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Demolishing Alexandrian History

Yet another historical Egyptian home is about to bite the dust. This particular one, once owned by renowned author Lawrence Durrell. But one man is on a mission to save this little corner of Alex...

It is unfortunately an all too common site in Egypt: Historical palaces and villas being left to rot and eventually crumble. Many of these architecturally unique properties were once the structural jewels of Egypt fueling comparisons between Cairo and Alex to cities such as Paris and Rome. 

The latest historical home under threat is that of Lawrence Durrell, the author of the acclaimed Alexandria Quartet. The seminal work put a global spotlight on the Mediterranean city, and its legacy continues to draw many to the author's former property. Needless to say, tour guides, architects, historians, enthusiasts and many of the city's cultured citizens are up in arms at its continuing demise. 

Durrell had moved to Alexandria at the time of the Second World War, returning to Greece during the mass exodus of foreigners following Gamal Abdul Nasser's rise to power. It was at that time that Durrell foresaw the death of Alexandria, which he would later express in his legendary novels.

The property is currently owned by a certain Abdulaziz Ahmed Abdulaziz, and many have accused him of damaging the building from the inside in the hopes that it will fall, legally allowing him to have the area cleared, and the land potentially sold. It's a legal loop-holed that has been leveraged by many undeserving owners of historical property in a bid to release the value in the land. 

The effort to now have the site listed and protected is being led by Mohamed Awad, an architect and head of the Alexandria Preservation Trust. Currently, he is trying to convince the British Council to help by buying and restoring the villa.

"I'm not totally pessimistic about conservation here," he said. "We have made a tremendous effort to list the buildings that might be conserved. But it seems neither the economic nor political climate is ripe for this kind of sophisticated, almost elitist approach."

The floors, veranda, and stone balustrades in the house are completely destroyed, however the supporting stonework, the curling staircase, and most importantly, Durrell's Tower is still largely intact. “It can still be saved, despite its dreadful condition,” Mr Awad said.

As it stands there isn't an online campaign to join, but many saddened by the news have been expressing on Lawrence Durrell Facebook page.