When Egypt was going through a severe economic crisis, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated the Misr Islamic Center in the New Administrative Capital, which cost over 800 million pounds ($26 million). This sparked great public anger, as it was considered a waste of public money when millions of citizens could not provide their daily sustenance due to the continuous inflation of all essential commodities and products, the unprecedented decline in incomes, and the collapse of the currency.
Experts and politicians saw that the Islamic Center of Egypt reflects Sisi’s obsession with building giant edifices to glorify his name and rule without regard for the country’s economic and social conditions, noting that he recently purchased one of the giant planes in the world to become his presidential plane, in addition to building several huge and luxurious presidential palaces.
Egypt’s Islamic Cultural Center is located in the centre of the government district in the New Administrative Capital on 112 acres. It includes the Grand Mosque of Egypt, which can accommodate 130,000 worshipers, and is considered the second-largest mosque in the world and the largest in Africa. The height of the mosque’s two minarets is about 140 meters, while the total area of one minaret is 1600 square meters. There is an “honorary staircase with a height of 133 m. The mosque obtained three certificates from the Guinness Book of Records for its inclusion of the most prominent wooden pulpit in the world, with a height of 16 meters, and the enormous chandelier in the world, with a diameter of 22 meters and a weight of 50 tons, which obtained two Guinness certificates for its diameter and weight.
The Islamic Center includes a media centre, a public library, places for memorizing the Qur’an, administrative offices, and service areas. However, it is remarkable that there are 160 shops under the pretext of “serving those who are going to pray”, and it is possible to climb to its minarets after purchasing a “ticket”, which is unprecedented in any of the mosques in Egypt. Only 20 km away from the Great Mosque of Egypt is another mosque that is one of the largest mosques in the world, the Al-Fattah Al-Alim Mosque, which is built on an area of 106 acres, including approximately two acres of mosque building, which is surmounted by 21 domes, and has seven event halls, and a museum. Al-Sisi inaugurated it in January 2019, coinciding with the opening of the largest cathedral in the Middle East.
According to the advertiser, the cost of building Egypt’s Islamic Cultural Center is 800 million Egyptian pounds ($26 million at today’s exchange rates). It comes at a time when more than 30 million Egyptians live below the official poverty line, including 4.5 million citizens who live in extreme poverty and do not find their daily sustenance. According to numbers from 2019, these numbers have increased significantly because of the crisis. During the past year alone, the Egyptian currency lost more than 50% of its value amid expectations of a further decline during the next month. Inflation rose to another record in February, registering 31.9% annually. There was an increase in food and beverage prices, as they rose by 61.8%.
Political activist Mohamed Abdel-Aal (a pseudonym for security reasons) believes that constructing a mosque of this magnitude reflects Sisi’s obsession with glorifying himself, as the luxury of the mosque’s marble, chandeliers and decorations reflect his obsession with the architectural model of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The difference is that the UAE is a country that possesses wealth and surplus money that it can use as it wants, but we borrow from abroad to fulfil the president’s dreams at a time when we are going through a severe economic crisis, and our imports are stopped due to the lack of hard currency,” Abdel-Al added. Since 2014, the president has established at least three new presidential palaces and more than ten presidential villas to be added to the 30 historical palaces and presidential rest that Egypt already owns. The largest presidential palace is being built in the New Administrative Capital on an area of about 2.5 million square meters, where the area of the presidential residence alone is approximately 50,000 square meters, or ten times the area of the White House, which is only 5,000 square meters, as the palace is surrounded by service buildings, an airstrip, green gardens and a secure campus on an area of more than 2.4 million square meters.
The president built another luxurious palace in the White House style on the seashore in the new city of El Alamein. He decided to make a “summer residence for the government.” During the years of his rule, he bought five new presidential planes. Their combined value exceeds $750 million. The latest is a giant Boeing B747-8 luxury plane known as the “Jumbo Jet”, whose price exceeds $400 million. The value of this plane is slightly less than the price of 14 planes bought by the presidency during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, which spanned 30 years. Their combined value amounted to 507 million dollars. At the same time, Sadat owned two Boeing 707 planes, which were given to him by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, Ruler of the Emirates, in addition to a helicopter given to him by US President Jimmy Carter. On the other hand, Gamal Abdel Nasser preferred to rent a plane for his transportation and did not buy a presidential plane throughout his rule.