CAIRO - 5 October 2019: The Unknown Soldier Memorial, where the late President Anwar Sadat was buried after his assassination in the 1981 podium accident, is without a doubt one of the most important symbols commemorating the martyrs and the victories of the October War.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during one of his visits to the memorial - ET
It is an annual symbol of celebrations in the Egyptian state. Each year, wreaths are placed on the Unknown Soldier Memorial, witnessed by the President, the Minister of Defense and senior commanders of the armed forces.
However, many do not know the details of the memorial, although 44 years have passed since it was established in 1975. It is a concrete building in the form of a hollow pyramid from the inside with a height of 33.64 meters. The width of the pillars at the base is 14.30 meters, with a diameter of 1.9 meters each.
The Unknown Soldier Memorial from an internal view - ET
In the following lines, ET reveals some special angles to the memorial, supported by pictures and drafts, created by the late great scientist Sami Rafi, who passed away several months ago.
At first glance, onlookers might think that the memorial carries geometric shapes. However, the surprise is that the body of the hollow pyramid bears the names of many citizens, where the designer of the memorial immortalized their names in gratitude of their acts of heroism and martyrdom.
Furthermore, the body of the memorial carries 71 names and symbols, including; Mustafa, Omar, Nagy, Suessi, Said, Moussa, Abdullah, Hilal, Helmi, Sharqawi, Ibrahim, Mohammed, Hamdi, Qasim, Asaad, Othman, Atef, Shawki, Bassiouni, Shady, Zaki, Sami, Saber, among others.
“A surprise that many do not know is that I was not directly assigned to design the tomb of the unknown soldier. There was a competition launched by the Ministry of Housing published in the newspapers, where 50 artists applied for participation. Fortunately, I was the winner among the contestants. The prize was LE 3,000 in 1975, being the biggest reward of that time, I was skeptical about receiving it.” said Sami Rafi jokingly in one of his rare interviews.
The late artist and engineer Sami Rafi stated that he knew he was the winner through the newspapers, saying: “I even kept looking at the newspaper, checking the name and reward number, time and time again”. He adds that three days after the announcement of the competition, “I went to the Ministry of Housing, and because of the overwhelming welcoming i received, I feared that they would not grant me the reward”.
The designer of the memorial further stated that when late President Anwar Sadat saw the Maquette of the memorial in the newspapers, he immediately called the Minister of Housing and told him: “Have you read the Al-Ahram newspaper today? See what Sami Rafi designed and executed the memorial in Nasr City”.
The Maquette of the memorial - ET
The Minister of Housing returned to Sami Rafi with the immediate need to start implementing the design as soon as possible, in order to complete it before the anniversary of October 1974.
The call was in June, which lead Sami Rafi to ask the minister: “You want to complete the memorial in four months only?” The minister replied saying: “Yes, we will celebrate this historic work with all the Egyptians, and I will do it.”
Late President Sadat, former Presiden Hosny Mubarak and officials appreciating the memorial - ET
The Minister of Housing at that time was Osman Ahmed Osman, founder of the Arab Contractors Company.
In a press interview before his death, Sami Rafi clarified that the symbolic and virtual names placed on the memorial, such as Ali, Hussein, Mohammed, Sayed, Mahmoud, Peter, Gerges, Jacob and George were placed on the memorial reflecting the unity of the Egyptian people from all ethnicities and backgrounds in defending the homeland.
Moreover, the names of people derived from the names of cities and provinces were also placed on the memorial, which reflects the unity of the country’s different cities and governorates in times of hardships. The names were implemented on the Unknown Soldier Memorial using the Kufic line of a cube made of solid basalt stones.
Late Artist and Engineer Sami Rafi - ET
Sami Rafi holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Department of Decor in 1948, and a Diploma of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Department of Theater Decor. The late artist and engineer was the Undersecretary of the Syndicate of Fine Artists, in addition to his design of 14 drawings of the Egyptian subway system, in addition to several Egyptian entities and institutions.