While the Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum might sound like yet another museum found on the posh island of Zamalek, the history behind its existence is interesting.
The museum itself was designed and built by renowned Egyptian architect Ramses Wissa Wassef with the sole purpose to house the works of Mahmoud Mukhtar, the father of Egyptian modern sculpture. Born in the Nile Delta region, Mukhtar moved to Cairo in the early 1900s, to begin his work as an artist, soon leaving to persue his studies in France.
As a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Mukhtar began creating some of the most prominent sculptures that grace Cairo today, including his two monumental sculptures of Saad Zaghloul as well as the Mother of Egypt statue situated at the front gates of the lovely Giza Zoo. Upon moving back to Cairo, Mukhtar then went on to found the Egyptian School of Fine Arts.
From Mukhtar’s impact on Egyptian contemporary art to the fact that the museum is solely dedicated to his worth; art lovers and history fans will appreciate this small museum.
Situated on Tahrir Street off Galaa Bridge in Dokki, the museum’s grounds are simply decorated and entrance costs only 2LE for Egyptians and foreigners alike. The museum itself is really small, intimate and aesthetically pleasing with its cleanliness, dim lighting and clean arrangements of some of Mukhtar’s famous pieces.
The museum is divided into various halls, displaying pieces from plaster reliefs to marble busts and bronze statues. Mukhtar’s Jar Bearer piece is quite remarkable at first sight, with miniature versions also located elsewhere in the museum. The smaller pieces come perched atop rotating bases, allowing you to fully view the pieces and contemplate their beauty from all sides.
Three wall-length plaster reliefs are broken down, each into three parts that Mukhtar completed at different periods of his life. Visually impressive, the reliefs depict Egypt ’s early 20th century with many of theimages containing scenery of agricultural life.
Seeing as how national icon and revered political leader Saad Zaghloul was a focal point for many of Mukhtar’s pieces, Mukhtar’s love for Zaghloul is made clear with various busts and marble pieces denoting the man’s greatness. While the main Saad Zaghloul statue is in Alexandria, the smaller pieces within the museum are composed of marble and bronze.
In the Hall of Serendipity, an interesting collection caught our eye, containing eleven miniatures that represent each province within Egypt. The miniatures aren’t necessarily detailed, but are obviously created with precision and an eye for line.
Not only are the halls of the museum solely dedicated to the work of Mukhtar, there is also a memorabilia room containing letters from the artists, in addition to his famous sitting chair and winter coat. To take it a little further, there’s also a viewing room that contains... Mukhtar’s tomb? Yes, his tomb. Kind of odd but an intimate part of the viewer’s experience, nonetheless.
The museum is definitely worth checking out and an easy one to fully examine as it’s small and not overwhelming in the slightest sense; unlike many of the other museums around town.
The museum is open 10AM-1:30PM and 5PM to 9PM from Tuesdays to Sundays. Tickets are 2LE; and don’t miss out on a few sculptures on the lawn.