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Egypt, UAE talks continuing over Ras El Hekma land deal

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Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are still negotiating contracts for the massive Ras El Hekma development project on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, a prominent representative of the Egyptian tourism sector said.

Ras El Hekma peninsula © ADB

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are still negotiating contracts for the massive Ras El Hekma development project on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, a prominent representative of the Egyptian tourism sector said.

Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ in February agreed to pay $24 billion for the rights to develop the vast, pristine Ras El Hekma peninsula, but as much as $150 billion in additional work is also at stake.

"It's still extremely premature. We are now in the stage of finalising contracts. There's still nothing concrete about it," Nader El Biblawi, chairman of the Egyptian travel agents association, told Reuters late on Monday on the sidelines of a travel conference in Riyadh.

He did not specify which aspects of the deal were under negotiation and said the project's timeline was unclear.

"They are still cashing the money, but there is no schedule that we know," El Biblawi said.

Egyptian authorities said the project could attract as much as $150 billion in additional investments, a lifeline for a country facing heavy foreign debts and a gaping budget deficit.

Ras El Hekma lies 200 km (124 miles) west of Alexandria near an area of glitzy summer resorts and white sand beaches popular with wealthy Egyptians.

ADQ said work to build the "next generation city" over 170 square kilometres - nearly a fifth of the size of Abu Dhabi city - would begin in early 2025. It would feature tourism and residential developments as well as investment zones, technology and light industry, amusement parks, a marina and an airport.

Talks on a similar deal with Saudi Arabia to develop Ras Gamila, a stretch of largely vacant seaside near the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, were still in their infancy, El Biblawi said.

"Ras Gamila is still a baby, not even a baby, a foetus," he said. "They are waiting to see how successful the launch of Ras El Hekma will be to make similar projects, Ras Gamila and others."

Ras Gamila lies across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia's flagship megaproject NEOM. Saudi Arabia said in 2018 that Egypt had committed a vast area in Sinai to complement NEOM.

Ras Gamila also lies near the site where a bridge across the Straits of Tiran proposed by Saudi King Salman in 2016 would make landfall.

If the Ras Gamila plan were to comes to fruition it would create an Egyptian-Saudi Riviera, El Biblawi added.

 By Pesha Magid

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