In the evenings, before the throngs of tourists head back to the refuge of their Giza and Cairo hotels, the Pyramids at Giza light up with audio resonating into the surrounding desert landscape. International architecture firm SOM and local practice Raafat Miller Consulting (RMC) have been tapped to reimagine this nighttime entertainment at Egypt’s most recognizable (and visited) cultural heritage site, which brings the stories and characters of Ancient Egypt back to life, recalling the history of the pharaohs and the mystery behind the pyramids’ construction.
The team of architects and designers will led a conservation-minded rethink of the multimedia performance at the UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its three remaining triangular burial complexes—the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure—along with the massive Great Sphinx of Giza.
The endeavor will require a balance between careful preservation of what is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and modern interventions to update the technologies, facilities, and services on-site—all in the name of an enhanced visitor experience.
The revamp at the Pyramids of Giza follows on-going efforts by Egyptian officials to improve the offerings for foreign visitors at the Pyramid Plateau, which recently opened the heritage site’s first restaurant—9 Pyramids Lounge, a dining venue overlooking the ancient structures—and will also play host to the new The Grand Egyptian Museum, slated to open its doors this November in hopes of becoming the “world’s largest archeological museum.” Other plans for the site include new visitor ticketing booths and expanded parking lots.
SOM and RMC were named by OSL for Entertainment Projects, an Orascom Investment Holding company, to take on the project. The light show is emceed by Misr Company for Sound and Light, which began illuminating Egyptian monuments and sites in the 1970s.
“This project demonstrates the current focus on upgrading services provided to Egyptian and foreign visitors to the Pyramids area and utilizing first-class expertise and state-of-the-art technologies for developing the venue and the Sound and Light show to properly demonstrate Egyptian civilization, and to contribute to the tourism promotion of the region,” said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the executive managing director of Misr Company for Sound & Light and Tourism Development. “This is in line with the Egyptian government’s efforts to develop and upgrade tourist destinations, with particular emphasis on the Pyramids area due to its great historical significance being one of UNESCO’s listed world heritage sites.”
SOM design partner Chris Cooper added: “Visiting Giza is a rare, transformative experience that offers a glimpse into centuries of human history. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Giza welcomes millions of people every year; in reimagining the experience, our priority is to honor and preserve its history and create a sustainable future for the UNESCO World Heritage site. We have worked for five decades in the Middle East to marry the region’s rich cultural heritage and vernacular architecture with our expertise in delivering meaningful design to some of the most sensitive and complex sites in the world.”
As mentioned, this isn’t SOM’s first project in the region. In 2015, the firm unveiled its design for a 9-million-square-foot campus that will house the New National Cancer Institute. When completed circa 2031, the institute will be the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.