The Marine Museum in Alexandria
by Seif Kamel
The Marine Museum is one of the smallest museums in Egypt. I actually entered it by mistake because I thought it was one of the gates that lead to Qaytbey Fort in Alexandria. In fact, it once was one of the gates to the fort. Today, it is transformed into a marine museum that displays different kinds of sea creatures and scenes from the Red and Mediterranean Seas. OK, this is not the usual type of venue for those visiting Egypt, but in our ever consuming quest to document every museum in Egypt, a country chocked full of museums, I couldn't just pass it by, even though a few of the exhibits might be a bit cheesy.
After all, if one is visiting Fort Qaytbey, it is very easy to poke one's head in to this museum as well. Even though this museum is located on the Mediterranean coast, the first displays that catch a visitor's eyes are scenes from the Red Sea. It contains natural coral reefs, many kinds of fish like the Picasso fish, and some seashells.
Afterwards, the next display consists of a collection of skates and rays. Some of these creatures are more than three meters long. Some of them look scary, while some have natural colors and wonderful designs on their backs. Next, there is a huge collection of sea sponges from the Mediterranean Sea. These creatures come in a variety of different colors and shapes. Mainly they are either a shade of white or pink and in semi-circular shapes. There are three primary kinds of sponges in Egypt. They consist of glass, turkey cup and honeycombs. The turkey cup sponge gets it's name from it's smooth skin. The honeycomb sponge is brown and has a wide openings in it's body. They all live in deep sea water.
Another section which is fairly interesting is the jaws section, showing the jaws of different kinds of fish. There was also the coral reefs section, with a variety of collections gathered mainly from the Red Sea. A number of the displays depict artificial scenes within main bodies of water bordering Egypt. The next display, on the left hand side, is a beautiful scene from the Red Sea. It demonstrates the things a diver would see under water in the Red Sea. Unfortunately, the diver is a bit cartoon-like, or at least far out of date from the standpoint of modern diving gear, but there are colorful fish and many different kinds of coral reefs.
Next, an amazing display I found was, well, documented as a mermaid. Did I get this wrong? There is a skeleton on display here that might make one believe that they truly exist. This creature with the body of a woman and the tail of a fish is portrayed in movies as very pretty, but the skeleton was rather ugly. I learned that some believe there is also a male mermaid. Though I am no expert on marine life, I suspect that this was actually a Dugong, or sea-cow, a rare vegetarian sea mammal.
The next section is the fossil section. Fossils are the natural remains of sea creatures preserved inside sea bead rocks. Sometimes these fossils contain different kinds of substances. The study of these fossils was of great assistance in the quest to examine the origins of Earth, its history and the geological changes the Earth has been through. The study of these fossils is also essential for the search for petrol. After this, there is a display of a natural jaw of a shark. It is poised as if the shark is attacking it's prey. The upper jaw has six rows of very sharp teeth, each six centimeters long. The length of the open jaw is more than 70 centimeters.
Being from Cairo, I have not spent much time near the sea, and my main exposure to sharks has been through movies, but this display certainly reinforced my imagination of sharks being scary creatures.
The next display was a diorama of the Red Sea. It is a scene from the Red Sea showing the environment and explaining why it is so suitable for a large and varied number of fish. One, among the many kinds of fish shown, is the Bassar fish, which is considered one of the hardest fish to catch because of its strong persistence, but there are many others as well.
Next, there are some drawings of fish. They are an original copy from the book of the description of Egypt done by the French scientists in the Napoleon occupation of Egypt. They represent another collection of fish that live in the Mediterranean Sea. This rare document would be, for some the most interesting in the museum. The next section contains a large collection of different seashells found in the Red and Mediterranean Seas. These seashells vary greatly in their shape and size. Some of them are tiny while others are huge, but there are many sea shell enthusiasts, and this might be of interest to them.
At the end of every museum in Egypt, there always seems to be a special display. In the Marine Museum, the special display is the hugest skeleton of a whale that I believe I shall ever see. It is more than forty meters long and it extends the length of the entire museum. It was captured in Alexandria in the 1950's by a group of fishermen. This skeleton amazes all the visitors of the museum because of its huge size.
The Marine Museum is an entertaining experience for the whole family, but especially the kids who love the sea. Children do tire sometimes of seeing monuments, even though they are engaged by pharaonic history, and this museum, along with the fortress, seem to delight children. The museum has a huge variety of displays and information about the two seas that Egypt borders, the Red and Mediterranean Seas. If you ever have the chance to visit the great Fortress of Qaytbey, dont miss a look at the displays in the Marine Museum, located at the old gate of the fort.
Last Updated: 08/24/2006
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