Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fathy, Fish and Faith

Hassan Fathy is called Egypt's most renowned architect since Imhotep - who was the builder of the Saqqara funerary complex almost 5000 years ago. In the late 1940's Hassan Fathy was commissioned by the then Egyptian government to provide a housing solution for people to be moved away from the site of the Egyptian tombs. His innovative solution - the constructed community of New Quorna - was built barely a kilometre from our flat and incorporated use of low cost mud brick, domes and arches inspired by the ancient structures he saw in the pharaonic temples.

The new town was rejected by its intended residents - who did not wish to leave their original homes built upon the ancient tombs and which provided a steady income from stolen treasures. But Fathy's ideas and designs survived and inspired architects in western nations ever since. His distinctive domes and design elements have returned to Egypt in the works of The American architect Michael Graves and his creations at resort properties at El Gouna on the Red Sea and the Hyatt Regency resort on the gulf of Aqaba.

Today, the remains of Fathy's New Qorna town have mostly crumbled into ruin with the exception of a handfull of buildings. Fathy's own house, where he lived during construction of the project (shown below) is in poor condition and starting to fall down.

The operators of small museum at the site are hopeful that someone, probably an international aid agency, might help preserve the ruins and preserve this site of architectural innovation.
A walk through the Luxor souk can reveal some interesting discoveries. Fish from the Nile continue to be trapped and brought to market. These various distinctive fish species are often shown carved or painted on the walls of tombs.

The Luxor Coptic Cathedral continues to rise in the heart of Luxor. Egypt typically bans the construction of churches and it took 30 years for the local community to gain permission to build this cathedral on the site of another church. It has three floors inside to accommodate the thousands of worshippers who will attend services. Approximately 40% of Luxor's half million citizens are Christian.

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