Thursday, September 1, 2016

Public Spaces, A train trip to Alexandria.

©2016 Ragia Ragi
This time it started with a normal course assignment and ended up with a train trip to Alexandria.
Remember the days when your parents' outing was the highlight of your week, going to the park or the club on the weekend or visiting your grandparents and meeting the rest of your siblings, gathering on a table for food, the elders preparing food while the children playing games.
The outings to the clubs or the parks, playing football, basketball, or any other games, hide and seek, races, later having lunch. When you were too young to enter the grownups building in the club.
Remember summer time when your family would go on a trip to any coastal city, the beach time, the night walks, the famous ice-cream, renting bicycles, eating snacks, watching movies, staying up late, Laughs and fights between kids that would end up to be laughs between elders.
Remember how it used to be and how it turned out to be now that you’re the grown up?
Have you ever thought that certain things made those places fun, other than the beautiful family gathering? Or your mother’s beautiful sandwiches? That there might be certain aspects made those places comfier and playful and protected for children and grownups to guarantee you had a good time?
Well here are few things that you might have enjoyed but haven’t actually realized they existed.
During week 5 of the course Designing Cities, the discussion was that some Spatial patterns promote Personal communication and therefore creates an enjoyable and usable public space and those patterns must follow some certain criteria that focuses on the following;

1-   Neutral Ground
Easily accessed through various means of transportation or lie in a place that is usually visited or surrounded by people.

2-   Accessibility by different levels of a community
Can be used by people with different incomes, affordable to a wide range of the community.

3-   A home away from home
A place which would give you the same feeling you have when resting at home. 

4-   Easy entry
Can be easily entered from many points and without high gates or any sort of blocking in the way.

5-   Performers
Some sort of amusement or a show to enjoy while spending time in the place.

6-   Distractions
Something that will be the people’s center of attention, to distract them from others sitting in the surrounding.

7-   Power of food and drink
Various types of food, drinks, and snacks.

8-   Regular transactions
Elements that would promote people to engage with others, a passerby or someone sitting close to them.

9-   Capability of being adapted
The place would be able to adapt to wide range of activities other than the already existing one for example a playground that can be converted to a musical stand in a different time of the day.

10-   Variety of activities
Activities that are originally provided by the public space and not created by visitors.

But then at the end of the lecture it was added that a Perfect public space would combine Home, Culture and Creation and that is what I mostly believe in.
As an assignment you are asked to give a detailed description of a public space in your city and point out how it follows the above criteria.
From my usual visits I have added few factors that I would like to call the user’s experience, and that I think affect the sense of a Public space in a huge way;

1-   Identity
If the place had its own identity that would make it very interesting somehow, for example a historical place like El-Moez St., a place like downtown khedival Cairo, a cafe with its own style say classic or modern, an identity to that place gives it something more.

2-   Shading/green areas/vegetation/Climate
I don’t know why exactly but they give a sense of comfort between all the concrete and sand on one hand, on the other hand scientifically; green areas have three benefits that I know of
o  Cause evaporation and so the surfaces don’t consume the heat, in another explanation cooling the temperature.
o  Hydro-logical control and so also decrease the temperature and the humidity.
o  Provide noise protection from the surroundings
This is quite a struggle in Egypt, most public spaces or streets would be very enjoyable at night when the weather is cooler but at day time the direct sun on your head can make you curse the day you decided to take a rest or a picnic there, a place with natural shading and green areas makes a sitting much better.

3-   Night light
Adjusting of the night light can be very tricky when different colors different degrees of lighting are set in different places according to a certain designing criteria, It can control the mood in a way you can’t understand, unless you know the feeling when you’re subjected to a very high lighting when you are in the need of a smooth relaxing one.

4-   Routes
You simply have to know your way around a place and that of course depends on its size but you need to know exits, entrances, stairs, openings, shortcuts and if you don’t it can be simply very annoying.

5-   Comfortable, Practical sitting
Not much can actually be said at this point, the more comfortable you feel, the more time you’ll spend, the happier you get.

I decided to take a look at three places, one that lies in a historical place on the north coast, and two other traditional places that also lies on the coast.
I also wanted to know, if a place has a culture of its own, would that affect one’s sense of a public place?

©2016 Ragia Ragi

Raml Station; Intake (1)

We took a train trip from Ramses Station to Seidi Gaber, although the train was an hour late and a little bit slow, but we enjoyed the company of a family with a hyper kid that took the train car back and forth with his father running behind him all the way through until at the end he gave up on the kid. And another two that kept singing Sheikh Emam’s songs whenever the train stopped and others would sing along (by others I mean me) Considering that Sheikh Emam is one of my favorite singers.

It was a Friday and we took a tram and stopped at El Quaed Ibrahim Mosque, we reached at the time of Al Goma’a prayer so we stayed there for a while.

The Slightly Elevated Park

Close to where we stopped, There was this big park, few meters higher than the sea level with benches that overlooks the sea. It was always so crowded that I never really had the chance to take a closer look.
But since we arrived at the time of the prayer, I came to notice a thing or two.

1-   Neutral Ground
Lies on the waterfront, close to public transportation, at a tram station

2-   Accessibility by different levels of a community
Open park accessible by everyone.

3-   A home away from home
The surrounding housing and gathered families can give you the feeling.

4-   Easy entry
Not so much it has two gates at the same side and the rest are closed, you need to go up some few stairs too.

5-   Distractions
©2016 Ragia Ragi
The sea, the whole water front, vehicles on the road , street vendors, the trams, El Quaed Ibrahim Mosque.

6-   Power of food and drink
Supermarkets, Cafes and restaurants are everywhere.

7-   Regular transactions
Not promoted because the park is higher than the street level.

8-   Capability of being adapted
Lots of open space but covered with high bushes and plants so can’t possibly be used for something other than the good view of the waterfront.

9-   Variety of activities
The park is considered as an open air sitting, it has no supervision and no activities of its own.

10-   Capability of being adapted
The place would be able to adapt to wide range of activities other than the already existing one for example a playground that can be converted to a musical stand in a different time of the day.


I have concluded three, the food was too far to reach, there was no shading and so the sun was direct on your head and so made the place unbearable to stay at during the daylight.
And the worst of all would be the smell that you would get aware of the moment you enter the park, a one that people who pass by abandoned walls or down a bridge would be very familiar with.
And last the place is abandoned by morning, over crowded by night.

Qaitbay; The water front? May be, The Fort? Not so much.

©2016 Ragia Ragi

©2016 Samaa Abd El-Shakour
This would be the first time for me to go to the citadel without actually entering it, without eating Azza’s Ice-cream which have always been a riddle to me, even though it tastes utterly average but the amount of people that have Azza’s ice-cream as a summer ritual is very high and the reason behind this is still a mystery.
I think I have visited the citadel more than four times and this was the first time I sat outside and enjoyed the view, and here is to why I thought it was a pretty enjoyable place.

Morning time

All of the following was noticed during morning time till about 3 PM, I am not sure how the place turns out at a later time of the day but it has come to my knowledge that the place is turned into an area full of cafes’ chairs and tables which changes almost everything.

1- Location; Easily reached by 4 means of transportation The Tram, Public buses, Tourist buses, Micro-buses and they stop few meters before the entrance.

2- Accessibility; By all sort of people, all levels, and the connectivity to the different means of transportation made it even easier to reach.

3- Home away from home; The entrance for a start makes you feel safe, the ships and the fishermen makes the place feels more intimate like you have visited relatives in another place. The gathering families certainly gave the place more life, grownups with children and teenagers with plenty of talks and laughter and maybe even few fights every once in a while.

4- Easy Entry; Free access by everyone.

5- Distractions; Distractions here are countless,
    the citadel, the sea, the merchants of so many kinds, the horse rides, the bicycle rides, Fishermen.

6- Power of food and drink; those would be hard to find, and is usually replaced by people having food from outside the citadel’s zone and taking it to go enjoy it from the sittings behind the citadel on the sea.

7- Regular transactions

8- Capability of being adapted; the place is very adaptable to all sort of activities, one minute it’s a playground for a football team, the next it’s a platform for kids’ kites, a picnic ground for a family, a space for horse rides. Basically an open space suitable for various amount of activities.

 9- Variety of activities; even though the place is adaptable to a wide range of activities there are still few constant ones that have been there for years like going there for fishing, boat rides, night concerts and festivals at the citadel, horse carts.

10- Identity; the old scent of Alexandria with the beautiful view of the citadel and the sea, and the fishermen boats, all sort of shape an identity to the place that can hardly be found anywhere else

©2016 Ragia Ragi


©2016 Ragia Ragi
Also the place was very enjoyable, there were still some features missing that if existed would have made it much better.
The problem of shading, the place was extremely sunny and shaded places were hard to find. And even if you found those places, they w lack a view or a good sitting.
The sitting was not very enjoyable, people would leave the original fence made for sitting and will jump across to sit on the concrete blocks, which is actually a pretty interesting view once you get a high wave and water splashes all over the place soaking every one wet.

Analysis of Qaitbay Water Front Development ­

I went on searching more about the place, and I have found an Article by Riham A. Ragheb, she discussed the elements that shaped a good public space, a lot which have been mentioned in the lecture in which I based my writing on, and there were a lot of similar points, but what was new for me was that the waterfront wasn’t always like this, I might have not realized this before but the development took place 6 months in 2001, no matter how much I say it won’t be enough compared to this article, so for more details it is highly recommended to take a look at. I quote what she concluded at the end.

“The Qaitbay waterfront development was transformed into a major tourist attraction of the city. It contains a great promenade that is lined restaurants, shops, clubs, and streetscape amenities. Nowadays it is classified one of the most livable waterfront in Alexandria”

©2016 Ragia Ragi

Raml Station; Intake (2), Imperial Café.

©2016 Ragia Ragi

Intending to get the Double Decker bus (Aka Tourists bus) on our way from the citadel to Raml station, we asked about the bus starting point in order to catch it from the beginning of it's route but then we got a heads up from one of the commissioners at the bus station saying and I quote..

“That’s few blocks away, you are two, 7 pounds each, 14 to Raml station! Haram!”

So we took the 2-pound public bus like normal Egyptian citizens and that was actually fair enough.

©2016 Ragia Ragi
Aside from all the public spaces, this would be the semi-public space where you would take a rest at after a sunny touring day.

©2016 Ragia Ragi
The cafe would seem as one of those where you would check your pocket twice before entering but it actually appeared to be very nice after all with very reasonable prices compared to the food and the service.

©2016 Samaa Abd El-Shakour
It has two sittings; one on the road that leads to the Corniche and overlooks the sea but you won’t be able to see it because of the cars parked everywhere, instead you’ll enjoy the view of the park and the traditional houses, the place is shaded and the weather is cooler because of the sea breeze and all of the green areas around.

The other sitting is inside with oriental traditional decoration and very comfy chairs, the only thing bothering was that there was no separation between smokers and non-smokers areas.
Drinks are not so recommended but the food was great, a beautiful blueberry cheese cake with little blueberry pieces on top, and our favorite was the fresh made om Ali with nuts on top; made in a pottery plat coming straight out of the oven.

To sum all of this up I would love to quote Ragia..

“People in Alexandria, despite all the deterioration, are still enjoying their lives in those public spaces”

This was a glimpse of the beauty there, but many more is yet to be discovered, with no further ado...

©2016 Samaa Abd El-Shakour

"ومن سيدي بشر لأبو العباس أيوه يا عالم عالمنظر"

1 comment:

  1. first of all that artical is so good ur style very smooth and very delightful...u dig very well in that informations well done
    also u have agift u can make the reader feel it like
    he is there

    1-Qaitbay :- last time i visited that place there's no differnce between hardscape all from cement and gravel and was smashed

    2-i think one of things that should be in the elements is 'discovery' that u have designing the space with some activities made up with the circule or seasons we had learned that in collage

    3- i did visit the citadel at midday an night it's very crowded but i got something for u:-

    first way :D go their at 12 or 1 at midnight and sit on 2nd or 3rd rock and enjoy the view of the sea and the light drizzle hitting ur face and let go your mind or u can talk about ghosts :D

    secong way go at 1 or 2 pm afternoon and try that phloka to take u across the sea from the citadel to somewhere near the exit but that was diffrent experience

    4-name of that restaurant ^^

    nice pics and waitng for the next of course
    keep going