Alexandria

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Alexandria is the third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, the seventh-largest city in Africa, and a major economic centre. With a total population of 5,381,000, Alexandria is the largest city on the Mediterranean – also called the «Bride of the Mediterranean» by locals – the fourth-largest city in the Arab world and the ninth-largest urban area in Africa.

Alexandria is a popular tourist destination, and also an important industrial centre because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez.

Due to the constant presence of war in Alexandria in ancient times, very little of the ancient city has survived into the present day. Much of the royal and civic quarters sank beneath the harbour and the rest has been built over in modern times.

Mobility in the city is a major challenge as it is a linear city with a few streets mainly parallel to the sea, with a few others perpendicular to them. The existence of several barriers complicates things. The challenge is how to provide efficient mobility for the residents all year round and for three million summer visitors.

The city’s principal airport is currently Borg El Arab Airport, which is located about 25 km (16 mi) away from the city centre.

Alexandria has four ports; namely the Western Port also known as Alexandria Port, which is the main port of the country that handles about 60% of the country’s exports and imports, Dekhela Port west of the Western Port, the Eastern Port which is a yachting harbour, and Abu Qir Port at the northern east of the governorate. It is a commercial port for general cargo and phosphates.

Alexandria’s intracity commuter rail system extends from Misr Station (Alexandria’s primary intercity railway station) to Abu Qir, parallel to the tram line.

An extensive tramway network was built in 1860 and is the oldest in Africa. The network begins at the El Raml district in the west and ends in the Victoria district in the east. The tram is considered the cheapest method of public transport. 

During the past 15 years developments of second-home tourist villages on the north coast have gained momentum, besides the scheme to develop El Alamein City into a million-inhabitant city. Since the beginning of the 21th century, several plans following the traditional approach to planning have been adopted by Alexandria, but these were inadequate to face the challenges. Thus, the city management adopted several sectorial projects aiming at improving one or several of the city’s development challenges. The famous waterfront cafés, restaurants and public beaches were demolished to give way to prestigious hotels and private beaches. Although some of the projects were suggested in previous plans, it was mainly the governor who had to choose between many projects. 

The most recent plan for Alexandria is the participatory Strategic Urban Plan (SUP) for Alexandria City. It has a time horizon of 2032. It will develop an urban management strategy and guidelines to ensure sustainable long-term city development and direct the implementation of the proposed projects. The SUP has identified some priority areas that include: the master plan for the medical city, the area behind Carrefour, the Matar Lake area at the airport and the governorate’s informal areas.

It is important to note that in 2015 Egypt had also developed a Sustainable Development Vision for 2030. This vision has identified several mega-projects that include: (1) developing the Suez Canal region with a new international city; (2) reclaiming one million feddans of desert land; (3) constructing one million social housing units; (4) constructing 4500 km of new road networks; (5) developing the golden mining triangle which will stretch from Qena and Sohag in upper Egypt along the Nile and across the mountains to the Red Sea ports of Safaga and Ras Gharib; and (6) developing the north coast Vision 2030 acknowledges that the development of the Suez Canal region with the new international city and the development of the north coast might have negative as well as positive impacts on the development of Alexandria.

The main challenges Egypt faces today are the ever-growing urban population, high primacy and spatial concentration of population in big cities such as Cairo and Alexandria and the increasing youth population. Another environmental challenge is the rising sea level. An assessment of the vulnerability of Alexandria suggested that with a sea-level rise of 50 cm, more than two million people would have to abandon their homes.

Many international entities have participated in efforts to develop Alexandria by identifying the challenges, developing physical plans, implementing development pilot projects including the Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat, GIZ/PDP, USAID and others. UNDP has collaborated with other national and international agencies in the different efforts to prepare plans for the city in the near future.

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