Solar Boat Museum/Khufu (or Cheops) Boat Museum

Solar Boat Museum/Khufu Boat Museum

The ancient Egyptians believed the dead pharaoh would join the Sun God in his solar boat to sail through the underworld. In 1954 an actual solar boat (or barque) was found in a sealed pit next to the Pyramid of Khufu. The boat was made of cedar wood and almost perfectly preserved, although disassembled in to over 1000 pieces. A team of archaeologists spent over 10 years reconstructing the boat, which is now on display in the Solar Boat Museum, next to the Great Pyramid.

The boat in the solar boat museum is the actual boat that was used to carry the Khufu's (or Cheops) mummy across the Nile to his burial. The top of the great pyramid is flat, the pyramidian has been removed. Tourists in the 1800's climbed to the top. The 43ft long boat, which is the centerpiece of the museum is thought to be 4,500 years old and to have carried the Pharaoh Khufu (or Cheops) down the Nile from Memphis. The boat played a special part in funeral ceremonies in Ancient Egypt. Not only was a boat required to carry the body across the Nile for burial, but it was a symbol of the journey of the soul in the Boat of Ra to be judged before Osiris in the underworld.

The Khufu ship has been on display to the public in a specially built museum at the Giza pyramid complex since 1982. Its discovery was described as the greatest Ancient Egyptian discovery in Zahi Hawass's documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries.

Seven boat pits have been identified around the Great Pyramid. Five of which belong to the Great Pyramid proper. The other 2 are associated with the pyramid of Hetepheres (GIa) and the pyramid of the Ka (GId). Khufu's boat pits are located on the eastern side of the pyramid (3) and the southern side. In one of the southern boat pits a disassembled wooden barge was discovered in 1954. It has been reconstructed and resides in the boat shaped museum. In 1987, the western boat pit at the Great Pyramid was examined by a microprobe inserted through a hole drilled into the pit, confirming the presence of a second wooden boat similar to the first. It has been decided that the second boat will remain in its pit, in conditions which make its preservation near perfect. A Second solar boat of Khufu is being excavated and is going to be reconstructed.
Solar Boat next to Giza Pyramids Plateau, Cairo
The museum where it is housed is called The Khufu Boat Museum. It has been described as a small modern facility resting alongside the Great Pyramid. The first floor of the museum takes the visitor through visuals, photographs and writings on the process of excavating and restoring the felucca. The ditch where the main felucca was found is incorporated into the museum ground floor design. To see the restored felucca, the visitor must climb a staircase leading to the second floor. Floor to ceiling windows allow for much sunlight and the wooden walkway takes the visitor around the felucca where the visitor can get a close view of its impressive size- 143 feet long and 19.5 feet wide.

The museum is a humidity-controlled pavilion, positioned at the south side of the Great Pyramid, entry costs 50 Egyptian Pounds (a separate fee from the main admission to the Giza Complex). On entering, all Visitors must wear protective footwear provided by the museum, although with soles which resemble mops, I could not help but question if they were for protection, or to help keep the floors highly polished!

Inside, on your immediate right hand side, you walk through a very informative exhibition relating to the discovery of the Solar Boat, the techniques used to preserve and rebuild the craft, models of the boat and to your left, the pit where the boat was discovered. The exhibition we thought was very informative. After this, you reach the main housing area of the Solar Boat, where you following gently inclining walkways which weave up and around the reconstructed Solar Boat, allowing you to be able to view the entire vessel from different angles, to gain a true perspective of its manufacture and size. Have a look at: Solar Boat Virtual Tour

But imagine this beautiful boat. Such amazing ingenuity by an ancient people so entirely devoted to its construction, and subsequent deconstruction and purposeful burial next to its powerful owner. And unfathomable that it was discovered 4,600 years later and once again painstakingly assembled for us to ponder and enjoy today.
solar boat museum outlook
Solar Boat Museum/Khufu Boat Museum
Beside Cheops Pyramid, Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) on the left, Giza Pyramids Plateau, Cairo 12561, Egypt
Tel. +20-2-3857928
Tourist Information: +20 (0)2 391 3454 (Tel.)

Last Updated on Sunday 16th January 2011