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Egypt-UAE deal for construction of new Egyptian mega city falters: Sources

The project could be scrapped as Emirati businessman fails to attract foreign funding for huge new city
Mohamed al-Abbar, the property tycoon heading up the Emirati side of the deal (AFP)

A multi-billion dollar Egyptian deal with the UAE for a new capital to replace Cairo could soon collapse, Emirati sources have told Egyptian media.

It was hoped that a new administrative Egyptian capital would span 700 sq km - about the size of Singapore - with an airport larger than London’s Heathrow, a park double the size of New York’s Central Park, and a theme park four times as big as Disneyland.

However, on Wednesday an Egyptian source told local daily al-Masry al-Yaum that the government had cancelled its memorandum of understanding with Emirati businessman Mohammed al-Abbar, who was to head up the project.

Disputes over the funding of the project, the first phase of which was expected to cost 45 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.9 billion), were behind the setback according to the source.

Abbar had reportedly promised the Egyptian government that the project would be financed through foreign funding, avoiding any reliance on funding from cash-strapped local banks.

However, the source told al-Masry al-Yaum that he had so far failed to attract the foreign funding necessary for the project, which he had pledged to complete within seven years.

Abbar, who sits on the board of the company that constructed the tallest building in the world, Burj al-Khalifa, has said previously that the total cost of Egypt’s new capital is likely to run up to $300 billion.

For its part the Egyptian government has reportedly failed to relocate military units sited on the land allocated for the mega city.

After reports of the deal’s cancellation began to circulate, an Emirati official denied to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that the project had been scrapped, but acknowledged that it was facing “difficulties”.

The project was one of the most high-profile to be announced during Egypt’s economic conference in March, in which President Sisi aimed to attract an estimated $60bn to jump start its troubled economy.

During the conference the president held a televised conversation with the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, in which Sisi negotiated the number of years needed to complete the project down to just three.