Urban Renewal of Old Residential Districts in Downtown Areas, The case of the Turkish Town, Alexandria, Egypt

Historic background

Alexandria lies on a stretch of land in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea, lake Mareotis, and Pharos island. It was founded  by Alexander there in order to serve as a regional capital.  The Heptastadion was built to connect the Island of Pharos with the mainland. Initially, it was merely a narrow structure, but later silted and formed the land area known today as the Turkish Town. The Ottomans arrived in Alexandria in 1517 and chose to build on the new spit of land that had emerged around the old Hepastadion wall, rather than occupy the existing Arab town, which allowed them to quarry the historic cities for building materials.


The development of historic residential districts:

The historic districts develop as a natural extension of the original city center. The historic city was a geographically defined limited area with a limited number of residents. With the natural growth of residents and with the concentration of services, the density of population in these districts increased and problems of crowding, stacking occurred.


In Alexandria, this expansion outside the original city center limits resulted in the immigration of the original residents off the center to the suburbs. This trend was thr result of over population, the establishment of the Ramleh tramway in the 1920’s to link the center to the suburbs and the repelling problems of the center. These phenomenon had resulted in many changes in the of the Turkish town such as the change of the land uses where the original town used to have the first floors used for commercial, while the upper floors were used as housing units, but with the immigration of the residents the upper floors were transformed into offices, and public services that penetrated through the housing units expelling more residents to other areas ending in more deterioration for the area. The commercial pressure appears to be a current threat to the residential district. The residential use is replaced by the higher return of commercial development. This changes the social and economic character of the area and places incompatible demand on the physical environment.[2]


The Turkish town of Alexandria is characterized by its multi land use. It is a residential place, originally for fishermen, a commercial center, a religious center and a recreational and entertainment center. Being a multi functional area, it gives the Turkish town a vibrant atmosphere that makes it attractive to local residents from other areas of the city and tourists and visitors as well. So it is not surprising to see the Turkish town is vibrant and alive day and night. But unfortunately it suffers of several  problems such as poor of the urban environment, expired infrastructure, crowding, incompatible land uses, destruction of old buildings building code violations rapid rate of development that will eventually destroy the original character and image of the area.


Alexandria, a historic city rediscovered, A synthesis of the past, present and future


The city of Alexandria was established by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. Since then, the city has become one of the major cities in Egypt and the Mediterranean. Several civilizations and empires have passed through the city, including Greco-roman, Ptolemaic, Christian, Islamic and Ottoman, each leaving its own trace. The recent periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when Alexandria witnessed cosmopolitanism and diversity on an unprecedented scale, have also left a unique print on Alexandria’ urban fabric. The remnants comprise an integral and fundamental component of the city’s urban morphology where archeological sites, historic parks and ancient buildings are dispersed over the city and also under the waters of its Eastern Harbor. Modern urban development plans take into account the history of the city and consider the proper presentation of its past. The acclamation of  historical assets and their integration into the contemporary city will add to the overall significance of urban heritage tourism to the city. The proposed presentation will investigate the conservation efforts concerning the city’s past, the problems associated with the representation of its history and the integration of its heritage with future redevelopment projects within the city.




Reintegration and re-qualifying of Industrial Heritage of Alexandria in Urban Development Plans

Alexandria is one of the most famous ports of the Mediterranean. During the 19th and the 20th centuries, Alexandria flourished due to the growing trade with other ports of the Mediterranean. Its economy boomed and as a result its industrial base was expanded. The industrial heritage of Alexandria is rich and diverse. It includes warehouses, factories, lighthouses, docks, bridges and railway buildings. These buildings express a unique building typology and represent innovations in engineering, use of material, construction techniques and are part of social history. Today with the changing techniques of shipping, the global shift towards service industries, de-industrialization and the growing awareness of environmental issues, as well as the expansion of Alexandria to become a city of about 4.5 million inhabitants, the industrial heritage of Alexandria are now located inside the urban fabric of the city, and many buildings have become obsolete, abandoned and demolished. These problems of industrial heritage are not unique to Alexandria but are also common to other Mediterranean cities.  It is believed that re-qualifying these buildings and reusing them will maintain their cultural and social values, improve their urban surrounding, enhance living environment and retain their role as major components of the built environment.