The Long Awaited Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza: A Sneak Peek
By Michele Herrmann
In late March 2023, my G Adventures tour in Egypt ended with much of the day to spare in Cairo before heading to the airport to fly home.
My fellow tour-goers also had some extra time and suggested getting tickets to visit the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, about a 20-minute drive from Cairo and next door to the famous Pyramids of Giza.
From what I’ve read, the Grand Egyptian Museum, (which is also referred to as GEM, for short), has been an ongoing process since the laying of a ceremonial foundation stone by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2002.
Yet I was told by my fellow travelers we could still go there; apparently, it has had what is referred to as a soft opening with public admission.
Reportedly to have a grand opening sometime in the near future, the Grand Egyptian Museum is right now open for visitation but only limited to some areas indoors and outside. This link takes you to the GEM’s official website.
In the same email, it was noted that as of November 2022, the Grand Egyptian Museum started hosting carefully selected private events and organized a limited number of private tours to ensure the services’ readiness and to test the full visitor experience.
Roughly $32 Entrance Fee
During my visit, our group could see, on the inside, the museum’s Grand Hall and high-end retail and food and beverage shops, including a Starbucks. In an email from a contact at GEM, I was told that all of the other interior spaces, including access to the permanent galleries, will remain closed in preparation for the full-site opening. At the time of my purchase, it was roughly 32 US dollars.
The GEM will also have a gallery dedicated to King Tutankhamun, with many artifacts from his tomb on display. However, we were able to see more than storage space at the GEM. Some of Egypt’s most significant statues were transferred here and are on display.
It may sound like a potential visitor might assume to wait until the museum further gets in order. But if you are traveling to Egypt before that date is made official by an announcement, it’s worth seeing the museum for its architectural design alone.
We were able to purchase admission tickets beforehand through the GEM’s website. In an email, I was told that as of November 2022, the Grand Egyptian Museum started hosting carefully selected private events and organized a limited number of private tours to ensure the services’ readiness and to test the full visitor experience.
When we bought our tickets, on the second to last day in March 2023, they were sold by date and time. Note: There is a visitor section where you must select one of two categories involving where you’re from – Egyptian or other nationalities. In choosing the latter, an Adult Ticket for us was priced at 1000 Egyptian pounds (roughly 32 US dollars).
With our tickets accessible via phones, we took an Uber to the GEM and checked in at a turnstile center before the museum building. As we walked closer, passing by a ground-level design trickling water across like a river, we took in the splendor of the museum’s exterior facade.
Perhaps as a compliment to the nearby Pyramids of Giza, the front of the GEM Museum glistened with an assortment of these triangular structures. Alongside a pattern of decorative pyramids gracing the front of the museum, visitors walk underneath a pyramid split over the entranceway.
Behind it, there’s an upside-down, V-shaped flow of Egyptian cartouches (an oval with enclosed text referring to a royal name) in a black-colored backdrop.
Inside, your attention is drawn across the Grand Hall to the Statue of Ramesses II, as the colossal red granite sculpture of the great Egyptian ruler stands tall on a plank on top of a small triangular pool.
The 83-ton statue, said to be over 3,000 years old, was moved to the museum from downtown Cairo in January 2018. It has had quite the journey, from its location in a busy traffic circle in 2006 to a temporary spot in Giza before being brought to the GEM in January 2018.
We see a display of propped dresses along one of the hall’s staircases that I learned later is the museum’s first contemporary art exhibition.
Called “Traces of Egypt, ” the museum exhibit is commissioned by Egyptian-German interdisciplinary artist Susan Hefuna and honors an Egyptian applique tradition known as the Khayamiya, which dates back centuries.
In “Traces of Egypt,” Hefuna collaborated with local artisans to create a series of 28 costumes made of Egyptian cotton that pay homage to this tradition. The exhibition opened on March 19th and runs until June 15th, 2023.
There’s signage, too, of what is coming up to be seen. One is a diorama map, and the other is a visual marker informing me of what is or is to be nearby. Both of them note the direction of a gallery where the Grand Egyptian Museum will hold the treasured belongings of King Tutankhamun.
There’s also to be a place for Khufu’s solar boat, where this relic once belonging to this Egyptian pharaoh is reportedly more than 4,000 years old.
We sat inside the museum’s Starbucks for coffee and then went to see the Official Grand Egyptian Museum Shop. The gift shop has a wide collection of curated gifts and souvenirs, the store’s merchandise includes items that children would like, and adults wouldn’t mind buying for them – educational-level books, stickers, puzzles, and dolls.
Adults, too, can find common museum goods such as t-shirts and indulge in finer wares such as a trio of scented candles or other homewares and designs. I found a few cookbooks, too, and picked up a copy of Dyna Eldaief’s “Egyptian Flavors: 50 Recipes.”
Our time at the Grand Egyptian Museum was short – maybe an hour – but I was glad I went. If what captivated my interest was a good start, the anticipated opening date will be a fantastic continuation!
Michele Herrmann divides her time between New York and New England and writes about travel, food/drink, history, books, wellness, and fun things to do. Her scope of bylines ranges from various AAA publications to Zagat’s Stories. Find out more at her author website www.michelemherrmann.com, and her book, She Is Going Places.