Arts & Entertainment

Grand Egyptian Museum partially opens for limited tours

By Shady Roshdy

Giza, Egypt, Mar 31 (EFE).- Lying in the shadows of the pyramids of Giza sits the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), a project that has been a long time in the making and which is readying to launch amid the mounting excitement of Egyptology lovers around the world.

“There is still no specific information about the opening of the museum, but it is expected to be within five or six months,” one of the heads of the museum’s information office, Samer Seif, tells EFE from the extraordinary building located west of Cairo.

Seif is a guide who takes visitors on limited tours of the complex, including the Grand Hall, Glass Court, conference center, commercial area and exterior gardens, “to test site readiness and the visitor experience ahead of the official opening,” the museum explains on its website.

As visitors go through the museum’s main entrance, they are met with an 83-ton colossus of Ramses II that was moved there from a central square in Cairo over five years ago.

Several staircases flanked by statues of pharaohs lead visitors to “12 large galleries that have 46 exhibitions,” Seif adds.

At present, no photos or videos are allowed and access to the historical collections will only be launched once the museum has officially opened.

On the right-hand side of the lobby is a cultural area that houses an events space where a theater and a 3D cinema are located, as well as an area for restaurants, cafes and gift shops that are already open.

“Almost all the works on the main building have been completed, but the annex building that will house King Khufu’s solar boat is still missing,” the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom (2609-2584 BC), who ordered the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Ahmed Mustafa, the owner of a soft drinks and snack shop, tells EFE that he launched his shop three months ago and that he works “exclusively for event participants.”

The museum has already hosted several high-profile events such as the launch of the Dior x Denim Tears campaign in December.

Mustafa hopes that after the official opening, which will be “extraordinary”, he can double his profits due to the vast footfall which organizers say could reach 15,000 a day.

Construction work for the GEM, which will be the largest archaeological museum in the world boasting some 480,000 square meters, started in 2002.

Its building and launch have been delayed over the years due to political instability, such as the Arab Spring in 2010, and economic crises.

In 2016 Egypt was forced to let its currency crash by 48% to the dollar paving the way for an IMF bailout.

In May 2017, the then Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al Anany, told EFE: “God willing, we want to open (the museum) before May 2018.”

But the museum remained closed. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the global shutdown and economic fallout that ensued.

And as Egypt now faces one of its worst economic crises in recent history, authorities are hoping that the impressive museum will help the tourism sector recover from the lost years of lockdowns. EFE


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