Egypt's Antiquities Ministry signed a soft loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Monday in an attempt to continue the construction work of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM).
The agreement was signed in an attempt for the museum to be opened up on time, after continue delays.
The ceremony was attended by Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany, Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, Japan's ambassador to Egypt Takeniro Kagawa and JJICA Chief Representative to the Egypt office, Teruyki Ito.
Tarek Tawfik, the GEM's supervisor-general, told Ahram Online that the loan is about $460 million that the Egyptian government would return within 25 years at an interest rate of 1.4 per cent after a seven-year grace period.
This is the second loan that the Egyptian government has taken from the JICA to construct the GEM. The first one was given in May 2006 -- a US$300 million soft loan to be repaid over 30 years at an interest rate of 1.5 per cent.
Payments will be made in installments after a 10-year grace period following the GEM’s official opening.
Another $27 million has been donated by an Egyptian businessman, while the Ministry of Culture under the former Mubarak regime provided $150 million.
However, problems encountered after the 25 January Revolution led to budgetary problems, slowing the construction.
Regretfully, Tawfik continued, the work stopped in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution but in 2012, work resumed after a joint venture between Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries and the Belgium BESIX Group was awarded the contract for completion of the GEM’s third phase, which includes construction of the museum’s main building and landscaping.
BESIX is the company that built the impressive Borg Khalifa tower in Dubai.
El Enany said that the GEM project was launched in 2002 and the idea was to build a state-of-the-art antiquities museum near the Giza pyramids to solve the problems of the overstuffed Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, and to bring together materials stored at various archaeological sites.
El-Enany asserted that the GEM is meant to provide the best environment for the display of Egypt’s priceless treasures, as well as providing more space, better lighting, and more information on them, all of which would help to do justice to Egypt’s heritage.
The museum complex will centre on what has been called the “Dunnal Eye,” an area containing the main exhibition spaces. From this central hub a network of streets, piazzas and bridges will link the museum’s many sections.
The design is by Shih-Fu Peng of the Dublin architectural firm Heneghan, winner of the international architectural competition held in 2003.
According to Peng, the museum, partly ringed by a desert wall containing half a million semi-precious stones, will act as a link between modern Cairo and the ancient pyramids.
The GEM is to display a collection of 100,000 objects from ancient Egypt, beginning with prehistory and going up to the early Roman period.
Among the objects on display will be the boy king Tutankhamun; Hetepheres, mother of the pharaoh Khufu; Yuya and Thuya, the grandfathers of pharaoh Akhenaten; Senedjem, the principal artist of the pharaoh Ramses II; and the royal mummies and treasures of Tanis.
Funerary objects of Mekete-Re, a high-ranking official of the 11th Dynasty, will also be among the items.
The gigantic statue of Ramses II, transported to the museum in 2006 from Ramses Square in downtown Cairo, and the two solar boats of Khufu transported from the Giza Plateau, are also among the exhibits.
The GEM will house a conference centre with an auditorium seating 1,000 and cater to theatrical performances, concerts, conferences and business meetings.
The main auditorium will be supplemented with seminar rooms, meeting rooms, a multi-purpose hall suitable for a variety of events, and an open-plan gallery for accompanying exhibitions.
A 7,000-square-metre commercial area with retail shops, cafeterias, restaurants, leisure and recreational activities is planned for the ground-floor level, as well as a 250-seat cinema.
The first and second phases of the GEM were completed in 2010. They included the construction of a power plant, fire station, and fully equipped conservation centre built 10-metres below ground level.
The centre has 12 laboratories and four storage galleries.
It is believed to be the largest such facility in the world and is intended as a regional, as well as Egyptian, expert centre.
The museum’s storage rooms are equipped with units designed for secure storage and easy access.
The environment is determined by the materials kept in the individual rooms, whether they are organic or non-organic, or require low temperatures to optimise their preservation.