Plans for two Aswans

Karima Abdel-Ghani, Tuesday 15 Jun 2021

As Aswan improves the quality of life of its residents, its fourth-generation sister New Aswan is being modelled as a tourist and investment hub, reports Karima Abdel-Ghani

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The ancient city of Swenett, today’s Aswan, has a new baby sister — New Aswan. The new city promises to be a model of the fourth-generation cities Egypt has been establishing with a large share of national and urban-planning funding.  

The two Aswans are 10km apart, both overlooking the River Nile. The new city’s Nile promenade might imply that it is targeting higher-income brackets, especially given the villas lined up on hills overlooking the Nile. But, in fact, the city caters for all economic strata, with residential complexes being designed to accommodate everyone from limited-income brackets to the upper classes. What all the residential areas have in common is the fact that they enjoy all kinds of services and entertainment facilities.  

“The new city comprises seven districts, four of which, including the residential areas, services, and the tourist hub, have been completed,” Mohamed Hisham, supervisor of projects on the city’s Nile strip, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

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A tour of the city revealed that labourers have been working day and night to complete the various projects. In the third district, work on a club has been finished. Nearby, the security directorate, traffic department, general hospital close to the university, police station, and healthcare units are being built, Hisham explained.

The fourth district is primarily dedicated to residential buildings, all being constructed according to plans that include social housing and units for the middle and upper classes.

The villas area extends for 6km along the Nile strip, Hisham said, adding that it has been planned to house “the new city’s tourist development. The area will house projects such as the Nile Garden, which will give New Aswan residents across social strata the opportunity to have a breath of fresh air.”

The value of the area has increased with the discovery of several Pharaonic sites in the hills on which the villas are being erected, in addition to an ancient Coptic church and a Pharaonic temple that are still being excavated, Hisham said.  

To raise the financial returns of the Nile strip with its entertainment and investment projects, the area overlooking the Nile has been planned to house 150 villas, 63 of which have been finished, while 23 others are being constructed.

A Roman amphitheatre, a replica of the one in Alexandria, is also being built on the strip to accommodate an audience of 3,000. With the structure completed, the final touches are being added, the lighting system installed, and trees planted, in preparation for the inauguration scheduled for 30 June.  

The theatre, garden, and Nile strip areas will be connected via a bridge. The view from the amphitheatre is breathtaking, overlooking the Garden and the Nile, Hisham said, before accompanying the Weekly to the area where shops and bazaars are being built in an architectural style reminiscent of the beach houses in the Montazah area of Alexandria.

With the area planned to be a magnet for tourists, there will be more coffee houses and restaurants built, he explained.  

The garden will be home to rare trees and plants found across Egypt, and it has been planned as a nature reserve to preserve indigenous plants, Hisham stated. Moreover, the greenery along the Nile strip situated between the existing Kubbaniya and Gharb Seheil villages is visible from afar, and workers are planting palm trees and plants along the promenade. The trees are ornamental palms brought from nurseries, said Sabri Rizk, a contractor.

Many residents of New Aswan are already flocking to the new garden to spend the day or mark a special occasion, though the site is still being prepared for the official inauguration.



FOUNDATION: The green light for the establishment of New Aswan on an area of 4,000 feddans was given by presidential decree in 1999.

The infrastructure layout began in 2003 with a plan for the expansion of Aswan by tendering plots of land and residential buildings to existing inhabitants. However, the slow pace of developing the limited- and middle-income social-housing units at that time resulted in low demand, said Ahmed Rashad, head of the New Aswan city council.

He recalls that in mid-2014, following the launch of social-housing programmes to provide residential units for all and the Million Residential Units Initiative, a lot of developments took place in the infrastructure of the new city, including electricity, water, and sewage stations.

As a part of the initiative, 6,800 residential units were planned to be built in New Aswan and the city’s blueprint expanded to 22,000 feddans in 2016 with the aim of accommodating 850,000 residents by 2050, Rashad stated.  

The New Urban Communities Authority is participating in the housing scheme by building social units, each ranging between 75 and 120 square metres. The first phase of the project was completed and made available to future residents on 31 December 2020, Rashad continued, adding that there had been high demand from limited- and middle-income families and individuals.   

He added that the state was shouldering the difference in the cost of residential units from one city to the other, explaining that prices were determined according to location and type of area. “New Aswan is located about 860km south of the capital, and its soil is rocky, which renders the construction more costly,” he said, adding that “5,830 residential units have been finished, of which about 4,000 were delivered to residents.”

Rashad said that occupation rates in Egypt’s new cities is often weak at first, later picking up pace as people take the time to adapt to living in the new cities and as services, hospitals, schools, transportation, markets, and security are made more available.   

“As much as the Nubians residing in Aswan hold onto their culture and heritage — even maintaining the traditional architectural style of their housing — their young people are connecting their past more with modernity,” he said, adding that “many Nubian young people are now residing in houses built by the state in New Aswan.”

The increased occupancy rates have encouraged the municipality to add three more transportation lines between Aswan and New Aswan. The more people inhabit the new city, the more the transportation lines will function. Currently, they operate every half an hour, Rashad said, adding that the government has provided the city with additional buses and minibuses to facilitate the flow of traffic, especially because of the high traffic caused by university students, numbering 6,000 in New Aswan.  

He added that the occupation rate of the residential units in New Aswan was “one of the highest in Upper Egypt due to factors such as the stable infrastructure network supported by proper maintenance and the availability of transportation and education and healthcare services. Schools in New Aswan offer all stages of education, and there are experimental and international schools as well. The University of Aswan has eight faculties, there is a branch of Al-Azhar University in the city, and there are also several branches of a private university.”

In the same way that government offices are being moved from Cairo to the New Administrative Capital, New Aswan will see similar moves, with governorate offices and the local security directorate all being transferred from Aswan to New Aswan, Rashad stated.

“According to government plans, land allocated for urbanisation projects will be delivered within 36 months of reservation,” he added, explaining that “New Aswan’s industrial zone is to be built on 2,650 feddans of land, and work on its construction will begin next year. The tourist area housing the garden, Nile strip, and entertainment venues is planned on 1,050 feddans.”

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NEW CITY: New Aswan, with its meticulous urban planning, greenery along clean streets, and road and flyover networks, will soon rival its older sister, Rashad believes.

Aswan Governor Ashraf Attia told the Weekly that the area had received its share of the national projects meant to improve the lives of citizens and modernise infrastructure.

Besides renewing the road network, the governorate’s other infrastructure is also being upgraded, and much like the rest of the country, Aswan is witnessing a digital transformation to attract investment that will increase the value of its mining, quarrying, and fishery resources, he said.

Besides ensuring that the new city has clean and well-planned streets, the governorate is focused on implementing state programmes meant to improve the quality of life of citizens and help them live better lives. The governorate was developing the quality of its services and opening direct channels of communication with Aswan residents, Attia said.  

“Regarding the road network, work is underway to finish the construction of three axes and flyovers. The Kalabsha flyover is scheduled for inauguration on 30 June, and the road axes are being built at a cost of LE4 billion. In addition, work has begun on the first phase of the two-way desert road extending for 100km from Aswan to Edfu with an investment of LE540 million,” he added.

“Another project in the works is repaving the Aswan-Wadi Al-Alaki road that extends for 180km at a cost of LE600 million. The project is being implemented in tandem with paving 39km of roads in Aswan for LE68 million,” Attia explained.

The investment plans for Aswan have been structured according to a comprehensive vision to maximise the benefits from its geographical location and the road network that connects the neighbouring Red Sea with African markets, he added. The investment plans include facilities and incentives to attract investors and developers to invest in the city’s mining, quarrying, and fishing resources. Current efforts have resulted in a LE20 million increase in investments, he stated.

The Upper Egyptian governorate is preparing for the opening of 27 factories in the industrial zone of Al-Alaki. The foundation of other factories is being established, and there are plans to expand the industrial zone by 50 feddans in coordination with the Industrial Development Authority, Attia said, adding that work on the development of the area earmarked to produce phosphate fertilisers in Nag Helal on 5,115 feddans of land was progressing.

The governor said that the Aswan old market, Station Square, and plaza were being revamped to restore the allure of a governorate declared Capital of African Youth in 2019. Aswan was on the world touristic map and was the gateway to Africa and its civilisation, and therefore the city should look its best, he stated.  

“Microbuses have been renewed, older cars taken off the streets, and the drivers of horse-driven carriages have been given uniforms and have received instructed on how to deal with tourists, all with the aim of providing safe modes of transport in the city,” Attia continued.



DEVELOPMENT: The plans to develop Aswan are focusing on improving the lives of its people.

As part of the implementation of the presidential Decent Life and development of Egypt’s rural areas initiatives, villages have been chosen for development according to the rates of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and women who work to support their households, Attia explained.

A package of service and development projects has been designed for 68 villages and 321 rural centres in Edfu and Kom Ombo. Work is already in progress on 71 projects for drinking water, sewage, and education.

Some LE900 million has been allocated in the 2020-21 budget for the implementation of sewage-water projects in Edfu’s Kalh district, along with drinking water stations in the villages and cities of the governorate, he said, adding that another project targeted lining 21km of canals at a cost of LE500 million.  

“Work on lining the upper branch of the Faris village canal west of the Nile in Kom Ombo and extending over 3km has been finished at a cost of LE5 million. The village was also extensively developed, with the introduction of sewage services at a cost of LE196 million. A new elementary school with 16 classes was built, and primary education schools maintained for LE10 million,” he added.

“As part of the Decent Life initiative, a two-phase development plan was drawn up for 34 villages in Aswan. In the first phase, 30 projects will be implemented in 11 villages to improve the quality of life of 38,626 households for LE82.7 million. Rehabilitating 593 houses is also in the plan. The second phase will include the Raisiya village in Edfu and New Manshiya in Kom Ombo. Some 53 other projects in Aswan have been allocated LE198 million,” Attia added.

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The governor said that developing the informal housing areas was crucial for attaining sustainable development, not only in Aswan, but nationwide as well. “These areas were identified in coordination with the Fund for the Development of Informal Areas. There are 15 such areas in nine districts in Aswan, including Azab Kima, which houses 11,000 families.”

Development work on the areas is being implemented in two phases, Attia stated. “In the first phase, three residential buildings with 144 fully finished units were constructed in the Sahabi village at a cost of LE26 million. The area was designed with aesthetics in mind, having secure buildings surrounded by new roads and service facilities,” he said.

“In addition, 337 families were compensated in the form of new residential units, stores, and financial support. The second phase is an extension of the first and will see the construction of more residential buildings to benefit a total of 853 families. Some 516 families will be compensated before the project is completely finished.”

Attia said that a committee had been formed to set appropriate compensation for the families based on their needs.

In the healthcare sector, the Aswan governor said that more people were now benefiting from the state’s Universal Healthcare Insurance scheme that has seen the registration of 931,000 people in Aswan.

“To provide the targeted healthcare services, work is underway on upgrading 112 healthcare units and 11 hospitals at a cost of LE12.3 billion,” Attia stated.

 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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