Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 August 2006
Issue No. 809
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The pharaoh stirs

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LAST TUESDAY Ramses Square was a hive of activity as engineers and technicians surrounded the 83-tonne red granite colossus of Ramses II while the massive vehicle which will be used to transport the statue to its new home approached to rest beneath the statue, which was already suspended in its stainless steel cage. On the other side Egyptian and foreign photographers, journalists and TV crews gathered to record the unique event. A sense of tension prevailed over the square, but everything went according to the planned schedule. The statue will remain in its cage on the vehicles until tomorrow at 1:00 am, when it will begin its overnight journey to the site of the planned Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau.

The move comes after three trial runs implemented by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Arab Contractors Company. The first and second runs took place using limestone blocks to test the weight of the colossus on the vehicles, the Monib Bridge and the roads, while the third was made with a replica statue to prepare the engineers and workmen sociologically and technically for handling the real statue, as well as checking any obstacle that might obstruct the smooth flow of the "royal" cavalcade.

Ramses II's journey from Cairo's main train station to the museum is expected to take from eight to 10 hours with a speed varying between five and seven kilometres per hour. The truck will transport the statue on the Fagala Road to Al-Gomhouriya Square, Qasr Al-Nil Street and Tahrir Square, where it will raise its speed to almost 10 kilometres an hour. It will then make its way along Qasr Al-Aini Street to the Nile Corniche and then over the Monib Bridge to the Mansouriya Road and on to the Giza Plateau.

The idea of removing the statue from its current location at Ramses Station was mooted in early 1994 in order to rescue it from the corrosive atmosphere of the busy intersection. Several possible locations were suggested. At first it was thought it might be returned to its original home at Mit Rahina, 30km from the Giza Plateau, but the small Mit Rahina Bridge would not have held the weight of the statue. It was also suggested that it be placed in Giza's Rimayah Square or at the entrance to the Cairo Opera House, but it was feared that in time these sites would be as much affected as Ramses Square by traffic fumes and congestion.

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