Until the mid nineteenth Century there was not any legislation governing the antiquities trade in Egypt. Thousands of archaeological objects like jewelries, statues, engravings and even whole constructions were extracted from their original places to join private or museum collections around the world. Western passion with the Egyptian antiquities began with the French Expedition to Egypt (1798-1801) after successive volumes of "Description De L'Egypte" has been published; the volumes that created a worldwide interest in Egypt and its ancient antiquities.
The first step towards eliminating the Egyptian antiquities exportation was in August 15th 1835 when Muhammed Ali Pasha, the Wali (governor) of Egypt issued a decree that fully prohibits the exportation and trade of all Egyptian Antiquities. The decree also included establishing a building at al Azbakeyya Garden in Cairo to store and save antiquities. Unfortunately the archaeological objects used to be given by the governors of Egypt to European dignitaries as presents. By the mid Nineteenth Century the antiquities collection was remarkably reduced until they were all transmitted to a small hall in the Citadel. In 1855, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria (a member of the Austrian Royal Family) visited this hall while in Cairo, he was fascinated by the collection that was given to him later by the Egyptian Wali, Abbas Pasha and was transferred to Vienna.
In 1858, Said Pasha approved on establishing the "Antiquities Service" in order to ban the illegal trade in the Egyptian Antiquities. The French scientist, August Mariette was the first Director of this governmental Service that was responsible for the excavations and on approving and supervising the foreign archaeological missions. After the approval of Khedive Isma'il, Mariette launched the first national museum in the Middle East and the temporary governmental building was opened in 1863 with the name (Antiquekhana) in Boulaq area.
For nearly one century, the Antiquities Service was under the chairmanship of French Scientists. In 1956 and with the withdrawal of the British occupation forces, the Antiquities Service became a pure Egyptian governmental institution. The first Egyptian director for the Service was Mostafa Amer, who was appointed in 1953 and continued in his office for 3 years. The Antiquities Service was affiliated to the Ministries of Public Works, Education and National Guidance in order and in 1960 it was affiliated to the Ministry of Culture. In 1971and during the chairmanship of Gamal Mokhtar, the Antiquities Service was transformed into the Egyptian Antiquities Organization then the name was changed into the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in 1994 due the presidential decree number 82 for the year 1994. Prof. Abdel Halim Nourel Din became the first Secretary General for the SCA. In 2011 the SCA became the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs and was independent from the Ministry of Culture in the cabinet of the former Egyptian Prime Minister Marshal Ahmed Shafik and Prof. Zahi Hawas was its first Minister. In 2015 the name was changed into the Ministry of Antiquities in the cabinet of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.