Egypt’s President Sisi opens Baron Empain Palace, two int’l airports

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi  inaugurated on Monday some national projects, including the new Sphinx International Airport and Heliopolis landmark Baron Empain Palace following the completion of its first-ever restoration.

The ceremony, which Sisi is attending at Al-Galaa Theatre in Heliopolis, also saw the inauguration of the New Administrative Capital Airport and a number of projects in eastern Cairo, Ahram Online reported.

Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly presented plans for the development of Khedivial Cairo, which began with the renovation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other areas, including the Maspero Triangle and the Magra El-Oyoun aqueduct, which is set to serve as a tourist attraction.

Madbouly said the size of development projects carried out by Egypt in the past six years totaled 4.5 trillion Egyptian pounds ($278 billion).

The PM said that Egypt continues to achieve the best growth rates in the Middle East and North Africa despite the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on global growth rates.

He said the global economy is seeing a recession due to the pandemic, with a negative growth rate amid a plunge in tourism traffic globally.

Madbouly said Egypt’s growth rate had reached 5.9 percent before the crisis, but the forecasted growth rate now stands at 4 percent by the end of fiscal year 2019/2020, which is still the highest in the region.

The PM said that the size of government investments in fiscal year 2020/2021, which begins on 1 July, is estimated at 400 billion pounds, adding that the state also seeks the restoration of around 1.2 million feddans in the upcoming period to help achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural resources.

The state allocated 15 billion pounds in the telecommunications sector in the upcoming financial year to upgrade the sector’s infrastructure and scale up the services provided to citizens, Madbouly said.

By August, more e-services will be provided to citizens through the government’s digital portal, he said, adding that the government aims to provide 155 online services by the end of 2020.

Revival of the Baron Empain Palace

President Sisi attended the inauguration of the long-dormant Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis following a restoration process that took over two years.

The palace is designated as a tourist destination as well as a historical exhibition on the history of Heliopolis.

The restoration work on the mansion, originally built in 1911, was carried out in collaboration with the Armed Forces Engineering Authority and the Arab Contractors Company on a budget of more than 100 million pounds.

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anany said the inauguration of the palace is important for the country’s tourism sector, adding that the opening reaffirms that “Egypt does not forget its history.”

Egypt will gradually resume regular international flights at all its airports starting 1 July. Foreign tourists will only be allowed into three coastal governorates as part of tour groups, which aims to make up for the losses the vital sector has suffered amid the pandemic.

Egypt hopes that the resumption of regular flights starting next month will boost its ailing tourism sector, an essential source of foreign currency.

Minister El-Anany said the country is currently bracing for the gradual resumption of tourism on Wednesday to three governorates under strict preventive measures.

El-Anany said 400 hotels nationwide have received the necessary health safety certificates to reopen and receive tourists at a reduced occupancy, praising support provided by the finance ministry and the Central Bank of Egypt to help aid a sector hit heavily by the pandemic.

New airports inaugurated

The Egyptian president also attended the inauguration of two new airports: Sphinx International Airport (SPX) and the New Administrative Capital Airport, both of which aim to alleviate pressure on Cairo International Airport, which is in the eastern side of the capital.

The SPX, which is part of the government’s plan to stimulate tourism to the country, had opened its doors in 2019 as part of a trial operation.

The airport aims to serve the Greater Cairo districts of 6 October and Sheikh Zayed, as well as the governorates of Fayoum and Beni Suef.

It also aims to serve tourists coming to visit the pyramids and the anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which is around 90 percent complete.

The SPX, built with a budget of 300 million pounds, has been dubbed the “300 passenger airport” in reference to its accommodation capacity per hour.

The New Administrative Capital Airport was also inaugurated under a plan to connect the areas of East Cairo, Shorouk and Badr cities, as well as the Suez Canal cities.

The airport will have the capacity to accommodate 300 passengers per hour, with 45 buildings around the place and a main terminal of over 5,000 square meters of space, which will help ease the load on the capital’s main airport.