The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Cairo, Egypt is one of the greatest museums in the world, with its exceptional collection of rare woodwork and plaster artefacts. As well as metal, ceramic, glass, crystal, and textile objects of all periods, from all over the Islamic world.

In recent years, the museum has displayed about 4,500 artefacts in 25 halls, but it houses more than 100,000 objects, with the remainder in storage. The collection includes rare manuscripts of the Qur’an, with some calligraphy written in silver ink, on pages with elaborate borders.

The museum has conducted archaeological excavations in the Fustat area and has organized a number of national and international exhibitions. The museum closed for renovations in 2003, and re-opened 8 years later, in August 2010. The restoration cost nearly US$10 million.

Museum of Islamic Art
Museum of Islamic Art

History of the Museum of Islamic Art

Although recognition of the Egyptian Pharaonic art was signalled in Cairo by the establishment in 1858 of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities and the Egyptian Museum, the appreciation of Islamic art lagged behind. The Khedive Ismail Pasha approved a proposal to establish a museum of Islamic art in the courtyard of the Mosque of Baibars, but this was not carried out until 1880, when Khedive Tawfiq ordered the Ministry of Endowments (ar: الأوقاف – Awqaf) to set it up.

Julius Franz, an Austrian scholar of Hungarian descent, the head of the technical department at the Awqaf, proposed in 1881 that the ruined mosque of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, adjacent to the Bab Al-Futuh, to be a provisional seat for the museum. A gallery was accordingly there in the eastern arcade, consisting initially of 111 architectural pieces taken from other monuments.

Matters improved the same year when Khedive Tawfiq approved the “Committee of Arab Antiquities”, whose duties included running the Arab Museum, and providing it with objects as well as preserving the monuments. As a result, the arcades of the mosque were filled to overflowing.

Alfonso Manescalo designed the new and current building . Completed in 1902 in neo-Mamluk style, with its upper storey housing the National Library. The old museum in al-Hakim was demolished in the 1970s, during refurbishment of the mosque there.


The collection features artifacts from Egypt. In addition to North Africa, Andalusia, the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Ranging from the 7th to the 19th century. The artifacts of the right wing of the museum divided by the Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The artifacts of the left wing of the museum divided into sections by science. In addition to astronomy, calligraphy, coins, stones and textiles, covering various epochs.