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Egypt’s New Capital Will be the Largest Planned City in ...

Egypt’s New Capital Will be the Largest Planned City in History. But is it Possible?

Cairo’s thousand year reign as the capital of Egypt is under threat by a new capital. Set to rise from the desert sand just east of Cairo, the new capital is estimated to cover an astonishing 270 square miles and cost $45 billion. Already being dubbed as the “new New Cairo” of Egypt, not to be

View of city density from Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt

Cairo’s thousand year reign as the capital of Egypt is under threat by a new capital. Set to rise from the desert sand just east of Cairo, the new capital is estimated to cover an astonishing 270 square miles and cost $45 billion. Already being dubbed as the “new New Cairo” of Egypt, not to be confused with existing “New Cairo,” the development will be the largest planned city in history.

How long does it take to build a city? Egyptian Housing Minister, Mustafa Madbouley, is currently projecting the completion date in 2022. The masterplan, by architecture firm SOM (Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill LLP), is geared towards core concepts revolving around education, economy, opportunity, and quality of life, especially for the younger generations.

A few notable highlights include:

  • Housing for at least 5 million residents.
  • Schools, hospitals, shopping, an airport, community and religious buildings to support the new residents and visitors.
  • A park which is double the size of New York City’s Central Park.
  • A theme park four times larger than Disneyland.

Busy street in downtown Cairo, Egypt

With greater Cairo’s population estimated at 18 million, the intent of the project is to alleviate issues with congestion, pollution, and overcrowding by providing housing and points of interest for residents. The thought is that this will historically preserve the city and shield it from any more wear and tear that may ensue with a rapidly growing population. The catch? Unless they belong to the government elite, no one can afford to live here. Current residents of Cairo express that they would like to live in the new city, but they cannot afford to relocate their families or the expensive commute into the city center.

A clean slate to innovate is a rarity. It provides the unique opportunity to reinvent not only a city, but the ways in which we utilize city planning, architecture and design. Nevertheless, architects and planners see the viability of constructing a city the size of Singapore from the ground up in seven years with much skepticism. There have been worries about what will be jeopardized at the expense of hasty construction, primarily in regards to the overall sustainability of the city. Despite critics seeing the project as a kid carelessly wielding an open flame, project architects say that it will be an environmental showcase through its means of preserving the existing topography and developing passive cooling systems by utilizing natural breezes.

Aerial view of neighborhood surrounding historic mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Aside from critique around its carbon footprint, the new capital is an eerily close mirror to the already existing New Cairo which was intended to house two million residents but has barely attracted 100,000 residents. Since the gaudy columns and faux gold balconies of New Cairo’s suburbanite villas have failed, maybe the 200 meter-high skyscraper resembling the iconic pyramids will attract residents in droves. Even after the built up allure of a new city, fears still reside in the possibility of the new capital becoming another vacant Egyptian city reserved as a nesting ground for the elite.

Do you believe in the viability of building a new capital at such a grand scale? Or should alternative measures be taken to preserve Cairo’s history and provide for the future of young Egyptians?  

Credits: Images by Lauren Golightly. Data linked to sources.

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Lauren Golightly is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a degree in Architecture and Art History. Her studies in art history are based in architectural history, theory and criticism, and focus on modern and contemporary influences. A back...

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