On Saturday President Hosni Mubarak inaugurated the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) following a four-year, LE85 million refit, reports Nevine El-Aref
Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni told Al-Ahram Weekly that President Mubarak had been delighted with the development of the museum and greatly admired its world class permanent collection. He had particularly admired Shagaret El-Dorr's necklace and the oldest Umayyad coin in the collection.
Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the newly refurbished museum would open to the public after Ramadan.
Though initial discussions began in 1869, well before the establishment of a committee of Arab antiquities dedicated to building a national collection of Islamic art, the Museum of Islamic Art first opened its doors in 1881, with an initial display of 111 objects, gathered from mosques and mausoleums across Egypt and exhibited in the arcades of the mosque of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim.
The collection grew rapidly and a new building was constructed in the courtyard of the mosque in 1883. In 1899 the government began construction work on the present building, which opened four years later with a display of 3,154 objects.
The museum's name was changed several times over the years. In 1952 the trustees settled on the institution's current name, the Museum of Islamic Art, in recognition of the contribution of non-Arab Muslims to the museum's permanent collection. It is the main repository for the national collection of Islamic art, and now boasts more than 100,000 exhibits.