Architecture projects don't come much bigger or more challenging than building an entire new capital city from scratch, but that's what the Egyptian Government, Skidmore, Owings & Merril (SOM), and international group of investors Capital City Partners Limited intend with the Capital Cairo project. The recently-proposed city, seven times the size of Paris, and twelve times bigger than Manhattan, would measure approximately 700 sq km (270 sq miles) and be home to 7 million residents.

Planning of the as-yet unnamed city is being led by SOM, and if it goes ahead, it would be located to the east of the current city of Cairo and serve as something of a pressure valve for the existing capital's ever-growing population. The new city would house 7 million people and create an estimated 1.5 million new jobs.

"While we are at the earliest stages of design, the new city will be built on core principles that include places of education, economic opportunity, and quality of life for Egypt’s youthful population," says SOM's Philip Enquist, who is Partner in Charge of Urban Design and Planning at the firm. "The new city will be designed and built in harmony with nature as a showcase of environmentally sensitive development."

The city would include some 40,000 hotel rooms, a large park that could comfortably accommodate London's Hyde Park six times over, a theme park that dwarfs Disneyland, and a 4.2 million sq m (approx 45 million sq ft) retail area. The seat of government would be moved to the new city, and the city's design would be relatively flexible and capable of future growth. A large renewable energy farm is mentioned for the project too, but we have no more information on what form this would take (solar power might be a good bet, considering its location in the desert).

The slated infrastructure really brings home the scale of the challenge. For example, the city would include a 20,000 km (12,427 mile)-long water and sewage network, a 10,000 km (6,213 mile) road network, 100 km (62 miles) of bridges and tunnels, and a 16 sq km (6 sq mile) international airport. It would also require a mind-boggling 20 million cubic meters (706 cubic ft) of water every day.

The BBC quotes Egyptian Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly as saying that the project will cost US$45 billion and take between five and seven years to complete. This timeframe sounds a bit unrealistic to us, and is perhaps a case of wishful thinking – as, one could argue, is the project as a whole.

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