Cairo: On the Giza Plateau outside Cairo, thousands of Egyptians are labouring in the shadow of the pyramids to erect a monument worthy of the pharaohs. The Grand Egyptian Museum has been under construction for well over a decade and is intended to showcase Egypt’s ancient treasures while drawing tourists to help fund its future development. But the project has been subject to repeated delays, with a “soft opening” planned for next year scrapped in favour of a more triumphant inauguration in 2020.
Costs have meanwhile soared from an initial $650 million to well over $1 billion, with most of the financing coming from Japan. It’s the latest mega-project to be championed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is wagering that massive investments in infrastructure will revive an economy weakened by decades of stagnation and battered by the unrest that followed the 2011 uprising.
The museum is a series of towering concrete halls that will eventually hold some 50,000 artifacts, including the famed mask of Tutankhamen, well known as King Tut, and other treasures currently housed in the century-old Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s congested Tahrir Square.