Originally scheduled to open in 2011, one of the world’s most prestigious museum complexes, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), is finally set to open its doors mid-2021.
Located in Giza, near Cairo, the GEM will have on display the world’s largest collection of Egyptian artefacts, including the treasures from the Tutankhamun tomb, making it a veritable cultural highlight for this coming year.
Art lovers, archaeologists and historians have been waiting for this event for almost two decades. It was back to February 2002 when the foundation stone was laid for the Grand Egyptian Museum, a massive cultural institution exclusively dedicated to ancient Egyptian civilisations. Originally planned for inauguration in 2011, the GEM construction finally took much longer, with compounded delays.
Now, according to experts as well as to the Egyptian government, the GEM will finally open its doors by mid-2021. The transfer and installation of some 100,000 artefacts started at the end of last year. It will take four to six months to complete. Some 20,000 pieces will be on show. Among the artefacts are the 3,000 treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun. This will be the “piece de resistance” of the future complex.
Considered “Egypt’s gift to the world”, the government expects to see many dignitaries and heads of State coming for the opening ceremony. The complex is forecast to receive two to three million visitors to in its first year. This is a relatively modest target as the current National Egyptian Museum had been welcoming 2.7 million visitors annually. But in the long-term, the GEM intends to see up to eight million visitors a year.
Such a number should not be a problem for the complex. The GEM will be as as colossal as the granite giants of Egyptian kings in the Nile Valley. With its 490,000 sq m surface space, the museum is as large as a major airport terminal. Its transparent glass façade moreover bears similarities to an air terminal.
But instead of seeing planes docking at the building, visitors will be greeted by the 11m-high, red granite statue of Ramses the Great. The giant figure is the highlight of a collection of 87 statues of pharaohs and Egyptian gods on display along the central staircase.
The Tutankhamun galleries will be on the upper floor and will display pieces never seen before by the general public, from jewels to objects of daily life. Through the façade, visitors will be able to admire the panorama of nearby Giza Pyramids and the desert.
Around the museum, architects planned five gardens and parks. The “Land of Egypt” park is a thematic area intended to reflect and supplement the themes of the Grand Egyptian Museum. The park is conceived as a secret garden made of lush vegetation as seen along the Nile.
Another garden, the “Nile Park” is to be reflective of the River Nile. Waterfalls, canals and water-related elements will evoke the meandering of the river and the geometrical landscapes along the water artery.
Total investment in the GEM official had been planned at around €450m but the final bill is now approaching almost double that amount. Most of the funding has come from Japanese loans. The Japan International Cooperation Agency also helped in training hundreds of Egyptian curators and archaeologists.
An interesting fact is that the Tutankhamun Exhibition which toured London, Paris and Los Angeles in 2018 and 2019 attracted 2.7 million visitors. The touring exhibition helped raise funds of almost €17m to be dedicated to the GEM. The same visitors will now have the chance to experience Tutankhamun in his grand new premises “back home”.