Egypt museums hope grassroots fundraising will prove fertile

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Officials are struggling to finance construction projects in time for planned 2015 openings

By Garry Shaw. Web only
Published online: 02 April 2014


Construction at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza

Construction has begun on the main hall of the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, though funding remains a problem for the long-running project. Despite around $300m in soft loans from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, a fall in tourist revenue since the January 2011 revolution has left Egyptian authorities struggling to raise the $800m total needed to complete the museum complex in time for its planned opening in 2015.

The country’s Ministry of Antiquities has launched a fundraising drive in response, asking tourists to add an optional donation of $1 per night to their hotel bills to go towards the project. Along a similar line, the archaeologist Bassam el-Shamaa has asked Egyptians to donate around 30 cents each. The grassroots fundraising drive has proven to be a great success, with around $7.5m already collected, including donations from Al-Ahly Bank, Banque Misr, and the Sawiris family, which owns the Orascom group of technology and construction companies.

The museum’s conservation centre has been complete since 2010, and around 12,000 artefacts have been moved there from storage sites around the country. The museum’s general manager, Mohamed Mostafa Abdel Megeed, aims to have 100,000 objects transferred before the opening next year, and to place 50,000 artefacts on display. When it is completed, the museum will be the new home to Tutankhamun’s treasures.

Meanwhile, local officials hope that the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, under construction since 2004 in Fustat, part of Old Cairo, will be ready for a “soft opening” later this year. This is unlikely, however, according to Christian Manhart, the head of museums and cultural objects section at Unesco, since all of the building deadlines have so far been missed, mainly due to financial problems. Manhart estimates that around $20m of work is still needed on the main gallery, due to its size, and that it will more probably open in 2015.

To help launch a fundraising drive, as well as to continue training staff for the new museum, Manhart says that Unesco, in agreement with the Egyptian government, will allocate just under $2m to the museum. This comes from a special account created between 1960 and 1980 as part of a campaign to save the endangered sites of Abu Simbel and Philae.

Unlike other museums in the country, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, focuses on all of Egypt’s cultures, from prehistory to the present. When finished, it will house the royal mummies, as well as objects from the Hellenic, Islamic and Coptic periods.

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