The Egyptian government is in the middle of an ambitious project to build a new capital city in the desert, 28 miles Southeast of the present 1000-year-old capital, Cairo. The first phase of the project is expected to cost an estimated $45 billion and CNN is reporting that the China Fortune Land Development Company has agreed to foot $20 billion of the bill following a meeting between heads of the firm and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Another state-owned Chinese construction company has already agreed to provide $15 billion to help finance the construction of a 5000-seat conference center, 14 government buildings, and a zone for trade fairs.
Egyptian officials hail the project as the solution to Cairo’s perennial traffic problems and housing shortages. The website for the capital city project describes it as, “a momentous endeavor to build national spirit, foster consensus, provide for long-term sustainable growth,” promising that the new city will “create more places to live, work, and visit.”
Work has already begun on the unnamed capital, with several residential apartments buildings beginning construction and engineers laying the roadway to link it to Cairo.
On completion, the new city is expected to cover a land area of about 700 square kilometres and will feature one of the world’s largest parks, in addition to smart villages, industrial zones, housing for five million people, and over 1,000 mosques. CNN reports that a Saudi firm has announced plans to build a 12.6 hectare mosque and an Islamic museum, while an Indian company is looking to build a world class medical center and university.
Plans for the initiative were first announced in March 2015 and it is expected to be completed by 2021. It is widely believed that President el-Sisi considers the new capital a legacy project in his honor and he has continued to push for its timely completion even as Egypt grapples with its current economic slump.
Supporters of the project, however, say a new capital is long overdue and bound to be a success, citing Nigeria as an example after it moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991 and Tanzania, which is now in the middle of moving its capital from Daar es Salam to Dodoma.