Suez National Museum reopens after two-year wait

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Two years after it closed its doors, the Suez National Museum, with its diverse collection of carefully chosen artefacts, has finally reopened.

The canal city of Suez celebrates today the anniversary of its national day with the long awaited reopening of its National Museum, which was inaugurated in 2012 for one day before it was closed due to security reasons.

Today, after the installation of a state-of-the-art security system, the Suez National Museum has reopened to relate the canal city’s history from the ancient Egyptian era to modern times.

“Opening the Suez National Museum is not only part of the Ministry of Antiquities’ plan to open regional museums all over the country, but it is a concrete step towards encouraging tourism to Egypt, particularly to the canal cities which have witnessed significant development due to the digging of the new Suez Canal waterway,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Al-Damati told reporters.

Replicas of an ancient Egyptian fleet

He pointed out that the museum, with its carefully selected collection, relates not only the history of Suez but the traditions and customs of its inhabitants and their struggles against invaders and colonisation since Egypt’s earliest days.

The city of Suez has held a unique position since the ancient Egyptian era. Its port was an important centre for trade throughout the pharaonic period, and it continued to grow in importance right up to the present day. After the Suez Canal was completed in 1867, the city entered a new chapter in its history and became the most important international navigation link between the East and the West.

The major impact that this had on the development of Egypt is featured in the new museum, as is the country’s trade relations with its neighbours to the east and north of the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez’s role in pilgrimages to the Holy Lands.

To highlight this role, the Ministry of Antiquities has constructed the 6,000 square metre Suez National Museum with a budget of LE46 million, Al-Damati said.

The museum was first inaugurated in 2012, but closed its doors 24 hours later as Egypt was in turmoil during its transitional period following the January 2011 Revolution, and the museum’s security system was not correctly installed.

A collection of copper mosque decorations

To reach the two-storey museum edifice standing on the bank of the Suez Canal, visitors pass through a garden planted with species of flora commonly cultivated in ancient Egypt, as well as original stelae, temple gates and statues of ancient royals. Henna trees, corn, wheat, papyrus and lotus flowers are also spread throughout.

The centre of the garden is decorated with a full sized replica of Queen Hatshepsut’s boat anchored on an artificial water channel, which offers a complete view of the shape and size of a sailing boat of the queen’s fleet that once crossed the sea on its legendary journey to the land of Punt.

After climbing two dozen marble steps, visitors reach a dimly lit hall where the museum begins to relate the long history of the town of Suez with a display of 1,500 artefacts. It also highlights the struggle of the city’s residents to liberate Sinai from Israeli occupation from 1956 until Egypt’s victory in October 1973.

Ahmed Sharaf, the head of the Museums Department, told TNN that the museum collection has been selected from museums and archaeological storehouses from all over Egypt, but that the majority of the exhibits derive from excavations at various archaeological sites in the Suez area.

He added that the museum has various types of objects on display, including illustrations and maps relating to the history of the Suez Canal from the time of its ancient predecessor, the Senusert Canal, which was built during the reign of Pharaoh Senusert III (1878-1840 BC) in the 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) to link the Red Sea and the Mediterranean via the River Nile. A colossal statue of the pharaoh will also be on display.

A piece of a covering meant for the Kaaba in Mecca

Museum Director Mohamed Nasr explains that the museum is a two-storey building separated by an open hall decorated with a set of columns from the Graeco- Roman period (332 BC-364 AD).

The first floor contains a VIP lounge, an auditorium that can accommodate 100 people, a cafeteria, an information desk and the main display gallery. This floor also holds the administration offices, control room, warehouse and restoration laboratory.

The second floor houses six galleries dedicated to the Senusert Canal, trading, mining, the Mahmal Hall (featuring the delegation that travelled annually from Egypt to Mecca to offer a new covering for the Kaaba) and the Suez Canal. Three examples of the Kaaba cover are displayed, including the curtain of the Door of Forgiveness.

A collection of boats, texts on boats, statues of sailors, local and foreign pottery, and a relief of Pharaoh Merneptah (1213- 1203 BC) defending the Egyptian coast against the Sea People are also on display.

The visitors’ route will end at the Suez Canal gallery where on display are documents and paintings of Khedive Said, who issued the decree to dig the canal, and of Khedive Ismail, who inaugurated it once it was completed.

A medallion with the face of Ferdinand de Lesseps is on one side and the royal vehicle used during the canal’s inauguration is on the other, as well as a number of gold and bronze medallions issued for the occasion, and a set of decorations and awards that were distributed at the opening.

Waad Mohamed, Project Section deputy, told TNN that the museum has a very strong security system with 48 mobile and fixed cameras along with an alarm system connected to TV circuits.