Throughout 2019 Egypt was racing against time to complete the construction of mega projects that include new cities, roads, bridges and tunnels.
The Ministry of Housing, represented in the New Urban Communities Authority, has been constructing 14 new cities under the name “Fourth Generation Cities”. Among them are the New Administrative Capital, New Alamein, New Mansoura, East Port Said, Nasser City in western Assiut and the New Ismailia city.
According to the Housing Ministry, the term “fourth generation cities” means that they are cities built according to an architectural style based on modern technology and energy.
“The goal of building fourth generation cities is not a luxury but to help disperse the large population, and to double the Egyptian built-up area instead of overcrowding in the valley and Delta,” Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said.
The government says that 14 cities are planned to be smart, in that services will be provided electronically in line with Egypt’s 2030 Vision and Egypt’s sustainable development strategy in 2051.
Moreover, sustainable development standards are applied in their construction works, according to the government, such as waste recycling and the presence of green open spaces.
“They also aim at putting Egypt on the map of global investments as their strategic locations were chosen to achieve more than one criterion, among which is the distinguished location that makes them compete globally and regionally and that they are on specific developmental axes to double the population area. They are also linked to major projects that the state is currently implementing,” Madbouli said, adding that they are aimed to be centres for entrepreneurship.
The total area of these 14 new cities is 380,000 acres, representing 50 per cent of the total areas of urban communities that were implemented during the previous 40 years.
According to the Housing Ministry, the cities, when complete, will accommodate 14 million people, and provide six million permanent jobs.
“Initially, the construction of new cities of the fourth generation is considered extremely important because the new generation and the population growth must be absorbed in such new cities,” Ayman Hassan, a professor of architecture and site coordination at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Without constructing such cities, Hassan says, population growth will turn into random housing inside the capital itself.
For these new cities to succeed where their predecessors could not, Hassan said that the first thing is that these new cities “must be spread out in the governorates according to their population growth and that for each governorate”.
“Also, these cities must conform to the nature of their locations and residents. For example, the New Administrative Capital takes into account the nature of its population which will focus on business owners and companies while Upper Egypt’s Nasser City in western Assiut should provide factories to absorb workers and technicians who will live in it,” Hassan said.
This is what is called the “economic base” of the city, he said, which aims to ensure that the residents of the new city will find work and will not have to go to another city for work.
The administrative capital’s business district attracted a lot of attention. The Central Business District (CBD), is co-built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the New Urban Communities Authority will be home to 20 towers. Topping the list is the 78-floor Iconic Tower which will be the tallest building in Africa when finished. Fourteen of the towers’ floors are already constructed.
“Work on the Iconic Tower officially began in May 2018 with the digging of the land for the tower, while construction of the building itself started in February 2019,” Han Bing, minister counsellor for economic affairs at the Chinese embassy in Cairo, told the Weekly.
Bing added that the first phase of the CBD, which includes 20 towers, will be completed in 2022, while construction work will be finished in July 2020.
According to the housing ministry, the estimated investments in the CBD are around $3 billion.
One major objective of constructing the New Administrative Capital is to relieve congestion in Cairo, one of the world’s most crowded cities. However, for Hassan, it will not achieve such an objective without a proper transportation network that connects it with Cairo’s districts.
Earlier this year, Madbouli witnessed the signing of an executive agreement with the Chinese bank Exim to provide a $1.2 billion soft loan for the implementation of Egypt’s City Light railway that connects Greater Cairo with the New Administrative Capital.
“The railway will be constructed by Chinese firms under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation,” Khaled Al-Husseini, public relations manager for the New Administrative Capital’s Urban Development Company, told the Weekly. “The railway will be connected with the third line of the Cairo underground network in Salam City’s Adli Mansour metro station. It will link the cities of Greater Cairo, Obour, Shorouk, Mostaqbal and Robeiki with the New Administrative Capital.”
Moreover, negotiations are underway to construct a monorail that will connect Cairo’s district of Nasr City with the New Administrative Capital. “The monorail will be constructed in cooperation between the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Transportation. It is to start from Cairo Stadium in Nasr City, moving through New Cairo District and finally reaching the New Administrative Capital. It will run on an elevated single rail to avoid traffic intersections,” Al-Husseini said.
He added that a private company is due to be contracted to provide buses to transport people to and from the New Administrative Capital.
Ministries will be moved in July 2020 to the New Administrative Capital’s governmental district which includes 32 buildings, including the headquarters of the presidency, the cabinet and the parliament in addition to a headquarters for each ministry.
Egypt’s cabinet announced on 4 November that Egypt had jumped in the world’s 2019 road quality rankings 90 places, reaching 28th place after it was 118th in 2014.
A national road project, launched by Al-Sisi in 2014, is intended to construct 7,000km, of which 5,000km have already been implemented, according to a cabinet statement.
The number of accidents decreased by 41.1 per cent, recording 8,480 accidents in 2018, down from 11,098 accidents in 2017, and 14,403 accidents in 2014, the cabinet statement added.
Among the important new roads that were constructed in 2019 was the new Sharm El-Sheikh road, which cost LE3.5 billion, with a total length of 342km. It starts from Oyoun Moussa (Moses’ eyes) area to Sharm El-Sheikh. The road has three lanes in each direction, 25 metres in width.
It shortens the travel duration from New Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh to four hours, facilitating transportation and tourism to the South Sinai governorate.
Elsewhere, the 30 June Axis, a dual freeway 95km in length and 80m in width with a cost of LE8.5 billion, was inaugurated two weeks ago. It starts from South Port Said passing by the International Coastal Road (Port Said-Damietta) and extending to Cairo-Ismailia desert road.
According to Housing Minister Assem Al-Gazzar, the axis was jointly implemented by 50 national companies and 75,000 workers. The minister added the axis “will enhance the internal trade movement and reduce the time between the canal cities and Cairo”.
May witnessed the inauguration of Rod Al-Farag Axis and the Tahya Masr suspension bridge crossing over the River Nile.
Tahya Masr, a 540m long 67.36m wide suspension bridge, became the world’s widest cable-stayed bridge. It includes pedestrian walkways on either side, partly fitted with skywalks made of reinforced glass. The skywalks are the first in the Middle East.
“The road network is one of the most important elements of development,” Mohamed Al-Barmelgi, head of the Urban Planning Department at the Faculty of Engineering in Cairo University, told the Weekly.
“All the roads that are constructed pave the way for development. They act as important arteries to bring about the required development in the country,” Al-Barmelgi said.
“The national project of roads will not only improve internal trade but will increase foreign trade and its movement since it will link the domestic network with international roads. Economic growth will be positively affected,” Ali Al-Biali, professor of urban planning at Al-Azhar University, told the Weekly.
For Hassan, the construction of roads is very important because it has been long delayed. “The country can be likened to an elderly man suffering from atherosclerosis, and these new roads are the coronary stents which will enable him to recover and perform his daily activities again,” Hassan said.
On a tour of Heliopolis, President Al-Sisi last month inspected the construction works of five bridges which are being constructed simultaneously. They are due to be finished by January 2020.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi, the projects will connect the area to major highways “both within the capital and those connecting Cairo with some of the new cities being constructed by the state”.
On the other hand, the president inaugurated four new tunnels passing under the Suez Canal.
According to the Arab Contractors, one of the tunnels’ construction companies, the tunnels facilitate the movement of individuals and goods to and from Sinai, and aim to create the desired development for that region in tandem with developments in Sinai and the canal area.
The tunnels are in line with the Sinai Peninsula development plans which are set to be completed by 2022 at a cost of LE275 billion, as part of efforts to eliminate terrorism in the northern part of the peninsula.
The total cost of the government’s construction is LE35 billion.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: A year of construction