John’s analyzes the latest drip of reliable intel regarding a possible precise opening date for the Grand Egyptian Museum, plus he shares a private, password-protected link to our professional Arabic-to-English translation of the actual interview that this information came from so that you can read and evaluate the speaker’s credibility and choice of words for yourself.
For more travel advice on trips to and around Egypt, check out all the other episodes of the Egypt Travel Podcast. And please feel welcome to go to www.EgyptElite.com for help planning your trip to Egypt, and we’ll be delighted to help you make it a reality.
Episode 29 Transcript
Solid new intel on a possible GEM opening date
Ahlan bikum again. Welcome back to the Egypt Travel Podcast. This is episode 29 and I think you’re going to really like this one if you’re been waiting for an update on the Grand Egyptian Museum.
The opening of this thing has literally been one of Egypt’s most closely guarded state secrets for years, and I know that you all are just as frustrated as we are about the lack of information and communication coming from the powers that be in Egypt about when to expect the Grand Egyptian Museum to open.
If you ask me, I think they’re being absolutely ridiculous for still not communicating at least a target opening date because literally millions of people all around the world are holding off on making plans for travel to Egypt until they know when this dang new museum will finally open. And as soon as it does open, there’s going to be a huge rush of bookings all at once for the months following the opening date and everything in the whole country is going to be booked solid for about 6 months, I’m predicting.
Well, I have an intel update for you on this and I’m going to put the details of it out for you here on the Egypt Travel Podcast first before I share it publicly on the blog with the rest of the world because I love and appreciate you all for listening to and supporting the podcast, and I want to reward you with a heads up on this before anyone else.
Well, actually I have to be honest. You’ll be the second group to know the details of this intel update. I did share this already in the October 2021 private newsletter that my tour company Egypt Elite sends out to its booked upcoming guests a few weeks ago. I’m sure you can understand that I give priority on updates to booked clients, but after they get a heads up on breaking updates first, I always bring the news onto the podcast to share it with you all before I put it out on the blog. And in fact, most of the time I don’t even write up blog articles about the info I share on the podcast because it’s easier to just talk and record it than write and edit, so you all are still part of my inner circle when it comes to sharing news, advice, and updates.
Ok, so here’s the deal. You may have seen some of this start to filter out already, but not in the amount of detail I’m going to give you access to here. And that detail and nuance are important because they can help you evaluate how much weight to give to this and other nuggets of news that may trickle out in the future.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Zahi Hawas let a possible opening date for the GEM slip while he was being interviewed by phone on a local call-in TV show in Egypt. Now, this hasn’t gotten much play internationally because it was all in Arabic and it was a very local show, but it did get picked up by a few Egyptian media outlets, which reported on it in their English language versions. However, local Egyptian media isn’t always the most accurate, and when you combine that with potential translation issues, I thought this needed a close look.
So what I did was I found the original clip of Zahi Hawas’s call-in segment and I had the entire interview translated from Arabic into English by a professional translator. Actually, I had it done twice by two different translators just so I could compare the two translations. So what I’m telling you here is my analysis of the original source material without the interference of any intermediaries. This is straight from the horse’s mouth, and I’ll even share the original word-for-word translation of Zahi’s comments on a possible concrete GEM opening date in just a few minutes.
But first, let me say this… There is still no official word from the government of Egypt or the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on when the GEM will finally open. That announcement has not yet been made, and when it does come out, you’ll certainly hear it blasted loud and proud from me and everyone else too I’m sure. In fact, if you want to make sure you receive quick word of the official announcement when it finally does come out, you can sign up for the opening announcement announcement at GrandEgyptianMuseum.org. Just scroll down a little and sign up for news updates there. I actually run that website, so they’ll be coming from me too.
Ok, with that said, what did we learn and why is John Nicholson saying that you can actually assign some credibility to this nugget of intel over others in the past. Well, to understand that, you first need to know who Dr. Zahi Hawas is if you don’t already. He was the long-time Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and he was also a former minister of Antiquities before the revolution. He kind of got cast aside during the fall of the previous government, but then he just laid low for a few years and decided to stay out of government after that and focus instead on his media and commercial ventures.
He writes books now and he’s also a frequent commentator on documentaries and TV shows about Egyptian history. You may have seen him on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, Netflix documentaries, and so on. He’s kind of a larger-than-life personality with a thick accent in English and he always wears an Indiana Jones-style hat to look the part of a made-for-tv archaeologist. But he’s also a legit PhD-holding Egyptologist who got his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania back in the day and worked for decades on archaeological excavations all over Egypt before rising through the ranks of the antiquities establishment in Egypt and eventually becoming head of that establishment.
So needless to say, although he’s not in government anymore, he’s still very well connected within the Egyptian government and very much in constant touch with those who are currently in government and involved with the ministry and the GEM. As a strange side note, he also evidently decided to just up and write an opera last year that’s supposed to be about the life of King Tut, and evidently the ministry has agreed to let him debut that during the opening ceremonies of the GEm. So yeah, there’s that too.
But anyway, the point is that Dr. Hawas is well connected in Egypt’s tourism and antiquities circles, so when he says something it comes from a place of knowledge, experience, and connectedness.
So what did he say exactly on this call-in interview show in Arabic? When the interviewer asked him point-blank if he knew when the GEM would open, he didn’t say that he definitely did, but he said he thought a good time for the opening would be around November 4th, 2022 because this would be on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and it would be a good hook to tie the GEM opening to that anniversary date.
He also mentioned that this is close to the 200th anniversary of the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by the French linguist Jean Francois Champollion, which actually occurred in September of 1822. So he was really saying that a good media hook like the 100th or 200th anniversary of something related would, in his opinion, be the best time to schedule the GEM opening to maximize publicity around the world. And although he did mention the September date too, he focused more on the November date and said that he has even discussed or suggested this to the current Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.
Now while he didn’t come out and explicitly say “it will be November 4th, 2022,” he did nearly say it and he also said that that’s when he would have done it. So this is the most qualified, certified, insider intel that has come out of anyone in Egypt who is in the know about this state secret so far. And as I explained earlier, Dr. Hawas is certainly in the know, even though he’s not in charge of the ministry anymore and hasn’t been for a decade.
Now, what does this mean for those waiting for a solid date for the GEM opening to begin planning travel to Egypt? Well, first it means that 2023 is now a very safe bet. It’s still a bet because the GEM was supposed to open for certain in 2020 and then Corona hit. But any trip booked for 2023 is now highly likely to fall when the GEM is already open. And if Zahi Hawas is right, even trips booked in December of 2022 will be good, and I would even personally go as far as to say that for the second half of November 2022 as well.
But here’s the thing about earlier in November. Even though he said November 4th, we still know that they’re planning a roughly 10-day series of events for the opening ceremony. It’s more of an opening event series more than an opening event, so we don’t know if it will be open to the public yet during those 10 days of ceremonies or not. And if they do go for that November 4th, 2022 date, we don’t know if that will be the target for the end of that 10-day period, the beginning of it, or if that will fall somewhere in the middle.
So for the sake of travel planning, let’s assume for now that November 4th would start the 10-day period, just to be safe. That would put the museum being safely open to the public on the 13th or 14th, so I’ve just been advising my clients who absolutely positively need the GEM to be open while they are there to not book before November 15th.
Now, with that said, here’s another VERY IMPORTANT point that you need to grasp if you want to visit Egypt and the GEM any time in late-2022 or 2023. I said this two podcast episodes ago, and it’s worth repeating because I want you all who listen to the Egypt Travel Podcast to get priority on this stuff and get in the door early so you’re not locked out of options like hundreds of thousands or even millions of others around the world will be when they’re piddling around and it gets to be too late to book something in Egypt when they want to travel.
Once the official announcement for the GEM opening is made, everything is going to book up solid for at least 3-6 months after that date. There isn’t enough hotel room inventory in Cairo and Giza to handle a sudden spike of hundreds of thousands and especially millions of extra visitors yet. Hotels will book up, flights will book up, and the best tour operators will book up. If you wait and delay and don’t plan smartly, you’ll either have to delay your trip by a year or more after you want to go, or you’ll be stuck with these jank little negative-10-star hotels and low-budget tour operators who will take just anyone at any time and subcontract you out to anyone else they can just to get their hands on your money. Then you’ll need to pray to the ancient god of scams to make sure you make it through that trip in one piece.
I’m telling you, my friends, if you want to go to Egypt and you’re waiting until after the GEM opens to at least preliminarily book something – don’t! With the more reputable companies, you can book something with flexible dates by only putting a deposit down. Then when the GEM opens, you can set or change your dates without penalties. That’s how we do it, and that’s how the other top-tier companies do it. Don’t book something where they won’t guarantee you that you can change your travel dates for free after the GEM opening announcement comes out. That’s a red flag if a company won’t let you do that or if they give you the run around about it.
Actually, that reminds me that I need to do an entire episode on what red flags to look out for with respect to travel companies in Egypt. You’d be surprised how many allegedly “luxury” or “world-renowned” travel companies and tour operators are covered in classic red flags that could easily have been either avoided or mitigated had their victims been smart enough to listen to the Egypt Travel Podcast like you all. That’s why I love you all – because you’re smart and you’re doing your homework about travel to a crazy place like Egypt well in advance and also because you’re clearly a fan of podcasts like me.
Alright, before I wrap up, I promised you all exclusive access to that interview transcript before I make it public on EgyptTravelBlog.com. If you’re already a booked client of Egypt Elite, you already got access to this about two weeks ago in our October booked upcoming client newsletter, so if you missed that in there then you probably missed a lot of other really juicy updates and such, so go pull that backup and give it another read. Or if you didn’t get it, check your spam folder and send me an email if you can’t find it and I’ll resend it to you.
For everyone else, go to EgyptTravelBlog.com/intel and use the password podcast to access the original source interview video and the full English translation of it. It’s not very long, so you can read through the whole thing pretty quickly. Then you can analyze Dr. Hawas’s exact words yourself and see what you think about my analysis of his recent slip up on that local tv show.
Of course, when the next slip-up happens or when any other intel on the GEM opening comes my way, you’ll hear it here first. Have an amazing, wonderful, productive, and/or delightfully relaxing day everyone. Ma’ salaama.