Enormous subdivisions have sprung up in the dunes outside of Cairo, on an almost incomprehensible scale. Already a million people have moved to 6 October City, due west of Cairo, named for the date of the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel still hailed as a seminal Arab victory. A similar number have moved east of the city, to a settlement unimaginatively dubbed “New Cairo.”
The government’s original plans — which are widely considered more wishful than literal — conceived of 6 October City’s expanding to 3 million by 2020 and New Cairo to 4 million, primarily as havens for working-class Cairenes. So far, however, the overwhelming majority of new residents come from Egypt’s uppermost economic strata.
This overflow is, of course, a result of the huge youth bulge that Egypt confronts after decades of a much higher birth rate than infant death rate. Fertility is declining, but the momentum of past high fertility is sweeping the country, and Cairo, along.