Construction of Grand Egyptian Museum to be completed by year’s end and partially opened in mid-2017: Minister of Antiquities

Basma Ragab
17 Min Read

The Ministry of Antiquities aims to complete construction of the first phase of the Grand Egyptian Museum before the end of the year. The museum will be partially opened by mid-2017. Meanwhile, the ministry is considering a number of proposals and suggestions to increase its resources, following the decline in tourism revenues, which dropped down to EGP 229.8m from EGP 1.273bn in 2010.

Daily News Egypt recently sat down with Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany, who revealed that the ministry is reviewing potential new sources of revenue. These sources will be presented at the upcoming Supreme Council of Antiquities meeting next week. The most prominent ideas suggested are placing advertisements on tickets to archaeological sites and offering package ticket deals to tourists.

How will the ministry deal with the decline in revenue and lower visitor numbers? What are the new ideas for developing revenue resources?

The ministry is studying several proposals and ideas for implementation in the coming period in order to improve the ministry’s revenue sources. We are considering putting forward package ticket deals that include a number of archaeological sites and are valid for several days at discounted rates, depending on the number of days and the sites included.

This proposal is not something new. Many countries around the world offer similar kinds of tickets. These packages should encourage tourists to visit more archaeological areas as they will not need to waste time buying tickets at each site.

The ministry is also studying the launch of the first auction of its kind for companies to place their advertisements on entry tickets to archaeological sites before the end of this year. We are currently reviewing the feasibility of the proposal and whether to offer a collective bid or separate bids for each area.

Does the ministry have a vision to improve inbound tourism? What are the most important operational steps?

We must first admit that the tourism crisis has many reasons behind it. It has been impacted by events across the region. It is also influenced by security. The ministry is promoting Egyptian antiquities around the world via TV channels and international media.

The ministry has opened new archaeological sites and reopened palaces, museums, and monuments that were shut down in 2011 or the two years following. This aims to change Egypt’s image and assure tourists that Egypt is safe. Allowing the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to stay open at night also highlights the safety of the entire downtown district, which will attract more tourists. The government has also been developing airport security for the same purposes.

We have recently opened the Pyramid Complex of Unas in Saqqara and the Tombs of Nefertari in Luxor. We also lowered the ticket price for groups of 15 people or fewer from EGP 19,000 to EGP 1,000.

The ministry also opened the first permanent exhibition for high-quality replicas at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir last week. I want to point out that garnering large revenues is not necessary at first, as the exhibition will serve as an initiative to improve revenues by opening similar exhibitions abroad.

What is the ministry’s plan for fully utilising archaeological sites, cafeterias, and bazaars near them?

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has cut down the rent value by 60% for cafeterias and 70% for bazaars. We aim to encourage tenants to continue their leases.

The council has also launched a closed-envelope bid to rent out 15 closed cafeterias and bazaars near archaeological sites. The committee to decide on the bid will meet next week and award the cafeterias and bazaars, after receiving all technical and financial bids. The 15 cafeterias and bazaars offered last week were in Cairo, Giza, Suez, Luxor, and Aswan.

The tenants of 250 bazaars have owed the Ministry of Antiquities EGP 29m since January 2011.

What projects and museums does the ministry plan to open or reopen soon?

The ministry has completed renovations of the Museum of Islamic Art. We are waiting for the cabinet to select a date for its inauguration in order to organise a ceremony befitting the museum’s reputation. The total cost of renovation was EGP 57m, of which EGP 50m came from the Emirati government, while the Ministry of Antiquities secured EGP 7m.

The Museum of Islamic Art was damaged by a bomb that was detonated in front of the Cairo Security Directorate in January 2014. The front walls, gates, and windows of the museum were all badly damaged, as well as some of the exhibitions inside.

The ministry also plans to reopen the Museum of Malawi—which was robbed in August 2014—next month. This will send a message to the world that Egypt is able to rebuild.

The total cost to renovate the museum was EGP 11m. The Ministry of Antiquities funded EGP 4m, the Governorate of Minya contributed EGP 3m, and Italy provided a grant of display windows worth EGP 4m, as part of the Debt for Development Exchange Programme.

The Museum of Malawi was robbed in August 2014, following the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adweya and Nahda sit-ins. Its exhibitions were stolen, walls were destroyed, and its walls were damaged from the inside and out. The remaining exhibitions were moved to the ministry’s storage houses in Minya.

The ministry recovered most of the artefacts stolen from the museum, except for 69 pieces. The total number of recovered pieces so far stands at 930 artefacts.

King Farouk Corner Palace and Al-Qasr Islamic City are scheduled to be reopened within days. The cost of rehabilitating Al-Qasr city in Dakhla Oasis was EGP 2.75m, and funded by the Japanese government.

What will be the future of the Egyptian Museum? Will it be closed after the opening of Grand Museum?

The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square will not be closed even after the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, as only part of the monuments in the current museum will be transferred to the new one. The new museum aims to display these monuments in a more sophisticated manner and in a larger venue, which provides more attractiveness and security than its current place.

The development process of the Egyptian Museum is ongoing—internal and external lighting systems began being changed a week ago, so the lighting will match the style of the building and the monuments on display.

It was suggested to the cabinet to allow the museum to remain open for another four hours in the evening (from 5.00pm to 9.00pm). The cabinet agreed for it to remain open on Sunday and Thursday and to increase the number of days if everything goes well.

The museum’s night hours will begin within the next few weeks after increasing the number of external spotlights upon request of the Ministry of Interior to ensure the security of the museum site.

Alnasser Company is responsible developing the lighting systems and for the installation of LED lighting and new lighting systems inside the museum at a cost of EGP 1.2m. Alnasser Company won the tender launched by the ministry in January to develop the museum.

Elsewedy Electric is currently working on developing the external lighting system of the museum and changing the cables at a cost of EGP 1m.

The Ministry of Tourism is funding the development project worth EGP 2.2m for the museum’s lighting system—this will take four months.

Through the opening of the museum, the ministry aims to deliver a message to the whole world that Egypt is safe and that Tahrir Square—which represents the 25 January Revolution to many foreigners—is also safe and can receive visitors at night time. This will also allow tourists to visit archaeological sites such as the pyramids and the museum at night.

Will other development work be conducted in the museum?

There is a development plan for the museum which includes installing fans for ventilation inside the halls, developing the lighting system, changing the display stands, and refurbishing the bathrooms.

The ministry allocated EGP 1m to develop the display stands and labels for information about the artefacts on display, and to bring back the museum’s showcase techniques.

These development works started in 2013 and are set to take six years. The total cost of the development works in the Egyptian Museum is €10m, which the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union are aiding us in.

Of this financing budget, €200,000 was allocated to finish the development works in the first phase, which includes developing some halls on the upper floors and the first half of the corridor leading to these halls.

Moving artefacts from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the Grand Egyptian Museum will commence in the next period without affecting the old museum’s work. The transportation of important and large pieces is delayed until the date of the museum’s partial opening is closer.

What are the most recent developments in the Grand Egyptian Museum and when will it open?

The ministry is targeting to finish all the establishment works—such as engineering, some facilities, and displays—in the Grand Egyptian Museum by the end of this year. It will be partially opened by mid-2017, which is ahead of schedule as the first phase of the opening programme was set to be in early 2018.

The ministry will announce next week which office—out of10 that competed in a tender—will design the displays in the Grand Egyptian Museum. Five foreign offices, three international coalitions, and two Egyptian offices competed for this project.

Are there any conditions for holding events or concerts at archaeological sites?

The ministry no longer allows for any occasion to be celebrated at historic citadels or cemeteries, following the concert that was held at Qaitbay citadel. This event provoked widespread debate among Egyptians, considering the sanctity of such archaeological sites to us.

The ministry only allows concerts and meetings to be held in palace gardens and archaeological museums, under several conditions. The ministry specifies certain areas that are allowed such as Baron Palace garden, Mohammed Ali palace gardens in Manial, Rokn Farouk garden, and Manasterly Palace.

The ministry allocated the courtyard of Mohamed Ali’s Mosque, Al-Rifa’i Mosque, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, and Al-Hakim Mosque for occasions such as weddings, which is available for EGP 10,000 per 100 individuals.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities increased the fees for holding social events at archaeological sites by 300% to reach EGP 60,000 per 300 individuals, compared to EGP 15,000 previously, in an attempt to increase the ministry’s income.

Are there plans to reopen closed archaeological sites and palaces?

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail called for a ministerial committee of eight ministries to be formed in order to pen a plan to develop these archaeological sites and palaces. This committee will come up with solutions and steps within six weeks from the cabinet meeting held last week.

The committee includes the ministries of housing, planning, international cooperation, finance, tourism, culture, and antiquities, as well as the general business sector.

Egypt has a total number of 45 palaces. These vary between presidential palaces, antiquarian, and museums. Of these,10 palaces require development and fast restoration, but the rest are in good condition.

The average cost required to develop, restore, and reopen each palace is between EGP 30m and EGP 150m.

What are the most important museums that have stalled due to a lack of funding?

Sharm El-Sheikh Museum has cost EGP 600m to develop so far and needs an extra EGP 600m for the completion of its construction and opening. If EGP 200m becomes available during this current period, the museum will partially open within a year.

The ministry also resumed work at the Sohag Museum, which has been closed since 1993 and needs about EGP 20m.

What are the details of the development project at the Pyramids of Giza, such as how many stages and the cost?

This month, the ministry began the first phase of the Pyramids Archaeological Zone Development Project, which is scheduled to be completed by October. The project has a total cost of EGP 51m, funded by the Ministry of Tourism.

The first phase includes constructing a visitors centre and opening the second entrance for the archaeological area on Fayoum road, as well as allocating club cars to transport visitors into the area.

The ministry hopes to start work on the second phase of the project once the first phase is completed.  The total cost of the second phase is expected to reach EGP 120m. The second phase will include developing the area around the pyramids by establishing golf courses.

The Ministry of Antiquities has sought to develop this area since 2009, and it was scheduled to be completed in 2012 at a cost of EGP 336m, but the ministry’s financial issues over the past years meant that the timetable for the project fell by the wayside.

EGP 70m has been spent on the project so far, of which EGP 50m was funded by the Ministry of Antiquities and EGP 20m was funded by the Ministry of Tourism in 2013.

The ministry assigned the task of installing and maintaining surveillance cameras around the archaeological site to the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation which will start the installation after the completion some assessments in the coming period.

The project includes installing and maintaining cameras that will operate by solar-power. The total number of cameras in this area currently is 197 cameras, including 61 non-functioning cameras in need of replacement.


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