12 June 2011
This year marks the golden jubilee of the Cairo Tower, the tall, lotus-tipped edifice on Gezira Island in the River Nile and a familiar landmark. From the top of the tower the entire panorama can be seen in all its breathtaking beauty. To the east, the city centre spreads along the bank of the Nile, with the Cairo mediaeval quarter and the Muqattam hills lying further east. On the west bank lies Giza and, in the distance, the pyramids loom in splendid majesty.
At 187 metres, the tower exceeds the 137-metre Great Pyramid of Giza in height. A revolving restaurant at the top gives diners a breathtaking view, making the 360-degree turn in 20 minutes. There is also a viewing room with telescopes to give a closer view of the surroundings. The design of a lotus blossom reflects the sacred plant which, along with papyrus, was given special place in ancient Egypt. The base of the tower is of the Aswan granite commonly used by ancient Egyptians in their temples and tombs.
The tower’s existence came about as an unexpected result of a crossing of diplomatic swords. According to Egyptian historian Gamal Hammad, President Gamal Abdel-Nasser built the tower with a six-million-dollar grant given to Egypt by the United States with an accompanying demand that it abandons its support for the Algerian revolution against its French occupiers. Popular legend says Nasser wanted the grant to be spent on something large, useless and within sight of the American Embassy.”
The tower was designed by architect Naoum Chebib. Construction began in 1956, and involved some 500 Egyptian workmen. It was completed five years later. It is said that the tower became a favourite spot for Nasser and his family to spend the evening and enjoy dinner.
The Cairo Tower was renovated in 2006 and again in 2008 at a cost of EGP15 million. Three metal floors were added at the foot of the tower, quadrupling the tower’s ground area to 1145 sq.m, as well as an external energy-saving LED light system. The tower exterior’s structure is ornamented with eight million tiny mosaic tiles, and these needed to be replaced with new ceramic tiles. Renovations included repairing the plaster, cleaning the granite and checking the tower’s structural integrity.