Among the most important museums that will be completed and opened soon in Egypt are the Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada museums, considered to be the first museums to be run in partnership with the private sector.
Construction work began on the Sharm El-Sheikh Museum in 2006 but stopped in 2009 due to architectural problems and then the lack of a budget in the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution. Work resumed early this year with a budget of LE300 million.
Elham Salah, head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, said that the museum was originally a one-storey building with several halls but after its redesign it was now divided into two large galleries on two levels.
The first one is 1,200 sq m and displays a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts embodying the topic of life and afterlife in ancient Egypt as well as the relations of the ancient Egyptians to animals. The second hall will put on show objects from Egypt’s different civilisations as well as topics such as the ancient Silk Roads.
Among the most important artefacts, Salah said, were the Hathour column, which will be the core of the museum, as well as a head of Tuthmoses II and a collection of mummified animals.
The area outside the museum has been allocated for landscaping, bazaars, and restaurants and cafeterias to attract tourists to the coastal city in the evening. A centre to produce and display Sinai handicrafts will also be established.
Salah said that the museum would be equipped with a state-of-the-art security system with surveillance cameras monitoring the museum minute-by-minute over 24 hours.
Mahmoud Mabrouk, the designer of the museum’s displays, said that it would provide a “light cultural meal” for tourists in its two halls. He said the pieces would be carefully selected according to the highest standards in order to reflect the way the ancient Egyptians lived thousands of years ago.
The museum would display home items such as beds and dining tables. Jewellery and ornments of kings, priests, citizens and peasants would also be displayed. Cosmetics would be shown through a collection of wigs and other items.
Mabrouk said that part of the hall would be dedicated to the afterlife through a collection of funerary furniture. A complete example of a tomb would be on show to explain to visitors the idea of the afterlife and what it represented for the ancient Egyptians.
“Wildlife and how the ancient Egyptians respected animals will also be on show,” Mabrouk told Al-Ahram Weekly, explaining that animal mummies discovered at the end of last year at the Saqqara Necropolis, such as cats, hawks, eagles, crocodiles, rats and cobras, would be on show.
He said that tourists visiting the museum would have a good idea of how the ancient Egyptians lived and how life developed through the different ages.
The second hall would include items from all the civilisations that Egypt has hosted through its long history and would be called the Hall of Civilisations. It would include artefacts from the Graeco-Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, in addition to civilisations that did not settle in Egypt, but passed through on the ancient Silk Roads, such as the Chinese civilisation.
Mabrouk said that a complete Roman bath would be displayed. When the Romans came to Egypt, he said, there were popular baths, including steam rooms, discussion rooms, and bathtubs, and these survived into the later Islamic era.
A model of an Ottoman bedroom would also be on show, along with one of desert life such as tents from Sinai and Siwa.
THE HURGHADA MUSEUM
The Hurghada Museum is the most prominent project implemented by the ministry in partnership with the private sector.
Hisham Samir, advisor to the minister of antiquities on civil engineering, said that the construction of the museum was nearing completion and that the ministry’s requirements to secure the building were being implemented through installing a state-of-the-art security system equipped with surveillance cameras and alarms.
Private investors had provided the building according to ministry requirements and offered it to put on show the artefacts and transform the building into an archaeological museum, he said.
“The Ministry of Antiquities will be the sole authority responsible for the management and security of the Hurghada Museum collection, as well as anything related to antiquities, such as exhibition halls, and the maintenance and restoration labs,” Salah said, explaining that private investors would be responsible for facilities and services and share profits equally with the ministry.
The decision of the ministry to operate the new museum in partnership with the private sector aims to support and promote tourism in Hurghada, especially given the lack of public financial resources for the establishment of the project. Many archaeological projects were put on hold in Egypt after 25 January 2011, because of costs and incomplete construction work.
Salah said that the museum was a one-storey building designed according to the highest international standards and covering an area of 3,000 sq m to exhibit a collection of 1,042 artefacts brought from various storehouses in the Red Sea area and beyond.
“Under the title of ‘Beauty and Luxury’, the museum will have displays showing the beauty and luxury of ancient Egyptian civilisation through its different dynasties,” she said. It would display artefacts that embody the comfort of the house and furniture and cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians such as hair accessories, wigs, creams, perfumes and jewellery.
Sports such as hunting and fishing as well as musical instruments and scenes from dance and musical performances from the Pharaonic era to modern times would be on show. A model showing how perfume was made and showing how the ancient Egyptians decorated their tombs would also be exhibited.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: New museum openings