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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Egypt seeks museum design
The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
The existing Egyptian museum is severely overcrowded
Egypt has opened an international design competition for a new antiquities museum, to be built near the pyramids at Giza, just outside Cairo.

It is hoped the $350m (242m) hi-tech museum will eventually house the 150,000 artefacts that are currently crammed into the existing Egyptian Museum, in the centre of the city.

The design contest will be supervised by educational, scientific and cultural officials at the United Nations, and by the Paris-based Union of International Architects, the Egyptian government has said.

Designs will be judged by architects, archaeologists and museum experts from nine countries.

Tutenkhamun's death mask
Tutenkhamun: The boy pharaoh's death mask is on display in Cairo

The top three winners will receive $250,000 (173,000), $150,000 (104,000)and $100,000 (69,000) respectively.

Egypt's minister of culture said the Italian Government had offered Egypt feasibility studies, and the World Bank had offered to provide long-term loans.

Farouk Hosni said the new museum would be the largest in the world, and had required "years of study".

Egypt would be responsible for funding the museum, which was expected to begin making a profit after 12 years, he said.

The Egyptian Museum, which opened in downtown Cairo in 1902, has long had too little exhibition space.

Many of its pharaonic, Coptic Christian, Islamic and other artefacts have spent years in storage in the basement.

Egypt's economy relies heavily on tourism, which has slowed in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the US.

In recent weeks, the nation has been showcasing its attractions.

Last month, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak inaugurated a new visitor's centre at the temple of Abu Simbel, in Upper Egypt, as the south of the country is known.

The temple, with its facade of four Ramses II colossi, is one of the country's most prominent heritage sites.

A section of Queen Hatshepsut's temple, outside Luxor, also in southern Egypt, that has been under restoration for 40 years, and another site nearby, Haremhab's tomb, are expected to open soon.

See also:

27 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country Profile: Egypt
01 Dec 01 | Middle East
Egypt's tourism collapse
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