The Giza pyramids area is getting a makeover – here is how (Part 2)
The Giza pyramids area is getting a makeover — here’s how (Part 2): The development of the Giza plateau has been one of the major tourism and infrastructure projects of recent years, and a cornerstone of our tourism revival plan. In Part 1, we explored what the objective of the megaproject was and what tourists and visitors can expect once the development is completed. Today, we get down to the nitty gritty of the project, and see what it took to develop the infrastructure of the area.
A substantial transport, electricity, and water infrastructure development: Huge investments have been channeled to the outlying area, including the construction of the Sphinx International Airport, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), and the development of Al-Wahat Road and Fayoum Road that surround the area, which are being developed by the Engineering Corps of the Egyptian Armed forces. Infrastructure development for the roads leading to the site, improving the water, wastewater, and electricity network has been estimated to cost over EGP 400 mn so far, Major General Atef Moftah, General Supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum project, said.
The total amount of investment into the entire project, including the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), has reached some EGP 30 bn, Moftah tells Enterprise. The opening ceremony alone has been allocated an initial budget of over EGP 350 mn. A restaurant named 9 Pyramids Lounge also opened its doors yesterday, making it the first-ever diner at the plateau.
At a cost of EGP 20 bn, GEM (the centerpiece of the development) accounts for most costs, according to the local press. Foreign funding has covered the bulk of the costs of the museum, with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) alone putting in USD 753 mn and the Egyptian government covering the rest. A bulk of the museum construction has been assigned to a consortium of Orascom Construction and the Belgian Besix group, in which Orascom holds a 50% stake. The contract was estimated at USD 810 mn at the time, according to Masrawy. The estimated high cost of construction pushed the government in early 2016 to task the army with completing other parts of the project, which has saved some USD 770 mn, Moftah told Enterprise.
A substantial amount of urban redevelopment was needed: The government had to remove shops, houses, and facilities blocking the project, including slums and recreation clubs, Moftah says. The plateau had been surrounded by illegal slums in the Nazlet Al Siman area, so the government decided to build 3k residential units for them in the nearby area, each of 90 sqm, to relocate the slums’ residents. The project has been split between the Slums Development Fund and the New Urban Communities Authority and cost EGP 2.2 bn.
But exceptions were made when necessary. An international school that serves the population of the area has been permitted to stay put, at least for the time, Moftah said.
And what they couldn’t move, they had to work around: When engineers and workers started working on infrastructure, they kept finding uncharted water pipelines and electricity cables used by the slums. This was particularly inconvenient because the plan included building a highway tunnel at the beginning of the Cairo-Fayoum road and pedestrianizing the area, linking the GEM to the pyramids plateau. To avoid making things worse, the Engineering Corps decided to go another way, and built a 2.5 km overhead tourist footpath linking the two areas, Moftah said. On top of this, part of the development plan included building tunnels for all of the cables and pipelines underneath the areas through to the new residential units.
A megaproject in collaboration with the private sector: The government decided to stop relying on its own authorities, and instead seek the help of the private sector, Waad Abu Al Ela, head of the projects department at the Tourism Ministry and the person in charge of the project, tells Enterprise. Orascom Construction won a global bid to develop the pyramids plateau, while ODE obtained a contract to manage services and facilities in the area and will supply environmentally-friendly cars, and construct shops, banks, ATMs and international restaurants, he added.
Most of this has already been completed. All construction works inside the pyramids campus have been completed, Abu Al Ela tells Enterprise. The only thing left is the service areas and the fence that will surround the nearby park. This has cost nearly EGP 1 bn, Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Pharaonic Antiquities Department at the Tourism Ministry, tells Enterprise.
Not even the great disruptor halted progress. Development work did not stop in response to covid-19, continuing during past months until the vast majority of the construction and engineering works were completed, Moftah says.
The project will be ready by the end of the year. While the pandemic has meant that an official opening date has not yet been decided, the area will be completed in full by the end of this year, Ashmawy tells Enterprise. The opening of the museum remains a political decision and the date will depend largely on how the virus develops and when international travel begins to return to normal, he added.