The Grand Egyptian Museum took two decades and a billion dollars to build; now, the largest museum in the world that’s dedicated to one civilization will finally be opening its doors to the public.
Those planning to pay a visit to Egypt may want to book a trip to the soon-to-be-open Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) for a number of reasons. The gargantuan cultural depository is not only an architectural wonder—it also happens to be among the largest museums in the world, and the biggest one that’s solely dedicated to a single civilization.
Though there isn’t a specific opening date, Architectural Digest reports of a possible, late 2023 inauguration.
An Institution Worthy of the Pharaohs
According to Artnews, GEM has a 120-acre footprint. Its 484,000 square feet of space will house an impressive 100,000 artifacts. What’s more, 20 percent of these historical pieces will be on public display for the very first time, giving visitors plenty to look forward to. In fact, all 5,000 objects from Tutankhamen’s tomb will be on display across two spacious museum halls, as per Architectural Digest. These include jewels, chariots, garments, and the like.
Another thing to look out for would be the 3,200-year-old, 36-foot statue of Rameses II, which will stand proudly in GEM’s grand atrium. The museum’s team of architects and archaeologists even went as far as replicating an ancient phenomenon in the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Ancient Egyptians built the pyramid in a way that allowed sunlight to shine on Ramses II’s face on the same date annually. The magnificent statue in GEM experiences the same thing, with sunlight shining on its face every February 21st.
Given the scale and magnificence of the museum’s collection, it’s no surprise that many experts expect it to become the prime hub for archaeological and historical study.
The grand museum is one that’s been 20 years and one billion dollars in the making. Ireland-based Heneghan Peng Architects is the firm behind its vision, as their vision for the institution won a prestigious 2003 design competition against other renowned architectural firms.
The building, which blends modern elements with ancient Egyptian motifs, stands between Cairo and the Great Pyramid of Giza. As Architectural Digest puts it, the institution acts as both a physical and metaphorical bridge between the country’s past and present.
GEM’s lengthy construction is due to a variety of setbacks. These include the 2008 financial crisis, the Arab Spring in 2011, and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as recently as March 2022, Building Design + Construction reported that the museum was 99 percent complete, with the remaining one percent encompassing “final touches and logistics.”
Reclaiming A Nation’s Cultural Heritage
The museum’s very existence is important, as foreign institutions have stolen many significant cultural artifacts from their countries of origin. Take a case in 2022, when the New York Attorney’s Office seized five Egyptian antiques worth $3 million from the MET after an investigation into their trafficking. More recently, authorities have captured an art dealer behind the trafficking ring that smuggled Egyptian antiquities to the MET and Louvre.
GEM will not only be an alluring and educational tourist attraction—it also stands as a symbol of reclamation. It’s an institution that protects Egypt’s treasures and establishes the country’s sovereignty over their own cultural heritage.
Banner photos via Instagram @grandegyptianmuseum.