Egypt’s housing minister Mostafa Madbouly has announced a plan to build a completely new capital city, possibly as soon as within seven years. Cairo, which has a population of 20 million residents and is expected to continue growing, is overpopulated and polluted. The new city is expected to help alleviate some of that congestion and modernize Egypt’s capital. Unsurprisingly, this plan has been met with plenty of doubt. Egypt has built several “satellite” cities for Cairo in the past in an attempt to reduce congestion, but many of these cities now lay desolate. If that’s the case, how can a new capital city hope to attract the urban population of Cairo, which has over 1000 years of history?
The plan itself is ambitious, grand, and big. The new capital city is expected to house five million residents over 270 square miles of land, with 663 health centers, 1,250 mosques and churches, and 1.1 million homes. Taking notes from more successful purpose-built cities, the new capital will consist of mixed-use development, be connected to transit, and have plenty of green space. Madbouly believes that 1.5 million jobs will be created, and generate enough economic incentive for locals to move into the city. While planned cities have a bad reputation today, there are a few success stories, such as Brasilia.
But some have a much darker view of the plan. Egypt’s government, which rules by an authoritarian military regime, does not necessarily serve its people, and this new capital city is just as likely to be a tool for control as it is a solution to Cairo’s urban issues. Cities can be designed to make it easier for the military to quell riots and keep the poor out of sight. Not only that, this new city will be a monument to president Abdel Fatah al-Sis and his new vision for the country as well as help distance himself from Tahrir Square, where his past two predecessors were overthrown.