After years of delay, the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza is finally open. A 3,200-year-old, 36-foot-tall colossus of Ramesses the Great towers beneath the skylights in GEM’s immense angular atrium. Flights to the new Sphinx International Airport, 40 minutes from GEM, began in November, and the museum is initially open under a “trial special operations period,” but all 12 exhibition halls will fully open later in 2023. The 5.2-million-square-foot museum on the outskirts of Cairo has views of the Great Pyramid a mile away. GEM houses 100,000 artifacts, many moved from the jam-packed, century-old museum on Tahrir Square with some never before seen by the public. Two of GEM’s exhibition halls hold almost every one of King Tut’s 5,000 treasures unearthed 100 years ago.
More recently found artifacts are in GEM, too, including antiquities from 14 miles south in Saqqara like the first scroll discovery credited to an Egyptian, the 52-foot-long Waziri Papyrus. Tourist buses pass by Saqqara’s active excavation sites—megatombs of animal and human mummies—when they visit the 4,700-year-old Step Pyramid of Djoser, called the oldest pyramid, which was recently reopened after extensive restoration.
Choose your Egypt tour carefully: all visit Giza but few stop in Saqqara. Trafalgar and Viking do, and Viking launches its new Nile ship, Viking Aton in August 2023.