Egypt prepares to welcome new visitors with the opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum later this year.
In 2013 I visited Egypt with my family. Tourists were slow to return after the Arab Spring (which proved to be a fantastic time for us to travel without the crowds). At 3:00pm on a Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves standing alone in the middle of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. It should have been packed with visitors, but it was empty. And without all the visitors, you could tell that the museum was cramped and overflowing with ancient artifacts.
The new Grand Egyptian Museum is the remedy to the overcrowded situation happening at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Set to open this year, at almost 700,000 square feet, it’s a mega museum. It is expected to be one of the largest archaeological museums in the world, housing about 100,000 artifacts once it is completed. The biggest draw will most likely be Tutankhamun. Since the discovery of the boy king’s tomb in 1922, only about a third of what was discovered has been on display. But the new museum is set to display the complete collection of over 5,000 objects, including his famous funerary mask.
Designed by heneghan peng architects, its location at less than two miles away from the Giza pyramids is a clever juxtaposition of the ancient and modern world. In the shadow of the pyramids, the Grand Egyptian Museum will draw visitors back through 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, with artifacts displayed in a chronological order spanning the ages of Pharaonic history. As visitors make their way through the galleries, they will also be able to see the Giza pyramids through the glass facades. And as a nod to the pyramids of Giza, the Grand Egyptian Museum’s design resembles the shape of a chamfered triangle.
In the soaring atrium, visitors are greeted by a 3,200-year-old, 30-foot high granite sculpture of Ramses II, the 19th-Dynasty pharaoh was widely regarded as the most powerful pharaoh in the Egyptian Empire. There’s also a dedicated children’s museum, educational center, workshop spaces, and conference center on the site.
While the pyramids are built on a limestone plateau, the new museum is built on a sand hill. Because of the sand, it took more time and care to prepare the building site, but the decision to build there was deliberate: the ancient Egyptians didn’t build temples or carve tombs into the sand, so there wasn’t a risk of unearthing any antiquities, which would have halted the project.
The new Grand Egyptian Museum is a source of great national pride for the country and is hoped to reinvigorate not only the tourism industry, but the next generation of Egyptians who will be responsible for protecting the Egyptian antiquities for years to come. – Haley Beham
To start planning your journey to Egypt and the Grand Egyptian Museum, contact your Ker & Downey travel designer.