A photo posted by the Alexandria Facebook page that appeared to show the historic Raml Station in the center of Alexandria in ruins created online panic on Wednesday evening, as over 2,000 people shared the image alongside outraged comments.
Alexandria residents took to social media to express their frustration over the image of the damaged tram station, which has been standing since the 1930s. The iconic straight-edged brick clock tower and the columns that had held up the station’s roof still stood, but the white, horseshoe-shaped roof itself lay in rubble on the ground.
Alexandria Governor Mohamed Abdel Zaher told the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) that the station’s renovation is part of a general project to renovate the entire public square in which it stands, because it represents an important era in the city’s urban heritage. The square overlooks the Mediterranean and also hosts landmarks such as the Hotel Cecil and the patisserie Trianon.
Abdel Zaher explained that the sudden rush to work on the station was due to its historical significance, and because the state of the roof had been deteriorating for years. The authorities had restored the roof various times already, he said, but to protect the lives of the citizens who pass through the station every day, it was necessary to rebuild it completely.
The station will be reconstructed in the same manner and no changes will be made to its design or architectural identity, the governor added.
Save Alex, an urban activists’ pressure group founded in 2012 to halt destruction of the city’s architectural heritage, made no statement about the station on its official Facebook page.
“We have no problem with renovation as long as it is up for public debate and the design and implementation is clear from the start,” said Mohamed Abu al-Khair, co-founder of Save Alex. “It’s the lack of transparency that’s the problem. As citizens, we can’t just wake up one day and find the Raml Station on the ground.”
Abu al-Kheir said that he found out about the demolition through a Facebook post. “The city’s residents [are not given the] right to this information concerning changes to public space,” he argued.
Raml Station was originally built in 1887, but the structure that was partially demolished this week was built in the 1930s, according to Mohamed Elshahed, the founder and editor of the urban heritage publication Cairobservor.
On Thursday, Salah Hareedy, an architecture professor at Alexandria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, posted a series of architectural renderings on Facebook and wrote that these illustrate the plans for the station’s renovation along the lines of its previous well-known structure.