KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
During our last few days in Luxor, we were casting about for things we could do within walking distance of our hotel, and we were lucky to hear about the Hassan Fathy Housing Project in New Gourna, several kilometres from our hotel, not far from the Nile, but a walkable distance because the weather is so pleasant these days.
We set off after breakfast and before we knew it, we were walking by Ashraf’s alabaster factory. I decided that I would like to stop for a minute and take another short video of the artisans working in front of the shop. I am really new to taking videos on my camera and I found that in my first attempt at filming the man drilling out the center of the vase, I had turned the camera off after only a few seconds of filming.
This was somewhat of an improvement over the very first video I took with my camera. I’m so used to taking many of my photos in the portrait position and not just the ‘landscape’ position, that I filmed the famous pandas in China sideways. If I want to view the video, I have to turn the computer on its side, or else lie down to watch.
I took a few minutes of video and then we continued towards New Gourna. We hadn’t gone more than a few metres when Ashraf pulled up in his car and insisted, we get in. He couldn’t fathom that we would really want to walk all the way. When we explained that we were walking to get some exercise after eating all the delicious food that he was preparing for us every day, he told us we could walk back, but that he wanted to take us to the village because he wanted to be sure that we found the housing project. In the end, I’m glad that he insisted, because the project was not on the main street and we might not have been able to explain to anyone what we had come to see.
We spent a very pleasant couple of hours with Suhier and her family as she showed us around the home that Hassan Fathy had built for her grandparents. Because we showed a great deal of interest and we made a small donation to the ‘museum’, Suhier’s father showed us the mosque, the theatre and the other few buildings that were built by Hassan Fathy. We particularly enjoyed seeing a house that was being renovated, with the old mud bricks being ‘recycled’ into new mud bricks.
It wasn’t until we were on the internet at a later date that we learned that the project had been somewhat of a failure in Gourna. The villagers who were being moved from their traditional homes constructed atop the ancient tombs near the Valley of the Kings, the Queens and the Nobles, were not at all happy to move to new housing and they were more interested in having ‘modern’ cement buildings like the ones being built across the Nile in Luxor.
In the end, they eventually moved to some characterless sprawling buildings that were constructed further north near where our hotel is situated. I don’t know if it was in retaliation or not, but the government has not yet provided adequate public transport for the resettled residents and they have to travel a long way to work at the shops, factories and farms nearer to the Nile.
I found an interesting website that explains the architects hopes for the new village and some of the issues that prevented it from being a success. Please click here if you would like to read on, there are some good photos as well. Hassan Fathy’s New Gourna