Travel to West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation
Goaded by Israeli penetration of the Old City, and fearful that Palestinians would gradually be displaced, the Palestinian Authority with Saudi funding has embarked on an immense program of reconstruction in the old city. The work has won a major award from the Aga Khan Foundation, and it's not hard to see why.
The easy part is fixing the public spaces, like this sign for milk-market street.
Here, on a Saturday morning when things are quiet, a crew is about to resurface the qusseba with stone paving. Goodbye, asphalt.
The heavy work is fixing up the compound houses so people will once again consider them attractive.
Here, one of the many alleys off the qusseba has been remortared, plastered, painted, and fitted with electric lighting.
The bucket marks a construction crew at work on this house. The irregular design is typical of Hebron--and a lot more interesting than the heavily Europeanized designs found in Bethlehem.
The work has been contracted to many different contractors. Some are better than others. Here, a ceiling is already showing signs of damage from water percolating through the massive, rubble-filled walls.
An elegant opening for someone to chat with someone in the courtyard below.
This restored hallway, massive as a Crusader fortress, serves several compound houses.
There are no maps of the Old City, apart from a careful drawing done about 1930 by the British. Even with that map in hand, it's easy to get confused.
The following pictures, taken during rehabilitation, give some sense of the unique forms being created in these old buildings. The market here is low-income Palestinian families, but the units are all equipped with completely new facilities, including water and sewage mains, electricity, kitchens and bathrooms.
Utilities are being run. The characteristic ingenuity of local masons is displayed by the improvised stone beams, tying together two buildings abutting at an odd angle.
Stone walls and plastered vaults. Electrical lines are sunk in the plaster, but the stone walls are remortared and even dismantled as necessary.
Doorways are true, but walls are often free form, especially where plaster covers utilities.
Some of the stairs require agility.
Another tricky staircase.
The arches have been left unplastered--a nice touch. Demand for renovated apartments like these is high, and there have ben cases where owners have decided to return, years after having abandoned the old family home to tenants.
A festival of arches.
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