Did you hear? Egypt’s capital is on the move. Though Cairo has been the official capital of Egypt for over a thousand years, a brand new metropolis – under construction since 2015 – is almost finished and ready to take centre stage as the country’s brand new capital. They just haven’t picked a name yet.
The goal of this new city, which is currently going by the placeholder name “New Administrative Capital (NAC)” is to relieve the congestion of Cairo, one of the world’s most crowded cities, with a “smart traffic” system, as well as solve many of its other problems. It already has a park twice the size of New York’s Central Park and the new capital has also committed to “allocate 15 square metres of green space per inhabitant (the project is being sold as a green initiative to tackle pollution). Its downtown is to have skyscrapers, including the Oblisco Capitale, designed in the form of a Pharaonic obelisk at a height of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), becoming the tallest in the world; and the Iconic Tower, which will be the tallest tower in Africa. The city will also have artificial lakes, about 2,000 educational institutions, a technology and innovation park, 663 hospitals and clinics, 1,250 mosques and churches, a 90,000-seat stadium, 40,000 hotel rooms, a major theme park four times the size of Disneyland and 90 square kilometers of solar energy farms. They have also built the 2nd biggest mosque in the world (after the one in Mecca) and the biggest church in the middle East.
The first section, the business sector, is slated to open in 2023. Part of that project includes the creation of a new center for military command, and it has a spoke-and-wheel design so that it can be added to in coming years. ” From space, the project looks like an alien base out of a science fiction movie, notes one media outlet. Officially, they’re calling it “The Octagon” much like the United States has the Pentagon. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is also keen on restoring Egypt’s former glory as a leader in the Arab World.
To facilitate the movement between Cairo an the new city, electric train and monorail links are being constructed, and the first workers to relocate will have shuttle buses until the other transit options are completed. There’s a naming contest underway for the capital, though a winner has yet to be announced.
And who is footing the bill? Several foreign loans have been set (with both China and the UAE among them), but the project is largely funded by the Egyptian military. Al Jazeera goes on to say that, “there are fears that the project will not only help the country’s backbone industries and struggling businesses to get back on their feet, but also allow the military to spread its tentacles further across the Egyptian economy. The military, for example, has the capacity to provide much of the steel and cement needed to complete the construction of the new city.” Bottomline, while this project is being sold as an altruistic and green venture, the military will likely benefit more than any of either city’s inhabitants, and by extension, it will benefit Egypt’s president.
One electrician in Cairo’s “impoverished Imbaba district” told Reuters, “Some classes will be able to live there, others won’t.” Other Cairo residents told NBC News, “For the country to watch the government spend tens of billions on this while also hearing them say we all have to tighten our belts, it sends a contradictory message.” The city is also reminiscent of a similar undertaking, Sadat City northwest of Cairo, which was less than successful and now inhabits only 150,000.
The New Administrative Capital complex has three phases, but the basic infrastructure is complete, and several buildings will be finished in 2022. The first phase will be completed in 2030, and it will cost about $58 billion.
“We are trying to solve all the problems we had in the past in the new capital,” spokesman for the new capital, Khaled el-Husseiny told Reuters. And while this is likely very true, the New Capital City may also exacerbate some of the existing issues, as well as pose new ones.
Will you be curious to see Egypt’s new capital? Take a virtual journey into the future below…