Egypt will announce a huge new archaeological discovery in September, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Anani has revealed during a live broadcast of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Egypt’s annual general meeting.
The meeting was held on Saturday at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in the Old Cairo district of Fustat.
El-Anani said that Egypt was supposed to have announced a huge archaeological discovery in May. However, after the extremely positive feedback from The Pharaoh’s Golden Parade in April, the government felt it does not need to rush more promotion in the archaeological field. As a result, it was decided to postpone the announcement until after the summer, in September.
The minister also said that despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Egypt was able to announce many discoveries, two of which were extremely important. Both are located in Saqqara, in a part of the necropolis of the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.
“These two discoveries that were considered among the top 10 discoveries of 2020 included the discovery of more than 150 sealed coffins, all of them coloured and with intact mummies,” he added, “This was in addition to a lot of funerary objects and statutes, with archaeological work still needed on the site.”
El-Anani noted that the upcoming announcement of the archaeological discovery will be bigger than the discovery announced last November in Saqqara.
Before the end of the year, Egypt will also be opening the 2,700-metre-long Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, a road that connects the Karnak and Luxor temples in the east of Luxor, with El-Anani noting that the avenue’s opening will be Egypt’s next parade.
The minister noted that he has already met with several companies aiming to organise the parade, and that two proposals have already been received.
He announced that Egypt will reopen the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria by the end of the year. The museum is one of the biggest and oldest museums devoted to Egypt’s Greco-Roman collection.
El-Anani declared that the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza will also be ready to open by the end of the year.
“There is a difference between the ceremony and the opening, as the ceremony will be huge and attended by Heads of State from around the world, celebrities, and the like,” El-Anani said, adding, “I have had a meeting with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who has given his directives that we have to work very fast for the museum to be ready.”
He added that his ministry will continue moving artefacts to the GEM in preparation for its opening. A total of 95% of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s collection has already been moved to its new location, where a special section devoted to the Boy Pharaoh has been created.
The remaining 5% that remains in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square will be moved to GEM just a few days before the new museum’s official opening. The decision will ensure that those tourists travelling to Egypt until the GEM opens will not be frustrated for having seen no artefact belonging to the Boy Pharaoh.
“The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square will not die, and we are keen to send and emphasise this message every now and then,” El-Anani said.
On inbound tourism, the minister said that Egypt witnessed an exceptional year in 2019, with the highest tourism numbers and revenues. He also said that the year 2020 was very optimistic, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving a great boom in tourism in January and February. In those two months, Egypt received 945,000 and 942,000 visitors, respectively.
International flights at all airports nationwide were suspended on 19 March 2020, as part of government efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Until the date that we took the decision to suspend the flights, there were around 18,000 tourists coming to Egypt, despite the pandemic, but we took the right decision,” he revealed.
Inbound flights only resumed on 1 July 2020 to three governorates, as part of a first stage, to the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Matrouh governorates. Tourism activities to Luxor and Aswan resumed in early September, with floating hotels allowed to resume work on 1 October.
El-Anani noted that after the resumption of the flights in July, 89,000 tourists visited Egypt. He also outlined the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ efforts to ensure the quality of services provided at hotels and tourism establishments.
He reviewed their commitment to implementing the set precautionary measures and hygiene and safety controls against COVID-19, as well as the vaccination of workers. Meanwhile, he also talked about the steps that the Egyptian Government has taken to support the tourism sector during the pandemic.
El-Anani said that the inbound tourists are increasing, revealing that in April 2021, 525,000 tourists visited Egypt, with 65% visiting resorts and destinations in the Red Sea, South Sinai governorates, and 35% coming to Cairo.
He noted that Egypt has started vaccinating all tourism sector employees in the South Sinai and Red Sea governorates. In the coming days, the government is set to announce the completion of the vaccination programme for workers in the tourism sector.
It is anticipated that this will be followed by the announcement that vaccination of the population in the two governorates has been completed, to declare them as safe and COVID-19-free destinations.