Project Management Institute

A capital idea

a brand-new capital city is in the works -- and the project's ultimate price tag is US\$300 billion


Egypt has begun what might be the most ambitious megacity project ever: a 40-year effort to build a new capital city from scratch to relieve Cairo's notorious congestion.

The as-yet unnamed city, referred to as Capital Cairo for now, will cost US$300 billion to build. The first phase, estimated to cost US$45 billion, was initially slated to take up to seven years, but Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi compressed that schedule to a startling two years and ordered construction to start in January.

Egyptian officials say the project is necessary because the Cairo metropolitan area's population—about 18 million people—stands to double during the next four decades.

Project plans call for the new city, east of Cairo near the Red Sea, to house 5 million to 7 million people across 270 square miles (699 square kilometers). The metropolis would include 40,000 hotel rooms, nearly 2,000 schools and more than 600 healthcare facilities, which would create more than 1 million jobs.

But the expensive project has run into plenty of skepticism. Some believe it's a publicity stunt intended to boost President el-Sissi's approval ratings.

“We'll be left with a cluster of skyscrapers in the desert, a testimony to grandiose government plans that lead nowhere,” Mohamed El Dahshan, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told CNBC.

The project is being designed by architecture giant Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and financed by Capital City Partners, a private real estate investment fund based in the United Arab Emirates. China State Construction Engineering Corp. is building the first phase—government buildings, a giant park, 15,000 housing units, a university and more. —Brigid Sweeney

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