Egypt's New Cairo?
By: Christian Jimenez/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the present day there are many famous urban centers around the world such as London or New York. However, when people think of the most famous cities in the Middle East, many would think of Cairo, one of the oldest and most populous cities in the Arab World boasting a population of around 24 million people in its metropolitan area, and being a short distance away from the most famous Egyptian landmarks, the pyramids of Giza. However, despite this, it may no longer play a role as the nation’s capital as Egypt is planning to build a new administrative center in the east.
Plans for a New Egypt Outside of Cairo
This project of Egypt was first announced by the Economic Egyptian Development Conference in March of 2015, and it is part of Egypt’s own Vision 2030 Plan, which is similar to the Saudi Vision 2030 Plan where they are also attempting to build new urban areas. The new capital is called the “New Administrative City,” and will be located about 45 kilometers east of Cairo, placing the city directly between the Nile River and the Suez Canal. It is also said to be larger than the country of Singapore at around 700 square kilometers and will be able to house around 6.5 million people. In addition to the 6.5 million people, the new capital city will also be home to the government and its administrative power as it plans to move around 34 government ministries there along with the parliament building, the central bank, and a new presidential palace. Analogous to the planned metropolis of “The Line” in Saudi’s Tabuk Province, Egypt’s new city will also be a futuristic high tech hub, and will boast Africa’s largest tower, the Iconic Tower at 385 meters high, as well as the country’s largest minaret. Other future structures in the city will include Egypt’s largest airport as well the Middle East’s largest opera house, costing around $20 billion.
This high tech city is also referred to as a “smart city” where technology will play a large role. An example of this is events where there are fires or smoke, which would be caught by sensors, and these would in turn contact emergency services. Other examples include traffic management, surveillance, and management of utilities such as water supplies. All of these factors mean that this “smart design” also needs a lot of energy to maintain it, which would be fulfilled by renewable supplies of power, making this area a sustainable city as well. The city will also feature a cashless society where everyone will use ecommerce, which could be easily adopted by the inhabitants of the city as this service is already being used by 20 million people across Egypt . Finally, there would be around 2,000 educational institutions, 1,000 mosques, 40,000 hotel rooms, and a national park that is supposed to be twice as large as Central Park in New York.
All of these projects for this New Administrative Capital sounds expensive at around $45 to $58 billion, which is why the government has been trying to gain enough money from investors, including from foreign countries such as the UAE and China, where they plan to send a $3 billion loan for the new city’s business district. Thanks to loans like China’s, the city has been built up at a rather quick pace as the first government ministries have already moved in by the summer of 2020, and they also started to set up the city’s security system with around 6,000 wireless cameras installed. Currently, the city is at around 60 percent completion in phase one of the New Administrative City project according to government officials. However, an important question to ask is why they would build a new city, and if this project has any negative consequences to consider.
Potential Benefits and Problems
Arguably, the most important reason for the Egyptian government to move its capital to this New Administrative City is due to an ever increasing population in the already overcrowded city of Cairo. Therefore, the government moving its capital to a newly built one miles towards its east could alleviate some of this congestion that Cairo is experiencing. There are also other problems in Cairo that the Egyptian government might like to avoid such as pollution, where it has been called the most polluted city on Earth. The new city could also have the opportunity to be an economic hub as well, helping to create new jobs for millions of civil servants and in other work fields for millions of Egyptians. Thus the new city could in the government’s eyes, expand and develop the economy, and ameliorate some of the problems that Cairo possesses, which could then play a role in the government’s final objective, which is for President Sisi to increase his legitimacy and legacy amongst the Egyptian people.
However, there is also controversy surrounding the building of this new capital city, as some Egyptians consider its construction to be drawing funds away from more pressing issues such as poverty and unemployment in the economy. There is also the concern that the city will only be a place for the wealthy and the government elites as the city could be unaffordable to lower-wage workers. This trend seems to be worryingly true at the moment because despite the Egyptian government owning the land for the city, housing prices in and around the new capital have been rising, making it unaffordable for many lower-income residents living in Egypt. This issue has been a problem in other built-up capital cities in many different countries around the world according to theconversation.com. An example of this includes Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, where the city had been built up in the 50s as a new administrative hub, but then had problems with issues such as inequality as the city became divided between rich and poor zones. Finally, the last major issue for Egyptians is that the city will also draw government funds and attention away from the other major urban centers of the country such as Cairo and Alexandria. However, despite these future opportunities and problems only time will tell whether this new city will be a success that expands the economy and develops the country or become a failure draining money and sharing the same fate as other newly built capitals around the world.
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