Engineers on Friday moved the giant statue of Pharaoh Ramses II from a congested square in downtown Cairo to its new home near the more peaceful Great Pyramids.

Contractors moved the more than 3,200-year-old statue from Ramses Square in an effort to save it from exhaust fumes and other environmental hazards that were causing the 83-ton structure to deteriorate.

Onlookers crowded along the street around the statue, which was surrounded by a convoy including 1,500 soldiers, during the final leg of its journey.

The trip was expected to take about 10 hours from Ramses Square — its home since the early 1950s when it was taken from a temple at the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis — to its new location about a mile from the pyramids near the site of the future Grand Museum of Egypt.

"I think that today if Ramses could talk, he would say 'Thank you for moving me,"' antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told state-run television.

Engineers constructed a cage around the statue as two flatbed trucks carried it upright during the journey that took it across the Nile River.

The statue will be renovated as it waits for its new home to be built. The museum, which also will house King Tut's mummy and other treasures, is not expected to open for at least five years, officials have said.

Ramses II was a warrior king credited with bringing Egypt unprecedented power and splendor during his 67-year reign. He died in 1225 B.C.