Boasting a truly impressive antiquities collection accumulated by a British army officer in the 1920s and 1930s, the Gayer Anderson Museum (Beit al- Kritliyya) in Cairo has been described as one of the distinctive historical museums in Egypt.
The museum is a fine example of 16th- and 17th-century domestic architecture in Cairo, and is famous for its collection of furniture, carpets, curio, and other objects. It consists of two houses that go back to the 16th and 17th century, one of them using the outer wall of the adjacent 9th-century Ibn Tulun Mosque as support. The larger house, located to the east, was built in 1632 by Hajj Mohammad ibn al-Hajj Salem ibn Galman al-Gazzar. It later came into the possession of a wealthy Muslim woman from Crete, and became known as Beit al-Kritliyya, House of the Cretan Woman. The second house, to the west, was built in 1540 by Abdel-Qader al-Haddad, and later became known as Beit Amna bint Salim after its last owner. The two houses were joined by a bridge at the third floor level at some unknown date, and are both collectively known today as Beit al-Kritliyya.
The English Pasha
Gayer Anderson Pasha started off as an English officer who studied medicine in London. He was assigned as a doctor for the English military in 1904 and was deployed in Egypt in 1907.
In 1935, Gayer Anderson submitted a request to the Assembly of Preserving Arab Antiquities to furnish Beit al-Kritliyya and live in it. He proposed to house in it his collection of pharaonic, Islamic, and Asian antiquities; they would belong to the Egyptian people on his death or when he permanently left Egypt. The Assembly agreed.
Gayer Anderson oversaw the installation of electricity and plumbing, and the restoration of fountains, pavements, and the interior of the house. He populated it with his personal collection of art, furnishings, and carpets, and built a sailing boat he used to collect antiques from all over Egypt, it was docked on the Nile not far from the house. In 1942, Gayer-Anderson had to leave Egypt because of his failing health, and he gave the contents of the house to the Egyptian government. King Farouk gave him the title of Pasha in return. Gayer Anderson died in England in 1945, and is buried in Lavenham, Suffolk. His Cairo house was converted into a museum, the Gayer Anderson Museum.
The museum includes 29 halls, the most famous of which are the Indian, Chinese, and Damascene, each displaying furniture according to their respective names.
Upgrading Gayer Anderson’s
To promote the services provided to visitors of the Gayer Anderson Museum, a development and upgrading project was conducted under the auspices of Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, on a grant offered by the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy. The development work was implemented by the Regional Bureau for Sciences in the Arab States and supported by UNESCO trust funds in Italy, Mo’men Othman, Head of the Museums Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Michele Quaroni, Italy’s Ambassador to Egypt, jointly opened the newly developed museum.
Mervat Ezzat, General Manager of the Gayer Anderson Museum, said that measures were taken to upgrade the museum display method. Guide signs and panels were installed, she said, explaining the route of the visit and the names of the halls, noting that the panels include QR codes to enable visitors to get sufficient information on the museum and its acquisitions, in Arabic and in English, through mobile applications.
Other guide panels in Braille were installed for visitors with visual disabilities, also accessibility facilities for persons with other disabilities.
The outer wooden fences, and the museum’s entrance floor were cleaned and renovated, and the yard was fitted with wooden benches.
New firefighting and lighting systems were installed, Ms Ezzat said. The museum’s restoration laboratory was upgraded, and a number of training courses was organised for the museum curators and restorers.
18 October 2022