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Egypt said the best way to mark the centenary of Tutankhamun tomb's discovery would be inaugurating a new state-of-the-art museum later this year to house the ancient boy king's vast treasures.
The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), a mega project on the outskirts of the capital that Egypt said would be the biggest museum in the world dedicated to a single civilization, nears completion as the country applies the finishing touches ahead of its opening.
"If the coronavirus-related conditions are stable, then the (museum's) opening would be in the second half of the year," Egypt's antiquities and tourism minister Khaled el-Anany told ABC News on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum, an annual international youth conference that the country hosts in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
"We will be ready by the middle of this year … but we want to make sure that our guests can arrive in large numbers. We aim to invite presidents and kings from all over the world," el-Anany said.
The nearly 480,000 square meter museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids, will hold more than 100,000 artifacts. About 5,000 belong to Tutankhamun, the famous 18th dynasty ruler who died at the age of 19 after a 10-year reign.
The Egyptian Museum, a 120-year-old red storied structure built in Cairo's central Tahrir square, housed less than 3,000 of those objects, including Tutankhamun's golden burial mask. Other artifacts were kept in the museum's storerooms.
However, a century after British archeologist Howard Carter discovered those treasures in Luxor's Valley of the Kings in 1922, they will be displayed in full for the first time when the Grand Egyptian Museum opens.
"The GEM is distinguished by its location, architecture and the full collection of Tutankhamun," el-Anany added.
"We are celebrating the 200-year anniversary of Egyptology and 100-year anniversary of Tutankhamun tomb's discovery in many parts of the world through Egyptian institutions. However, I believe that the best celebration of Tutankhamun would be opening the Grand Egyptian Museum," he said.
String of discoveries
Egypt made a string of discoveries over the past few years as it seeks to lure back tourists following the adverse effects of the political turmoil that followed the 2011 revolution and 2013 mass protests along with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The highlight of 2021, according to el-Anany, was the unearthing of a 3,000-year-old city in the southern province of Luxor, which Egypt had termed the "Lost Golden City." It dates back to the 18th-dynasty of King Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt from 1391 till 1353 B.C.
Egypt also held two lavish ceremonies to transfer 22 mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to a newly-inaugurated museum in the old Islamic city of Fustat in a "royal procession" and to celebrate the opening of a 3,000-year-old sphinx-filled avenue in Luxor.
"The numbers of tourists were increasing last year until December when the new coronavirus variant emerged … we are in the recovery phase, but we hope there would be no more variants," El-Anany said.
El-Anany told ABC News that Egypt plans to announce another significant discovery in February or March, which he said will "capture the world's attention." However, he refused to disclose further details.