The Egyptian capital’s Museum of Islamic Art — the world’s largest — was officially reopened by President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday after an eight-year restoration project.

However the public will still have to wait another two weeks until the start of September to be able to view its 25 galleries containing 2,500 artefacts of great artistic or historic value, chosen from some 100,000 items.

Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, who also attended the official reopening after the 10-million-dollar renovation, said the project had resulted in “a great change in the way the works are exhibited, protected and lit.”

Among the treasures on show are a gold-inlaid key to the Kaaba, the massive building that houses the black stone in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, and the oldest Islamic dinar ever found, dating back to the year 697.

Rare manuscripts of the Koran can also be seen among exhibits as diverse as Persian carpets, Ottoman-era ceramics and ancient instruments used in the sciences of astronomy, chemistry and architecture.

The 1903 building in central Cairo was originally built to house and protect the country’s rich heritage from looters of antiquities.


Agence France-Presse