There are few tourist experiences as eagerly awaited as Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). This isn’t simply a museum, it’s a destination in its own right. The more than five-million-square-foot state-of-the-art museum has panoramic views of the Pyramids of Giza and is the largest archaeological museum in the world. It will also house the greatest collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. However, six years ago its entire existence was in doubt when the development came to a standstill. It was then that the Minister of Antiquities called on the best person he could find to take on the role as general director and ensure its success, Egyptologist Dr Tarek Sayed Tawfik.

“I’m an academic, and I didn’t plan to become a museum director.” Dr Tawfik says. “But this project was not advancing, and I followed this patriotic demand and took over.”

You can hear in his voice how proud he is in achieving this monumental feat – and rightly so. Dr Tawfik was instrumental in both securing funding to ensure its completion, and choosing and transporting 50,000 artifacts, but he’s quick to add it was a team effort.

“This is not a project that one person achieved. This is a project of an entire generation, and I am very proud that I was able to be involved as a chief administrator at a crucial time. I hope the whole world will enjoy this fantastic monument that Egypt has built.”

 

“This is not a project that one person achieved. This is a project of an entire generation, and I am very proud that I was able to be involved as a chief administrator at a crucial time. I hope the whole world will enjoy this fantastic monument that Egypt has built.”

view of the entrance of the GEM with huge statues of pharaohs and Egyptian gods

Gracing the entrance of GEM are huge statues of pharaohs and Egyptian gods

a view of an artifact

Dr Tarek Sayed Tawfik with one of the incredible artifacts that was restored on site at GEM

The five-million-square-foot state-of-the-art museum has panoramic views of the Pyramids of Giza and is the largest archaeological museum in the world.

two people standing in front of the pyramids of Giza

The pyramids of Giza are royal tombs built for three different pharaohs

Awe-inspiring artifacts

There’s no questioning GEM’s importance. The museum will be the first to feature all 5,000 objects found inside King Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Of those, more than 4,000 were either on display in another museum or in storage. “They had to be moved in a very careful way because they are mostly of organic nature and fragile.” Dr Tawfik explains. He says the exhibit will offer an entirely new insight into the life of the Pharaoh. “For the first time, you can see his clothing and sandals. In his tomb, he had a lot of preserved foods for the second life after death. There was beef and duck, bread and treats. It’s as close as you will get to his life.” Leading to King Tut’s tomb is a grand staircase that showcases statues of pharaohs and Egyptian gods. In total, 40,000 artifacts were transported to the museum from all over Egypt, and more than 30,000 artifacts were restored at GEM, which has the largest conservation center in the world
an artifact being worked on
an artifact being worked on
an artifact being worked on

In total, 40,000 artifacts were transported to the museum from all over Egypt

The museum will be the first to feature all 5,000 objects found inside King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Of those, more than 4,000 were either on display in another museum, or in storage.

More than a museum

The building itself is undeniably a piece of art. Heneghan Peng Architects in Ireland was appointed to design the structure after a worldwide search that resulted in 1,577 entries from 83 countries. It is the size of a major airport terminal and includes multiple restaurants, shops, a children’s museum, conference and education facilities and a large conservation centre. Guests enter via an atrium with a more than 131-foot high ceiling where the largest artefact in the museum sits, a nearly 40-foot high statue of Egyptian King Ramses II. The 3,200-year-old statue weighs 166,000 pounds and is so large and fragile, it was transported vertically.

Interest is visiting GEM is already high, and Dr Tawfik says they’re expecting five million visitors initially, but the museum is designed to host up to eight million people a year.

While no longer director general, Dr Tawfik still plays a key role as part of the scientific committee and says it’ll be something he’ll always be proud of. “This monument that Egypt has built allows us to preserve the ancient Egyptian culture, which is an important part of humankind heritage for future generations.”

The museum is scheduled to open in October 2021.

view of the Great Sphinx of Giza

The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the largest and oldest statues in the world