One of the modern landmarks of Egypt is located in the capital of Cairo. Now, even though Egypt is on the continent of Africa, few people associate it with the wildlife of the continent. I bet you’d be surprised, then, to learn that a very famous modern landmark in Cairo is 4 lions! Don’t worry, these lions aren’t real though. In fact, these 4 lions are bronze statues, placed in pairs on the Kasr El Nile Bridge as sort of guards or protectors of the bridge.
It’s actually strange to see these lions, designed by the French artist Alfred Jacuemart, standing proud on opposite ends of the Nile in the busiest city in all of Egypt. The Kasr El Nile Bridge is a major bridge that links the East Bank of Cairo to the island district of Zamalek. The bridge was completed in 1933 on the site of an older bridge that could no longer support the flow of traffic on it.
The bridge, in its time, was quite a feat, as it is a 382 meter long arch-type bridge, with a section 67 meters long that would swing open to allow boats to pass. This would happen in 3.5 minutes, and proved to be quite a challenge to Dorman, Long, and Co., the company assigned the task of building the bridge, who has also previously built the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
When the bridge was completed, there was a huge “party” to celebrate, with King Fuad inviting many international figures to attend the dedication of the bridge to Kedive Ismail, King Fuad’s father.
The lions, which were originally to be sent to Alexandria to stand guard around the statue of Mohamed Ali Pasha, but it was decided they would go to Cairo instead.
The lions have stood tall protecting the bridge, renamed Kasr El Nile Bridge after the 1952 Revolution, since they were installed in 1933. That’s 78 years of doing a silent duty of guarding the bridge and those who use it to cross the river, as well as a slightly more embarrassing duty of “posing” for pictures with tourists, both foreign and domestic, and just people who are overall amused by the statues!
These lions became so famous and recognizable that Egyptians have really put in an effort to maintain them. After the revolution in February, people were even photographed cleaning the bronze protectors of the bridge.