The Bridge I Used to Own
by Seif Kamel
It was a day like any other day. I took my car and I was heading to work. For some reason, memories of the past were all over me and I wasnt able to concentrate on driving. I felt that I was just going to be the main cause of many horrifying accidents (one must be very vigilant in Cairo traffic) so I decided to park my car for a little while to rid myself of this state of daydreaming. I was stunned looking out of the window to find myself in this particular place. Was it just coincidence or was it one of those signs one experiences throughout one's life and never understands them? I convinced myself that the place missed me and wanted to see me so it sent me some sort of a message asking me to come. Being built between the year 1913 and 1925, this body of steel known as the Imbaba Bridge has experienced a lot. Standing there after all these years was the bridge I once owned!
The stairs leading to the bridge havent changed in all these years. Being designed in such a royal way, it makes me feel like a king holding the hands of his queen, before climbing the stairs to their throne. With each step I took, I remembered how happy we were running on these stairs and how she loved to stand under this old lamppost to the left of the stairs on those dark nights. The bridge has four sets of stairs, two on each side of the Nile, but this is the one we preferred.
I have exerted much time and effort trying to know the real designer of the bridge. I have searched libraries, bookstores, and even asked old people about it. Rumors have always claimed that this bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the famous French engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. However, no one really seems to knows who built the bridge. All we know is that it was built in 1891 during the rule of Khedive Mohamed Tawfik and was renewed in 1924 during the reign of King Fouad the First, son of Khedive Ismail. The railway going to southern Egypt was built on the west bank of the Nile. Therefore, the main aim of the bridge was to be the link between this route and Cairo, crossing the Nile near Imbaba.
At the top of the stairs in the bridges second floor, my eyes were really confused. Shall I stare at the Nile or shall I explore this magnificent metal work ornamenting the bridge? The second floor of the bridge is divided into two roads constructed specially for walking with a beautiful huge steel design between them and above the railway. Each steel pole is combined with the other as if you are looking inside the body of an old clock. If you take out one of these steel bars, the whole bridge would collapse. With its ancient dark green color, it seemed like I was walking inside an old portrait. I remembered how I used to tell my love that we were so close, exactly like these poles.My eyes then went down to look at the double line of rails between the roadways on either side, built in the first floor. It is always fascinating to see the train rails built just over the Nile, without any solid ground under it. It felt like trains were moving on the water.
Suddenly the whole bridge was shaking. I knew it was just a normal train passing by as hundreds of trains, coming from southern Egypt, cross the Nile using this bridge. I recalled the sweetest moments of my life as my lover would come so close to me and ask me to hold her because these vibrations used to frighten her. I used to tell her that this bridge is strong enough to last for the coming decades and so is our love. We used to spend hours just breathing the fresh air or watching trains pass by.
Walking from Rode Al Farag heading towards Imbaba, I saw the old control room above the bridge at the end of the way. They say that this room was used to control all the operations of opening and closing the bridge to enable boats to pass by. The bridge has six fixed spans and one swing span, and its total length is 1,608 feet. The swing span can be operated electrically or by hand. I just thought how romantic and crazy it would be to spend a night with my lover in this room.
After being absorbed by these thoughts, I was awakened by a gentle breeze that went through my hair. It urged me to look in front of me at the Nile view. If you look towards the south, actually towards Cairo as the bridge is built at the north of Cairo, you can see the Nile spread in front of you like a smooth carpet with the same color as the sky and the Sixth of October Bridge at the end of the view. To the left, you can see the tower of the National Bank of Egypt and right beside it lies Arkadia Mall. The most attractive spot on this side of the bridge is the new Conrad Hotel built near Rode Al Farag. I always loved it's European design. You can see the island of Zamalek with its old aristocratic villas and houses to the right hand side.
Many important buildings can be seen from this side of the bridge like the Cairo Tower, the Gezira Sheraton Hotel, and the Marriott Hotel. This side of the bridge is a clear demonstration of how modernized Cairo has become while from the other side, looking towards the north, all you can see is the water of the Nile and lots of greenery that calms the soul. Very intelligent small paths are built to connect between the two sides of the bridge so you can walk on one side and when you want to go to the other, you can just use them. How can I ever forget our dreams of owning an apartment that had a Nile view and spending the happiest days of our lives in it?
I found myself at the end of the walking space of the most important railway bridge in Cairo. I started watching the cars move one by one in the first floor of the Imbaba Bridge. The road is so tight that you can never bypass the car in front of you. I stared at the railways waiting for a train to pass, so I can watch it and then go. I waited for half an hour and the weather was getting hot, but the train never came. It was the same as the love I waited all my life to regain but I was never granted this blessing. However, I am sure if this ever happens, it will be on the bridge I used to own.
Last Updated: June 8th, 2011
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