After a sudden change of appearance, the iconic Cairo Tower has been put back on the radar of tourists and locals alike. Known as Egypt’s tallest building (at 187 meters), Cairo Tower is 43 meters taller than the largest pyramid, and now shines with a new light effect scheme created by 770 external light bulbs controlled by a color-changing LED. The light bulbs are extremely energy efficient, using 80 percent less energy on average than conventional ones.
The design of the tower itself, which was inaugurated on 12 April, 1961 and renovated on 12 April 2009, was inspired by the lotus flower, and is made up of some 8 million small mosaic pieces. This was topped by a single circle of blue light around the top of the structure until last year, when the new light scheme was introduced.
“The Eiffel Tower is decorated with lights?” replied Ehab Hassan, project director of Cairo Tower, when asked if the new lighting scheme represented a tribute to Paris’ celebrated tower. “I’m not sure if the Eiffel Tower got its lights before or after us,” he adds, not realizing that the Eiffel Tower installed its lights back in 2000.
“Our light decorations were part of the new renovations that the tower has undergone over the last couple years,” he says. “A private company did the renovations and installed a software program to control the different images and light effects.” While Hassan can’t tell those in the unnamed private company what icons and lights to display on normal days, he is allowed to request certain images for national holidays. “They change it themselves,” he says. “And when needed, I give them a call to fix a broken light or something.”
The Arab Contractors company conducted the renovations, which cost around LE15million. After a lot of questioning, Hassan reveals that the new light scheme may have been installed by sub-conracters.
Although reluctant to provide details about the lighting company in question, tower management was eager to talk about the various attractions installed in the renovated landmark.
The tower itself, along with the area around it, boasts five different restaurants for visitors. Starting at the base of the tower; Villa Zamalek, with its garden-like atmosphere, offers light snacks, different hot and cold beverages and shisha. On top of the tower stands the VIP Restaurant and Lounge, which requires reservations, and has its own elevator. The restaurant, which serves a maximum of 24 guests, offers a variety of dishes and cuisines, while the lounge can serve up to 50 guests with non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks.
360 Revolving, as its name suggests, revolves around itself as the hour passes to allow the diner a full view of Cairo. Galleria, located on the fourth floor of the tower, is a gallery and snack bar, while the Sky Garden just underneath the panorama is a cafe-like spot in which visitors can have a soft drink after enduring the heat of the panorama.
“I wish people were more familiar with the place and better understood the value of the restaurants we offer,” says tower food and beverages manager Ghada Salah. “The place is perfect for all kinds of events, but nobody seems to know about the other entertainment venues we offer.”
The panoramic view from the top of the tower, which took five years to build back in President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s time, allows one a full view of the capital. On a clear day, the diner can see the pyramids of Giza looming in the distance.
“It’s her first time to the top of the tower,” says a young man holding his girlfriend’s hand. “I decided to bring her here for some private time together.”
“If they have the time and the money, Egyptians aren’t looking for an educational outing,” said one young man with his two children. “I brought my kids to show them the tower and take them to the National Museum.”
Tickets for the tower panorama cost LE20 for locals and LE70 for foreigners. It is open to visitors until 8 PM, and the restaurants close at midnight.