TACOMA, WA — In a move of significant cultural and economic importance, the complete collection of King Tutankhamen’s treasures will once again be on display for the world. The newly created Grand Egyptian Museum will house the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. These will include the famous pharaoh’s belongings when the museum opens in late 2021. The museum appears poised to have a major impact on the local economy. This comes on the heels of ongoing struggles for one of the country’s premier industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State of Tourism in Egypt During COVID-19
Tourism is one of Egypt’s most important economic drivers. The pandemic made it one of the industries that were hit the hardest. Egypt has lost more than $1 billion per month due to the lack of tourism during the pandemic, according to the country’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany. Sharp declines in the industry, which the minister says accounts for more than 12% of Egypt’s GDP, has led to significant economic struggles for many in the country.
A 2020 study found that household incomes in Egypt are expected to decline by a figure between 9.0% and 10.6% per person during each month of the pandemic. More than half of those losses are directly correlated to the lack of tourism. Poor rural households are expected to be the most significantly affected, with an 11.5% to 14.4% loss in average income. The losses stem from tourism’s broad range of effects on many major areas of revenue in the country. Impacted areas include hotels, taxi services, food processing and the agricultural industry.
The Economic Impact of the Grand Egyptian Museum
The opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum could be crucial in the Egyptian tourism sector’s recovery once international travel begins in earnest. Beyond the direct jobs that the opening will create, growth in connected fields like the transportation and service industries is also expected. This comes at a time when more than 7% of Egyptians are unemployed. Additionally, the museum expects to attract up to millions of visitors a year to its location, which is a little more than a mile away from the Giza Pyramid plateau. This will help increase tourist engagement in both Cairo and Giza.
The Grand Egyptian Museum also represents part of a major collaboration between Egypt and Japan that could lead to significant future investment in the country. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has partnered with Egypt to help construct the museum. The Director General of Middle Eastern and Europe Development for JICA, Hideki Matsunaga, recently praised the museum in an interview. He compared it to the kind of world-renowned museums found in London and Paris. In that same interview, Matsunaga also indicated that JICA would invest up to $1 billion in Egypt through 2022.
Looking Ahead at the Grand Egyptian Museum
The Grand Egyptian Museum looks poised to have a significant impact on local economics in Egypt. Currently, a concrete opening date has yet to be announced but is expected to come in a few weeks or months, without great delay. Work on the museum continued throughout the pandemic with precautionary measures providing workers protection; furthermore, health protections are an expected priority once the museum opens its doors.
The museum itself covers about 3,800 acres. It will contain a wide variety of artifacts ranging from the prehistoric to Roman periods. Beyond the Tutankhamen collection, some standout artifacts include a massive pink granite depiction of Ramses IV as well as the world’s only hanging obelisk, which will be placed in the main façade of the museum.
Overall, the Grand Egyptian Museum looks to be an exciting addition to Egypt that’s poised to help spur economic recovery in the country.
– Brett Grega
Photo: Wikimedia Commons