Egypt Prepares Move to Capital East of Cairo

Construction of the future parliament building in the new administrative capital, some 50 km east of the capital Cairo, on March 7, 2019. (Photo by PEDRO COSTA GOMES / AFP) (Photo by PEDRO COSTA GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
PEDRO COSTA GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

Egypt is scrambling to complete a new administrative capital east of Cairo in time to receive its first civil servants by July, the government confirmed this week.

“The rate of completion of the first phase has passed 60 percent across all projects,” Khaled el-Husseiny, spokesman for the new capital, said this week. The Egyptian government plans to transfer its first batch of government ministers to the city by July and officially open the new administrative capital by the end of 2021 as part of a greater plan to alleviate congestion in Egypt’s nearby national capital, Cairo.

The planned launches follow several pandemic-related delays and financial setbacks for Egypt’s new administrative capital. The Egyptian government planned to rely heavily upon the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) to fund the city’s construction when it first announced the venture in 2015. The Emirati funds fell through shortly afterward, however, forcing the Egyptian military and government to take on an estimated $25 billion cost to construct the capital’s first phase. Cairo also reached out to alternative foreign donors, including China, for additional off-budget funding.

“Some international financing has been secured for rail links, and a $3 billion Chinese loan has helped fund the business district, built by China State Construction Engineering Corp (CSCEC),” Reuters reported on March 17.

Egyptian Housing Minister Asem al-Gazzar announced on February 24 that “60 floors have been constructed thus far in the Iconic Tower, the tallest tower in Africa at 400 meters, in the New Administrative Capital’s central business district,” according to the Egyptian Independent.

“The would-be 385-meter high 80-floor Iconic Tower is expected to be the tallest skyscraper in Egypt and Africa upon completion,” Xinhua, China’s official press agency, reported last January.

“We have about 800 Egyptian engineers, 4,000 Egyptian workers, 800 Chinese engineers and 1,000 Chinese workers who are currently working in the project,” Chang Weicai, general manager of CSCEC Egypt, told Xinhua. He added that CSCEC had “cooperated with about 100 Egyptian local companies so far” to build the business district.

Chang hailed the CSCEC’s collaboration with Egypt on its new administrative capital as a landmark project for China’s infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Egypt joined in 2016.

“Egypt now has a golden chance for economic development, and the CBD [Central Business District] joint project embodies both China’s BRI and Egypt’s Vision 2030 for future development,” Chang said at the time.

Reuters described more recent development in the city’s construction on Wednesday ahead of the capital’s upcoming launch.

“At the heart of the city, workers are putting finishing touches to an avenue of ministries that echo the architecture of pharaonic temples and adjoin a raised Islamic complex, two domed parliament buildings, and a sprawling presidential compound,” the news agency relayed. “There will be a monorail passing through a business district where a 385-meter central tower is close to completion. Beyond, the contours of a 10 km [6 mile] park stretching to a giant mosque are taking shape.”

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