Egypt moves 3,200-year-old Ramses statue to new location
CAIRO - Egypt on Thursday shifted a colossal statue of legendary Pharoah Ramses II into place at the entrance to a new museum in Cairo that officials hope can help win back tourists.
The iconic 3,200-year-old monument will begin welcoming visitors to the Grand Egyptian Museum by the Giza pyramids when it is scheduled to open partially within the next 12 months, after years of delays.
A military band played as the 83-tonne statue was slowly driven some 400 metres (yards) into position in a specially constructed metal frame on the back of two giant trailers.
"The colossus of Ramses II stands at the atrium to guard the largest museum in the world, like it did in antiquity at the Great Ptah Temple in Memphis," Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany said at the ceremony.
The new museum -- which will contain dazzling treasures including the chariot and bed of boy-king Tutankhamun -- is still only 70 percent built after over 18 years of construction that have seen costs spiral to more than $1 billion.
The vast complex has been buffeted by the years of political and economic turmoil that have rocked Egypt since the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
An earlier scheduled opening in 2015 was put back to 2018.
The authorities are hoping that the new museum can help breathe life into the country's vital tourist industry that has been battered by the instability.
The almost 12-metre-tall pink granite statue of Ramses has led a peripatetic existence since it was carved in the quarries of Aswan in southern Egypt over three millennia ago.
It originally stood in front of the Great Ptah Temple about 10 kilometres (six miles) south of modern-day Cairo before it was discovered by an Italian archaeologist in 1820.
In 1955, then president Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered it moved to a square in front of a Cairo railway station but it was shifted to the site of the new museum in 2006 after decades standing in damaging car fumes.
Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, reigned over Egypt for 68 years, from 1279 to 1213 BC, and is believed to have lived to the age of 90.
He covered the country with monuments to his exploits and his mummy, on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, is one of the country's biggest tourist attractions.