On Friday evening music filled the air at the Giza Plateau as soft lighting illuminated the darkened sky. The Pyramids were dramatically lit, and elegantly dressed people were flocking to the plateau from the newly operated gate on the Cairo-Fayoum Road.
The long-awaited project to develop tourist services and facilities on the Giza Plateau is now seeing the light of day, as pilot operations of its first phase have started with the trial operation of the plateau’s new main gate on the Cairo-Fayoum Road, the visitor centre, the international restaurant complex, and the inauguration of the Khufu restaurant.
Shaded seats and benches have been installed, and excursions for groups and individuals organised. The first environmentally friendly electric buses and golf carts are in trial operation, as are seven stops on the plateau fitted with services for visitors and parking lots.
The project is being carried out within the framework of the joint cooperation protocol signed in 2018 between the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and Orascom Pyramids Entertainment to develop services on the Pyramids Plateau with the sole responsibility for managing the area resting with the SCA.
In October 2020, the pilot operation of an electrically powered eco-friendly bus took place, in addition to the opening of the first restaurant within the Pyramids Lounge, attractive to Egyptian and foreign visitors alike.
The restaurant is built in a subtle wooden setting, with pillows scattered on the ground to emulate a Bedouin-style eating place. Its unique location offers a view of the Pyramids. It has mobile and self-cleaning toilets, and food and beverage services will be available in specified areas. More services are to be provided in the coming period according to the protocol.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa and Naguib Sawiris, chair and CEO of Orascom Investment Holding, in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, witnessed the trial operations of the bus service that eventually will replace all other cars and buses on the site. They took a tour around the seven scheduled stops on the plateau.
The pilot operations included the first batch of eco-friendly electric buses and carts located at the parking area at the visitor centre stop that can accommodate 1,000 vehicles. Visitors to the Giza Plateau will now be able to have a smoother experience, thanks to a tour that passes by seven stops at seven main monuments on the plateau, including the visitor centre, panorama one, the Menkawre, Khufu, and Khafre Pyramids, the Sphinx, panorama four, and then the return to the visitor centre.
The main stops will include a number of services for visitors, including the information office, wi-fi, the charging of smart devices, a mobile smart application, and a number of shaded seats, food and beverage outlets, and other services like children’s areas, photography areas, and ATMs.
They are all part of ministry efforts to upgrade services in the area, considered to be one of most important tourist destinations in the world.
The development and restoration of the old engineering building on the Giza Plateau has been completed, this having earlier been used as a scrap storage facility. Today, it is an international restaurant complex to the highest global standards. When it is finished, it will comprise 10 touristic restaurants with designs suiting the nature of the area and parking for visitors.
Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the SCA, expressed his satisfaction at the start of the pilot operations, saying that these would enhance the tourist experience at one of the most important touristic destinations in the world. The project would provide a digital and entertainment infrastructure aligned with other touristic destinations, enriching Egypt’s reputation for high-quality tourism and adding a competitive edge, he said.
Waziri extended his thanks to Khaled El-Enany, the former minister of tourism and antiquities, for the initiative launched during his tenure that was seeing cooperation with the private sector to develop and upgrade the services provided to visitors at archaeological sites and museums in Egypt. This ambition to create a better touristic experience had resulted in the cooperation with Orascom Pyramids Entertainment.
He said that the Giza Plateau development was not the only one to benefit from this initiative, and that a number of other touristic destinations have also benefitted in a similar way, including the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis, the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo, the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, and the Mohamed Ali Shoubra Palace, which is due to be opened soon after the completion of its restoration, as well as a number of archaeological sites.
Waziri said the engineering work to develop the Giza Plateau had been executed by the Armed Forces Engineering Authority with funding from the government.
“We are very proud that our company has got to develop the services of an area that ranks first in the world and is the most renowned and important on the Giza Plateau. It offers a unique experience for Egyptian and foreign visitors to support Egyptian tourism and help to put it in its rightful place in the world,” Sawiris said at the pilot operations.
He said that the services offered by Orascom in the area were supported by the latest technologies and in line with the highest international standards.
Hisham Gadallah, CEO of Orascom Pyramids Entertainment, said that the clean-energy systems on the Giza Plateau were in accordance with reducing carbon emissions, particularly in the light of Egypt’s hosting of the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November.
The company observed the highest sustainable and ecological standards, notably by employing eco-friendly vehicles, waste recycling, and solar-powered streetlamps, he said, all within a drive to reduce environmental pollution.
“We are striving to offer a unique cultural and entertainment experience in the greatest of destinations, and we will work with a dedicated team to operate services at the archaeological site according to the highest international standards,” Gadallah said.
“It is time for the world to witness the new services offered to visitors to the Giza Plateau, which represents the oldest of the world’s civilisations.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.