WATCH: Egypt moves colossus of Ramses II to its new location

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Egypt moved an 83-tonne, 3,200-year-old statue of King Ramses II to the atrium of Cairo's new Grand Egyptian Museum on Thursday in a complex operation undertaken by army engineers and specialist contractors.

The ancient colossus was taken on its 400-meter journey inside a cage mounted on a truck and suspended like a pendulum from a steel beam to help offset any jolts from the ground during transport.

Dr. Khaled El Anany, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, announced the successful transfer of the statue to settle at its permanent post. It will be the first to welcome visitors to the museum when it opens at the end of this year.

He added that the road surfaces were treated with special materials to ensure they could adequately bear Ramses's huge weight. The transfer operation cost 13.6 million Egyptian pounds ($770,000).

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the move, former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass underlined the importance of the museum project to Egypt's tourism sector, which has been damaged in recent years by political violence.

"It will tell people that Egypt is safe and you can come and visit us because we need the tourism for the preservation of the Egyptian antiquities."

At its new location the statue will be the first thing visitors see as they enter the museum, part of which will open later this year ahead of its expected official launch in 2022.

Thursday's move was the fourth it has seen over its several millennia of existence.

It was first moved from the quarry where it was made to Mit Rahina before being shifted in 1955 to Ramses Square in Cairo.

Increasing pollution and congestion at the square prompted its next move in 2006 to safekeeping in a storage area where it was kept of public view until now.

People gather to watch the transfer of the Statue of King Ramses II to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt January 25, 2018. (Reuters)
People gather to watch the transfer of the Statue of King Ramses II to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt January 25, 2018. (Reuters)

In 1955, the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to move the statue from Mit Rahina to Bab Al Hadid square in front of Ramses railway station in central Cairo, in response to an initiative by a member of the Revolutionary Command Council to decorate the streets and squares of Egypt’s capital.

The third transport was in 2006 when the former Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni decided to move the statue from Ramses Square to protect it from pollution due to the exhaust till the last and the fourth transport operation which took place on Thursday.

Egypt's tourism sector is one of the country's main sources of foreign currency but it has struggled since a 2011 uprising that led to years of violent instability including a spate of Islamist militant attacks.

The sector saw an improvement in 2017, with revenues jumping 123.5 percent year-on-year to $7.6 billion and the number of tourists visiting rising 54 percent to 8.3 million.

The number of visitors in 2017, however, was still well below the 14.7 million who came in 2010 before the uprising.

Ramesses II was one of the most prominent ancient rulers of Egypt during the era of the pharaohs. The statue of Ramesses II was discovered in 1820 by the Italian explorer and Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Caviglia at the "Temple of the Mit Rahina" at the center of the city of Badrashen Giza, the original home of the statue.

The statue was found in six separate parts, and all attempts to put it together back then failed. It’s 11 meters high and is sculpted from pink granite.

(With Reuters)

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