I recently had a walk in Wabour El Maya, an early 19th-century upper-middle-class neighborhood in Alexandria. It got its name from the Italian water company that was famous for its huge and advanced water steam-machines for purification and sterilization. The name Wabour comes from the Italian word Vapore which is pronounced in: /væ poʊ ri/, meaning vapor. While El Maya is the Egyptian word of water. This is where my paternal grandparents once have lived.

Since my grandmother passed away I have always been avoiding going there. May God bless all of them. Yesterday I found the courage to do it, but I could not find the building. The 4 floors building from maybe the 40s of the past century is replaced by another one that I could not see the point where it meets the sky. However, my memories were still there. They kept loading and flooding in mind. 

Driven by this flood of memories, I followed my legs or mind to Muharram Bek, where my other grandparents, again, have once lived. Once more, I guess I was 14 since the last time I have been there. But my memories are as fresh and vivid as yesterday. I do remember every corner of the house. My brother and I, playing. The gathering of all the family in each Eid (feast in Arabic). In the palace in front of their building, my mother once told me “this is Basilly’s palace, I used to hear Farid Al-Atrash singing when they invite him to their parties”. The palace is not there anymore, and I guess neither my grandparents building. I was not able to go and have another surprise.

It is fascinating how an architect’s mind works. All my memories are very visual. They are translated into lines, images, floor plans, and lots of detail. I remember the marble entrance and stairs. I remember the wooden handrails carried on rough iron metalwork. I remember its curvy corners. And I remember how I used to, secretly climb on it.  

The list is too long…, the wooden and glass panels door (A door with Sho rra ah), walls, painting with texture and wallpapers, first big guest hall, my uncle’s room, the kitchen, the long corridor, and the inner family living hall. This living chamber, I believe was almost square in shape. Around 4*4 meters. It is where we used to sit together, relaxed as a family. And is where I was always staring at Al-Sandara.

We could rich the living chamber through the long corridor. It had 4 openings. The first one was the entrance gate of the corridor on the right side (according to the drawing above) and, it has no door. The fourth one was located on the opposite wall, and it was the bedroom of my grandfather where he had his Oud (I broke it several times) and his handwritten A3 size Quran of the green cover. The front wall hosted two doors, to the left the door of my grandmother’s room. And to the left is the door of the main bathroom.

This door was located directly under Al-Sanadra, which is a compartment built above a doorway to store all unused belongings. It can vary in shape, height and, size. It is often defined as an attic but I find them totally different. My grandparents were covering the opening hatch with an oil painting (unfortunately I don’t remember what it was depicting). Sometimes they used to remove it to get or to store things. This is where I used to stare at. I always wanted to know what was inside. As a kid I was wondering how someone could get up there, I have never seen any ladder there. And I never knew what was inside.

This compartment used to exist in most of this type of houses. Due to the high ceiling, which I guess at my grandparent’s house was more than 3.80 meters high. It was a perfect way to have a store. Always located above bathrooms and kitchens. In our houses now, surely we can’t have something like that. This is because building heigh is not calculated by the number of floors but rather by, the number of meters height. That induced landlords to reduce the floors’ heigh in order to gain two or three extra floors…!

“Section sketch shows the bathroom at my grandparents’ house and Al-Sandara appears above it”