Scotsabroad's Weblog

February 8, 2009

Terminal Delight

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 7:10 pm

pasha-cab3museum-messagestephensons train

All the boys headed downtown on Saturday and ended up visiting the Railway Museum. Although housed in Cairo Railway Station at Midan Ramses, one of the most congested, noisy and  chaotic parts of the city, where roads descend from above to join several more heading in or out of the centre, once through the museum’s doors it felt like we had been transported back  in time. Outside the station there is extensive building,  renovations or demolition going on. Walking to the entrance we didn’t expect to find it open to the public. However, as the only visitors so far that day, we were welcomed in to this delightful place. The noise from the outside world faded away and it was 1933. There are bakelite phones reluctantly connecting to the outside world in the museum office – honestly.

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My boys were enthralled with the exhibits and being allowed to clamber over old steam engines (authentically getting their hands and clothes filthy in the driver’s cabs) and operating many of the interactive exhibits. I have never seen Lucas so animated in a museum calling me over to a display cabinet here or to pull a lever there. As you enter the museum and get up close to the royal engine of Said Pasha (who reigned from 1854 to 1866) you suddenly realise you are allowed to climb aboard, explore and touch this gift, presented to him by the French Queen Eugenie in 1862. It is said he used the engine to inspect his estate. Cairo and Lucas then proceeded to turn, push, pull and move as many of the exhibits as possible. Lesley Lababidi, who I keep on thanking for making our expeditions so enjoyable, writes that children will come away with the understanding of the work done by humans and machines rather than by computers. There includes a printing press for tickets and  train schedules  although I never found out why there was a large baptismal font on the top floor!

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At one end of the ground floor there is an enormous model layout that was once owned by a rich cotton merchant, Farghali Pasha, and confiscated after the 1952 revolution. It was not working, the train lay on its side below the Muqattam Hills, but was still impressive.  While we prepared ourselves to leave a guide came over and offered to show us a locomotive housed in a shed outside the museum. The engine was designed by Stephenson and was one of the first to run in Egypt between Cairo to Alexandria. Climbing over this engine capped a fine visit. Glasgow Transport Museum has nothing on this place. This is how it should be.

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2 Comments »

  1. Looks great, even better than the steam railway at home at Aviemore.

    Comment by Forbes M — February 9, 2009 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  2. What a wonderful trip to a real interactive museum, pulling levers is just not possible in health and safety Glasgow. The boys are so lucky.

    Comment by ian — February 11, 2009 @ 7:37 am | Reply


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