Monday, January 28, 2008

Nurturing interest in the Agricultural Museum

Egyptian Gazette

The story on this site will expire shortly. From the home page select the "Tourism" link to see the article. Here's a somewhat lengthy extract (about half of the complete article):

'Egypt is the gift of the Nile' is a famous saying we've all heard of. Agriculture has played a major role in Egyptian history, affecting the lives of Egyptians since the days of the Pharaohs. This is because the Nile is the major source of water used in agriculture in Egypt.

Although this is something everyone knows, very few people are aware of - and fewer still have visited - the Agricultural Museum in Giza. In the 1930s, the Egyptian Government decided to build an agricultural museum. It was constructed in the reign of King Farouk to mainly serve two purposes: providing agricultural and economic information and recording the history of agriculture from prehistoric times to today. 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, which opened on 16 January 1938, the first of its kind in the world. “When I was appointed as the Director in 1988, the conditions in the museum were miserable. It was full of stray dogs and the displays were in a pitiful state, dirty and not even arranged according to categories,” recalls Mohamed Hussein el-Aqqad.He adds that his generation were brought up to love museums and history. "Nowadays children like coming here because it's nice to get out of school for a few hours, but history is the last thing they're interested in," he comments.

The fa├žade of the old palace was adorned with engravings and other decorative designs of plants and animals, while 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 125,000 square metres, with the actual buildings occupying 20,000 square metres. More than 15 per cent 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, a lecture hall and a library, as well as laboratories for repair work and maintenance, embalming, preserving and storing. The museum is located in the upmarket area of Dokki in Giza, an LE2.50 taxi ride from Doqqi Tube Station. It only costs PT10 (two US cents or the price of a small box of matches) to get in, although your camera will cost you an additional 20 piastres.

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. Perhaps the most interesting halls are the New Museum of Ancient Egyptian Agriculture and the Museum of Acquisitions. Unfortunately these halls are not open yet.Another fascinating hall is the Museum of Bread. It includes information about bread-making in Egypt since ancient times, as well as wonderful old photos of peasants, waterfalls and agricultural implements. All kinds of bread that Egyptians eat from different regions are displayed in the main hall of the museum. The tasty Egyptian pastry called a meshaltet (rather like a croissant with both sweet and savoury varieties) is also on display there, along with maps and statistics about the development of bread nationwide.

See the above page for the full story (it will expire shortly).

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