(MENAFN - Arab News) Prime Minister of Djibouti Dilita Muhammad Dilita and officials from Al-Noor Holding Company of Tariq Binladen attended launch ceremony on Monday to establish 2 industrial cities — one in Yemen and the other in Djibouti — which will be linked by a road and rail bridge across the Red Sea.
The two cities are to be built at a cost of 200 billion and will be the first physical connection between Africa and the Middle East since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
The so-called "Bridge of the Horns" promises to be one of the great engineering feats of recent times linking Yemen to the island of Perim in the Red Sea, and on to Djibouti in Africa.
The ceremony was held at Kempinski Hotel here and was attended by official delegations from 19 countries. The Al-Noor Holding Company is undertaking the giant project for which it has so far collected 50 billion from investors in Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries, Europe and China.
"The realization of this dream began the day the project contract was signed between President of Djibouti Ismail Omer Jeelah and Tariq Binladen," Al-Noor Holding Company said in a statement, adding that the project will make engineering history, and boost the future prosperity of emerging economies in Africa and the Middle East.
Tariq Binladen said the project will provide more than a million job opportunities in Yemen and half a million in Djibouti.
Under the project, one Al-Noor city will be established in Yemen on an area of 1,500 sq. kms and another city bearing the same name in Djibouti on 1,000 sq. kms. The two twin cities will be linked by a bridge that will be able to carry a six-lane highway and four light rail lines, as well as water and oil pipelines. According to Muhammad Ahmed Al-Ahmed, CEO of Al-Noor Holding Company, the bridge will be 28.5 kms long, comprising of girder and suspension bridge structures. "The suspension portion of the bridge will be the longest in the world. It is anticipated that about 100,000 cars and 50,000 rail passengers will cross the bridge daily in addition to thousands of tons of cargo in trucks and rail wagons," he added. "Having developed the business plan and master-plans for the two cities and the bridge, we're now ready to talk to potential investors about the opportunities that exist within this ground-breaking project," he added. Al-Noor cities project has indicated the initial phase of planning is complete and agreements are in place with the Yemeni and Djibouti governments to commence investment discussions with institutional investors, private investors, corporations and governments, he added.
"We're interested in developing many forms of investments including the early stage where the potential for capital growth exists until operational ramp-up," Al-Ahmed said, adding, "for investors, there are many options and investment vehicles we will consider related to the project; not just in the two cities, but also in the related infrastructure." The Red Sea is one of the busiest and most important seaways in the world and is also one of the most dangerous due to the great irregularity and complexity of water currents.
Ship traffic primarily travels north or south currently; getting resources and people east or west across this constant traffic by ship would be close to impossible and treacherous. The bridge will also allow much greater speed of transit, and more cargo and people to be transported from one point to another.
The characteristics being designed into the cities will ensure they rival some of the major trade, financial, business and tourism hubs of the world. The urban planning will consider the synergy of each district to its neighbor making ease of business and travel cornerstones of each city's heartbeat.
The geographical location of the cities in Djibouti and Yemen make them obvious trade and distribution hubs that will link major trade routes through Africa, the Middle East and beyond. As in any major urban infrastructure development, the Al-Noor cities will house all the services essential to a modern, hi-tech, connected metropolis.
Aside from essential services, the project will also feature free trade zones, research and development campuses, technology parks, financial districts and major commercial and business districts to house the worlds leading commercial entities. The cities will also house some finest educational institutions, leading-edge medical facilities and high end tourism attractions making the cities compelling destinations in what will soon be the most dynamic markets in the world.
"The goal of the Al-Noor cities project is to create globally integrated cities bridging two continents that deliver a major shift in not just the economies of Yemen and Djibouti, but the regional economy of the Middle East and Africa. These two city developments, linked by a bridge across the Red Sea, will be the catalyst for economic growth for generations to come," Al-Ahmed concluded.