wheat Scrubbing Devise
Model of a Modern Bakery
Interior Model of a House in Syria
Display of Typical Syrian Female Dress
Interior of an Arab Home
Model of Peasants Collecting Fruits
Display of an Egyptian Country Market
Model of a Small, Rural Egyptian Village
Rural Egyptian Wedding Scene
Female Fortune Teller
Photo of a Water Spring at the Kharga Oasis
Old Photo of Waterfalls in the Fayoum
Picture of an old Egyptian Water Wheel
Display of an Egyptian making pottery
Display of a women weaving baskets
A Small, Traditional Egyptian Glass Factory
Traditional Syrian Dresses
Model of a Potato and Bean Drying Facility
Old Bottles of Fruit Juice Produced in Egypt
Last Updated: May 21st, 2011