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 Tower tales

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مُساهمةموضوع: Tower tales   الأربعاء 02 أبريل 2014, 3:22 am

Tower tales


At the heart of Cairo is a modern monument that is known to all who live in or visit the city. This monument, the Borg Al-Gezira, or Cairo Tower, was built on the orders of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1954. Though the construction work halted in 1956, it swiftly recommenced and the Tower was completed in 1959. It has many extraordinary stories to tell.

One story goes that in the early 1950s, shortly after the July 1952 Revolution, the CIA attempted to bribe president Nasser with “secret funds” intended to make sure that he did not assist the Algerian freedom-fighters fighting the then French occupation of their country. Nasser surprised the American administration by announcing that though he had accepted the money offered he would be spending it on building a communications tower in the heart of Cairo like the communication towers that exist in other countries in the world.

The Cairo Tower has since become a source of pride for many Egyptians. While it was originally intended to be a communications tower used by the intelligence services and ministry of foreign affairs, it was later converted into a tourist attraction and ideal viewing platform for the surrounding city of Cairo.

The Tower is designed in the shape of a lotus flower, the idea of engineers Shams Al-Din Ashraf and Naoum Shoubeib who designed it. It is 180 metres tall, 50 metres higher than the Great Pyramid and the tallest building built by man in Africa. The Tower is 15 metres in diameter, and its decorative facing is made up of 12 million pieces of ceramic in yellow, brown and white colours, these being arranged to resemble a blossoming lotus flower.

The main entrance of the Tower is decorated with red granite, and in the middle of the wall there is a copper eagle eight metres high and four metres wide that symbolises the renaissance of Egypt. Inside the entrance area, a mosaic decorates the main wall, this showing folk life in Egypt. There is also an engraving of the words said by former president Anwar Al-Sadat on national radio to announce the July 1952 Revolution. The mosaic, the work of Ahmed Othman, formerly professor of sculpture at the Faculty of Applied Arts at Alexandria University, and Ahmed Mazhar, professor of decorative arts, was made with the help of 70 students.

The garden of the Tower contains display galleries in which specimens of products made in the nationalised factories of the time were once displayed in order to show off the achievements of the Egyptian economy. In the past, there were also fountains in the garden with lights and a map of Egypt that could be illuminated whenever a button was pressed.

The Tower contains more than 2,000 steps. The last two floors were built to serve tourists visiting the tower. The 14th floor serves as a restaurant, and it is designed in such a way that it revolves in order to allow diners to have a 180 degree view of the capital. The 15th floor is a balcony and restaurant area that has telescopes to help people see the whole of Cairo.  

All the raw materials used in the construction of the Tower were from Egypt, and the workers who built it were also all Egyptians. The building was opened to the public for the first time in 1961.There is also a post office, a telegraph office, and a long-distance telephone office in the Tower. In 2002, it was discovered that there were cracks in the building and that the stairs needed renovation. In September 2007, LE22 million was earmarked to renovate the building, and an extra elevator was added along with a new fire security system and two new restaurants.

In February this year, the Tower’s staff reportedly went on strike for 25 days, claiming that the building was now suffering financially. There were barely any visitors to the Tower, the employees said, and their livelihoods were threatened.

However, according to an official who spoke to the Weekly under condition of anonymity, “because the Cairo Tower administration does not talk to the media, some newspapers and channels have felt free to make up nonsense. The staff of the Cairo Tower is not on strike, and they are receiving their full salaries. The Tower’s management certainly does not have a problem finding a new tenant.”

On a recent tour of the building, the first thing that caught the eye was a sign saying “closed for renovation”.  Workers were also busy carrying tiles and bricks to the upper floors (the three cafeterias) for the renovation work, the reason for the Tower’s presently being closed to visitors.

The first floor has been painted, and the marble on the walls renewed. The plan is also to renew the marble on the outer stairs that lead to the main entrance as well as to the garden. The lifts have also been renovated and their speed increased. In the VIP room, the walls have been painted, the wooden staircase has been polished, and the chairs and tables have been changed. The same goes for the conference room, to which two new bathrooms have been added. The cafeteria walls on the 14th floor have been painted and the carpets and furniture changed.

The mechanism of the rotating restaurant is also being renovated and the hall itself has been painted and the marble floor renewed. The balcony on the top floor has also had a makeover, with new cream marble tiles and new green paint on the iron railings. The telescopes will also be changed. The Tower no longer serves alcoholic drinks, so the bar has been closed. The tiles in all the bathrooms have been changed, and marble steps will soon replace the old ones in the Tower’s stair case.

The Cairo Tower will soon reopen its doors to visitors, this time with a new appearance that matches the hopes of the new era.




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Tower tales

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