Egypt’s plan to build a new capital is no longer a dream, thanks to China, which has agreed to largely fund the multi-billion dollar megaproject.
The China Fortune Land Development Company has agreed to provide $20 billion for the city after a meeting between the firm’s head and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The negotiation comes after another Chinese state-run company committed $15 billion to the project, bringing the city close to its $45 billion target budget for the first phase of the project.
The 700-square-km city, which will be far grander than the current capital, will be constructed in the desert, east of Cairo. It will include housing space for 5 million people, over a thousand mosques, smart villages, 5,000-seat conference hall, industrial zones and the world’s largest park.
Other countries have also show interest in the project. An Indian company is apparently planning to invest in a medical facility and university, while Saudi Arabia plans to build a 12.6-hectare mosque and Islamic museum.
Construction on the project has already started, according to Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper. The first phase is expected to be completed in five years.
However, this isn’t the first city that Egypt with grand plans. Some people are concerned the new capital might meet a fate similar to the eight existing satellite towns around Cairo — which are virtually ghost towns.
The new towns, although beautifully developed, were unaffordable and inaccessible to a majority of Cairo's residents, according to David Sims, an urban planner.
"The new towns were built with a high modernist approach that did not allow the informal enterprises and activities that most Egyptians rely on,” he added.
Another architect also believes the Egyptian government has a misguided approach toward planning the infrastructure.
Architect Kareem Ibrahim’s research found that about half of Cairo lacked proper sewage services. Meanwhile, public services have been failing and municipal councils are operating on virtually nothing.
"The levels of deprivation were shocking," said Ibrahim. "The investment should be going towards providing equal rights to public services and utilities. Let's think about how to develop better governing structure for the cities we have, and then build new cities."
Meanwhile, some of the public is concerned about accessibility.
“Nobody likes coming here,” said Razan Bishara, a biology student who had to go to Mogamma building, where 30,000 state employees handle everything from new business registrations to issuing passports — and which is going to be shifted to the new city. “But at least I can take the Metro to Tahrir Square. I don’t know how we are going to get bureaucratic stuff like this done when they move this place to the middle of the desert.”