Cairo - Midan Tahrir
Midan Tahrir (Arabicميدان التحرير, "Liberation Square", also commonly known as Tahrir Square) is the name given to the large public square at the epicentre of modern Cairo and - as a city district - to the streets and institutions located nearby. The Egyptian Museum, the American University in Cairo, the Arab League and the Hilton and Intercontinental Hotels are all located within this district, as are several important government offices (including those for the renewal of visas, etc.) The Cairo Metro also has its main nexus under Midan Tahrir, and a great many buses and taxis make Tahrir Square a key part of their services.
The relatively open vista of Tahrir Square affords the confused traveller a great opportunity to look about and gain some bearings within the bustling city center.
Perhaps the most prominent building bordering Tahrir Square is the now somewhat jaded-looking Nile Hilton, located between the Square and the Nile Corniche. Immediately to the north, and perpendicular to the hotel is the unmissable Egyptian Museum in reddish-pink stone. South of the Hilton Hotel stands the dingy Arab League Building and, somewhat further south-east, across the busy thoroughfare of Sharia Tahrir, the brutal Stalinist edifice of the Mogamma Building (housing 18,000 employees of the Egyptian bureaucracy, together with the most convenient offices for visa renewal). From here, Sharia Tahrir heads due west to cross the Nile over the Tahrir Bridge and into Gezira (the island suburb), and beyond to Giza and the Pyramids (several miles away - don't attempt to walk!) Next to the Mogamma Building is a small but attractive Mosque of Omar Makram, in which many state and business funerals are held. Only slightly further south can be found the Intercontinental Hotel.
Bordering Tahrir Square to the east is a sizable frontage of large office buildings and stores, topped with neon signs. The campus of the American University of Cairo lies across the busy Qasr al-Ainy.
Midan Tahrir is served by the Sadat metro stop and micro buses and other forms of public transport from most areas of Cairo.
Probably one of the easiest ways to negotiate the busy Tahrir Square area is to use the interconnecting underground pedestrian tunnels linking the Metro station with various points in and around the Square. This can save a great deal of time and prevent much negotiation of crazy traffic and the ongoing remodelling of the Square itself.
The Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum  (officially, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) on the northern edge of Midan Tahrir is one of the world's great museums. An extensive building and massive collection of Egyptian antiquities, the Museum (also commonly referred to as the "Cairo Museum") is truly a destination in its own right,with at least 136,000 items on display; hundreds of thousands of additional items languish in the museum's basement storerooms and are added to each year with ongoing excavation and discovery.
Plans are now well advanced for the transfer of the main collection to a new Grand Egyptian Museum within the vicinity of the Giza Pyramids. Hopefully the new building will be more user friendly - instead of the current poorly-labeled and documented nature of many prime exhibits.
The museum is an outgrowth of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, established by the Egyptian government in 1835, in an attempt to limit the looting of antiquities sites and artefacts. The museum first officially opened in 1858 with a collection assembled by Auguste Mariette Pasha, the French archaeologist employed by Isma'il Pasha to organise the collection. After residing in an annex of the Bulaq palace of Ismail Pasha in Giza from 1880, the museum moved in 1900 to its present location, a neoclassical structure on Tahrir Square in Cairo's city centre. More than a million and half tourists visit the museum annually, in addition to half a million Egyptians.
There are seven sections within the museum that are arranged in chronological order. They are as follows:
- Tutankhamen's treasures.
- Pre-dynasty and Old Kingdom monuments.
- First intermediate period and Middle Kingdom monuments.
- Monuments of the Middle Kingdom.
- Monuments of the late period and the Greek and Roman periods.
- Coins and papyri.
- Sarcophagi and scarabs.
General admission is adults LE 20, children LE 10, not including the mummies room. There are also separate prices for people wishing to take photography. For amateurs with a photographic camera without a flash, the admission is LE 10. For professionals with a photographic camera without a flash, it is LE 175. For someone with a video camera it is LE 100. For television it is LE 1500 plus LE 100 for managerial fees, and LE 50 per hour for using the electrical current. The times for admission with any sort of photography is from 9 AM to 2 PM. If you do not abide by these admission times, then you will not be able to bring a camera into the museum with you. There are three separate checkpoints that have x-ray machines. There is one outside the courtyard, then there is one before the steps of the museum and a third right inside the doors.
- Objects from the Tomb of Tutankhamen, Upper Floor - discovered in 1922 and gradually revealed over the next few years, many of the objects from the tomb of the "boy king" were brought to the Egyptian Museum for display. A small number of objects found their way into foreign collections, whilst several - including the inner sarcophagus and the body of Tutankhamen himself - remained in the small tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The most famous objects from the tomb are the funerary mask of Tutankhamen and the inner coffin. The mask is made of solid gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, cornelian, quartz, obsidian, turquiose, and colored glass. The inner coffin is made of solid gold. It is 74" long, 20" wide, and 20" high. The king is shown as Osiris holding the crook and flail, traditional symbols of kingship. NB: A significant number of items from the Tutankhamen collection are currently on tour to museums in Europe and North America. The complete collection of items found in the tomb has yet to be fully documented. It took almost ten years for the founder of the tomb, Howard Carter, to finish excavating the tomb. The current permanent housing for the Tutankhamen collection is in the basement of the Cairo Museum but there are hopes to move it to a downtown location soon.
- The Royal Mummies, Upper Floor, separate admission charge of LE 100, no photography allowed please note there is 2 rooms you can enter using same ticket so don't miss one of them - many of the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom period and later are dispayed here in the Royal Mummy Hall, which is at the corner of the first floor lobby. There are mummies of eleven kings and queens that are kept in temperature and pressure controlled glass cabinets on display. Unfortunately, some Mummies are not even identified by the name or the period to which they belong to and other cronological information.
- The Narmer Palette, Entrance Lobby
- Jewelry There is a large collection of Egyptian jewelry on display in the museum. Egyptians were concerned with creating harmonious forms and color combinations. To a large extent the majority of Egyptian jewelry was made with gold and semi-precious stones. Silver was used but it wasn't nearly as popular as gold in the creation of jewelry. The majority of the jewelry found on display in the museum were found on the mummy of Tutankhamun himself.
- Egyptian Museum Library. Created in the year 1902, the library specializes in ancient Egyptian civilization and houses some 42,500 books on the topic. However, the library is not open to the general public, with access restricted to accredited researchers and students.
A bookstore and several small gift stores are open during museum hours within the main entrance hall to the museum. Prices are often somewhat inflated. Be careful also that the proprietors do not pass on a dusty, grimy equivalent of the display copy you think you are purchasing...
- Attend one of the illustrated lectures on Egyptology, art and culture at the offices of the American Research Center in Egypt , close to Tahrir Square at 2 Midan Simon Bolivar (known locally as Midan Qasr al-Dubara), Garden City, tel +20 2 794 8239, fax +20 2 795 3052, mailto:email@example.com . Lectures are held every Wednesday evening at 6pm during the academic year, open to all visitors, admission free.
Midan Tahrir affords a large number of very convenient dining options for the traveller.
Directly opposite the gates of the American University in Cairo (AUC) in the south-eastern corner of the square are to be found all the central Cairo branches of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.
- Fatari Pizza Tahrir, el-Tahrir Street(around the corner from AUC). 24 hours. Serves sweet fatirs, as well as varieties with cheese and meat toppings. Has a small sitting area, or is good for take away.~10 LE.
- Koshari el-Tahrir, el-Tahrir Street(around the corner from AUC's Greek Campus, corner of Youssef el-Guindi and el-Tahrir Street). Popular koshari chain, serves koshari in various sizes though the small (3 lb) is a good size portion. You can add hot sauce or a lemon sauce. For 5.50 LE, you can get a small koshari and a can of Coca-Cola. Eat-in or takeaway.
The basement of the Annex to the Hilton Hotel on Tahrir Square has a large number of internationally-flavoured eateries in a mall-type setting, everything from Egyptian to Thai and hamburgers. Prices are reasonable and the setting comfortable.
- Beano's, Mohamed Mahmoud(next to AUC Greek Campus). Modern coffee chain, serves salad, sandwiches, etc.
- Cilantro, 31 Mohamed Mahmoud St.. Modern coffee-chain that also serves sandwiches, salads, etc. Wi-Fi available, credit cards accepted.
- Costa Coffee, Mohamed Mahmoud(next to AUC Greek Campus). Modern coffee chain that also serves desserts and some sandwiches
- Pottery Cafe, Mohamed Mahmoud(across from AUC). Offers sandwiches, pasta, pizza, crepes, coffee, juice, and other options. Free wi-fi is available. 30 LE.
- Bird Cage, Semiramis InterContinental Cairo, Corniche El Nil, ☎ 7957171. Reportedly the best Thai food in Cairo. We see no reason to contest.
- Nile Hilton, tel +20-2-5780444/5780666, fax +20-2-5780475, . Located on the western edge of Midan Tahrir, close to the Egyptian Museum, and built on the site of the former barracks of the British garrison of Empire days. This branch of the Hilton chain was the first major international hotel to be built in Cairo after the war. Very convenient for transport connections, for the Egyptian Museum and for Downtown.
- Semiramis InterContinental Hotel, Corniche El Nil, tel +20-2-7957171, fax +20-2-7963020, firstname.lastname@example.org, [ . Opened in 1987, the Semiramis is one of Cairo's premier hotels
- Conrad Cairo, 1191 Corniche El Nil, +20-2-5808000, . A 24-story hotel located along the Nile.
Free wi-fi is available at Pottery Cafe. Free wi-fi (Mobilnil) is also available at modern coffee shops such as Cilantro and Costa Coffee, where you obtain access by getting a 2-hour "promotional" card from the waiter. McDonalds restaurants also offer free wi-fi.
Be extra careful crossing the roads in and around Tahrir Square. Egyptian motorists drive fast and don't always obey red lights.
That said, Tahrir Square is arguably one of the safest areas in which to stay and visit, being full of heavily-guarded government offices, the American University of Cairo, international hotels and cultural institutions (some may argue, of course, that this makes the area more of a target for terrorism and unrest.) Also, Tahrir Square is a frequent gathering spot for "intellectuals" to stage political protests, which sometimes can become violent and are best avoided.
Be careful at Midan Tahrir, or nearby Midan Ataba, as these seem to be epicentres for the touts and "helpful locals". They will innocently ask you where you where you are from, before pointing you in the wrong direction in order to direct you towards a friends business. The only place where they appear to be worse is at the pyramids.
This page was last edited at 23:34, on 3 December 2008 by Wikitravel user Aude. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, Amal, Dayna Dyson, Marc Heiden, Mouli, Colin Jensen and chris spencer, Wikitravel user(s) Lakerhaug, Morph, Cacahuate, Nzpcmad and Pjamescowie, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.