A painted limestone bust of Queen Meritamun, one of the daughters of Ramses II who became his Great Royal Wife after the death of her mother, Nefertari, is one of precious artefacts on display at the Hurghada Museum.
Spending time enjoying the sun and the beach whether in summer or winter in this Red Sea resort town will not deprive you of a visit to this museum, which takes you into a journey of beauty, crafts, arts and life of Egyptians from ancient times until the Mohamed Ali era.
Opened in 2020 as the first archaeological museum in Red Sea Governorate, the one-floor museum is not divided into closed rooms, but sections open to each other so that the visitors walk freely looking at the displayed items that appear in appropriate light to show its beauty and fine detail.
The Meritamun bust reflects the ancient Egyptian sculptor’s mastery of his craft. It appears clearly in the intricate tresses of her elaborate blue wig, and in the symmetry and attention to detail to the beads of her wide collar.
There are two cobras on her forehead. The one on the left is wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, and the other the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. They represent Nekhbet and Wadjet, the titular goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively.
The ancient Egyptians excelled in making cosmetic and beauty products. Several treatments were produced to regenerate skin. Men and women traced a line of black kohl or green malachite around their eyes, which they believed strengthened eyesight and protected them from ophthalmic diseases.
The mineral ingredients were ground on palettes, which were flat stones, with a circular cavity carved into one side for the grinding.
They changed with time, from geometric to animal shaped. The ground powder was mixed into a paste with water or with a solution of water-soluble gum. It was then applied with a fine stick. Rouge made of hematite pigment mixed with some unguent was applied to lips as well as cheeks to add lively colours.
Applying make-up, of course, necessitated a mirror, which was made of polished metal.
On display objects had handles carved out of wood, ivory, or faience, which was shaped in a woman’s body, or a papyrus stem. They were often found among the funerary material as the deceased had to also take care of its reflection and make-up.
Egyptians have long used scented oils and perfumes, which were believed to reveal the presence of gods. Perfumers’ workshops in ancient Egypt produced precious perfumed oils and unguents, used in funerary contexts, rituals, ceremonies, festivals, and banquets.
They were often contained in ornate vases or pots, sometimes in glass or alabaster. Perfumes were extracted from various plants, flowers or wood fragments, added to the required fats. One of those is clearly the lotus, which is seen depicted on this blue faience pot.
For jewellery, there are many items on display such as that gold ring with green glass bezel dating to the Ptolemaic Period, 4th century BC. The green glass bezel has been set between two snake heads in gold. The body of the snake is modelled with interlacing scaled circles.
Ancient Egyptians used baskets widely in daily life because they are light and flexible, which made them ideal for transporting food and other products, as well as sand during construction. Baskets were also used for storage.
On display is a large oval basket with a lid made of a coiled grass bundle, sewn with strips of dom palm leaf and filled with dom nuts, an ancient delicacy given as food for the afterlife. It dates back 3,500 years and was found in Luxor in 1858.
Music was an integral part of religious worship in ancient Egypt, as there were gods specifically associated with music, such as Hathor and Bes.
Musical instruments in ancient Egypt ranged from the simple percussion ones to the complex harp, of which the strings are lost. In general, the sistrum was decorated with a head of Hathor or the body of a female.
Clappers were also used to mimic the sound of the simplest instrument, the hands clapping. They also had the function of warding off bad demons with their noise. The god Bes with its fierce demeanour did the same, especially during sleep and pregnancy. He was the only god fronting the viewer in two-dimensional representations. This allowed him to focus his attention to protecting.
Many artefacts about furniture in ancient Egypt, ceramic vessels, mummy portraits, hunting, sports in Graeco-Roman Egypt, sculpture in Graeco-Roman Egypt matching both Egyptian and Greek tastes, Coptic manuscripts, Islamic arts and architecture and Muhammad Ali Dynasty jewels are also on display.
Near Hurghada, a ship dating to the 18th century sank in the vicinity of the island of Saadana due to shallow waters and its coral reefs.
Egyptian excavations revealed that the ship was carrying Chinese Qing Dynasty porcelain and vessels, fashioned for the Middle East, as well as many spices. These findings are on display.
The ship does not resemble other ships from this period, and so its origin remains unknown. However, its contents shed light on the intensive and far reaching trade that occurred during this time, and Egypt’s ports were the link between the east and the west.