Column: Visiting the Grand Egyptian Museum


In our continuing tour of Egypt, we visit the Grand Egyptian Museum, or GEM, which will soon bring Egypt’s most famous attractions within walking distance of each other.

The Grand Egyptian Museum is on the Giza Plateau a little more than a mile from the famous Giza pyramids. The massive museum, the largest of its kind in the world, includes 20 acres of indoor exhibit space and a 7-acre courtyard.  The cornerstone of the museum was laid in 2002 and completion was originally scheduled for 2013, at an expected cost of $500 million. A series of delays have repeatedly pushed back the official opening, now scheduled for this spring, and increased the cost to at least $1 billion.

The GEM is now literally open, with visitors able to see a small part of the items that will eventually be there. The courtyard features a 50-foot-tall, 110-ton “hanging obelisk,” mounted atop a unique plinth so visitors can walk under it and see the underside cartouche of Pharaoh Ramses II. Just inside is a colossal 3,200-year-old statue of Ramses II. The 83-ton statue, which previously stood in a Cairo square, was moved into the building during construction. Several important statues from antiquity are arranged on steps ending with a view of the Giza pyramids.

When the museum opens officially, it will include more than 100,000 items, many of which will be on display. For the first time, visitors will be able to see all 4,549 items found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922, including the famous gold death mask. The GEM is expected to attract up to 15,000 visitors a day from around the world, three times the number who visit the crowded Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo that now displays some of the Tutankhamun treasures.