I’d like to inaugurate a new regular feature: Stories of cities around the world that have blown my mind in the last week. We’ll start with a few that are a little older than that, but still worth it if you haven’t read them yet.

Cairo.

Back in August, the government of Southern Sudan—which expects to achieve independence from Khartoum next year—announced a plan to re-shape the capitals of ten state capitals into…animals. A giraffe, an elephant, a rhinoceros, etc. The plan will cost $10.1 billion, which officials hope to finance with oil revenues and through private capital.

Would that money be better spent more directly helping the citizens of this war-ravaged nation? Hospital and Physical Planning Ministry undersecretary Daniel Wani says the cost is worth it. “The reaction has been very good. We have been getting calls from everywhere,” Wani says. “Generally, the feedback we are receiving indicates that we are on a positive track.”

(And hey, we haven’t talked about Sudan on this blog before, so maybe he’s right).

Meanwhile, in Egypt, Cairo is getting so unsustainably populous that the government is building new megacities from the ground up only a few miles away. New Cairo and 6 October City have new mansions for the country’s richest citizens, but also affordable housing developments for hundreds of thousands of the nation’s underclass, who will service the golf courses and resorts of their wealthy neighbors.The building has outpaced the development of infrastructure, especially transportaton. And it’s not slowing down: A New Urban Communities Authority is planning new cities far away from the capital, outside the narrow strip of development around the Nile river.

When you think about it, Greater Cairo isn’t so different from D.C.—the Egyptian capital needs to add room for 2 million people over the next decade, while Greater Washington has been projected to gain 1.67 million people over the next 20 years. Here’s hoping we find a way to do it by adding capacity and life to our existing cities, rather than constructing new ones from nothing.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Sturm58.