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Egypt Unveils Plan for Dubai-Style Desert Capital

Egypt's government has unveiled plans to ditch 1000-year-old Cairo for a brand new capital city that will cost about $45 billion to build.
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Egypt's government has unveiled plans to ditch 1000-year-old Cairo for a brand new capital city that will cost about $45 billion to build.

The slated metropolis - part of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's purported plan to usher the nation into a more financially stable, peaceful era - will hold 7 million residents and stretch over 150 miles in a corridor between Cairo and the Red Sea, officials announced Friday at a national economic conference.


The ambitious building project, accompanied by a sleek website for the "City of the Future," will include almost 2,000 schools and colleges, the Egyptian Parliament and all foreign embassies, developers told BBC. The city is meant to be a sustainable, modern center that draws residents from the congestion of Cairo.

The design of new Capital of Egypt at — Dr.Maree ?…??…? ?…??? (@mar3e)March 14, 2015

Excited about Egypt's 'new capital'? Find out more here: — Egypt The Future (@egyptthefuture)March 14, 2015

Developers from the United Arab Emirates, home to Dubai's Burj Khalifa - the tallest tower in the world - will take part in the construction of the still-unnamed future capital.

Leading the construction effort will be Emirati Mohammed Alabbar, who runs Capital City Partners and founded of Dubai's Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa.

"It's a natural extension for Cairo," he said. "It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to build something from scratch, and to design it keeping in mind the needs of the Egyptian people."

The government's stunning announcement was just one part of a busy weekend for Egypt's Sissi, who led an economic development conference insisting his nation needed $300 billion in investment to emerge from its instability and thrive.

Sisi addressing conference. Room is buzzing. Says event will be annual gathering — Rebecca Spong (@Rebecca_MEED)March 15, 2015


Sisi: We can't wait 10 years for the new capital, because we would have increased 26 million people by that time, time is critical — Mada Masr ?…?? ?…?? (@MadaMasr)March 15, 2015

"Loving Egypt cannot just be words," Sissi said at the conference, AP reported. "We are behind, and those that are behind must either speed walk or run. Even running will not be enough in our case."

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has encouraged investment in Egypt, also attended the conference.

Met w/ — John Kerry (@JohnKerry)March 15, 2015

El-Sissi, who took office in 2014, follows other countries, including Brazil and Nigeria, in his move to switch the capital. But his plan has already begun garnering harsh criticism from opponents who say funds need to be spent helping lift the nation out of poverty, and that rich investors will be the ones to profit from the project.

Nobody admits that all the jobs they keep bragging about creating are mostly low-value, manual labour.Not how you build a country— Mohamed El Dahshan (@eldahshan)March 15, 2015

Amazing… They have no money, economy but — TheDiscerningMuslim (@discerningmumin)March 15, 2015

"Where to begin with this disaster of a development plan?" Egyptian native Mariam Bazzees wrote on Facebook. "Does one begin by mentioning the trickle-down economics envisioned by this model have failed to work time and again in our experience with a government that relies on cronyism in how it awards its mega project contracts, such that we can be sure that only those whose pockets are already deep are going to be the ultimate winners of these contracts?"

Sissi has staked his presidency on bringing security and prosperity to Egypt's 82 million citizens. Since he ousted former President Mohammad al-Morsi in 2013, Gulf nations have pumped more than $20 billion into Egypt's struggling economy.

The three main contributors to Sissi's Egypt didn't fail the president this weekend: Saudi Arabia,  Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates announced they would send at least another $12 billion in aid and investments.

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman