Egypt's Minister of Civil Aviation Younes el-Masri announced the commencement of operations for the Sphinx International Airport Oct. 15. The new facility is located 45 kilometers (29 miles) west of Cairo on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road in Giza governorate. The airport was constructed in just 12 months, and the official opening will be held at the end of the year.
Masri flew on the new facility's inaugural flight and called the Sphinx International Airport a great and important addition to the country that will ease pressure on Cairo International Airport, the idea of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The airport will serve the cities of 6th of October and Sheikh Zayed, as well as six governorates including Fayoum, Beni Suef and Minya.
The airport can accommodate nine large aircraft at a time and will operate charter flights. Those who come from Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh Red Sea cities, for example, to spend a day on the Giza Plateau will now be able to easily return the same day.
The main building consists of an observation tower equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems, radar and a water tank for firefighting operations. The facility also boasts thermal monitoring cameras and X-ray detectors. There are 42 service buildings, including a meteorological center and a parking garage with a capacity of 400 cars and 20 buses.
Adel Abdel-Razek, a former vice president of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, told Al-Monitor that Egypt sorely needed the Sphinx International Airport, especially now that tourism has significantly recovered after suffering following the 2011 revolution. “But we need more than [one] airport in Giza governorate itself, which has many touristic places that need more airports to serve locals and tourists alike,” Abdel-Razek added.
Giza governorate, the site of the ancient capital of the Pharaonic Old Kingdom, is located on the west bank of the Nile.
The Sphinx International Airport is located 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the famed Giza Plateau, home to the pyramids, the Great Sphinx and a number of ancient Egyptian tombs.
The airport is also near the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which will open in 2020 and house tens of thousands of unique artifacts and archaeological finds, some of which have never before been shown in public. It is expected to attract tourists from all over the world to see the 21th-century resting place for King Tut and explore the greatness of the Egyptian civilization.
“Using this airport will save tourists time — those who will come to visit the Giza pyramids and the GEM, rather than using the Cairo International Airport,” he said. People often use taxis and spend more than two hours reaching the Giza Plateau.
The Giza Plateau Development Project is currently underway to make this ancient site more tourist-friendly under the direction of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority.
Project director Mohamed Ismail said in a press statement that the project, which started prior to the 2011 revolution and will soon be finished, will include a pedestrian area around the Giza Plateau and a parking area for buses and cars. A number of pathways, portable and fixed toilets, solar-powered lights, bazaars to house vendors as well as buildings for tourism police will be erected as well.
The project also includes a visitor center to provide detailed information about every monument and its builders and include displays of the pyramids’ internal design via augmented reality.
Walid el-Batouti, a former Tourism Ministry adviser, praised the creation of the Sphinx International Airport, telling Al-Monitor, “It is regarded as a new window for tourism in the country, which will play a great role in boosting it.”
Batouti added that the airport will also serve the nearby cities’ residents when they fly to coastal cities in the summer or to the Upper Egyptian cities of Luxor and Aswan in the winter. He pointed out that more hotels are needed in this strategic area to accommodate the growing numbers of tourists expected in the near future, especially after the museum opens.