[ilds] L shaped

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Wed May 30 04:15:56 PDT 2007

Justine's Summer Palace at Burg el Arab is a real place -- or rather 
Burg el Arab is a real place which has given its name to the several 
houses built there in the 1920s and 1930s.

Burg el Arab means Tower of the Arabs and refers to a tower built 
probably in the Roman period (though some have argued Ptolemaic) in the 
form of the Pharos but one-tenth its size.  It has been thought to have 
been a lighthouse, like the Pharos in Alexandria, but there is also 
opinion that it was built as a very large funerary monument.  The tower 
stands on a limestone ridge running along the coast west of Alexandria. 
  Durrell went swimming near here with Eve and friends in 1944, a moment 
he describes in a letter to Miller in May that year.  The photograph 
below shows the ancient tower.

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Inland from this ridge is a further limestone ridge on which Wilfred 
Jennings Bramly built his home in the 1920s.  Bramly had been in charge 
of the Western Desert Frontier Administration until 1922.  This was the 
'crusader fort' Durrell described in his letter -- not crusader and not 
abandoned either; Bramly lived there until 1956.  The house as it looks 
today is shown below; it has been taken over by the Egyptian state and 
serves as presidential rest house (hence the telecommunications tower); 
from here Anwar Sadat secretly prepared for the 1973 war against Israel.

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Just beyond this second ridge lay a settlement, built by Bramly and in 
his friends in the 1930s, in the form of houses arranged in a circle 
like a miniature walled Tuscan town.  The place was given the name Burg 
el Arab.  To my knowledge Durrell never came here, but his friend Robin 
Fedden knew it well; he was often a guest at Dar el Qadi, the house at 
Burg built by Jasper Brinton, the American who was president of the 
Court of Appeal of the Mixed Courts, and so Durrell would have had an 
account of this new Burg el Arab from Fedden.  The photograph below 
shows Dar el Qadi in about 1937 after building works were completed; in 
the foreground is a Bedouin tent.

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I have stayed in the house above, but I do not recall an L-shaped room, 
but I do not see why it should not have had one.  I have somewhere a 
detailed description of Bramly's own house; possibly it mentions such a 
room.  Then again the L-shaped room may have some subtle cosmic meaning 
or literary association known to Durrell.


On Wednesday, May 30, 2007, at 02:33  am, william godshalk wrote:

> In 3.1 (p. 163), Justine's Summer Palace is an "L-shaped block of
> buildings." I immediately thought of Conrad's famous L-shaped room.
> But the connection is tenuous or perhaps nonexistent. In any case,
> would an L-shaped compound be efficient in the desert? I would go for
> an inner courtyard surrounding the water supply with the buildings
> built around as shelter.
> Bill

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