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Egypt: New mega-mosque project for administrative capital divides opinions

Social media users have both praised and condemned the government's plans to build what it says would be the biggest mosque in the world
The mosque is set to be one of the largest in the world, according to Egypt's presidential spokesperson (Screengrab/Facebook)

Egypt’s announcement of plans to build what is believed would be the largest mosque in the world has split social media.

Bassam Rady, the spokesperson for the Egyptian presidency, announced the new project on Facebook earlier this week.

“The Egypt Mosque in the new administrative capital, one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity for 107,000 worshippers. Its minaret will reach a height of 140 meters. It includes a range of huge halls for celebrations, events, and spaces for Quran recitation for men, women and children. It also has parking space and a multi-storey car park for 3,000 cars,” the caption read, accompanied by architectural photos. 

Online, many have called the project a waste of public money, at a time when Egyptian hospitals are overwhelmed due to soaring cases of Covid-19. 

Although some saw in the project a great success for Egypt, many have highlighted deteriorating social conditions in the country and stated that they should take priority over such projects. 

Human rights activist and journalist Haytham Abokhalil took to Twitter to condemn the project.

Translation: Another mosque in the administrative capital at a cost of 750 million pounds. This is different from the Fattah al-Aleem mosque that cost hundreds of millions and has a capacity for 17,000 worshippers… This is insanity in a country that does not have beds for coronavirus patients and people dying on inadequate train lines and light poles that are not effectual in the rain. 

Last month, many people also condemned other million-dollar projects recently announced, such as a $32m Cairo Eye landmark and $23bn train line

The new projects have been deemed a misuse of public funds, with critics using the announcements to highlight the catastrophic conditions of hospitals in the country, which have worsened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Translation: There are far more important things happening, people dying in hospitals, and they have not been given attention or priority. There are people dying on train lines yet they are building a mosque like this. 

A number of reports and video footage showing the state of hospitals in Egypt were widely shared online last month, where coronavirus patients were being turned away from hospitals due to a lack of oxygen tanks. 

Reports have also revealed that many doctors and hospitals are not properly equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and that a surge in cases could push the country’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse. 

'Long live Egypt'

Meanwhile, many commended the project, saying that it showed Egypt’s greatness. 

“This is amazing architecture. May God protect Egypt and its people from all evil,” one social media user said.

Translation: “Long live Egypt, its president, its army, and its people who are loyal to the nation.” 

Another user expressed their pride in being Egyptian.

“I say this with all pride, with all glory, and all greatness that I am Egyptian and I love Egypt and that our President is the lion of Arabs…”

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Among some of the other projects announced is a new building for the House of Representatives, which is set to be the largest in the Middle East and will accommodate over 1,000 people.

The Egyptian government has invested in a series of high-profile infrastructure projects - with the new administrative capital perhaps the most prominent.

The new capital is currently being built in the desert 45km east of Cairo, where private construction companies are hard at work under the supervision of the army.

The ambitious project aims to house the government, a presidential palace, the supreme court and the central bank, as well as an airport and a business district. 

The $45bn project is expected to be about the size of Singapore and has raised many concerns over its economic feasibility.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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