Widespread looting in Cairo has forced contractors working in the city to stop work and move their equipment to a safe place to prevent it being stolen.

“We have demobilised our equipment to a safe place,” says a contractor working in Cairo.

Companies working in Egypt say that although securing equipment and sites is important, the priority is the welfare of their employees. “The situation is pretty bad on the ground. Looting is everywhere and our people are concerned about their own homes,” says the contractor.

Egypt has a thriving construction industry with several major infrastructure and real-estate projects designed to satisfy the demands of the country’s population, which at 80 million is the largest in the Arab world.

Large scale schemes include the estimated $9bn Cairo Festival City scheme, which is being developed by the Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group.

According to MEED Projects, there were close to $1.5bn of construction contracts awarded in Egypt during 2010. With projects worth $72bn currently in the planning or design stage, many Gulf-based contractors had identified Egypt as a key market for future opportunities.