One of the few pharaonic monuments in Cairo, outside of the city’s museums, is the colossal statue of Rameses II which until recently stood amid the traffic fumes in Midan Rameses (Rameses Square).
The statue was originally a companion to the Rameses statue in the museum at Mit Rahina (Memphis) and the two were set up outside the Temple of Ptah there. The remaining statue housed in the Memphis museum is only a fragment and has no legs. However, its twin is more complete and was removed to Cairo and set up in the square just outside the entrance to the main railway station in 1955. The limestone statue is 10m high and is a superbly crafted sculpture, typical of the New Kingdom Period. Rameses wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, a Nemes head-dress and a short pleated kilt. The pharaoh stands in the typical pose with his left leg forward and his arms by his sides. It is carved with the pharaoh’s cartouches on the shoulder, belt and bracelets. On the back of the statue are his titles, including ‘The strong Ox’, which refers to the pharaoh’s fertility and his strong leadership of Egypt. Unfortunately the statue of Rameses was suffering from Cairo’s environmental pollution and the limestone was being damaged and for several years there have been discussions about the removal of the statue to a safer place. Archaeological and geological studies have been conducted on the statue while it was in situ in Midan Rameses being prepared for its journey.
After fifty years as a landmark in one of the busiest squares in Cairo, where it stood beneath flyovers and surrounded by taxis and microbuses, the Rameses statue was eventually moved on 25 August 2006 to its new home. This is at the site of the Grand Egyptian Museum which is currently being constructed near the pyramids overlooking the Giza Plateau. A protective cover is to be built around the statue and it is to undergo specialist restoration work before being put on permanent display. The latest journey of the pharaoh may have been very similar to that of his original one to Mit Rahina. The transportation, accompanied by a large army convoy, employed similar techniques to those used by the ancient Egyptians for moving large statues and attracted crowds of spectators along its route. A fitting procession for Rameses the Great.
A replica of this statue now stands by the road to Heliopolis.