Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Wonder bridge

Al-Galaa Bridge’s original function as a gateway for river traffic on the Nile has been restored, reports Mai Samih

Wonder bridge
Wonder bridge
Al-Ahram Weekly

“At the end of the third month, it came to our knowledge that the iron bridge that has been built between the two banks of the River Nile leading to the Nile Palace by the engineers of the French company will be opened in a few days in one of the dignified khedival prerogatives,” writes a 19th century journalist in an article describing the inauguration of the original Al-Galaa Bridge in Cairo in February 1872 that appeared in the newspaper Al-Waqa’i Al-Masriya (The Egyptian Chronicle).

On 7 April 2015, the descendant of this first Al-Galaa Bridge was reopened, this time under the supervision of the governorate of Cairo, the Arab Contractors Company and the River Transport Department of the police, as well as a private consultancy company. The team was composed of 40 engineers, and two steel keys were used to open the bridge, each weighing 150 kg.

 Technical Consultant of the chairman of the company that supervised the restoration of Al-Galaa Bridge, Engineer  Karim Abul-Kheir commented that “there are two bridges connecting this area of Zamalek to the surrounding city, the Kasr Al-Nil Bridge from Zamalek to Central Cairo and Al-Galaa Bridge from Zamalek to Giza. Both bridges were originally built during the reign of the Khedive Ismail in the late 19th century, Al-Galaa Bridge replacing a smaller one built before it.”

In a later redesign the bridge opened to river traffic, with the middle section opening and swerving round to allow boats to pass. The recent restoration work paid special attention to this mechanism that over the years had been allowed to decay. Work on the bridge started in May 2012 by removing the concrete barriers that had disabled the mechanism to allow the bridge to reopen to river traffic as it had been designed to do.

The last time the bridge had been opened for boats had been in 2004, but after the restoration work the bridge has now been reopened under the supervision of the transport authorities.

 “The original Al-Galaa Bridge was built in 1872 to complement the Kasr Al-Nil Bridge on the other side of the island, and it was originally called the Kobri Al-Bahr Al-A’ma, or the “blind  sea bridge.” It was also later called the Kobri Badia (Badia’s Bridge) after the entertainer Badia Masabny who owned a night club where the Sheraton Cairo Hotel stands today,” Abul-Kheir added.

According to “Stories from Long Ago,” a book on the history of Cairo by historian Maysa Al-Salakawy, a new Al-Galaa Bridge, labelled Kobri Al-Ingleez Al-jadeed  (the New British Bridge), later replaced the original bridge connecting Cairo to Giza. It was built on what was known as the Al-farei Al-Ama, or the “blind branch” of the Nile, the engineers responsible were British, and it was inaugurated in 1914. This new bridge was 145 metres long and 18 metres wide. After the July 1952 Revolution, it was re-named the Al-Galaa Bridge.  

The idea of the restoration is to allow the bridge to operate as it was designed to do after the damage caused by the revolution, Abul-Kheir added.

Al-Galaa Bridge is now expected to allow boats through on this branch of the Nile. “Originally boats were able to pass on the other side of the island because the Kasr Al-Nil Bridge was also designed to open up like Al-Galaa Bridge. However, it no longer does so today. The idea is to allow Al-Galaa Bridge to replace the Kasr Al-Nil Bridge in this function,” Abul-Kheir said.

At the moment, the use of the bridge for this purpose is in an experimental phase, it having been decided to open the bridge temporarily to see whether the bridge and this part of the Nile would be able to allow large boats to pass through.

Regular maintenance of the bridge has not taken place in recent years, but this is now expected to change with the appointment of a consultant engineer by the governorate responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, ensuring that it can be opened if need be.  

Opening Al-Galaa Bridge turned out to be a complicated process.

“This was the first time the bridge had been opened for ten years. We had to stop the traffic in the area and then redirect the cars to other streets so the bridge could be opened under the supervision of the police. The Imbaba Bridge further up the Nile was also reopened to river traffic,” Abul-Kheir concluded.

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