[ilds] Villa Ambron

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 21 12:59:40 PDT 2015


Villa Ambon is still there, but for how much longer?

Bruce




> Begin forwarded message:
> 
> From: Glenn Meyer <glenn at glennmeyer.net>
> Subject: [arcenc] Alexandria's urban heritage threatened by developers - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
> Date: September 21, 2015 at 12:00:49 PM PDT
> To: undisclosed-recipients:;
> Reply-To: glenn at glennmeyer.net
> 
> 
> http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-activists-protect-heritage-alexandria.html <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-activists-protect-heritage-alexandria.html>
> 
> Egyptians crowd a public beach during a hot day nearing the end of summer vacation for schools, in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 143 miles north of Cairo, Sept. 5, 2014.  (photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
> 
> Alexandria's urban heritage threatened by developers
> 
> Alexandria <http://www.ancient.eu/alexandria/>, populated by more than 4 million people, was founded in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great. It was the capital of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1,000 years. Rich in history, its urban heritage reflects today an Italian style from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, times that welcomed Greeks and other Europeans as well as novelists and poets who took interest in the city.
> 
> Summary⎙ Print <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-activists-protect-heritage-alexandria.html#> Egyptian activists are trying to reach out to people to stop the destruction of this historical city.
> Author Florence Massena <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/authors/florence-massena.html> Posted September 20, 2015
> Today, its buildings are threatened by developers and a savage modernization <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2015/09/egypt-alexandria-destruction-military-history-geography.html>. Activist groups, such as Save Alexandria <https://www.facebook.com/savealexeg> and Gudran <http://gudran.com/main/>, try to protect their heritage through awareness campaigns, cultural initiatives and legal analysis.
> 
> Conserving Alexandria’s heritage <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/alexandria-historic-demolish-buildings-crumbling-collapse.html> emerged as an important issue between 1997 and 2006, according to journalist Mohamed Farag, who works at Akhbar al-Adab and is a native of the Mediterranean city. “The governor at the time [1997-2006], Mohamed Abdel Salam Mahgoub, gave carte blanche to the contractors to build houses in Alexandria. These started destroying the old two-floor buildings to replace them with big ones, which led to uneasiness from some social activists, such as NGO [nongovernmental organization] Gudran,” Farag told Al-Monitor.
> 
> “For instance, el-Mandara area was very popular and full of villas when I was young. Today, they are almost all destroyed. The governor rented the Corniche piece by piece. Changes even ended up affecting the classical areas, such as the old Greek Club <http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/demolition-disused-alexandria-greek-club-highlights-larger-problems> in Ibrahimeya that was destroyed in 2012 or the famous San Stefano hotel that became a mall,” he said, pointing out that the fast multiplication of buildings is “more expensive and is leading to a gentrification of the city.”
> 
> In Egypt, there are two laws concerning heritage: Law 144/2006 <http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/94448.aspx>, which classifies heritage houses in a list called Group B, and Law               83/117 <http://www.unesco.org/culture/natlaws/media/pdf/egypt/egypt_law3_2010_entof.pdf>, which is for monuments and heritage with a list called Group A. “Law 144/2006 is the biggest issue for me,” Hamdy Khalf, a lawyer working in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights <http://eipr.org/en>, explained to Al-Monitor.
> 
> “The second article [of Law 144/2006] gives license for demolishing or adding floors to structures having a particular architectural style, except if they have a particular style and belong to the national history, if they are historical or considered historical, or if they belonged to historical people. The problem [in this article] lies in the use of ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ at the beginning of the description, as there were five standards on the executive explanation, whereas only four are listed in the law. For instance, not all the buildings having a particular or unique architectural style belonged to historical people or were part of the national history. I think they just forgot to put ‘or’ in the final version of the law, but this mistake plays a lot when an owner wants to get a permission             to destroy a building,” Khalf said.
> 
> To do so, the owner has to ask permission from a legal “heritage committee” composed of specialists and representatives of the governor and the Ministry of Housing. If the request fails, he can appeal to the Higher Court, “which usually agrees with the demolition because any lawyer can play on the law 144/2006's second article mistake,” Khalf said.
> 
> The second problem for Khalf is related to organization. “A popular will is needed to change the situation,” he said. “These places would be worth millions of dollars, but the owners don't often have a lot of money, and the state doesn't help them to restore [them] — at least the facade — in order to turn them into hotels.”
> 
> An example of this is the Villa Aghion <http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/94448.aspx>, considered a very important villa for its unique kind of concrete. But the villa was delisted from Group B, then demolished in 2014 by the new owner, Mohamed Hamed, despite efforts from the former owner to have the state buy it.
> 
> Some buildings can't be preserved, but others can, thanks to the involvement of civil society. This is the case of the Cicurel Villa <http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/32/97/41671/Folk/Street-Smart/Alexandrias-Cicurel-Villa-survives-.aspx>, which was saved after a demolition decree was issued following the mobilization of Save Alexandria, an activist group officially created in March 2012. In addition, the administrative building of the municipality <http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2015/03/alexandria_municipal_building_is_almost_finished.html> was to be reconstructed again at the same place, before it burned down during the 2011 Revolution.
> 
> The building was transferred to another place, and the original land is still empty, but “open for a real public decision,” according to one of the co-founders of Save Alexandria, Ahmad Hassan Mustafa. “It was like wiping out what happened in a listed historic district, but now we have a good hope to make something out of it,” he told Al-Monitor.
> 
> “We started as a pressure group, with individuals trying to protect heritage structures <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/06/egypt-old-cairo-restoration-project-displacement-buildings.html>, and the revolution allowed us to open a sphere for discussion. We wish to have a bigger impact to influence general policies and raise awareness on the issue,” Mustafa said.
> 
> Their situation as a group is complicated since the 2013 policies on associations <http://www.icnl.org/research/monitor/egypt.html> restrain the liberty of the associations’ works under Law 84, putting them at risk of being juridically targeted, “which is why we can't register as an association, or protest anymore,” Mustafa said.
> 
> Therefore, the group changed its tactics, which consisted of protests and urgent reactions. “Our volunteers could be arrested now, so we decided to focus on our contacts with the national media and on some projects targeting wider scopes of people from the local community,” he said. “For instance, the Ambron Villa <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jan/01/lawrence-durrell-alexandria-villa-ambron-demolition> is a historic building threatened to be demolished after being delisted by the administrative court. In this case, we are trying to make a model of how to involve a local community to engage in debate about buildings and heritage issues, to develop a collective decision after informing people of the decisions to demolish buildings. We would like to introduce a model, a positive way to defend heritage and engage local people through a digital platform to inform them about their heritage buildings, and allow them to accumulate oral stories, thoughts and impressions about it.”
> 
> Gudran, founded in 2000, is an artistic initiative based on social and economic development, providing classes and workshops for poor inhabitants of el-Wax, west of Alexandria. “They were living in a polluted area, and the governor wanted to demolish their area,” Abdel Ibrahim Youssef, founder of Gudran, told Al-Monitor.
> 
> “We pushed the people to restore their houses and to clean the land, so it was not demolished,” he said.
> 
> In 2005, Gudran opened a library in downtown, then a “duken” (Arabic for shop) space for visual art exhibitions and movie projections, before coming up with Gudran el-Kabina place, an artistic venue. “It was part of our work on old places, that we try to restore for them to become artistic venues,” Youssef said. “The building that we worked on was attached to a very old cinema that was demolished three years ago. We could at least rent a part of it and occupy it through discussions, books' signings, musical recordings and underground concerts.”
> 
> Through art, legal pressure and local activism, these involved people are trying to alter the way things are done in Alexandria, “but we need a stronger involvement from the governor, the Higher Court and the state to expect a real change,” Khalf said.
> 
>  
> Florence Massena
> Contributor,  Lebanon Pulse
>  <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/authors/florence-massena.html>
> Florence Massena
> Contributor,  Lebanon Pulse
> Florence Massena is a journalist based in Beirut who writes about economic, cultural and social matters. She studied political science and journalism in Toulouse, southern France, and has traveled in the region since 2010. She mainly focuses on heritage and women's issues, as well as positive ideas for Lebanon.
> 
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