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Egyptian Museum in Cairo Maintains Status as Mecca for Antiquity Lovers

Egyptian Museum in Cairo Maintains Status as Mecca for Antiquity Lovers

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018 - 10:15
Tourists look at artifacts inside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt July 4, 2018. (Reuters)

Egyptian officials on Monday celebrated the 116th anniversary of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square in a move set to reassure that the national tourist attraction will not become obsolete once the new Grand Egyptian Museum opens its doors.

The ceremony was attended by 18 ministers and a number of high-profile politicians, ambassadors and foreign representatives.

Tahrir Square’s museum blueprints and development date back to 1897 and were designed by French architect Marcel Dornon. It opened its doors to the public on November 15, 1902.

Housing the world's biggest collection of an approximated 160 pharaonic antiquities has been a challenge for the museum curators, leading to the opening of two newer museums to accommodate for the findings of the artifact-rich country’s excavations.

“Fear for the museum’s future first surfaced in 1999 after the establishment of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, and then deepened with the architectural race for winning over the design of the Grand Egyptian Museum in 2002,” director of Egypt’s Museums Sector Elham Salah said.

“Many began to wonder about what would become of the Egyptian Museum, with concerns it would eventually be abandoned and closed—but what people do not know is that Italian museum curators and experts have come together with their Egyptian counterparts to set a complementary identity for each of the three buildings, preserving their iconic national character,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Addressing fears on the Cairo Museum losing artifacts in favor of the two new buildings, Salah said the abundance of ancient antiquities kept at the Cairo Museum have made it, according to its popular labeling, the equivalent of a “repository” for archaeological findings.

Tens of thousands of objects have been sitting in its storerooms and galleries were often said to be too packed.

The ruins of Yuya and Tuya, the ancestors of King Akhenaten include 200 wonderful archaeological pieces, and a large area of display at the museum has been allocated to replace Tutankhamun’s items, which will be transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Salah said that erecting new facilities has helped make space for artifacts that had been “shamefully” stored due to limited showroom capacities.

Some 4400 of Tutankhamun’s items have been transferred to the Grand Egyptian Museum in preparation for its inauguration in 2020. The Grand Egyptian Museum will be located near the Pyramids.

Making up for the Cairo Museum losing King Tut’s artifacts, the country’s ministry of antiquity decided that archaeological items for Yuya and Tuya, discovered by the American archaeologist Theodore Davies in 1905 in their tomb at the Valley of Kings in Luxor, will be put on display alongside a 20-meter-long papyrus scroll found inside the cemetery, on which Yuya and Tuya had written prayers.

Yuya was a senior official under the reign of King Tuthmose IV, supervisor for the cattle of the god Min, and his wife Tuya was priestess of the gods Amun, Hathor and Min in Akhmim.

The scroll is said to be the longest on display in Egypt.

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