The Grand Egyptian Museum holds in trust for Egypt and the World a chronological statement of Egypt’s ancient history over the past 7000 years. Neighbouring a timeless wonder, the Giza Pyramids, the new museum, pays homage to eternal Ancient Egyptian monuments, treasures, and history, hosting over 100,000 artefacts, about 3500 of which belong to the famous King Tutankhamen.
The design for the Grand Egyptian Museum was reached as a result of an international architectural competition initiated by the Ministry of Culture on 7 January 2002. The competition was under the patronage of UNESCO and supervised by the UIA. The museum complex aims to provide visitors with a uniquely enjoyable, educational, and cultural experience.
The Grand Egyptian Museum will allow Egypt to become a central worldwide hub for Pharaonic history and a must-visit place for Egyptologists. The museum aims to grasp the diversity of Egypt’s heritage of monuments and arts needed to be shown in one location to maintain and preserve this considerable legacy.
The site chosen for the GEM is only 2km from the legendary Pyramids. Nestled between the ancient Great Pyramids and the modern city of Cairo, at the junction between the desert and the fertile floodplain, the Grand Museum is a portal to the past. The Giza plateau Memphis and its Necropolis, nominated by UNESCO among the World Cultural Heritage Sites, contains irreplaceable monuments. The museum complex will be built on approximately 117 feddans, about 480,000 square meters.
With its unique position on the cusp between the past and the present, the Grand Egyptian Museum will lie as the repository for ancient artefacts that creates an interactive experience for the visitor; it will build a bridge between the past and the future.
The present Egyptian Museum in Cairo was designed at the end of the 19th century and inaugurated on 15 November 1902. The museum adopted a neo-classic style, keeping with its immediate architectural surroundings and reflecting the classical tendencies of many of the artefacts it was intended to house. The building was designed to facilitate the easy flow of visitors from one gallery to another while considering contemporary standards of air circulation and natural lighting.
When the museum was inaugurated, it had approximately 500 visitors daily, circulating within 15,000 sqm. ; today, the visitors’ number reaches 5,000 – 7,000 a day. Back then, the museum housed 35,000 artefacts; today, the museum houses more than 140.000 objects, excluding those currently stored in the basement of the building. Still, more entities remain in the warehouses attached to various archaeological sites elsewhere in Egypt.
With around 2.500.000 visitors annually, overcrowding has become an inevitable problem. Consequently, the Egyptian government has allocated a piece of land, with the great pyramids of Giza as its backdrop, on which to build the Grand Egyptian Museum. The GEM is intended to house more than 100.000 artefacts.
On 4 February 2002, the foundation stone of the Grand Egyptian Museum was laid to announce to the world that Egypt is committed to building a significant cultural monumental and to send a global message that the Egyptian civilization will always be a source of enlightenment.
The unique legacy of this ancient civilization is needed to be presented within a single building. This edifice is a repository and a showcase for the development and achievements of Ancient Egypt. However, the question arose, “How can one building span the area between heaven and earth?”
Only LIGHT can span this space between Heaven & Earth, and through light, vision is born, which has guided the Pharaohs and all of creation.
The Grand Egyptian Museum was guided by this vision, a single source, faint yet filled with the strength to glow with the power of a thousand suns. This source was the inspiration to build this edifice and bring about its birth through an exceptional concept and an outstanding design.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is a place that allows its visitors a unique experience of going back in time and navigating through the story of Ancient Egypt over the past 7000 years and enjoying a voyage through one of the richest cultural heritages ever created.
The Diffraction of light through the prism reveals the organization of individual galleries occupying the visual lines of the pyramids.
Egypt is the most ancient centre of civilization, art and culture. Art has operated as a common denominator throughout history during the Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic periods, even during times of invasion. The constant expression of life through art has remained an inherent trait of Egypt and its inhabitants. The Grand Egyptian museum is conceived to be an exemplary manifestation of this trait, exhibiting civilization with all its dynamics: the land of Egypt, kingship and state, daily life, religion and knowledge.
The museum’s mission is to preserve, document, conserve, research, exhibit its collections and educate and entertain its visitors, whether adults or children. The primary concern of the museum is to satisfy visitors through serving as a world-class, hospitable and dynamic institute to engineer new experiences capable of raising the visitors’ curiosity and including the pleasure of discovery and enjoyment of culture.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is located only 2 kilometres from the Giza Pyramids plateau, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, extending in a north-south direction for about 30 km from Abu Rawash to Dahshour, including the Abu Ghorab, Abu Sir and Saqqara archaeological area. North of the Pyramids plateau is the Hassana Dome, a unique geomorphologic feature designated as a Protected Area.
The area allocated for the Grand Egyptian Museum is about 480,000 sq.m. It exists on a higher hill at the beginning of the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road and is also accessed from the Fayoum Desert Road.
Museum Site With Connection to Pyramids
The Grand Egyptian Museum establishes a strong visual relationship to the Pyramids. It creates a single site for the museum and the ancient wonder showing a kind of formal dialogue. Nestled between the ancient Great Pyramids and the modern city of Cairo, at the junction between the desert and the fertile floodplain, the Grand Egyptian Museum is a portal to the past. The top of the Museum level will have a wonderful panorama of the three Giza Pyramids without obstacles.
While the museum is organized within the visual axis from the site to the Pyramids, the site organization also describes a relationship to Cairo. From the top of the plateau, the path of the Nile Park inscribes a
cone of vision to Cairo, creating the opportunity for a viewing point both over the city and the Pyramids. The site acts as the intersection between modernity and antiquity, literally redirecting the visitor from the modernity of Cairo and Alexandria to the ancient heritage of the Egyptians.
GEM Landscape Plan
The functional areas and spatial sectors for GEM have been identified concerning the various activities corresponding to the requirements of users and staff and to fulfilling the project’s objectives. The total area of the development (indoor-outdoor) is estimated to cover 480,000 square meters.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is a complex of buildings and landscapes with one identity. The Master plan geometry structures the site at all scales, from site plan to exhibition showcases, such that navigation within the complex is straightforward. The landscape displays several thematic parks, cafes and restaurants that offer entertainment and enjoyable resting places. This concept extends beyond site boundaries as the sightline structures the main building to the pyramids. The main building comprises various exhibition spaces, library, mediateque, education centre, conference centre and retail but is represented externally by one coherent surface-the translucent Sierpinski Wall. This wall is the iconographic identity of the entire complex. On approach to the site from Cairo, the Sierpinski Wall captures visitors’ attention and will be appreciated regarding the pyramids.
The GEM is designed in such a manner to create a world-class building capable of demonstrating the progress, evolution and development of the Egyptian civilization. The technological infrastructure of the complex allows for the creation of modern archives and a library capable of facilitating the management, maintenance, and preservation of the collection and research-related activities.
The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is currently one of the most significant museum development projects globally. Given the global interest in pharaonic history, Egypt and, in particular, the resident of Cairo are eagerly anticipating the arrival of this new cultural destination.
In February 2002, the Foundation Stone of the Grand Egyptian Museum was laid (GEM). Thus it announces that Egypt is committed to building a significant cultural monumental building. Also, it sends a global message that the Egyptian civilization will always be a source of enlightenment to the whole world.
In 2002, It was announced the launching of an International Architectural Competition to design the largest Museum of Egyptology in the world on a site neighbouring the timeless Pyramids of Giza. The international competition was carried out under the patronage of UNESCO and the supervision of the International Union of Architects (UIA). With unanimous agreement and conviction, the entire Jury members were awarded the First Prize for the design created by the Architectural Firm of Heneghan /Peng from Ireland, announced in an official press conference held in July 2003.
The implementation of the GEM project started in May 2005 and included three main phases. The construction consists of the following main elements: Museum and Conference centre (Main Building); elements of the Menkaurus Retaining Wall and other retaining structures; auxiliary buildings including restaurants; car and coach parking; exhibition works, and an extensive External Works package.
The land area is 470.974 m2, divided into the main Museum and Conference Center Building with an area of 133.282 m2, Auxiliary Buildings have a place of 34.014 m2, and the Landscaping area is 303.678 m2.
Project Design Overview
Architects of international stature undertook the design of the museum. It was an open invitation to architects and consultants worldwide to engage in a challenging act of creative innovation that stipulated a unique architecture for the long-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum. Neighbouring a timeless wonder, the Giza Pyramids, the new museum, pays homage to eternal Ancient Egyptian monuments, treasures, and history. A solid visual linkage between the new museum site and the pyramids themselves suggested architectural choices that would not waste the possibility of establishing a kind of formal dialogue.
The design project aims to establish a state-of-the-art museum complex providing facilities and access to a broad range of information. The museum complex furnishes all its visitors with a uniquely enjoyable, educational and cultural experience. Architects were challenged to design a new museum spacious enough to accommodate the vast collections and allow visitors to ‘navigate’ along the many routes offered by a modern museum. An evocative thematic and culturally sensitive approach to display would be necessarily put within the context of the exhibited artefacts.
In January of 2002, the Egyptian government announced a worldwide competition to design a new museum complex to house, display, and preserve some of the world’s greatest ancient treasures with which the modern country of Egypt has the privilege of being entrusted.
The following month, a ceremonial foundation stone was laid at the site selected for the new project. The location exists only two kilometres away from Egypt‘s most significant monuments and the only remaining wonder of the ancient world – the Pyramids of Giza.
In 2003, the winner of the architectural design competition was announced at a press conference in Cairo, with the Irish firm Heneghan Peng Architects securing the contract to turn their ultra-modern concept into the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
Construction on the new museum began in earnest in 2005, but setbacks of environmental, financial, and political natures soon beset the ambitious project, and massive delays ensued.
As the outbreak of the Arab Spring reached Egypt in early 2011, work on the project ground to a halt as the country experienced several years of unfortunate political instability and uncertainty. During these years, tourism to Egypt also dwindled, drying up the government’s coffers and jeopardizing the grand new museum’s future.
However, following the restabilization of the government in 2014 and the preservation of that stability ever since, the project soon got back on track, and construction resumed with the help of international loans to cover the financial shortfalls caused by the lingering effects of the tourism downturn.
When the Grand Egyptian Museum fully opens to the public in late 2020, it will be the most significant archaeological museum complex globally and host to more than 100,000 artefacts. For the first time, King Tut’s entire treasure collection will be on display alongside artefacts from pre-historic times through Egypt’s many thousands of years of pharaonic civilization through the more modern ancient Greek and Roman periods of Egyptian history.
While the Egyptian government announced that the GEM would open its doors to the general public in 2018 and again in 2019, we cautioned that those opening dates would change. However, we believe that the late-2022 target is set in stone.
30 September 2019: The Grand Egyptian Museum received 331 artefacts, including the 42 pieces belonging to King Tutankhamun that were on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.
In addition, the Grand Egyptian Museum received 27 pieces of wood from King Khufu’s second ship located at its restoration lab near the Pyramid.
Director-General of Archaeological Affairs at the Grand Egyptian Museum, Tayeb Abbas, said that the artefacts of King Tutankhamun are still in good condition. Relics of King Tutankhamun include a collection of sandals made of Halfa, weaving threads and papyrus, and a wooden silo used to preserve grains and seeds,
Moreover, among King Tutankhamun‘s belongings transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum are a set of food utensils and a quiver of arrows used by King Tutankhamun on his hunting trips. This is in addition to the statue of god Serapes, the official god of ancient Alexandria, worshipped in the Greco-Roman era, and another figure of a naos containing the god Harpocrates and the child Horus.
Director-General of the Executive Affairs for Restoration and Transportation of Antiquities at the Grand Egyptian Museum Essa Zeidan stated that the parts of Khufu’s second ship are large-scale pieces. Therefore, these pieces were transported within the Egyptian-Japanese joint project to extract and restore the boat.
This process brings the number of artefacts transferred from the ship to the restoration centre on the site to 892 wooden pieces. The team carried out three-dimensional documentation and registration and the necessary restoration work of all the pieces before the transfer.
Zeidan further clarified that archaeologists, restorers, and security staff of the Grand Egyptian Museum are in a race with time to complete the transportation and restoration works before the museum’s official opening in 2020; the Grand Egyptian Museum’s team has so far succeeded in transporting 49,797 antiquities.