Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Borg El-Gezira

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

Renovated recently Cairo Tower or Borg el-Qahera is a modest 187 meters and is located on Gezira Island (Zamalak). It may not be one of the highest towers at present but when it was built 40 years ago it was boasted to be the tallest all-concrete structure in the world with no steel frames or columns.

El-Borg is just 45 meters taller than the Great Pyramids of Giza, which stand 15km to the southeast. But what El-Borg lacks in height it sure makes up for in the spectacular panoramic view of the massive city of Cairo. The view from Cairo Tower is unequaled, definitely not to be missed especially at twilight when millions of twinkling lights of the city start coming to life. El-Borg’s working hours are from 9:00a.m to 1:00a.m daily, and the ticket costs around LE 50, although cameras are free, there is an extra cost for video cameras.

From the eastern side most of the medieval quarter can be visible just beyond the Nile Hilton Hotel and the Television Building. Also eastward the city skyline fades out against the cliff face of the Muqattam Hills. Whereas westward the city limits are marked by the desert and the outline of the Giza Pyramids. But it’s the majestically serene Nile flowing below that is the most bewitching, carving its way through Cairo. Through the telescopes available you can get a better and closer look of the entire city.

Built in 1961 under the direction of Naum Chebib, the design is unique as it resembles a lotus flower, which along with papyrus was the most revered plant in Egyptian history. It is made up of 8 million small mosaic lozenges that form its partially open lattice-work tube that slightly fans out at the top. El-Borg is made of granite which was often used in building by the ancient Egyptians. Crowning the Cairo Tower is a revolving restaurant, cafeteria and an outdoor observation deck.

In November 2004 a renovation project was initiated following a series of renovation projects to several monuments in Cairo that have damaged after a moderate earthquake hit Cairo in 1992. A clean improved Cairo Tower now elegantly stands tall over the city. With seven hundred and seventy light bulbs inserted into each space in the lotus-shaped structure, Cairo Tower requires more than one gigavolt each day to light up at night.

Back in the 60s it was President Gamal Abdel Nasser favorite place to dine out with is family. One of its first visitors was Hollywood movie star, Katherine Hepburn, even though the tower had somewhat of a rocky footing back then in Egyptian-American politics. It was actually financed with American funds, but was not exactly what the Americans expected Nasser to do with the money.

El-Borg may not have been famous for its height or flamboyance but it made up for its fame in print thanks to its controversial origin, which resulted in its mention in countless biographies dealing with Nasser’s Egypt. It was first written about in CIA’s Miles Copeland in “A Game of Nations”, where he revealed how the LE 450,000 tower was paid for with American hush money originally meant as a bribe to Egypt’s strongman to be “used for purchasing presidential security accouterments.” Furious at the suggestion anyone thought he could be bought, Nasser decided to use the American taxpayers’ money to send the most blatant of messages back to the US. So he built the Cairo Tower providing a vantage point and a truly breathtaking view over the entire city!

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem
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