Standing in Downtown Cairo, the modern monument known as the ‘Cairo Tower’ (Borg Al-Qāhira), which is 50 meters above the Great Pyramid, ... represents a new chapter in Egypt’s history. Some reports state that it represents a well known attempt by former Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser to mock foreign powers and leaders at that time, as part of his plan to alter the balance of Egyptian-American relations, according to some writers.
According to Miles Copland in his book, The Game of Nations: the Amorality of World Politics, the story began during a meeting between Nasser and U.S. intelligence officer Kermit Roosevelt, who attempted to dissuade Nasser from supporting Algeria’s war of independence and opposing Israel.
As a means of pressuring Nasser to change his foreign policy, the CIA allegedly decided to donate—or as some would later describe it, bribe Nasser with—a large sum of personal funds, amounting to $1-3 million.
According to Gordon Thomas in Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6, Nasser – who felt insulted by the bribe – allegedly told him that “I said that one day he [Roosevelt] would have a monument in his honor in Cairo,” as a way to mock and rebuke him.
Rather than changing his foreign policy, Nasser decided to use up the CIA cash to construct the Cairo Tower. It was perceived by intelligence officers like Owen Sirrs as a form of defiance by Nasser, an act of resistance to foreign influence in Egypt. “To put it bluntly, Nasser wanted to be the ra’is [Arabic for president] in the region, not a Western-led coalition,” Owen Sirrs once stated.1
- 1. Built by Egyptian architect Naoum Shebib, who oversaw the tower’s construction from 1954 to 1961, the design is interpreted differently by many, some postulate that it is meant to resemble the pharaonic lotus plant, an iconic symbol of Ancient Egypt. Others, such as Nasser’s aides, nicknamed it el-wa’ef rusfel, Arabic for ‘Roosevelt’s erection’, as noted in Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East. At the top of the tower is a circular observation deck and a rotating restaurant with a view of greater Cairo.