John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It’s a wonder some of these places are still occupied.
Alexandria’s busy El-Gaish Road has a fantastic view of the Mediterranean, but looking the other way is just as rewarding. Lining the coast are hulking towers that obviously were grand in their day, but now have fallen into massive disrepair—architectural husks, decaying into rust and blackened plaster in the warm seaside breeze.
London’s Manuel Alvarez Diestro traveled to Egypt’s second-largest city to walk El-Gaish and document its crumbling facades. “Most of the building towers are second residences for Egyptians and are occupied during the summer in the overpopulated city,” emails the 43-year-old photographer. “All the buildings are placed in an idyllic location overlooking the vast blue sea.”
If you peer closely you can spot a person or two, but most indications of ongoing habitation come from laundry and rugs hanging on balconies and dirty satellite dishes. In some cases the structural integrity is so degraded you wonder how long these relics have in this world. “Alexandria’s urban fabric requires a continuous upgrade,” Alvarez Diestro says, “as many buildings are at the verge of collapse.”