— The Tower: symbol of corruption

The Tower: symbol of corruption

البرج | El Borg from Gehad abdel Nasser on Vimeo.

Gezira Tower, a cylindrical 166 meter tall building in Zamalek is seen by some as an eyesore, by others as a symbol of failed development and by others as a visible reminder of Egypt’s corruption and defunct governance. The building was developed in the late 1970s and was intended to be a hotel and Cairo’s tallest skyscraper. The developer was given approval on a personal basis from president Sadat, and later he faced difficulty completing the project also because of personal conflicts with other businessmen and government officials. The building was never completed and never inhabited. This is a story of a building which symbolizes all that has been wrong with Egypt’s development, economy and government since the 1970s when a new moneyed elite was ushered in to control the country and to open it to international markets.

The short documentary above (Arabic) includes interviews with the building’s developer, residents of Zamalek and shows images from the building’s unfinished interiors. Last May journalist Bradley Hope entered the building and interviewed its developer and published an article in The National.

Whether the Tahrir Square “revolution” was a success - or even whether it was a revolution at all - now hinges in part on whether a new, democratically elected president and parliament can begin reforming a sclerotic, graft-ridden economic system that has left Egyptians such as the 81-year-old Mr Fouda shaking their heads in disappointment, disgust and cynicism.

"It’s a very long story," said Mr Fouda in his Zamalek apartment as he began describing how a building that was conceived as a crown jewel of a president’s vision for a new, modern Egypt is today an eyesore. "It will probably get longer."

Mr Fouda bought the land on which the Gezira Tower sits in 1968 during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser. But it was under Anwar Sadat, who introduced reforms to overturn his predecessor’s socialist ideas and open the economy to the world, that the idea for the tower took off.

Read the full article, click here.

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