Egypt announced the near-completion of a new highway linking Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at shortening the distance between the two cities, as part of the government's efforts to spur development and enhance tourism in South Sinai.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inspected the construction work on the "Tunnel-Sharm el-Sheikh Road" -- which spans over 342 kilometres, with three lanes in each direction -- on November 7th, ahead of its inauguration in December.
In statements to the media in June, South Sinai governor Khaled Fouda said the road is a major project that is expected to revive tourism and development activity.
The road is being constructed at a total cost of 3.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($195.5 million), he said.
It begins in the northern Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel and extends to Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, passing under the Suez Canal and through the cities of Ras Sudr, Abu Zenima, Abu Rudeis and Tor Sinai.
The road, whose construction started in 2017, comes in response to demands by Egypt's chambers of tourism for an upgrade of the road network that links Cairo with the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, a tourism hub that overlooks the Red Sea.
It currently takes six hours to travel between the two cities, and the new road will shorten the travel time to four hours.
The project also comprises the construction of a network of service stations, to include police posts, first aid stations and rest areas.
Reviving tourism in South Sinai
"The road is a real achievement as it will facilitate the flow of tourists from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh and other South Sinai cities, by providing an excellent and relatively cheaper option to air travel from the capital to the tourist city," said MP Atiyah Moussa Jabali, who represents Sharm el-Sheikh.
It also will reduce the number of road accidents that used to happen on the old road, "which was narrow with one lane each way", he told Al-Mashareq.
The road comes as part of the government's plan to develop tourism in South Sinai and improve safety measures for travelers between the capital and the peninsula.
It also aims to link South Sinai cities to the Nile delta, said Jabali.
Work on the new project was very difficult because it involved cutting a path for the road through mountains and raising the level of the roadbed in low-lying areas and construction of flood channels, he said.
South Sinai governor Fouda said in recent statements to local media that the Tunnel-Sharm el-Sheikh Road project is being implemented in conjunction with other internal road projects.
These include converting the tunnel road from Cairo to the cities of Taba and Nuweiba on the Red Sea into a dual carriageway, which would shorten the travel time from Cairo to Taba to four hours instead of seven or more.
"The government has recently completed a number of projects to develop the city of Sharm el-Sheikh and turn it into an international tourist city," said MP Magdi Bayoumi, secretary general of the parliamentary tourism and aviation committee.
The city now has a network of roads built to international standards of safety to facilitate internal travel and encourage investors to build more resorts and increase the number of tourists, he told Al-Mashareq.
Transportation is a "key factor in attracting investment in tourism", he added.
Sharm el-Sheikh has hosted two conferences this month, including the World Youth Forum, held November 3rd-6th, which attracted about 5,000 youth from 165 countries; and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held November 17th-29th and attended by delegations from about 190 countries.
The city also will host on December 8th and 9th Africa 2018, a high-level forum offering participants a platform for promoting trade and investment within the continent.