Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Ramses II enters the GEM

The first of the 1,500 artefacts planned for exhibition at the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau has arrived safe and sound, writes Nevine El-Aref

Ramses II enters the GEM
Ramses II enters the GEM

Although an official holiday in Egypt to commemorate the 25 January Revolution in 2011, Cairenes woke up early last Thursday to witness the colossal statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II’s last journey to its permanent display area in the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau in preparation for the museum’s soft opening in 12 months’ time, who joined the Pharaoh Ramses II’s royal cavalcade.

The scene at the GEM was something like a huge carnival, as thousands of people, including hundreds of officials and media professionals, flocked to the museum to witness the last journey of the Ramses II colossus.

As the royal cavalcade rolled along the 400-metre road to the GEM, the attendees stood up in their seats clapping to greet the Pharaoh as photographers climbed the walls of the GEM trying to catch a photograph of the royal convoy. 

The Pharaoh’s statue was preceded on its journey by 11 horsemen in ceremonial dress. As the colossus reached its final location, the national anthem was played.

“Looking at the face of Ramses II, you can see his beautiful smile. I think the king is very happy today,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said that Ramses II was there to greet the GEM’s visitors on its opening as well as guard the great cultural institution much as he did 3,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians carved his statue to protect the temple of the god Ptah in Memphis.

The GEM is expected to be fully open by 2022, but its soft opening will be at the end of this year. “The soft opening is not a minor opening as has been claimed,” El-Enany told the attendees. “It includes the atrium, the grand staircase, and the two galleries of the golden king Tutankhamun in an area of over 23,000 metres.” 

This is more than double the size of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. “The boy king galleries will put on show the whole collection of the king for the first time since its discovery in 1922, including 5,200 artefacts,” El-Enany said.

 “Over the past three months the statue of Ramses II has been intensively studied to assess its condition before transportation. Safeguarding procedures have been put in place, and the foam rubber covering the statue has been replaced with stronger material and weak points consolidated,” said GEM Director-General Tarek Tawfik. 

He added that the process had cost about LE13.6 million, including packing and unpacking the statue and preparing the road. Before the move, he went on, the statue had been transported in an iron cage and hung like a pendulum to allow it to move freely during the 400-metre journey. 

Thursday’s trip was the fourth relocation of the colossus of the great king who ruled from 1279-1213 BCE, and it was carried out in collaboration with the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces and the Arab Contractors Company, which was responsible for the previous move in 2006. 

The first trip took place 3,000 years ago when the statue was carved in Aswan quarry and then taken to the Mit Rahina archaeological site in Memphis to be displayed as part of the Ptah Temple. The second one was in 1955, when former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser decided to move the statue to Bab Al-Hadid (now Ramses Square) in Cairo as part of an initiative launched by minister of governmental affairs Abdel-Latif Al-Boghdadi to beautify the streets and squares of Cairo. 

The third relocation was in 2006 when former minister of culture Farouk Hosni decided to move the statue from Ramses Square to the headquarters of the GEM to protect it from pollution.  

The colossus of Ramses II was originally discovered in six pieces at the Mit Rahina archaeological site in 1820 by Italian adventurer Giovanni Caviglia, along with another similar one that remains on site. 

Caviglia tried to move the statue to Italy, but was unable to do so because of its 83-ton weight. The khedive Mohamed Ali Pasha then offered the statue to the British Museum in London, but the offer failed for the same reason. 

The statue then stood in its place at Mit Rahina until it was eventually transferred to Ramses Square.

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