“The restoration and development of the Imhotep Museum is one of the most important projects that the ministry has worked on, given its unique significance as one of Egypt's most significant archaeological museums, built to commemorate and honour the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep,” said Mostafa Waziry, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).
The opening of the museum after development will be a new touristic attraction in the Saqqara archaeological site, coinciding with the significant influx of tourists to the region, especially in light of the new archaeological discoveries in the area, he added.
During an inspection tour to monitor the final stages of the project and the services provided within the museum, Hisham Samir, the assistant minister of tourism and antiquities for archaeological projects and the general supervisor of the projects sector, explains that works are in full swing to meet the opening deadline.
This includes replacement of damaged stone flooring with new similar ones, enhancement and upgrading of the museum’s surrounding wall. It also involves improving the irrigation networks in the visitor path area, upgrading restrooms, and developing visitor routes.
Additionally, the final finishing works for the museum exhibition halls have been completed, along with special panoramic lighting for the overall site and the exhibited archaeological pieces, security and surveillance systems, museum facade enhancements, and upgrading the central air conditioning units.
Services provided to visitors have also been improved by adding informational signs and interactive display screens showing videos and photos about some of the archaeological discoveries at the Saqqara necropolis. Facilities have been provided for visitors with disabilities, including dedicated restrooms and pathways. Cafeterias and bazaars have been added to the site to enhance the visitors' experience in line with the importance of the museum and the archaeological site as a whole.
The idea of such a museum floated in 1990, but the chosen location was inappropriate. The project was kept under wraps until 1997 when construction began on a new site. The building was completed in 2003, and suitable objects were brought for display from archaeological storehouses at Saqqara and Abusir.
The complex includes seven tourist bazaars, a bookshop, and a two-level cafeteria. It contains a visitors’ centre which has a model of the site, including Djoser's Step Pyramid, and shows a 15-minute documentary film of Saqqara's history.
The museum's six galleries tell the story of the Saqqara necropolis, the intricacies of Imhotep's architectural style, and Lauer's devotion to the restoration of the Step Pyramid. On entering the main gallery, the visitor confronts the solid base of the statue of the Third Dynasty King Djoser, on which are inscribed Imhotep’s name and titles. Four graphics show different styles of architecture before and after Imhotep's time, along with panels on Lauer and Djoser.
The second gallery displays masterpieces unearthed at Saqqara by various archaeological missions over the last century. Among those are a collection of clay and alabaster vessels in various shapes, statues of deities, an anthropoid painted coffin cased with gold, medical instruments from the tomb of Qar the physician, a Late Period statue of Pharaoh Psamtik, two funerary stelae — one of which bears the name of Pharaoh Necho—, and a large collection from the Aperia tomb.
The third gallery, entitled "Saqqara Style," displays the various styles of art found in the history of Saqqara in an exhibition of vessels, stelae, statues, instruments, and tools used by the ancient Egyptians to build their colossal monuments.
Then comes the largest gallery, conceived to exhibit examples of Imhotep's distinguished architectural style, which contains elements from the Step Pyramid including columns, some blue-tiled walls, a panel of cobra decorations, a headless statue of Djoser, and the so-called Snake Pillar from Teti's burial complex. The masterpiece of this gallery is a small bronze statue showing Imhotep seated and holding a papyrus stem.
To give visitors an idea of a typical Saqqara tomb, a tomb with a sarcophagus, boat, and some funerary collection is exposed in situ. Objects featuring various schools of funerary art can also be seen.
The final gallery is dedicated to Lauer. On show are some of his excavation tools, his hat, safari suit, camera, and compass. On the wall are photographs of Lauer working on the site or guiding state heads on official visits to Saqqara.
Saqqara's precious artefacts have been transferred from their cramped, musty mud-brick magazines to two enormous state-of-the-art storehouses behind the museum. An administrative building for SCA employees and a residential complex for archaeological missions are also included in the complex.