Designed to be the largest Egyptology Museum in the world, known as the GEM for short, will soon welcome visitors from around the world. Located near Cairo at the foot of the Giza Pyramids, the opening will begin the long awaited 100th year celebrations of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. All guests will get a close-up look at more than 100,000 pieces of the world’s greatest ancient treasures, including every piece of the Tutankhamun’s Treasure collection.
The Grand Egyptian Museum was designed to house the treasures from the current Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. The idea of the GEM was launched by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak 20 years ago. Strategically, a location just over a mile from the well-known Giza pyramids was chosen for the future museum.
Heneghan Peng, a Dublin-based architect, presented the winning bid in 2003 after a UNESCO-sponsored tender received over 1500 responses. Work got going right away but was interrupted multiple times, most notably by the 2011 revolution and the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
The construction project was resumed by Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the current president of Egypt. The final cost is expected to be around one billion euros, which is double the original budget, making it a monument that even the pharaohs themselves would be proud of!
The magnificent alabaster complex spreads out behind the pyramids, a half-hour drive from the center of Cairo. The structure itself blends with the desolate desert landscape setting. The exterior, which is three floors high, is embellished with Egyptian-inspired pyramidal design which includes hieroglyphic patterns.
There will be 24,000 m2 of exhibition area inside the museum, which is equivalent to several football fields. More than 100,000 antique artifacts, the most of which have never been viewed by the public, will be on display. A 12m tall statue of King Ramses II, which had been relocated from Cairo, which was previously on display in a square close to the train station, welcoming tourists as soon as they approach the original Egyptian museum near Tahir Square. The three Giza pyramids, which are the graves of the pharaohs Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaure, are visible from the vast second level glass lobby, in an unrivaled panorama.
The 5000 pieces of Tutankhamun's treasure, which Howard Carter initially discovered in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor in November 1922, are expected to draw crowds of visitors from all over the world. All the treasures of the young king, undiscovered for three thousand years, will be on display behind the exhibition cases of the large gallery. These treasures include golden masks, sarcophagi, golden beds and chariots, and mother-of-pearl jewelry inlaid with precious stones.
The renowned solar boat, which belonged to the pharaoh Khufu and was intended to transport souls to the great beyond, is another of the GEM's crown treasures. It is the largest wooden vessel in the world, measuring 42 m in length, 20 tons in weight, and being 4600 years old. It was found in 1954, not far from the tombs of Khufu's pyramid.
The Grand Egyptian Museum will include permanent displays for half of its items. The other half will be preserved in storage and restored and examined there at a sizable research center with 17 enormous, state-of-the-art restoration laboratories.
The GEM is planned to serve as a museum as well as a cultural and tourist complex. The facility will include boutiques, eateries, a meeting center, and a movie theater. The goal? help revitalize Egyptian tourism, a crucial sector of the economy that has struggled to fully recover since the political instability of 2011. Six million people a year are expected to visit the new museum, and they will be able to see the Giza pyramids as well with only one ticket.
The exact date on which the Grand Egyptian Museum will welcome visitors is all that is left to be determined. Numerous dates have been speculated about but not proven. The opening celebrations, which should be spectacular, are most likely to start around the centennial celebrations for the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the fall of 2022.