Judging by the response to TV talk shows and social media posts news that Emirati investors are planning to acquire Egypt’s North Coast city of Ras Al-Hekma for $22 billion is not to everyone’s taste.
Reports indicate that an Egyptian-Emirati partnership agreement is being prepared that will transform the coastal city of Ras Al-Hekma into a global tourist destination.
Reports allege that the tourist project will include an airport, hotels, commercial centres, and residential developments.
MP and TV anchor Mustafa Bakri said on 2 February that Emirati investors would spend between $22 and $42 billion to transform Ras Al-Hekma into an international tourist hub. “These incoming billions will alleviate the current foreign exchange crisis which the country has been facing since early 2023,” said Bakri. “Ras Al-Hekma is just one of several projects that will attract foreign investments and help solve the foreign exchange crisis.”
Bakri dismissed social media accusations that land at Ras Al-Hekma would be sold outright. “The Egyptian government is not selling land but using it to create investment opportunities,” he said.
Mohamed Badrawi, a member of parliament’s Budget Committee, also came to the defence of the Ras Al-Hekma project.
“It will be a global city on Egyptian soil. Development of the area has been discussed since at least 1975, so it is hardly a new topic. The project will be developed in the same way the New Administrative Capital and New Alamein city were implemented.”
Ras Al-Hekma’s beaches stretch from Dabaa, 170 km west of Alexandria, to Matrouh, 220 km west of Alexandria.
Khaled Tantawi, a member of parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the state has designated a 5.4 km stretch of land for multi-use building and plans to construct 10,000 housing units and 50 hotels and a further 7.3 km has been allocated for the development of urban communities with a variety of activities that could potentially be privatised.”
A source told Cairo News channel last week that Egypt’s Urban Development Plan 2052 prioritises the comprehensive urban development of the northwest coastal area to accommodate the growing population through partnerships with international investors.
The Ras Al-Hekma scheme, which is still in the planning stage, aims to establish a sustainable eco-tourism city in harmony with the local environment and community needs that can compete globally.
“Plans are also afoot to turn other cities like Salloum, Marsa Matrouh, Al-Nigila, and Gargoub into global tourist destinations,” said the source.
Tarek Shoukri, deputy chair of parliament’s Housing Committee, told the Weekly that legal and technical details of the agreement will take some time to be announced.
“The location of Ras Al-Hekma on Egypt’s Mediterranean Coast makes it a paradise on earth and an ideal destination for tourism and rich investors,” said Shoukri who believes rumours about the project and expected investments helped the Egyptian pound strengthen against the dollar on the parallel market in recent days.
Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, deputy chairman of parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee, told the Weekly the agreement on the project will mark a new chapter in the relations between Egypt and the Emirates.
“Ras Al-Hekma could be a shining example of how bilateral cooperation can lead to substantial mutual benefits and set a precedent for regional cooperation,” he said.
Reports about Emirati investments in Ras Al-Hekma followed the revelation that a foreign consortium, mostly from the UAE, had placed the successful bid to develop the land occupied by the former National Democratic Party’s headquarters in Tahrir Square, beating three other bidders.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 8 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly