<p>Welders work near the future Central Business District of Egypt&#39;s New Administrative Capital, under construction near Cairo. The Iconic Tower (center) will be Africa&rsquo;s tallest building, at 394 meters high.</p>
2023 Photo Contest, Africa, Stories

New Capital


Nick Hannes

Panos Pictures
17 January, 2022

Welders work near the future Central Business District of Egypt's New Administrative Capital, under construction near Cairo. The Iconic Tower (center) will be Africa’s tallest building, at 394 meters high.

These images of a city rising in the desert near Cairo, Egypt address issues of large-scale urban development, labor, and inequality.

In 2015, the Egyptian government began constructing a New Administrative Capital (NAC) 60 kilometers east of Cairo. Modeled on Dubai, this new urban environment will accommodate government ministries, a presidential palace, major companies, and some 6.5 million people. Plans are for a sustainable, ‘smart’ city (complete with air sensors and surveillance drones) that will help relieve chronic congestion and pollution in the current capital. 

The project is partly funded by China, Emirati investors, and high-interest bonds. Administrative Capital for Urban Development – the company overseeing the development, selling the homes, and administering the buildings – is joint-owned by the Egyptian military (51%) and the Ministry of Housing (49%), giving the military a controlling interest. Civilian authorities will not have the right to inspect the military’s financial gains.

Critics of the project argue that the NAC caters to a privileged minority, and serves President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s efforts to consolidate power and establish a legacy. They argue that money spent on building the new capital should rather be directed towards improving living conditions in deprived parts of Cairo, and to social housing. Wealth in Egypt is sharply concentrated. According to the World Inequality Database, just 10 percent of Egypt’s population receive around 50 percent of national income. Half of Egypt’s 100 million people cannot afford a decent home, according to an American University in Cairo study. Some workers helping construct the NAC earn as little as US$200 a month building a city where a two-bedroom apartment will cost around US$50,000. 

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Nick Hannes
About the photographer

Nick Hannes is a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Ranst, Belgium. His photography reflects on major contemporary themes such as migration, globalization, urbanization and crisis. Hannes is represented by Panos Pictures. After obtaining a master’s degree in photography at the Royal Academy ...

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Technical information
Shutter Speed





GFX 100S

Jury comment

The photographer enlisted an impressive intersectional approach to document the construction of Egypt’s New Administrative Capital. The story addresses the many layers of cross-cutting issues relating to labor, migration, development, and inequality that resonate across the continent. The jury felt that the style of clean, straight lines is aesthetically beautiful and contrasts with typical depictions of the region. Ironically, the images are too clean in a way which alerts the viewer to the range of issues emerging from a changing landscape and subsequently changing identities. The selected images are legible and organized in a way that places them in dialogue with each other, bringing to light the colossal scale of this urban project in the context of the reigning autocracy.