Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ghost Cities

Today has dawned bright and cleared in the desert. Yesterday it rained a bit, so the air is very clean, and the sun is extremely bright.

The New AUC campus is in New Cairo, in the Fifth Settlement. When it was built five years ago, there was absolutely nothing out here. It is sort of near El Katameya on the far southeastern side of the city.

Now the New AUC campus is being slowly surrounded by new construction. People tell me that many of the developers are from the United Arab Emirates. There are thousands and thousands of half constructed empty buildings. Many of them are quite grandiose with elaborate plaster edifices and columns. The buildings are usually four stories high. There are no gardens or yards. They are zero lot construction. They are also just jammed together with very little space between them.

Clearly, there is no zoning and no urban planning going on. What is worse, is that there do not seem to be any shops to service these miles of fancy buildings. No one lives in the buildings, and many of them are only partially built. Part of the problem is that there are very few investment vehicles for wealthy Cairenes or Egyptians, so they have a tendency to over-invest in real estate. In addition, people often run out of money before completing buildings, leaving half built empty buildings in the middle of the desert.

This is all a potential economic disaster. What if people do not actually rent or buy these houses? Also, there is a catch 22: no one wants to build a store because no one lives in the neighborhood, and no one wants to live in the neighborhood because there are no stores. The ghost cities "landlock" capital. This has already happened in Ireland.

Ghost towns plague Ireland as unsold houses litter the country

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