Egypt's Museum of Islamic Art reopens after 2014 bombing

Visitors view a warrior costume, helmet and quiver dated to the 15th-16th century Mamluk period, during the re-opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Photo / AP
Visitors view a warrior costume, helmet and quiver dated to the 15th-16th century Mamluk period, during the re-opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Photo / AP

Egypt's Museum of Islamic Art, home to one of the world's most important collections of Islamic artefacts, is welcoming visitors for the first time since it was damaged in a car bombing three years ago.

First opened in 1903, the museum was closed in January 2014 after a bomb attack on the Cairo police directorate across the street severely damaged its facade and dozens of exhibits.

It reopened last week after a two-year restoration program funded by the United Arab Emirates and UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nation, as well Switzerland, the United States and Italy.

Ancient Islamic coins from different periods at the Museum of Islamic Art. Photo / AP
Ancient Islamic coins from different periods at the Museum of Islamic Art. Photo / AP

Restoration experts were able to salvage all but 19 of the 179 damaged pieces and more than 4400 exhibits are on display, including about 400 that are being shown for the first time, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry said.

"I'm amazed. I haven't been to the Louvre, but I feel like I'm somewhere a lot more beautiful," said Hussein Ismail, a visitor, as he surveyed exhibits displayed in new glass cases.

Egypt's Museum of Islamic Art houses artifacts charting more than 1,300 years of Muslim civilisation in Egypt and includes pieces from throughout the Muslim world.

Visitors look at an ancient copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, written on parchment and dated to the 8th century Umayyad period. Photo / AP
Visitors look at an ancient copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, written on parchment and dated to the 8th century Umayyad period. Photo / AP

"It is the largest of its kind, containing 100,000 pieces," Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said last week at a ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the museum, which he described as part of Egypt's fight against terrorism.

Egyptian security forces have been battling an insurgency led by Islamic State since general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in 2013 from Islamist President Mohamed Morsi after mass protests against his rule.

Visitors walk past a wooden pulpit brought from the mosque of Tatar al-Higaziya 1348-1360 A.D. Photo / AP
Visitors walk past a wooden pulpit brought from the mosque of Tatar al-Higaziya 1348-1360 A.D. Photo / AP

The violence is largely contained in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, but there have also been occasional attacks in Cairo, where the museum is located.

Enany said he hoped the return of the museum would help to attract tourists back to Egypt.

Once a magnet for visitors seeking Pharaonic wonders and pristine beaches, Egypt has suffered a collapse in tourism since the 2011 uprising heightened political instability.

- AAP

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