CULTURE: Middle East’s First Museum of Islamic Ceramics

By: Yasser Talaat

CAIRO, Feb 23 1999 (IPS) - The first museum for Islamic ceramics in the Middle East opened its doors near Cairo last week to add a new tourism attraction to the splendour of ancient Egypt.

The museum is situated in Prince Amr Ibrahim’s palace in Zamalek, west of the capital, and boasts a wide display of ceramic items dating back to the 9th century AD from several Islamic countries and eras.

The museum was opened by Egypt’s first lady Mrs Suzanne Mubarak Feb 19 after a renovations to the palace took 10 years at a cost of more than 2 million dollars. Built in 1924, the two-storied building covers 850 square metres.

Following the 1952 Revolution, which toppled King Farouk and ushered in the Egyptian republic, the palace came under the control of municipal authorities. In 1971, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture began using it as a gallery for the exhibition of Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil’s collection of paintings after his house in Giza was annexed to the residence of the late President Anwar Sadat.

The museum, which is surrounded by a 2,800 square metre garden, “is the first of its kind in the Middle East,” said Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni. “It is one of the major centres of plastic arts in Egypt because it adds a new dimension to the history of Arab and Islamic art.”

The museum’s decoration and furniture designs, including engraved wooden mashrabiyas, are purely Islamic.

Ahmed Nawwar, Museums chief at the Supreme Council of Antiquities said choosing the site of the first specialised Islamic ceramics museum was “undoubtedly inspired by the palace’s impressive Islamic architecture as well as its location in a quiet district in the heart of the city.”

“The museum houses a rare collection of ceramics acquired from Islamic countries and representing various techniques of decoration used throughout the Islamic world, from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east,” he said.

The collection includes 116 pieces from Egypt, representing the Umayyad, Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mameluke periods while there are 200 other pieces representing Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi and Moroccan styles.

The collection includes jars, mugs, jugs, bowls, plates, vases and cups, the oldest dating back to the ninth century and the latest dating to the 19th century, Nawwar said.

The ground floor includes four exhibiting halls, one of which displays 99 original paintings by renowned 19th century artists.

In addition to the ceramics exhibition, the museum includes halls for communication networks, a cinema. an open air theatre for recitals and a video tape library.

During her inaugural remarks, Mrs Mubarak said a meeting should be held to emphasise the importance of improving conditions at national museums and to call for international financial support for implementing what she called a “museum plan of action” for the 21st century.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags