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Grand Egyptian Museum to open August 2015, says minister

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CAIRO: Expected to be a “monument” in itself, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) entered its third and final phase of construction this week and will open in August 2015, the minister of antiquities said on Tuesday.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, said at the signing ceremony that there will be no delays to “the inauguration of the museum, which is expected in August 2015. …This is a commitment to ourselves and to you all.”

Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) and the Belgian BESIX Group announced Tuesday their dedication to completing the project on time as they signed the official contracts. A joint venture between the two companies was awarded the contract for phase three last month, a deal valued at $810 million.

Envisioned to be an architectural masterpiece, the museum will be constructed over the plateau overlooking the Pyramids of Giza. Egypt’s main museum has been the iconic structure located in the heart of the capital in Tahrir Square since 1902.

Unlike any other museum in Egypt, the GEM will have its own state-of-the-art conservation center to preserve the historical artifacts on display, which will number more than 100,000. It is expected to be the largest conservation center in the world.

Ibrahim said the start of this phase of construction comes at a historical moment as Egypt celebrates the anniversary of the January 25 uprising, which toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

He said he hoped this new addition to Egypt’s history will “honor” the brave youth of the revolution.

On Tuesday morning, OCI and BESIX officials along with the minister of antiquities inaugurated the construction site.

The project, which will include its own advanced security system, unlike the downtown Cairo Museum, is 65 percent funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The OCI-BESIX construction contract totals approximately $815 million, or 42.8 million Japanese Yen plus LE 1.6 million.

“Earlier today, we signed for the construction of the museum, which will be a great addition to tourism in Egypt, a great addition to the economy and construction, as 5,000 employment opportunities will be created during the construction phase,” said Osama Bishai, OCI Construction Group’s Managing Director, who will be overseeing the project.

GEM will host permanent exhibition galleries, special exhibitions, virtual and large format screens, housing about 100,000 artifacts, on a total floor area of 32,000 square meters.

Officials expect that 5 to 8 million visitors will flock to the museum every year.

The largest part of the museum project is designed to host a variety of outdoor activities in an open-air space comprised of the Piazza, an open air exhibition, Dunal Park, Nile Park, Recreational Park, Temple Garden and Land of Egypt Park.

According to the construction plans laid out by OCI and BESIX, the museum will come with its own environmental screens, which are an “essential” feature that allow for environmental control of each section separately for the preservation of artifacts, while maintaining the feel created by the open space.

With a Sierpinski exterior made of translucent material that is meant to allow outdoor illumination to enter at night, the wall will also act as a landmark to the project.

BESIX, founded in 1909, is responsible for devising construction methods for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest tower in the world, as well as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and the Yas island Ferrari in Abu Dhabi.

The company has also built museums, skyscrapers, palaces, hotels and airports around the world.

“We’ve had a steady partnership with OCI for 16 years, starting with the Conrad hotel in Cairo, the Nile City Complex, and several other ventures, including the Suez Canal Way Bridge,” said Jean-Claude Jacquemart, BESIX deputy general manager.

“We would like to announce our dedication to this project, let us start working on this achievement,” he said with enthusiasm to media, the minister, and business officials present at the signing ceremony.

Plans to construct the museum first surfaced in 2002 and it was expected to be opened partially in the fall of 2012, according to the Associated Press.

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