Problems on hold
It is an indisputable fact that roads and road networks are pivotal for economic development and growth, creating new urban communities and industrial areas, and attracting investment. Wednesday 15 May saw President Abdel-Fattah open a number of national mega projects that aim at developing and modernising Egypt’s network of roads, bridges and traffic axes that would work to facilitate transport between production points on one hand, and consumer centres and export ports on the other.
President Sisi inaugurated the 16.7 kilometre Rod al-Farag axis which links areas in north and east Cairo with those west of Cairo, major among them being the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. Rod al-Farag axis also works as a key link in a 600 kilometre highway that stretches from the Red Sea coast in the east to the Mediterranean coast in the northwest. The traffic axis includes 12 suspension bridges; among them the 540 metre-long Tahya Masr (Long live Egypt) bridge which, at 67.36 metres (221 feet) wide, earned a Guinness World Record for being the widest suspension bridge in the world. The President also inaugurated through video conferencing the other bridges and causeways constituting the Rod al-Farag axis, as well as four other newly overhauled or expanded roads on the Mediterranean-Red Sea highway.
I closely followed with pride and interest the opening of these great roads and bridges, listening intently to explanations of the structural details and the new technologies innovated to ease their implementation, all carried out by Egyptian hands through Egyptian construction companies and Egyptian consultancy bureaux, with the help of foreign expertise to conclude the necessary testing and ensure compliance of the Egyptian design with international standards.
It is beyond the scope of this editorial to delve into the extensive structural details of the new roads and bridges, or how they were expanded, linked, and their intersections completed, the outcome being the modern highway connecting the Mediterranean coast with that of the Red Sea.
Amid the overflow of technical details printed and posted by the media, as well as the pictures and video footage of administrative and technical officials on all levels giving a wealth of information on the mega project, I searched for a map or maps for the newly-inaugurated roads and bridges, but found none whatsoever. I tried on my own to create a mental image of a map basing on the description and details given during the inauguration ceremony, but with no success. I went back to material published on the mega project, only to find nothing but the objective of “easing the transport of citizens throughout Egypt from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and from east to west Cairo”, as well as rhetorical ‘descriptions’ supported by no illustrative maps that can be relied upon for study or transport.
An achievement that is by all standards colossal has thus been marred by a significant flaw. Yet this is not a first in Egypt; every one of us has confronted the lack of official road maps; frequently the only manner to know one’s way around has been to ask beforehand friends and acquaintances who had the luck to have navigated the roads in question, or even to request directions from passers-by or fellow drivers.
The question that begs an answer is: who should publish the road maps needed to inform the public? Every person who lives, works and moves on Egyptian soil has the right to clear, illustrative maps of the road networks. We cannot go on gaining awareness of roads by coincidence, trial and error, or the help of friends.
It is unfathomable that the recently inaugurated road and bridge network mega project, or others that preceded or will follow it, should go incognito, well-known yet unknown. We direly need a proper, diligent undertaking by some State authority to publish millions of maps for Egypt’s roads, whether for sale or free of charge, in order to provide the public with reliable information on our unknown well-known roads.
26 May 2019