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The three pyramids of Giza have majestically towered over the limestone plateau for millennia, where the Nile Valley borders the desert in the west. Two kilometers away, a wedge-shaped building opens to visitors at the end of the year, sometimes half reverently, half mockingly referred to as the fourth pyramid - the Great Egyptian Museum. The foundation stone was laid in 2002 by Hosni Mubarak, the overthrown dictator whom they called the Pharaoh in Egypt. If not his tomb, it should at least have been his memorial. But the revolution came and everything changed.
Almost everything. The museum continued to be built. Under the Muslim Brotherhood of Mohammed Morsi and under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew Morsi and inherited him as president. And while Egypt was discussing some questionable prestige projects - the $ 1 billion museum was never seriously questioned. It should be the pride of Egypt - only a victory of the national team with their hero Mohammed "Mo" Salah at the soccer World Cup could surpass it.
More exhibition space than the Louvre
And of course the museum should attract tourists, because the cultural tourism in Cairo and the Nile Valley, which was once important for Egypt, is currently not experiencing the same upswing as the seaside resorts on the Red Sea. The new Sphinx Airport in Giza is due to open half an hour away this summer. Charter planes could stop there for the tour and the tourists could already marvel at the huge new building not far from the pyramids from the air.
With a main facade 800 meters long and more exhibition space than the Louvre, the Great Egyptian Museum will, according to Tarek Tawfik, be "the largest archaeological museum in the world dedicated to a single culture": ancient Egypt. The general director of the museum, 47 years old, receives in his office. It has already been completed, as have the adjoining workshops where the conservators work. He wears a gray jacket that matches the carpet and the exposed concrete walls of the side wing, and balances glasses on his nose through which mischievous eyes look. He did his doctorate in Bonn and reports on the progress in perfect German. After years of delays, also due to the political turmoil in Egypt, his schedule seems to be the first that could actually be adhered to.
"The visitor will enter the museum through a piazza with an ancient Egyptian obelisk," he says, "the first such piazza in Egypt." Most of the obelisks were taken from the land on the Nile; Today they are on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, on St. Peter's Square (and seven others) in Rome or on the banks of the Thames in London. The legendary Pharaoh Ramses II welcomes the visitors in the atrium, a 3200 year old monumental statue made of red granite, 14 meters high and weighing more than 80 tons. She was brought here on January 25 in a special steel cage on a flatbed truck, in turn greeted by a military band and proud politicians. It's the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, but official Egypt doesn't want to be bothered with it anymore.
Visitors should move freely between the pyramids and the museum
The visitors will continue up the monumental staircase. "There are 87 large statues and monuments placed on it," explains Tawfik, all of them royal statues and parts from temples and tombs. The stairs lead to a glass facade, 25 meters high, from which the visitor can see the pyramids. It is then "on the same level as the base of the pyramids, they are included in the architectural scenario," says Tawfik. The architectural office Heneghan Peng, which won the competition in 2003, opened the structure to the Gizeh Plateau and aligned the eastern facade so that it forms a line with the top of the Khufu pyramid (Cheops). The western facade is in line with the Menkaure pyramid (Mykerinos).
The Army Shooting Club is still located between the pyramids and the museum, but according to plans it will have to give way to a new promenade until the new building is finally completed in 2022. It should enable visitors to move freely between the pyramid plateaus and the museum - be it on foot in the evening or in the heat of the day with golf carts or similar means of transport. The entire area should then develop into the "new cultural heart of the Giza Governorate," says Tawfik. Palm trees, fig trees, a few benches in the shade. One can imagine that. And also that there will be culture here - as long as it is based on the history of the country and does not openly address the contradictions of the present or even become political.
7,000 square meters for Tutankhamun alone
Until the museum is fully open in 2022, the visitor will have to be content with the idea - but he will be compensated with another highlight: the grave treasure of the famous children's pharaoh Tutankhamun, the unique, most valuable find from the Valley of the Kings. For the first time it can be shown completely. "Only about 1,800 artifacts have been shown since the tomb was discovered in 1922; now there will be 5,000," says Tawfik.
This is made possible by the generous amount of space: 7000 square meters are dedicated to Tutankhamun alone; the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square has a total of 10,000 square meters of exhibition space. Japan has financed 17 laboratories and workshops, which German archaeologists acknowledge that they are world class. Here restorers work on the treasures that were previously hidden in magazines; a total of 375 employees are already employed there today.
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