Why the Egyptian government is leaving Cairo
Egypt is rushing to prepare a grandiose new capital in the desert east of Cairo before the first officials move out this summer and before the delayed official opening of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s flagship project.
In the heart of the city, workers are putting the finishing touches on an avenue of ministries that echoes the architecture of pharaonic temples and adjoins an elevated Islamic complex, two domed parliamentary buildings and a vast presidential complex.
There will be a monorail that will run through a business district where a 1,200 foot central tower is about to be completed. Beyond, the outlines of a park extending to a giant mosque emerge.
The city, known simply as the New Administrative Capital, is designed to operate with smart technology in virgin land, far from the clutter and chaos of Cairo. It will house universities, leisure facilities and a diplomatic quarter.
But he made hesitant progress. After the UAE’s funding failure soon after its announcement in 2015, the military and government covered the estimated $ 25 billion cost of the first phase, injecting off-budget investments.
Some foreign loans and financing have been guaranteed.
The coronavirus pandemic has also slowed progress, and the first of three planned phases, covering 65 square miles, will not be complete when the government begins to move in.
“The completion rate of the first phase has exceeded 60% on all projects,” said Khaled el-Husseiny, spokesman for the new capital.
He added that the delayed transfer of officials would begin in July, ahead of an official opening scheduled for late 2021.
The city is designed as a high-tech model for the future of Egypt.
Control centers will electronically monitor infrastructure and security, rooftops will be covered with solar panels, payments will be cashless and 161 square feet of green space is allocated per capita, officials said.
“We are trying to solve all the problems we have had in the past in the new capital,” Husseiny said.
The finished city is expected to be home to at least 6 million people, with its second and third phases largely residential.
It will take decades, although the government will be able to function normally during construction, said Amr Khattab, spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, which is responsible for running parts of the city.
It is not known how far and how fast Egypt’s center of gravity is moving away from Cairo towards the new capital 28 miles from the Nile. For now, thousands of residential blocks are empty on either side of a highway leading to the new city.
Completion of the business district, still to be marketed, is scheduled for 2023.
Electric train and monorail connections are under construction. The first 50,000 officials who should settle in the new capital from this summer will be offered shuttles to get there.
About 5,000 of the 20,000 homes have been sold in the first residential area due to open in May, Khattab said.
On Monday, Sisi’s office announced 1.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($ 96 million) in incentives for officials selected to settle in the city.
Officials say the city will eventually include social housing and is supposed to finance itself through the sale of land, although it is not known how much revenue this has generated.
Of the $ 25 billion cost of the first phase, about $ 3 billion is spent on the government district, Husseiny said.
Some international funding was secured for rail links, and a $ 3 billion Chinese loan helped finance the business district, built by China State Construction Engineering Corp.
Sisi, who has embarked on multiple infrastructure megaprojects and national development programs, says other regions will not be overlooked.
“We are not leaving Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, or other provinces. We move forward together with the old and the new, ”the president said last week. The opening of the capital would mark the “birth of a new state”, he added.
While there is support for the government’s argument that the new capital can ease congestion in Cairo, there are also concerns that it may be unaffordable and inaccessible for many.
“Some classes will be able to live there, others will not,” said Alaa Ibrahim, an electrician in the poor neighborhood of Imbaba in Cairo.
This story was reported by Reuters.