29
Jul

The Unknown Soldier Memorial

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Modern Egypt, Cairo, Lower Egypt, Pyramids, Tombs

tus-tabOriginally commissioned by President Anwar Sadat to memorialize the soldiers who died in the October 1973 War, the President himself would die within sight of the memorial, which would become his final resting place. 

This modern-day pyramid symbolizes the eternal spirit of the Egyptian people and their long, complex history.

 

 

The Unknown Soldier Memorial is a monument built to honor the Egyptian soldiers who fell in the October War of 1973, also called the Yom Kippur War.  The monument takes the form of a stylized pyramid with a symbolic tomb located in the center of the base. 

The Unknown Soldier Memorial

The Unknown Soldier Memorial (Photo by Keith Payne)

The memorial was designed by Cairo artist Sami Rafi, who earned a PhD in set design in Vienna, served as manager of the set department for the Cairo Opera House, and later as a professor for the Faculty of Fine Arts.  He won a design competition held by President Anwar Sadat when he commissioned the monument in 1974.  The memorial was inaugurated in 1975.

The inscriptions list 71 common Egyptian names, the Egyptian Everyman

The inscriptions list 71 common Egyptian names, the Egyptian Everyman (Photo by Keith Payne)

The memorial is made of carved concrete, and stands 120 feet high.  It is 47 feet wide at its base, and the symbolic tomb is actually a solid block of black basalt.  The sides of the pyramid are carved with 71 common Egyptian names, meant to represent the everyday man who served and died in the war. 

Sadat's Tomb (in white) and the symbolic tomb (black basalt)

Sadat's Tomb (in white) and the symbolic tomb (black basalt) (Photo by Keith Payne)

The idea for the monument was inspired by a war memorial Rafi had seen in Baghdad which depicted Mesopotamia—the Land Between the Rivers—spread out under a series of linked arches representing the different eras of Iraq’s history.  Rafi wanted to similarly draw on Egypt’s national heritage, and the pyramid was the obvious choice.  Not only is the pyramid synonymous with Egypt, but it is the eternal symbol of reverence for the deceased and his ascension to the afterlife.

A modern pyramid

A modern pyramid (Photo by Keith Payne)

In 1981 President Sadat was assassinated while delivering a speech across from the very memorial that he had commissioned, and it seemed only appropriate that he should be entombed at the site. 

A mural at the complex memorializing the war

A mural at the complex memorializing the war (Photo by Keith Payne)

 

 

Further Reading

 

Egypt State Information Service

The Memorial of the Unknown Soldier

 

Al-Ahram Weekly Online

Sami Rafi:  A Million Eyes

 

shemsutagCopyright by Keith Payne, 2009, all rights reserved.

 

 

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 3:10 pm and is filed under Modern Egypt, Cairo, Lower Egypt, Pyramids, Tombs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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