In the galleries of Kasr El-Aini Museum, history and art join forces to bring the past back to life. The lines those lie flat on the pages of history spring to life in the form of a vivid array of portraits, statues, and photographs. They represent images of professors who are discoverers or innovators, or founders, or successful practitioners, professors whose personal history and achievements merged into the history of Kasr El-Aini, or into the history of Egypt, or even humanity at large: because of the extraordinary services they have rendered. Marble plaques, and bas-reliefs provide documentary evidence of important events that would have otherwise been legendary tales in books.
These «objects d'art» and antiques, which bear testimony to the glorious past, are of priceless value. Yet they would have rotted and decayed in basement storage rooms, or would have been unwittingly disposed of during renovation operations, by the hands of workers who little recognized their value, were it not for the initiator of the museum project, Professor Mahmoud El-Manawa. With a profound insight into the value of history, this dedicated scientist personally addressed himself to an unrelenting search for every shred of history he could find. He was, therefore, instrumental in salvaging these precious objects from neglect and decay.
However, the enormous task of implementing a Museum project can seldom be the work of one man: because of the enormous funds and huge efforts incurred. The project would not have materialized were it not for the great support granted by the Minister of Higher Education Prof Mofeed Shihab, the President of Cairo University, Prof Farouk Ismail Ahmed, and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Prof Moataz El-Sherbini, who all recognized the value of Prof El-Minawi's proposal .
The important task of restoring the paintings, statues, photographs and numerous other items was carried out as a result of the combined effort of an army of experts and professors. The members of the team, who were motivated by their belief in the importance of the task they were accomplishing, were guided and supervised by Professor Salah El-Din El-Beheiri, Professor Gaballah Ahmed Gaballah, Prof El-Nabarawi, all ex-Deans of the Faculty ofArchaeoiogy as well as Prof Fatma Helmi and Prof Hosny Nuweisar, the dynamic Director of the Centre for the Maintenance of Antiques, Manuscripts and Museum Acquisitions, Cairo University. Their work sets a model for teamwork and co-operation carried out in orchestral harinony. The implementation of Kasr El-Aini Museum project is a story of successful cooperation triggered off by the inspired initiator of the project.
The idea of establishing Kasr El-Aini museum started thirty years ago, in 1969, when Dr. Mahmoud EI-Minawi was sent on a scientific mission to UCLA and to the Universities of Missouri, Harvard and Johns Hopkins in the U.S.A. This mission gave him the opportunity to witness what the Western countries did in order to keep a record of their medical heritage, even though some of these Universities were established far more recently than Kasr EI-Aini.
Professor El-Minawi had the chance to visit the American National Museum of Medical History in Washington D.C. This museum covered the history of medicine from the time of the Civil war until the time when the U.S. landed on the moon as a result of being able to offer the astronauts protection along the most advanced lines of technology. At the Massachusetts General Hospital of the University of Harvard, Professor El-Minawi entered the Ether Dome Hall, which is the operation theatre in which the first patient was etherized to undergo surgery. Professor EI-Minawi found Egyptian mummies exhibited in that Hall, which were once used to raise funds for establishing the hospital. This Hall then became the main component of the museum at this long-standing University
Professor El-Minawi returned from the U.S. in 1973, and contacted, the then Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Hassan Ah Ibrahim proposing a move to collect the historical relics and documents of the Faculty of Medicine at Kasr EI-Aini, which were scattered all over the Faculty building and were undocumented. Professor El-Minawi submitted a proposal figuring out what the museum would look like. He encountered numerous obstacles in the attempt to maintain and collect this medical heritage. The opportunity presented itself when the Faculty of Medicine at Kasr El-Aini was celebrating its hundred and fiftieth anniversary during the term of the Dean, Professor Yehia Taher.
When a decree was issued by the late President Anwar El-Sadat to demolish and rebuild Kasr El-Aini, stipulating that the project be funded be the state, a resolution was drawn up to collect the archaeologically important remnants of this ancient building to serve as a nucleus for the Museum. However, there were finincial and administrative obstacles, which hindered the early stages of implementing the project. In 1995, the subject was again brought up at the table of discussion and the President of Cairo' University, Prof. Mofeed Shihab, agreed to revive the idea of building the Museum, which was supposed to be constructed at the site of the new Kasr El-Aini Educational Hospital. The Museum was to be opened on the same day of the inauguration of this stronghold of medicine in the presence of the two Presidents, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and Jacques Chiraque.
The preliminary studies began, and the budget for implementing the project was drawn up, and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Kasr El-Aini, Professor Mohamed Moataz El-Sherbini approved it. An agreement was reached between the Faculty and the University administration that the Centre for the Maintenance of Antiquities
Manuscripts, and Museeum Acquisitions affiliated to the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University, should carry out the restoration of the objects collected and undertake to build the Museum.
For the third time, the project encountered administrative, financial and technical obstacles. One of the major obstacles was that the new building of Kasr El-Aini Educational Hospital was not fit for establishing the Museum for technical reasons. It was, therefore, decided that the Museum should be set up at the Headquarters of the Conference Centre, which is part of the Administration buildings of the Faculty of Medicine in the district of Manial.
Qasr Al-Eini Museum
The first Museum of an Arab Faculty of Medicine
The idea of founding the Qasr Al-Eini Museum was first initiated in 1976 by Dr. Mohammed
Almenawi, the surgeon gynecologist and obstetrician who was general secretary of the Faculty of Medicine and responsible of the Museum.
The first stage was inaugurated on March 8, 1998 in the presence of representatives of the world faculties of medicine; the second stage in March 1999 . The Museum was eventually established in the adequate form appropriate to the oldest Faculty of Medicine in the Orient.
The Museum narrates the history of medicine in the Arab Machreq, confirming the historical role played by the Qasr Al-Eini School of Medicine as a linkage between medicine in pharaonic Egypt and modern medicine.
The library of the Museum houses the following:
-Numerous rare books and references.
-An encyclopedia on "The Wise Men of Qasr Al-Eini" or the biographies of 154 professors who lectured in Qasr Al-Eini, with their photos. Some 64 amongst them go back to the 19th Century.
-Various documents and manuscripts.
-Tableaux of marble.
-An original copy of the book " Description de l’Egypte " which was written by the French scholarswho accompanied Bonaparte during his campaign on Egypt (1789)
The Story of Medicine in Egypt:
The first School of Medicine in Egypt was inaugurated in Feb.1827 following the decision of
Mohammed Ali Pacha, Wali (Ruler) of Egypt to introduce the European techniques in the Egyptian army through the assistance of French officers ; he called Klute Bey from France in 1825 to be the first surgeon in the Egyptian army assisted by a number of physicians and pharmacists. The School and the hospital were annexed to a training camp at Abu Za’abal ( in the outskirts of Cairo ). It was joined by one hundred students from Al-Azhar (the oldest theological university ) under Klute Bey , the headmaster of the School during 1827-1837.
They studied seven subjects: chemistry/physics, anatomy, physiology, pathology, medicine,
hygienics, and pharmacology; they were lectured by seven foreign physicians assisted by skillful
In 1832 Klute Bey selected 12 graduates of the School to study in France . They travelled wearing their turbans, jubbahs and caftans. They were highly praised by the head of the French Society of Medicine for their primacy and merit " being the descendants of Ibn-Sina, Al-Razi, and other Arab Scholars" as he described them; similar missions were annually sent to France.
In 1837 the School of Medicine and the hospital were transferred from Abu Za’abal to Qasr Al-Eini (named after Ibn-Al-Eini who founded it in 1466 over a wide space on the bank of the Nile to be a rest house for the Egyptian Wali or Ruler. It was used to receive princes and dignitaries, and for holding the meetings of the Mamelukes.It was later used as barracks, then a military school until 1837 when it was transferred to the School of Medicine as aforementioned)
The studying period was, then, five years; the number of students was 300 fully subsidized by the Government which paid for their housing, living, dressing, education and pocket money.
The School made a great progress and Qasr Al-Eini became famous all over the Arab countries; patients came from all parts for medical treatment in Qasr El-Eini. Many books were translated from French into Arabic language and copies there-of were sent to Istanbul and Arab countries. Egypt also offered 10 scholarships to students from the Levant to study in Qasr Al-Eini at the expense of the Egyptian Government.
One of the prominent devotees, Dr.Essa Pacha Hamdi, father of the modern school of medicine was Director of the School of Medicine in the ‘80s of the 19th Century. He was forced to resign under the pressure of the British occupation which decided to transfer the studies from Arabic to English language. But Essa Pacha Hamdi, endorsed by the Minister of Education, could introduce modern techniques to the School and renovate its labs.
Starting 1887, students lived outside the School and paid for their living and educational fees.
The first International Conference on Medicine held its sessions in Qasr Al-Eini in Dec.1902, to be inaugurated on Dec. 18 by the Khedive at the Opera House with the participation of physicians from Germany, America, Britain, Austria, France, Italy, Swiss and Spain. In his inaugural speech , the Khedive stressed the importance of holding the Conference in the Nile Valley due to its specific geographic position as a link between the East and the West. The Chairman of the Conference , Ibrahim Pacha Hassan , speaking in Arabic, referred to the holding of the Conference in the land of the Pharaohs who attained a high degree in medical knowledge.
In Oct., 1926, the School was transferred to a Faculty associated to the Egyptian University. The Schools of Dentistry, Pharmacology, Nursery and mid-wifery were joined to the Faculty of Medicine. In 1928 , female students were admitted to medical studies.
The International Conference on Tropical Medicine was held in Cairo on Dec.1928, celebrating at the same time the centenary of founding the School of Medicine, and the laying of the foundation stone of the new Faculty of Medicine and its hospital at the vicinity of Qasr Al-Eini on the Rawdah Island.
In 1929, the genius surgery professor Ali Pacha Ibrahim, disciple of Essa Pacha Hamdi, was elected Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and by virtue of his efforts, the degrees of the Faculty were recognized abroad, and the Egyptian University created higher specialized degrees in medicine matching with the highest similar degrees in European universities.
And, back and deep into history, the famous historian Herodotus wrote that ancient Egyptians
practiced medicine at an outstanding skill; nobody was allowed to practice just one specialized
medical branch-one had to study all medical branches. Physicians in the pharaonic Era enjoyed a sacred status. There was special temples for delivery, and the mid-wives were called " The Gods’ Mothers ". The priests of the deity Sekht were famous in medicine. Her son Amhoteb was renowned in medicine to the extent that he was considered God. His father was the deity Betah. Amhoteb’s statue is now at the Museum of Berlin.