Twenty years after the late Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak laid its foundation stone, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is nearing completion. A press release issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on February 7 gave eerily precise percentages to indicate progress. While 100% of the structural work, including the vast atrium and the grand staircase, is now complete, the interior fittings were described as 99.8% complete, the exterior spaces 98%, the section devoted to the objects of the king Tutankhamun “more than 99%” and the main exhibition halls 96%. So far, more than 56,000 of the estimated 100,000 artifacts have been moved to the site near the Giza pyramids.
At nearly 500,000 square meters and an expected cost of over $1 billion, GEM will be the world’s largest museum dedicated to a single civilization. The exhibits will show items chronologically from prehistory to the Greco-Roman period and will also bring together Tutankhamun’s entire collection of treasures – over 5,300 artifacts – for the first time since his tomb was discovered a century ago. by British archaeologist Howard Carter. in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor.
The Tutankhamun Gallery is described as the museum’s “crown jewel” on the website of Acciona, a Spanish infrastructure conglomerate whose subsidiary Acciona Cultural Engineering is working on the gallery’s exhibition design and other GEM spaces. According to project director Nicolás Gutiérrez Martínez, the displays dedicated to the little king are one of the most difficult elements of the design. “Imagine working around a collection about a pharaoh everyone knows. There’s a lot of mystery and history. How do you present that? he says The Arts Journal.
The response was mild: Martínez describes the final presentation as “theatrical” with dramatic lighting that will make the ceiling look like a star-filled sky. Downlights will illuminate key objects in screens. The aim is to create an atmosphere that captures the feeling of death emerging into a new beginning, in keeping with ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife. “It’s super cool!” Martinez concludes.
Speculation about the opening date abounds, but it seems likely that the museum will open in November, coinciding with the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb on November 4, 1922. “If the conditions related to the coronavirus are stable, then the [museum’s] the opening would take place in the second half of the year,” said Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled el-Anany. ABC News in January. “We will be ready by the middle of this year… but we want to make sure that our guests can arrive in large numbers. Our goal is to invite presidents and kings from all over the world,” he added.
On the ministry’s Facebook page, many followers have asked for the official opening date of the GEM. The same answer was given to all: “We will announce the opening when the date is fixed.”