Last Tuesday 7 February saw the reopening of the Hunting Museum in Cairo after
10 years of closure. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani opened the museum;
with him was Elham Salah, head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry; as well as
senior officials and members of the diplomatic corps in Cairo.
The museum is housed in Muhammad Ali’s Manial Palace on Roda Island in the
Nile at Cairo. Its development and reopening cost EGP140,000 that were funded
by the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation project.
The museum dates back to 1963. When the 1952 Revolution put an end to the
monarchy and turned Egypt into a republic, the idea came about to showcase the
birds, animals and butterflies that were hunted by the Egyptian royal family
members. In 2007, the Muhammad Ali Palace museum was completely closed for
renovation and reopened in March 2015, but the Hunting Museum was kept closed
until the ministry’s museum sector concluded the restoration.
The museum’s 1180 exhibits include mummified birds, animals and rare butterflies
from the hunting trips of King Farouq, Prince Youssef Kamal, and Prince
Mohamed Ali Tawfiq the original owner of Manial Palace and the rare 7,000-
butterfly collection. Also displayed are the skeletons of a camel and horse on
which the kiswah of Kaaba (the cloth that covers Kaaba) was carried from Egypt to
Mecca in what constituted an annual tradition. The camel saddle on which
the kiswah once rested is on show beside the skeleton. It is made of leather and
decorated with pieces of coloured tapestry from Upper Egypt embellished with
foliage and geometric motifs. The gilded design of the old Egyptian flag consisting
of a crescent and three stars is also imprinted on it.
A map highlighting hunting locations around Egypt that were used by prince
Mohamed Ali Tewfik is also among the Museum collections, as well as two large
maps showing those of birds. Panels showing the original location of every animal
on display and information about its habitat are also provided in the museum.
The museum’s audio system brings the aura of the hunting ground to the galleries
with the roar of lions, screech of eagles, and trumpeting of elephants. Visual
effects also suggest something of the environment from which the objects on
display were collected.
The museum’s education department has allocated a partition at the end of the
visitor route of the museum for entertainment and activities for children to sketch
the items they saw.
The Palace is a museum in its own right, having been built in 1901 by Prince
Mohamed Ali in a unique Islamic architectural style that gathers elements of
Fatimid, Mameluk, Moroccan, Andalusian, and even Iranian architecture. It
constitutes a departure from the European style usually employed for the royal
family’s other palaces. The Prince chose Roda Island as the location of the Palace
because of its beautiful vegetation, including Banyan trees, cedars, royal palms and
Indian rubber trees, part of the Bostan Al-Kebir (the large gardens) established in
1829 by the prince’s great-grandfather Ibrahim Pasha.
According to Ms Salah, the palace is also home to a rare collection of antiques that
the prince collected from different parts of the world or picked out of the rubble of
collapsing Mameluke and Ottoman houses in Egypt.