Masks of Amenemope and his predecessor, the 21st Dynasty King Psusennes I, are seen following conference at the Egyptian Museum after opening of the newly renovated wing in the 120-year-old Egyptian museum in the Egypt's capital of Cairo. Image Credit: REUTERS

CAIRO: Egypt has inaugurated the first phase of renovations on the venerable Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, giving the collection a facelift after many of its objects were relocated to other museums around the country.

The building in Cairo’s Tahrir Square first opened in 1902 and has long ranked as one of the world’s greatest museums, with its vast displays of Pharaonic artefacts that stretch over 3,000 years of history.

Tourism is a major dollar earner in Egypt’s cash-strapped economy and has been gradually recovering from multiple hits, including political turmoil after a popular uprising in 2011, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which cut off a substantial flow of tourists from both countries.

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Egypt hopes to grow its tourism industry by 25% to 30% a year, Tourism Minister Ahmed Issa said at the inauguration ceremony on Monday.

The renovation, financed by the European Union and assisted by five major European museums including the Louvre and British Museum, was designed to modernise the presentation of the objects. Some of its display cases dated to the mid-19th century.

Among its treasures sent to newer museums were objects discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, which were relocated to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, scheduled to open within months, and a royal mummy collection, now in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization 4 km to the south.

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“The Egyptian Museum continues to develop itself, allowing it to compete with the other major modern museums,” Issa said.

The renovation was also designed to improve infrastructure, archiving and digitisation, according to a press statement.

The wing of the museum inaugurated on Monday contains artefacts never before displayed, including the collection belonging to 21st Dynasty King Psusennes I, who reigned until about 1,000 B.C., museum official Abir Abdelaziz said.

Also on display is the Waziri-1 Papyri, a scroll containing 113 chapters from the Book of Death, and the first to be discovered and unwrapped by Egyptians, said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.