Culture ministry polishes up the GEM

Safaa Abdoun
4 Min Read

CAIRO: The Ministry of Culture is preparing for the grand opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, set to take visitors “back in time . navigating through the history of ancient Egypt over the past 7,000 years.

“We are in the final stages but we are awaiting a presidential decree to set the opening date since the president has to attend, said Ahmed Salah, media advisor and spokesperson of the Ministry of Culture. “It will probably by around October or November, he added.

Spread over 117 acres of land, the GEM will be located in Remaya Square on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. It is expected to house more than 100,000 artifacts from different eras, including the Pharaohnic, the Roman and the Greek.

The project kicked off in February 2002 when President Hosni Mubarak lay the first brick of the foundation at the sprawling construction site.

The decision came after authorities realized the Egyptian Museum in Tahir Square, located in the heart of Cairo, was overflowing with artifacts.

“The Egyptian Museum now is so crammed with artifacts. It is going to stay but we will be relocating some artifacts, explained Salah.

“The new museum will be able to accommodate 15,000 visitors per day. The place is breathtaking especially with the Pyramids in the background, he added.

However, not everyone is hailing the move. Renowned Egyptian architect Mamdouh Hamza disagreed with the Ministry of Culture’s decision to build the GEM in Remaya Square, saying that the area is congested with traffic and the museum will only cause more traffic problems. The atmosphere will be inappropriate for tourists, he added, since the area is also heavily polluted.

Hamza also said that not enough studies were conducted before deciding on the location. The ministry’s information center presented a number of studies to the Ministry of Culture in 1998 that prove that the area is inadequate to house a project of such magnitude. The heavy flow of traffic and the high levels of pollution will also make it difficult to expand the site in the future.

For his part, Salah assured that these factors were taken into consideration when laying out the plan, adding that bridges and streets will be constructed especially to avoid any traffic problems in the area around the museum. “As for the heavy pollution, we have specifically located it in the desert to be away from the city’s pollution, refuted Salah.

According to the Ministry of Culture’s press statement, 14 engineering and architectural firms from five different countries including Egypt and more than 120 architects and engineers collaborated on the project.

The statue of Pharaoh Ramses II will greet visitors at the entrance. The 125-ton statue was moved from Downtown Cairo to its current location near the Great Pyramids to protect it from the exhaust fumes of cars and buses.

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