Luxor governor discusses city future

The city of Luxor is undergoing rapid construction to become a tourism haven of antiquities. Under the plans, the local population living near the archaeological sites will be relocated, making room for busloads of tourists and some 20,000 new hotel rooms. Following the announcement of a groundwater reduction program on the city’s West Bank, General Samir Farag, the chairman of the Luxor Supreme Council, sat down with Al-Masry Al-Youm to discuss the near future of the city and his "Master Plan" through the year 2030.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What does sugar have to do with the water damage of temples in Luxor?

General Samir Farag: The sugar cane, as we say in Egypt, this is the laziest job of all the jobs for lazy people. You put a seed, a piece like this from the sugar cane in the ground. It stays four years. You put it in once and then you wait for four years. You just put it and every day in the morning a small boy comes and he has a machine getting water from the River Nile and putting it into the ground. Then he goes to sleep. He just floods the whole area with water because sugar cane needs very hot weather, very good sun and plenty of water, flooded water. It can not be irrigated with drops. So he sleeps and the machine pumping water is running for the whole day. So you will find at the end of the day that the ground is completely covered with water and then he switches it off and the next day he’s doing it again.

So all the land cultivated by sugar cane has a lot of underground water. So here around the two temples on the East Bank we are cultivating 22,000 acres of sugar cane. Can you imagine it? So it is a disaster. So now we are trying to convince the farmers to change their kind of crops from sugar cane to vegetables and crops.

We are trying to change the culture of the people to cultivate vegetables and oranges and bananas. All these things need little water. It’s not only for the ground water, but also in the future we are going to have a shortage of water in Egypt. So everybody now talks about the shortage of water in the future. For the benefit of everybody, for the antiquities, for the River Nile, it needs to have good water, clean water, enough water in Egypt; we should try to avoid sugar cane.

Al-Masry: USAID is funding the water management program announced during a recent press conference. What role does the governorate have in this?

Farag: We are facilitating the problems because they are digging in the land. In the ground sometimes you’ll find electricity cables, telephone cables, water pipelines. When we’re working here east of

Luxor in the streets, the traffic, and a lot of things. We have to control that and we have to help them.

Al-Masry: There’s a lot of projects going on in Luxor. When the Prime Minister was here recently he talked about the vision to change Luxor for tourism. What are the plans in general?

Farag: We have a master plan to promote Luxor; a very comprehensive master plan to promote Luxor until 2030. In that master plan we have a vision: how will we see Luxor after 25 years? For example, this area where we have the hotel here, now it is full. Where can we have hotels in the future? So we started to choose another area south of Luxor to be the next hotel area, in el-Tod. Now we are building a new (Nile) cornice area here. If you come in two or three months you will see this new cornice. We will start next month.

Al-Masry: So for the corniche expansion are you building into the Nile?

Farag: No, we are not digging into the Nile. We are making all the cornice for pedestrians. We will not allow cars to go to the cornice. We will lower the cornice to be at the same level as the River Nile.

Al-Masry: What about the boats?

Farag: The boats are going to go because we are going to build a new marina. The second biggest, largest project in Upper Egypt is the new marina in Luxor for the floating hotels.

Al-Masry: What other projects beside the marina and cornice?

Farag: The el-Tod area, this is the new resort area. We are planning for that area to accommodate 20,000 rooms. That means we are doubling the rooms in Luxor. These are the three main projects in Luxor.

Al-Masry: What is the budget for the 2030 master plan?

Farag: One billion (US) dollars.

Al-Masry: What is the breakdown of the cornice, the marina and the hotels?

Farag: The cornice, we are talking about in Egyptian pounds, it’s going to be 300 million for the corniche. The marina itself, it will cost about three billion dollars.

Al-Masry: But you said the whole project is one billion dollars?

Farag: Except the marina because the marina is a mega project and it’s going to be done by the private sector, it is not going to be done by the government. We visited Greece two weeks ago with [Minister of Investment] Mahmoud Mohieldin and we are going to visit Holland and Germany for that purpose.

Al-Masry: You’ll make it a bidding process?

Farag: Yes of course, of course. Also we are talking about creating a new investment area in the desert because we think that for any reason if we lose tourism here with the Americans, if they invade Iran tomorrow, nobody will come. That happened during the Gulf War, so we have to rely on new methods of technology to support Luxor. So now we are creating a new investment area for soft industries.

Al-Masry: What is soft industry?

Farag: In the hotel, all your breakfast in the morning, it came from Cairo: jam, butter, cheese, tomatoes, juice, everything. So we have to do it. It will be based on agricultural production here in Luxor.

Al-Masry: Is there a concern that the construction is moving too fast? The pasha house is coming down, for example.

Farag: This [pasha house] is in the area of the [Luxor] Temple. In Paris, there is an obelisk in the Concord, [and there is nothing built around it], but here we have after 200 meters this palace. Outside we painted it, but inside it is rubbish and the mosque, we are removing the mosques. We have to open the Sphinx Avenue. If it is an old, ugly mosque, we have to build a new one.

Al-Masry: On the Sphinx Avenue I saw they are doing construction with machines.

Farag: No, it is on the level above. But once they get to the level of the sphinxes, they start to use their hands.

Al-Masry: Can you share the master plan?

Farag: No this is our own master plan. Okay?

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