It took about 20 years to build the Great Pyramid of Giza, archaeologists believe. It will take about the same amount of time for the Grand Egyptian Museum to be completed.
Given the scale of the project, it is not entirely surprising. Conceived in 1992, the US$550 million (Dh2.02 billion) museum is an undertaking worthy of the Pharaohs: a vast, stone-roofed structure that will extend from the edge of the Giza plateau across an area the size of 11 football pitches. The museum will house more than 100,000 ancient artefacts, chief among which are the contents of King Tutankhamen’s tomb.
“Egypt’s heritage is very important for its tourism, and so although we have to protect it, we also have to sell it in some way,” says Professor Alaa al Din Shaheen, the dean of Cairo University’s faculty of archaeology and a member of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
With a project manager due to be announced this month, tendering due in September and a new opening date set for 2013, the museum project cannot come too soon for Cairo. Tourism is integral to the Egyptian economy, with receipts from visitors growing four-fold over the past decade to reach more than $11bn last year. The industry accounts for 11 per cent of Egypt’s GDP.
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