Friday, 22 September 2017

The Sad End to Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria

Zahraa Adel Awad has sent me more photographs of the destruction of the Villa Ambron (see previous post) where Lawrence Durrell lived in a very different Alexandria during the war. These photographs were taken by her friends Dr Mohamed Adel Dossouki and architect Sherif Farag. All are campaigners for the preservation of Alexandria's heritage and all are very sad. 

This little room, how well I know it!
Now they’ve rented this and the next door one
As business premises, the whole house
Has been swallowed up by merchants’ offices,
By limited companies and shipping agents …
O how familiar it is, this little room!
Once here, by the door, stood a sofa,
And before it a little Turkish carpet,
Exactly here. Then the shelf with the two
Yellow vases, and on the right of them:
No. Wait. Opposite them (how time passes)
The shabby wardrobe and the little mirror.
And here in the middle the table
Where he always used to sit and write,
And round it the three cane chairs.
How many years … And by the window over there
The bed we made love on so very often.
Somewhere all these old sticks of furniture
Must still be knocking about …
And beside the window, yes, that bed.
The afternoon sun climbed half way up it.
We parted at four o’clock one afternoon,
Just for a week, on just such an afternoon.
I would have never 
Believed those seven days could last forever.

- Constantine Cavafy's The Afternoon Sun, translated by Lawrence Durrell

'Were it not to see you again I doubt if I could return again to Alexandria. I feel it fade inside me, in my thoughts, like some valedictory mirage — like the sad history of some great queen whose fortunes have foundered among the ruins of armies and the sands of time!'

- Clea, the final volume of The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell

Zahraa says: 'I am so sad for the villa especially I used to take my tourists group around for Lawrence Durrell tour in Alexandria; now it is totally gone.  The developer is Mr Abdel Aziz who will build a new apartment building called Al Amraa Palace (Royal Princes Palace)'.