It’s been a while since news first broke on Egypt’s much anticipated new antiquities museum: the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which will be the largest archeological museum in the world. The opening date has been pushed back on multiple occasions, but the museum now says it will open in the final quarter of the year, with 94.5 percent of the work currently completed
If you have visited Cairo’s existing Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, you’ll notice a definite leap from the 19th to the 21st century with this opening. Where the old museum has been a storehouse of treasures, the new one is a $1 billion state-of-the-art, glass and concrete display space that leads guests through a journey similar to Howard Carter’s when he discovered the Boy King’s tomb a century ago. The new location—outside central Cairo, on the Giza plateau on the edge of the Western Desert—looks out at the famous pyramids and adds even more atmosphere.
The GEM was first announced in 1992, partially to deal with what was considered a pretty unsatisfying selection of institutions showcasing Egypt’s inheritance. The location was chosen to get around the issues of moving visitors through central Cairo’s infamous traffic, but Irish architects Heneghan Peng have also addressed visitor overcrowding, poor acoustics, and, crucially, conservation threats. There will be more than enough space, as Eltayeb Abbas, the new museum’s head of archaeology, put it, “for us to welcome the world and show them the best of our ancient civilization.” The ambition is huge: officials hope the GEM will immediately attract 5 million visitors a year (roughly the same as the Tate Modern, the U.K.’s most visited attraction) and shortly after, surpass the 7 million annual visitors to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.