A gem in the landscape
The Ministry of Culture opened a bid early this week for the four specialised companies that won an international competition to carry out the third and final phase of the construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). This phase includes the construction of the museum’s main building and its inner galleries.
Culture Minister Farouk Hosni expects that the construction work, which will begin in February following approval by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), sponsor of the GEM, will last for 26 months. He says that in order to choose the best and most qualified company for the GEM’s construction, bid files will be distributed among the four chosen companies to be studied and to help them in proposing their offers.
In June this year, in partnership with JICA, the first two phases of the project — including a power plant, fire station and fully-equipped conservation centre with 12 laboratories and four storage galleries — were launched by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak.
Hosni described the museum as a mega project for Egypt, one of the “world’s most ambitious projects” and “the museum of the century”.
Building a state-of-the-art museum near the Pyramids of Giza, Hosni adds, will create the best environment for the display of the priceless treasures of ancient Egypt. There will be more space, better lighting and more information available “to do justice to our heritage”.
Farouk Abdel-Salam, supervisor of the culture minister’s office, pointed out that the $600- million GEM project would also encompass a conference centre with an auditorium for 1,000, catering to theatrical performances, concerts, conferences and business meetings. The main auditorium will be supplemented by seminar rooms, meeting halls, a multi-purpose hall suitable for a variety of events, along with an open plan gallery for accompanying exhibitions. A special section for children will be created in order to encourage young people to learn about their heritage.
The galleries will display objects drawn from the prehistoric up to the early Roman periods. The unique funerary objects of Tutankhamun; Hetepheres, mother of King Khufu; Yuya and Thuya, the grandfathers of Pharaoh Akhenaten; Senedjem, the principal artist of Pharaoh Ramses II; the royal mummies and the treasures of Tanis will all be on permanent display.
A 7,000-square-metre commercial area with retail shops, cafeterias, restaurants, and leisure and recreational activities is planned for the ground floor level. There will also be a 250-seat cinema.
Development of the 117-feddan GEM site overlooking the Giza Plateau is designed to make more than a nodding pass to the surrounding desert landscape. The museum complex will centre on the Dunal Eye, an area containing the main exhibition spaces. From this central hub a network of streets, piazzas and bridges will link the museum’s many sections. The design is by Shih-Fu Peng of the Dublin firm Heneghan, winners of the international architectural competition held in 2003.
According to Peng, the museum, which will be partly ringed by a desert wall containing half a million semi-precious stones, will act as a link between modern Cairo and the ancient Pyramids.