Wednesday, September 27, 2017

INTERVIEW: Architect Mohamed Dessouki on The Desperate Need to Save Alexandria’s Parks.

It was back in 1922, upon writing his ‘Alexandria: a history and a guide,’ that E.M. Forster wrote that “if one would judge Alexandria by her gardens, one would have nothing but praise.” Written By/ Dina Ezat

Almost a century later, Mohamed Dessouki, a founding member of Save Alex, a pressure group dedicated to preserving the city’s heritage, fears that the country’s most prominent Mediterranean port city is facing a challenge in preserving its floral wealth as well as its architectural heritage.

“Public gardens have always been at the heart of city planning and life in general in Alexandria. Today, this concept is being seriously challenged, as we see a declining interest in preserving gardens, and certainly an attempt to attach parts of municipal gardens to clubs that only serve those affiliated to the power elite,” Dessouki, who is also the founder of the Walls of Alex blog, said in an interview with Ahram Online.

Dessouki says that many think of preserving Alexandria only in terms of a beautiful but highly eroded architectural history, but only a few give adequate attention to the botanical heritage of the city.

“This botanical history is by no means less significant than the architectural heritage of Alexandria. In Save Alex, as well as in the Walls of Alex, we voice concern about both issues among other things that relate to the beauty of this harbour city,” Dessouki said. Most recently, Dessouki has been campaigning to fight the declining awareness of the city’s botanical wealth.

In a series of lectures and articles, this preservation activist has been sharing information and pictures of the long history of four main public parks and gardens in the city; the municipal gardens (better known as elshalalat, or the waterfalls), El-Nozha (which holds both the zoo and Alzohour flower garden), Antoniadis and El-Montazah. These parks were planted and flourished mostly during the heyday of Alexandria in the second half of the 19th century.

Dessouki notes, however, that the beginning was actually during the reign of Mohamed Ali at the start of the 19th century, when the ambitious and visionary ruler of Egypt decided to dig the Mahmoudiya Canal, which brought the Nile water to Alexandria near the southern entrance to the city, which had been suffering growing neglect.

“It was this canal that helped give the city its many acres of exotic botanical wealth, and it has also held a special place in the hearts of those who lived in and loved the city,” Dessouki said.... READ MORE.

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