Monday, September 22, 2014

Grand Egyptian Museum - A dream comes true

Tawfik pointing at construction work carried out at the GEM
The long-awaited dream of the Grand Egyptian Museum is coming true, the new institution’s director tells Nevine El-Aref

Among the first decisions made by Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, after he took up his post in late June, was the appointment of Tarek Tawfik to head the planned Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau.

After receiving his PhD in Egyptology from Bonn University in Germany, Tawfik started his academic career at the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University, where he became a lecturer in Egyptology and then an associate professor. 

He was the official spokesman of the founding committee of the Syndicate of Egyptology in Egypt and has lectured in Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Malta. He is also a member of various regional and international archaeological and Egyptological academies.

New batch of artefacts arrived
The appointment did not please everyone, however, including some ministry employees who felt that the appointment should have been made internally. “The ministry has many qualified individuals, and there was no need to make an external appointment,” said one ministry archaeologist speaking on condition of anonymity.

From his modern office overlooking the Giza Plateau, where the GEM is soon to see the light of day, Tawfik welcomed the Weekly’s questions with a broad smile. The walls were empty aside from bookshelves and books, and the room as a whole was simply furnished with chairs, tables and a large desk covered with documents.

Tawfik admitted that he has been given a difficult task as the GEM’s first director, given the ministry’s budgetary concerns and problems regarding the realisation of the ambitious architectural design.

“When I was asked by the minister to direct the GEM I was surprised,” Tawfik said, adding that the unexpected position is also a great responsibility. “I have concerns of course,” he said, noting the obstacles facing this gigantic project. 

Tawfik examining the Amenhotep III’s relief
“But I did not hesitate in accepting the job, which is a great challenge. I am very enthusiastic because the appointment shows Eldamaty’s confidence in me and it will be a chance for me to leave a mark on this new institution.”

One initial challenge will be transporting the Tutankhamun collection from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the GEM, something that should be carried out, Tawfik said, with international assistance. “I am already concerned about the safety of the materials during their transportation,” he said.

Tawfik describes the GEM as Egypt’s fourth pyramid, after the three pyramids at Giza. When completed, it will be one of the world’s largest museums and a major cultural, historical, and educational institution.

Visitors to the museum will discover galleries covering 92,000 square metres, equal to six football stadiums. The institution’s educational centre will offer scientific programmes to raise the cultural and archaeological awareness of Egyptian young people and other visitors, while the exhibitions  ……… Read More
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