Excitement vs Backlash: Egypt’s newest tourist attraction “Cairo Eye” is caught between crossfires

In parallelism to the project's launch announcement, debates started rising on the environmental consequences and societal impact the wheel might have on the surrounding areas.

Set to launch in 2022, the project for the construction of the Cairo Eye was announced in the second week of January. The Cairo eye is set to become the fifth largest ferris wheel in the world- right behind the ones located in Dubai, London, Singapore, Las Vegas, and Paris- and the largest ferris wheel in Africa. With its location on the banks of the Nile river and right in the middle of the historic Zamalek residential area, the wheel is estimated to serve up to 2,500,000 visitors a year due to its promised panoramic views and entertaining experience. In parallelism to the project’s launch announcement, debates started rising on the environmental consequences and societal impact the wheel might have on the surrounding areas

One of the first concerns that were discussed was its location. With the announced plans to initiate the construction within the location of the historic Al- Andalus park, many displayed their concerns for the safety of the ancient trees (some of which are up to a 100 years old) and if building such a huge project would require demolishing parts of the park. Tourism expert Ahmed Metwally was previously aware of people’s appreciation of Zamalek’s lavish greenery and made a public counter promise of increasing the green area surrounding the project up to 15%. Metwally also added that the project was developed with environmental considerations kept in mind, with the clear intention of preserving the identity of the Zamalek region.

Because the project’s location is in such close proximity to the Cairo tower, which is located right behind the gardens, another debate rose as both attractions offer the same panoramic views of the area and the Nile with the Cairo tower exceeding the Cairo eye in length by 67m. The demand for two structures that offer almost an identical experience is not that high; therefore, it is not entirely foreseeable how it will be welcomed into the market.

People also expressed their confusion with the choice of the location as Zamalek is considered a historic area with its own attractions and charm. Ranging from museums to ancient palaces, Zamalek maintains its own ‘vibe’ of a quaint residential area with its own type of touristy attractions. Building a modern construction such as the Cairo eye might compromise the integrity and identity of the area that is so beloved by many and has been the same way for decades.Many areas were offered by the residents of the Zamalek residents- as they conveyed their discontent- that are considered modern and can afford the luxury of sparing such a massive area to dedicate to the ferris wheel such asNew Cairo, the new capital, or sheikh Zayed.

A main apprehension that probably already exists in the mind of any person that received the news of the project is the heavy traffic it will cause in an already crowded area. If you’ve ever been to Zamalek, you know how hard it is to find a parking spot. Ahmed Metwally declared that an accurate traffic study is already drafted for the project ensuring a smooth flow of the traffic within the area. With the plans of adding Cairo Eye taxis, buses, and Nile taxis as transportation methods servicing the ferris wheel specifically, it is highly unlikely that the streets will not be stuck for hours while the tourists pour in right and left to visit the wheel

With such a huge project aligning perfectly with Egypt’s latest initiative to boom tourism, there is no doubt that it will be the talk of the city- and the world. However, the continuous stream of protestors against the idea, some aspects of the project should be revisited and reconsidered. It seems unlikely that any idea will return to the drawing board due to the excitement of the investors and establishers of the Cairo Eye so until the grand opening, we can only hope for the best.