View from the top; Cairo Tower

You can spot its unique steel structure glinting in the morning or get distracted by its colourful, flickering lights at night. Almost half a century old, the Cairo Tower still stands strong, rising slightly above other buildings in the Zamalek island, Cairo.

Regardless of the time of day, being almost the only tower high enough to allow you a panoramic view of greater Cairo, it is worth a visit.

A beautiful, black-and-white photo shows my mother with her family, looking into the camera from the tower’s revolving restaurant at night. Mum was barely a toddler back then. Another picture features the very same people; only this time some fifteen years or so older.

“My father had us visit the tower again and take the very same picture when we were old to spot the contrast.” Is how my mother likes to put it.

When I caught myself finding the time to visit the Empire State Building during a 10-day stay in New York, I realized that I had no excuse to have lived my 21 years of life in Egypt without even once visiting the Cairo tower.

“I shall go.” I told myself, no longer depending on the chance that might have someone drag me over there.

Regardless of the hassle it took for me to arrive at the tower — it being located in a semi-maze district with scarce signs leading to the major landmark — the trip to it wasn’t quite drastic.

Having once spent over three hours in a queue at the New York Empire State Building, I had cleared my schedule for the day in order to find enough time to enjoy the Cairo Tower. Little did I know that I would find it almost deserted, with no more than half a dozen visitors waiting in line.

This came as a surprise, especially as the ticket is quite affordable; EGY 20 pounds per Egyptian and EGY 70 pound (just a little over US$10 US Dollars) per foreigner.

Just as the legend holds, a nice guy with a camera was standing at the entrance, offering to take a picture of me with the tower. Back at the Empire State Building, taking a picture was not an option; it was a mandatory step that would eventually lead you to the upper deck. Yet, buying the photo was optional; they’d show it to you on your way down to the exit, offering it for ten The gesture was sure to leave a positive impression on me; one which soon disappeared when I reached the elevator.

Without getting into details about the relatively long amount of time I had to spend in front of the elevator, my stay there was not in the least bit enjoyable. Apparently, it was cleaning time, so we were naturally asked to “move over” from the entrance to give the janitors a better chance to mop the floors, of course getting our own share of water-splashes in the process.

Once finally upstairs, it was easy to forget this unfortunate incident faced with the breathtaking view from the top. The way Cairo is spread out right in front of your eyes from up there is simply spectacular. You can see the wide Nile breaking into two to give birth to Zamalek island, and acting like a border between Giza governorate and Cairo.

In an attempt to see more, I reached out for the one telescope available in the entire tower. It requires EGY two coins to function, yet I was greatly disappointed to find, when I finally made it to the telescope, that I was too short to see through it; or to be more precise, the telescope was installed at a level too high to allow not just the vertically challenged but actually anybody within average height to see through it.

Below the upper deck are two occupied floors; one hosts an ordinary café and restaurant. The other nurtures the ever popular “revolving restaurant”; which allows visitors to have an enjoyable meal while watching the Cairo view float by as the restaurant turns 360 degrees.

It doesn’t take you long to get your fill of sightseeing inside the tower, due to the tower’s relatively small diameter, yet be sure your journey will end with positive vibes; despite the lack of care the tower suffers from.

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