Egypt’s Cabinet on Thursday held its first ever meeting in the New Administrative Capital, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi's pet project that rose out of the desert east of Cairo over the past five years.
“It’s a historic day!” a statement from the office of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly quoted him as telling Cabinet ministers.
“Our meeting today in the government district at the New Administrative Capital sends a strong and clear message to the world that Egypt is taking steady and vigorous steps towards the future despite the challenges it faces.”
Construction of the new capital began five years ago at an initial cost of at least $60 billion. It’s part of an energetic construction boom that has seen Egypt build a dozen new cities, thousands of kilometres of new roads, mega housing projects and turning desert into farmland.
The completion of the new capital has prompted Mr El Sisi and the state-controlled media to coin the phrase “The New Republic” as a tribute to the development drive seen since the Egyptian leader took office in 2014.
Besides the government district, the new city boasts a diplomatic quarter, the largest Christian cathedral in the Middle East and a state of the art culture and arts centre. Mr El Sisi himself will move there along with all ministries. It will also feature the tallest skyscrapers in Africa and its public services will be entirely digital.
The city will have a population of 6.5 million when fully inhabited, about a third of the more than 20 million people who live in Nile-side Cairo 60 kilometres away.
The new capital had been scheduled to open last year, but that was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s Cabinet meeting was largely symbolic since ministries and civil servants are yet to move there. Mr Madbouly said that will happen gradually.
“Five years ago this city was nothing but blueprints and ink on paper. What happened today is an achievement that should be attributed to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who followed up on progress and offered advice every step of the way,” Mr Madbouly said.
“What has been achieved here would have taken no less than 15 or 20 years to complete anywhere else in the world, something that compels me to thank everyone who contributed to this city seeing the light of day and to shine before the entire world as the beginning of the New Republic.”