Construction on Egypt's $1bn museum will be completed by end of year

The Grand Egyptian Museum will house around 100,000 ancient artefacts and is set to open in 2021

epa07755896 An Egyptian archeologist works next to the gilded coffin of King Tutankhamun that is undergoing a restoration process at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, Egypt, 04 August 2019. The gilded coffin of king Tutankhamun was transported in mid-July from his tomb at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor to the Grand Egyptian Museum for an eight-month restoration process, the first since the tomb was discovered in 1922, before displaying among his treasured collection at the museum.  EPA/MOHAMED HOSSAM
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The Grand Egyptian Museum, an ambitious $1 billion project that will house the largest collection of artefacts from ancient Egypt, is set to be completed by the end of 2020.

The confirmation comes from Major General Atef Moftah, who is also an engineer and was tasked by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to lead the endeavor in 2016. Located on the Giza plateau, the archaeological museum will measure nearly half a million square metres is now "96.5 per cent" complete, says Moftah.

The museum will contain around 100,000 artefacts that will be installed over a period of months before the official opening in 2021.

Its construction has been stalled for decades. Plans for the project were first announced in 1992, and the museum was meant to open in 2011, but efforts have faced numerous setbacks. Even the 2021 schedule is the result of a recent delay after Al Sisi halted construction activities across Egypt in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What to expect when it opens

Designed in 2003 by Heneghan Peng, an architecture firm from Dublin, the museum will feature a triangular wall motif, much like its neighbouring structures the Pyramids of Giza, which can be see through large glass windows from inside the building.

At the heart of the museum’s collection are 5,000 artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The millennia-old artefacts feature golden treasures, from statues, fans and jewellery, to objects owned by the pharaoh, such as boomerangs and walking sticks.

Since the 1960s, a number of Tutankhamun’s treasures have been touring the world via the exhibition Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh organised by entertainment company Exhibitions International. However, there has been controversy around the legality of the loaning of the works, according to a BBC investigation. The report revealed that the loan may have breached Egypt’s Antiquities Protection Law, which states that artefacts cannot be lent to commercial companies.

The objects are set to permanently return to Egypt when the exhibition ends in 2024, which means that the Grand Egyptian Museum may open without the much sought-after collection.

A statue of Ramses the Great will tower over visitors in the atrium that has been specifically customised to its size. At 11 metres high, it will be the largest artefact in the museum once it opens. Made of red granite and weighing 83 tonnes, the statue arrived at the site in 2018, transported from just outside of Cairo’s main railway station where it used to be displayed.

On Thursday, August 6, two royal statues arrived in Egypt from the US after the artefacts were displayed in the touring exhibition The Sunken Cities: The Enchanting World of Egypt, which started in 2015 and has also previously travelled to Paris, London, and Zurich.

The two pink granite statues, both five metres high and depict a Ptolemaic king and queen, will also be housed inside the museum.

Along a grand staircase in the main hall, 87 statues of pharaohs and Egyptian gods will stand as a testament to the region’s ancient history. Preservation efforts of other objects and artefacts, specifically Tutankhamun’s treasures, are still underway to make them display-ready when the museum finally welcomes visitors.