Yasser Al-Sherif, a 36-year-old fabric dealer, had driven from Nasr City with his brother and nephew especially to see the Tahya Masr Bridge. “It makes me proud,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly between snapping photographs.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated several projects last week, including the Rod Al-Farag Axis and the Tahya Masr suspension bridge.
The state-owned Arab Contractors Company began work on the 17.2km axis in 2016 under the supervision of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority. It comprises five bridges, including Tahya Masr, a 540m long 67.36m wide suspension bridge.
Major General Ihab Al-Far, head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, said the total cost of the inaugurated projects was LE170 billion, and if they were to be constructed today they would be twice as expensive.
In addition to Rod Al-Farag Axis the projects include the Martyr Ahmed Hafez Shousha Bridge, built by Al-Saada Group LLC, and Martyr Ahmed Abul-Naga Bridge built by Al-Salam International for Construction and Trade.
Al-Sisi also opened the extension of the Moshir Tantawi Axis, built by the Military Engineering Department east of Cairo, and the Al-Shahid Axis, built by Orascom Construction.
“Egypt is working to complete public projects in the shortest possible time to save money,” said Al-Sisi.
The Rod Al-Farag Axis was not due to be inaugurated for a couple of months but was finished ahead of schedule.
“Since we were commissioned to construct the Rod Al-Farag Axis in 2016 we have been working around the clock, not even stopping for public holidays,” Arab Contractors Chairman Mohamed Mohsen Salah said during a press conference attended by Al-Sisi.
Up to 4,000 engineers, technicians and labourers worked on the axis.
“We are celebrating the completion of the project, the achievement of 4,000 engineers, technicians and young workers who used the most modern equipment and machinery to build this bridge,” said Salah.
Tahya Masr Bridge includes pedestrian walkways on either side, partly fitted with skywalks made of reinforced glass. The skywalks are the first in the Middle East.
The skywalk has made the bridge into “a new touristic destination, maximising the benefit of the axis and not limiting it to transportation,” said Salah.
Egyptians taking photos and celebrating the inauguration of Tahya Masr Bridge (Photo: Ahmed Morsy)
“We had a lot of fun walking on the glass and took a lot of stunning photos,” said Yasser Saad, a teacher in his 40s.
Hundreds of people have visited the bridge since it opened to enjoy the night breeze. Young people, couples and families come for leisurely walks. Saad, who came with his family, was as impressed by the detailing of the structure as by its overall shape.
Mohamed Safwat, a 18-year-old student, was traversing the pedestrian walkway of the bridge with six of his friends. “We came to check out the bridge ourselves. It’s a great place to hang out,” he said.
Mona, a student of commerce, said she first heard of the bridge on Facebook. “It looks more stunning than it does in pictures and the Nile view is fantastic,” she told the Weekly. “It’s a beautiful place to stroll on summer nights.”
Yasmine Gamal, a housewife in her 40s, was crossing the walkway with her two daughters. “The fact that the suspension bridge is the widest in the world makes me proud,” she said.
On the same day the Tahya Masr Bridge was inaugurated Salah received a certificate from Talal Omar, director of Guinness World Records for the Middle East and North Africa region, certifying that the structure was, at 67.36m, the world’s widest cable-stayed bridge.
The axis is a significant contribution to Egypt’s road network, connecting the north and east of Cairo, Qalioubiya and the Ring Road with the west of Cairo, 6 October City, Sheikh Zayed and the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road.
Running parallel to the 26 July Corridor which links 6 October City and Sheikh Zayed with Greater Cairo, the axis will reduce traffic congestion on 15 May Bridge and along the 26 July Corridor.
General view of Tahya Masr Bridge (Photo: Ahmed Morsy)
Sayed Abul-Naga, a truck driver, drove the length of the Rod Al-Farag Axis for the first time a day after its inauguration. “It will save time and gasoline,” he said.
Mahmoud Ismail, who drives an HGV, also praised the axis. “It takes from 30 to 45 minutes for me to drive from 6 October to Shubra. I have to pay a LE30 toll but it’s worth it,” he said
On Tahya Masr Bridge, private cars pay LE20, microbuses LE10, minibuses LE15, trucks between LE25 and LE30 and motorcycles LE5. Moreover, the Rod Al-Farag Axis has a separate toll which is LE10.
Monthly subscription for private cars is available at LE200 for the bridge and LE70 for the axis.
Tolls within Greater Cairo are an innovation and some commuters continue to use the congested route through 26 July Corridor.
Islam Emad, a 35-year-old engineer who lives in Nasr City but works in the Smart Village, says that though the axis would save time he is sticking to his old route.
“We’re not used to paying tolls to drive around Cairo. I tried the new Tahya Masr Bridge and the axis once but it cost me LE60 there and back. I could get a monthly pass, but even that, at LE300, is outside my budget,” he told the Weekly.
Mina is also an engineer who works in the Smart Village and lives in Heliopolis. “I prefer to get up early half an hour everyday than to pay extra LE60 per day,” he said.
The Tahya Masr suspension bridge is 8km away from Tahrir Square, 9km from Nasr City and 24km from the Smart Village in 6 October City.
Specifications of Tahya Masr Bridge
• 540m length
• 67.36m width
• 300m width beneath the navigation slot
• 6 giant concrete towers, each 92m high
• 160 cable of steel wire
• 290,000 tons of iron
• 1 million m3 of concrete
• 4,000 Egyptian engineers and technicians
• 4 years of construction works
• LE5 billion cost
• The first glassy pedestrian walkway in the ME
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Breaking the record