Friday, January 25, 2008

Cairo Tower is being revamped

Al Ahram Weekly

For the past 47 years, Cairo Tower has looked down haughtily on the city from Al-Gezira, unrivalled by any buildings in sight and a landmark for Egyptians. Its concrete building, inspired by the lotus flower, is 187 metres high, 43 metres higher than the great Pyramid of Giza. In 1961, when the tower was finished, the building was the highest in the Middle East and Africa.

The tower, although a tourist site, has more to it than just a location from which to watch the city's sites. It is rather a reflection of a historical era that marked its own achievements strongly.

According to one tale, after the 1952 Revolution, the state was planning to build a communication tower to be used by the Foreign Ministry and the Egyptian Intelligence Services. Meanwhile, the CIA was hoping to draw the head of state to the American side in its fight against communism, so according to Ahmed Hamroush, one of the free officers of the 1952 Revolution and a writer, $3 million was offered to the Revolutionary Command Council, as a bribe. "As a patriotic man, he refused and the money was channelled to fund the Cairo Tower," said Hamroush, attributing the decision to president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Construction work began in 1954, stopped two years later, then was resumed in 1959.

The building, designed by Egyptian architect Naom Shebib, who passed away in 1985, remains a landmark in the capital, from where visitors are able to watch the city with telescopes.

See the above page for more details, plus some really terrific photographs (click on the thumbnail to see the bigger photos).

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