Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 14

4. Follow-up activities

There is an urgent need to secure the integrity of the Eastern Harbour area and to ensure its future, for it is both the boundary and the heart of the old city of Alexandria, giving the downtown area its unique character. It links the city to its past, to a time when the Eastern Harbour, the Pharos and the library were the centre of Mediterranean trade, travel and scholarship. Currently, the Eastern Harbour is the centre for a small commercial fishing fleet with facilities for docking, maintenance and shipbuilding, as well as marinas and recreational centres. The old library of Alexandria was rebuilt as the ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’ and inaugurated in 2002, following an international campaign by UNESCO for its revival.

Over-population, rapid development, inadequate planning and pollution threaten the archaeological sites, the continued commercial use of the harbour and its potential development as a tourist attraction. Any proposed intervention should take into consideration the need to protect and preserve the integrity of all the archaeological sites, including the submerged lighthouse, the citadel, the submerged royal quarter and the El-Silsilah (Figure 9) .

Figure 9.
Schematic map of Alexandria showing important sites to be considered within 
the context of coastal management (
Mahdy, 1999, unpublished).

Following the 1997 international workshop, several actions were taken to implement some of the recommendations. These are summarized in Table 1 and will be discussed in this chapter. These actions included feasibility studies on and expert investigations into various aspects of the site, a further workshop and several round table discussions.

Structural assessment of the Qait Bey Citadel

One of the principle recommendations of the International Workshop on Submarine Archaeology and Coastal Management was that an assessment should be made of the structural condition and vulnerability of the Qait Bey Citadel. In response to the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ request for technical assistance, an assessment of wave damage and human impact at the Qait Bey Citadel and Pharos Lighthouse sites was conducted with assistance from UNESCO in September 1997. The assessment team consisted of Dr Ing. Denis Aelbrecht, France, Dr Ing. Bertrand Latteux, France, Prof. Eng. Giorgio Croci, Italy, and Prof. Burghard Flemming, Germany.

In the context of this investigation (Aelbrecht et al., 1997a, 1997b, unpublished; Aelbrecht et al., 2000), the citadel site has been divided into three areas: (i) the Qait Bey Fort itself, comprising a square fortified building measuring about 30 m x 30 m; (ii) the Fortress, which completely encloses the Qait Bey Fort and is, for the most part, encircled by a continuous wall; and (iii) a concrete platform lining the citadel along its eastern and north-eastern sides (Figure 10). Figure 11 shows photographs of the Qait Bey Fort before and after restoration work.

Table 1. Summary of the follow-up to the International Workshop on Submarine Archaeology and Coastal Management, 1997–1999

6–12 September 1997 Structural assessment of the Qait Bey Citadel
12–17 September 1998 Feasibility study on the establishment of an underwater archaeological museum, and management of the Qait Bey Citadel site and the Eastern Harbour.
16 September 1998 Round table discussion on the proposed underwater archaeological museum and the management of the Qait Bey Citadel site and the Eastern Harbour.
22 September 1998 Decree forming the Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up for the protection and development of the submerged sites and the Qait Bey Citadel.
27 October 1998 First meeting of the Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up.
9 December 1998 First meeting of the task team formed by the Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up.
13–14 December 1998 Round table discussion on the pilot project for establishing an underwater archaeological museum and managing the Qait Bey Citadel site and the Eastern Harbour.
30 January – 
8 February 1999
Investigation into marine pollution and urban water management in the Eastern Harbour.
20–21 November 1999 Workshop on the status of the pilot project for sustainable development of the underwater archaeological sites around the Qait Bey Citadel and in the Eastern Harbour. Adoption of a work plan.

The principle findings of the structural assessment may be summarized as follows:

Figure 10.
Diagram, based on an underwater photograph, showing position of concrete blocks 
resting on part of the Pharos site. (From final report by Mission 1)
A): The Qait Bey Fort.
B): The fortress, which completely encloses the fort.
C): The concrete platform which lines the fortress along eastern & north-eastern sides.
D): A breakwater consisting of large concrete blocks.
E): 180 large concrete blocks (dropped in 1993).
F): Pharos underwater archaeological site.
G): Modern breakwater of the Eastern Harbor.

Following the assessment, recommendations were made for future action, both short-term and longer term. In the short-term, immediate action was recommended as follows:

In the longer-term, the following strategies were recommended:

Figure 11.
Qait Bey Fort before and after restoration
in the 1930s.
Source: Supreme Council of Antiquities,
Information Centre

Feasibility study on the establishment of an underwater archaeological museum and management of the Qait Bey Citadel site and the Eastern Harbour

The idea of making Alexandria’s Eastern Harbour and the area around the Qait Bet Citadel into an underwater museum was first proposed by Selim Morcos (1965). He suggested that: ‘visitors could observe the remains of the Pharos and other structures, instead of raising them and stocking them in museums ... especially if they are of colossal size, spread over a large area and forming an integral ensemble with the archaeological site’. Further studies and discoveries since that time, Honor Frost in 1969 (Frost, 1975), Jean-Yves Empereur and his team since 1995 (Empereur, 2000), and Franck Goddio’s team since 1996 (Goddio, 2000), have made convincing arguments for an underwater museum.

The International Workshop on Submarine Archaeology and Coastal Management recommended that a long term management plan should be put in place which would include a study of the potential economic value of the archaeological sites of Alexandria for tourists and visitors, e.g. the development of museums and archaeological parks (on land or underwater).

As a follow up to this recommendation, an international team of experts visited the site from 12–17 September 1998, to (i) examine the feasibility of establishing an underwater museum on the site of the ancient Alexandria Lighthouse in the locality of the Qait Bey Citadel; (ii) propose a strategy for establishing such a museum, if feasible, or if not feasible, to propose alternatives; (iii) make suggestions for the management of tourist access to the site and for site interpretation; (iv) make suggestions for the museum display to the public; and (v) make preliminary cost estimations for implementation. The team, supported by UNESCO, comprised Mr Oguz Alpozen, Director, Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey, and Mr Graeme Henderson, Director, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Australia.

Figure 12.
The Qait Bey Fort and Citadel is presently a
popular tourist attraction.
Photo: D. Nakashima

The principle findings of the team (Alpozen and Henderson, 1998, unpublished) may be summarized as follows:

Following the study, recommendations were made for future action, both short-term and longer term. Short-term recommended actions were as follows:

In the longer-term, three stages are recommended:

Preliminary cost estimates for the land and underwater facilities described in stages 1 and 2 above, amounted to 2.5 million US dollars.

Planning activities and formation of a Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up

One of the recommendations of the International Workshop on Submarine Archaeology and Coastal Management was to establish a small group to follow up the recommendations of the workshop.

In September 1998, approximately 30 representatives and experts from the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Alexandria Governorate, Alexandria University, the Institute of Coastal Research, the Ministry of Tourism and UNESCO attended a round-table discussion. Following a presentation by two of the experts involved in the feasibility study on the underwater museum, it was agreed that the underwater archaeological objects, the Qait Bey Citadel and the Eastern Harbour have the potential to form an integrated archaeological museum with the citadel being the main platform for display and facilities.

Figure 13.
Colossal statue of Ptolemy (13 m
long) salvaged in separate pieces, 
the trunk in 1995, the head and 
arms in 1996; shown at an 
exhibition ‘La Gloire d’Alexandrie’ 
at the Petit Palais in Paris, in 
Photo: S. Morcos

As regards the other recommendations, progress was made on the raising of the 180 concrete blocks from the submerged archaeological site. Ten were raised in 1996 to search for the missing legs and feet of the colossal statue of Ptolemy (Figure 13), 45 blocks were raised in February 1998, and finally the remaining blocks in January 2001. Thus the archaeological field is now completely available for exploration and integration into the proposed underwater museum.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities arranged for the damaged sections of the platform under the Qait Bey Citadel and the cavities under the bedrock to be inspected by divers and documented photographically in 1999. The platform has been firmly consolidated by extending a thick concrete revetment over it. However, further stabilizing work is needed.

On 22 September 1998, a decree was passed by Dr G. Gaballah, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities forming the Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up of the Project for the protection and development of the submerged sites and Qait Bey Citadel. At its first meeting in October 1998, the Committee formed a technical task team to review the available data and information relevant to the project and to recommend future action. Particular attention was given to the citadel and its safety and five of the eleven nominated task team members were directly or indirectly concerned with this issue (Annex 5).

In addition to the task team, the UNESCO Cairo Office commissioned Prof. S. Sharaf El Din to review the oceanography of Alexandria’s coastal zone (Sharaf El Din, undated, unpublished). In their respective reports, the task team members brought to light a mass of information related to both natural and anthropogenic processes likely to impact the citadel and the marine environment in the areas of concern. The task team members identified areas of uncertainty and made specific recommendations to acquire the necessary data. The ten reports of the task team were collected in three volumes and deposited at UNESCO and at the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

In a second round-table discussion in December 1998, it was agreed to implement the recommendations of the expert mission of September 1997, regarding the stability of the citadel. This included an endoscopic inspection and analysis of cavities below the concrete platform, using a miniature waterproof TV camera lowered on a fibre optic cable, and taking the necessary measures to stabilize the concrete platform.

Marine pollution and urban water management in the Eastern Harbour were also discussed during the second round-table discussion. Dr Nariman Mostafa Soheil, from the Alexandria General Organization for Sanitary Drainage, said that the Qait Bey and El-Silsilah outfalls will not be closed until 2003, and that the Western Treatment Plant, which will provide for secondary treatment of sewage that currently drains into Lake Mariout and from there into the sea at El Mex west of Alexandria, will not be operational before 2010. The round-table participants strongly recommended that efforts should be made to stop the disposal of untreated sewage in the sea before these dates.

Marine pollution and urban water management in the Eastern Harbour

Alexandria’s environmental problems have grown in severity as its population and associated urban and industrial development have increased since the beginning of the 20th century (Halim and Abou Shouk, 2000). Marine pollution in the Eastern Harbour and around the Qait Bey Citadel is caused by the discharge of urban wastewater. The Qait Bey outfall, the main source, is located a few hundred metres west of the Pharos. A smaller one, the El-Silsilah outfall, is located on the eastern side of this peninsula. Both outfalls are outside the Eastern Harbour, but there is intermittent flow into the Harbour from another outfall. Serious deterioration in the water quality in the Eastern Harbour began about 40 years ago when these outfalls first came into operation.

The state of pollution in the Eastern Harbour is widely recognized as the biggest obstacle facing the development of the area as a whole, and particularly the development of an underwater archaeological museum. It is not reasonable to have tourists visit the site or for divers to explore the underwater treasures as long as the discharge of urban wastewater continues to pose a health risk. The northerly winds transport polluted water from the Qait Bey outfall to the Pharos site, which is only a few hundred metres away. In addition, sediment layers, which have accumulated over the last 40 years since urban wastewater has been discharged into the waters around the Eastern Harbour, cover the archaeological sites.

Putting an end to this situation constitutes a financial burden and technological challenge for the city of Alexandria. The most obvious solution is to change the urban water system. However, even if the discharge of domestic wastewater into the area is stopped, much will remain to be done if the water body and sea bed are to recover.

Late in 1998, Prof. Abdelwahab M. Amer of Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering made a technical assessment of Alexandria’s water supply and sanitation systems (Amer, 1998, unpublished). This was followed in January/February 1999 by an assessment of the management structure of Alexandria’s water system by Dr Alfonsus Nelen (Nelen and Amer, 1999, unpublished).

The principle findings of these assessments may be summarized as follows:

No organization in Alexandria can provide a comprehensive picture of environmental issues or an assessment of the current physical water system, thus there is no clear definition of the problem and each organization functions in a piecemeal manner. As a consequence, the limited financial and human resources are not used efficiently. The following recommendations were made:

Following this assessment, and during a workshop in November 1999 on the Status of the Pilot Project for Sustainable Development of Submarine Archaeological Sites at the Qait Bey Citadel and the Eastern Harbour, a presentation on water quality and pollution control indicated an improvement in the environmental quality in the Eastern Harbour over the past five years (Annex 6). This followed the partial blocking of wastewater discharges into the Eastern Harbour in 1993. The closure of the Qait Bey and El-Silsilah outfalls in 2003 should improve things further, although a pristine waterfront cannot be expected until all the wastewater that drains from Lake Mariout is thoroughly treated.

Even when all wastewater discharge in the area around the Eastern Harbour is stopped, it will be some time before the area is suitable for diving. The pollutants deposited over the past years will remain in the marine environment, although they may be redistributed. Their predicted lifespan is critical to the underwater museum. A project on the ‘State of marine pollution and socio-economic problems related to the success of the underwater archaeological museum project in the Eastern Harbour,’ was approved within UNESCO’s Participation Programme 2000–2001. This project, which is being carried out by the Department of Oceanography, has the objective of modelling the pollutant remobilization process based on field observations and analysis. Once this information is available, a suitable time to open the underwater museum can be determined.

However, the pollutant remobilization rate also depends on the dynamics of the bay, as was pointed out by Prof. Frihy during the 1999 workshop. Hydrodynamic forces continuously erode the sediments of the Eastern Harbour along its north–south axis. About 70% of the eroded material escapes from the harbour to be deposited offshore. This process will undoubtedly accelerate the recovery of the Eastern Harbour.

Although it has been repeatedly stated that elimination of pollution and assurance of water clarity and safety are preconditions for allowing diving by tourists, limited permission was recently given for diving on the Pharos site outside the Eastern Harbour (not inside the harbour where pollution is more pronounced). Four tourist companies wished to run tours of the site and diving was permitted from October 2001. It is hoped that any disappointment with the present imperfect water conditions will not compromise future plans for the underwater park.

Workshop on sustainable development of submarine archaeological sites at the Qait Bey Citadel and the Eastern Harbour 

A workshop was convened on 20–21 November 1999 at the Department of Oceanography, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University to assess the status of the pilot project for sustainable development of submarine archaeological sites at the Qait Bey Citadel and the Eastern Harbour (Anon, 1999, unpublished). This workshop was a follow-up activity of the 1997 international workshop and the 1998 round-table discussions, and was organized by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Alexandria University and the UNESCO Cairo Office. More than 40 participants attended from the organizing institutions, the Alexandria Governorate, other national institutions and non-governmental organizations; several international experts were also invited. The workshop had three objectives: (i) to review the output of the task team; (ii) to discuss and approve a work plan; (iii) to evaluate the progress made and recommend future action.

Before the technical session, introductory reviews were made by Dr Gaballah and members of the Consultative Committee on Planning and Follow-up. The need to act immediately to protect the foundation of the citadel was emphasized, as well as the need for the sustainable management of the coastal zone of Alexandria’s old city.

Ten reports from the task team were presented and discussed (El-Abbadi and Halim, 1999, unpublished). They dealt with archaeological, socio-economic, meteorological, hydrodynamic, geomorphodynamic, seismic and water quality aspects, and with projected improvements in Alexandria’s sewage system. The highlights of these reports are contained in Annex 6 and the workshop recommendations are listed below.

The workshop:

A work plan drafted by the Consultative Committee on Planning and Follow-up was discussed and approved at the workshop. The main long-term objectives of the plan are: (i) the establishment of the underwater museum, (ii) the preparation and implementation of an integrated management policy and (iii) enhancement of tourism. The immediate objectives of the plan are to:

The work plan included short-, medium- and longer-term actions. In the short-term (one year):

In the medium-term (two years):

In the longer-term (two+ years):

Bibliotheca Alexandrina and other developments

Inaugurated in October 2002, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has become a major landmark of the Eastern Harbour, and represents a significant endeavour towards the revival of the cultural heritage embodied in the old Library of Alexandria. Together with the Eastern Harbour, they form an ensemble which reinforces the approach towards an integrated management of Alexandria's coastal heritage.

The Bibliotheca stands opposite to El-Silsilah, the small peninsula on the eastern side of the Easter Harbour. One of the most exciting developments is the revival of hopes that this area will soon be accessible for archaeological research. El-Silsilah, once known as Cape Lochias, is where the Royal Palaces stood during Ptolemaic times. As a result of an appeal by the Archaeological Society of Alexandria, it was agreed that this site, which is presently occupied by a military unit, will be accessible for archaeological research by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The site is of potential interest to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and plans for the underwater museum.

On the other hand, the activities related to the exploration of the underwater archaeological sites continue to make progress on several fronts. Research papers, popular books and TV films have been produced since the 1997 workshop. Archaeological investigations have continued, along with laboratory conservation efforts to preserve metal and other underwater archaeological objects. Progress was reported during the 1999 workshop (Darwish et al., 1999, unpublished).

The Egyptian team of the Department of Underwater Archaeology of the Supreme Council of Antiquities has become more involved in the joint exploration missions working in Alexandrian waters, and is actively pursuing its own independent programme. Empereur and his team have continued their efforts in documenting the Pharos site. Each of the over 2000 objects found have been given an entry card with all the available information and key words in a geographical information system. Detailed maps of the site have been produced. Using geophysical and archaeological data, the Goddio group is completing a new map of the Eastern Harbour showing the contours of the sunken land and port structures. The layout plan of the Royal Quarter, its monuments, harbours and shipyards on Cape Lochias attest to the majestic setting of the Portus Magnus in its glorious past. The Greek mission led by Harry Tzalas concluded in 2003 its tenth survey in the waters east of El-Silsilah and have found numerous architectural elements in the submerged site of Cape Lochias, including the upper part of a broken stele.


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