The peaceful coastal city of Hurghada was buzzing this week, as Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enany inaugurated the Hurghada Antiquities Museum.
This is the city’s newest tourist attraction, the first of its kind on the Red Sea coast and the most prominent project implemented by the ministry in partnership with the private sector.
“It is a leading experience in Egypt linking maritime and leisure with cultural tourism,” El-Enany said, adding that the ministry was set to copy the experience at the Sharm El-Sheikh Museum, which is scheduled to open in April.
He said that the government had not shouldered any financial burdens in the construction of the Hurghada Museum, which had cost LE185 million. The financing was provided by the ministry’s partner company, which had also provided all the requirements the ministry had requested, including showcases, the interior design of the galleries, and state-of-the-art lighting and security systems equipped with surveillance cameras and alarms.
The revenues from the new museum will be equally divided between the ministry and the company.
“The Ministry of Antiquities is the sole authority responsible for the management and security of the Hurghada Museum collection, as well as anything related to antiquities, such as the exhibition halls and the maintenance and restoration labs,” El-Enany said, explaining that private investors would be responsible for the museum’s facilities and services.
The decision by the ministry to operate the new museum in partnership with the private sector was taken with the aim of promoting tourism in Hurghada, linking culture to leisure and maritime tourism, as well as because of the lack of public financial resources for the establishment of the project.
Many archaeological projects were put on hold in Egypt after the 25 January 2011 Revolution because of costs and incomplete construction work.
The new museum is a one-storey building designed according to the highest international standards, covering 3,000 sq m and exhibiting a collection of 1,791 artefacts brought from various storehouses in the Red Sea area and beyond.
“Under the title ‘Beauty and Luxury,’ the museum displays artefacts showing the beauty and luxury of the ancient Egyptian civilisation through its different dynasties,” said Mahmoud Mabrouk, advisor to the minister of tourism and antiquities for exhibition design.
The star of the exhibition is a beautiful bust of queen Merit Amun, daughter of king Ramses II, discovered at her temple in the Ramesseum near Luxor. It was put on show after its discovery at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and now it is one of the main attractions at the Hurghada Museum.
The museum displays artefacts that show off the domestic items and cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians, such as hair accessories, wigs, creams, perfumes and jewellery.
Sports like hunting and fishing and musical instruments and scenes from dance and musical performances from the Pharaonic era to modern times are also on show. A model showing how perfume was made in ancient times and how the ancient Egyptians decorated their tombs is also on show.
A large collection from the former ruling Mohamed Ali family is on show, including a collection of awards, cosmetics, and jewellery.
The private partner of the Museum, Khaled Mahfouz, told Al-Ahram Weekly that it highlighted the role that the government was playing to support investment in Egypt. He said the idea had been to link leisure to culture tourism and to provide another attraction for tourists in Hurghada, encouraging them to prolong their stay.
The museum also has a commercial area with shops selling replicas, handicrafts, jewellery, and books. Mahfouz said that modern sales systems were in place at the shops, meaning that products were identified with barcodes and could be paid for easily with cards.
An open-air area with an amphitheatre has been built outside the museum where musical and art performances are planned.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly