The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is considered to be one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, with its exceptional collection of rare woodwork and plaster artefacts, as well as metal, ceramic, glass, crystal, and textile objects of all periods, from all over the Islamic world.
The museum hosts many exhibits that date back to the beginning of the Islamic era up to the period of the family of Mohamed Ali.
The idea of establishing the museum goes back to 1880, when Egyptian authorities collected all the precious pieces of Islamic art to store them in the eastern section of Al Hakem Mosque on Al Mui’z Street in Cairo.
Later, these antiquities were put on display in a small museum that was specially built in the open courtyard of the Al Hakem Mosque called the House of Arabian Antiquities. The displays of the Museum of Islamic Art remained in that location until the building of the museum in 1903.
The new and current building was designed by Alfonso Manescalo, and was completed in 1903 in neo-Mamluk style, with its upper storey housing the National Library.
The Museum has two entrances; one on the north-eastern side and the other on the south-eastern side. A beautiful garden with a fountain once led to the first entrance but was later removed.
The Museum is a two-storey building; the lower floor contains the exhibition halls and the upper floor contains the general stores. The basement contains a store connected with the Restoration Section.
The Museum of Islamic Art also displays a large collection of Arabian carpets that were brought from many mosques and historical houses from all around Egypt.
In recent years, the museum has displayed about 4,500 artefacts in 25 Halls, but it houses more than 100,000 objects, with the remainder in storage. The collection includes rare manuscripts of the Qur’an, with some calligraphy written in silver ink, on pages with elaborate borders.