26 January, 2011

New Mukalla

Mukalla is being rapidly transformed; in fact, for the last twenty years - the city, which some call The Pearl of the Arabian Sea, of all places in Hadhramout, it has seen the most transformation; transformation, particularly, in its buildings. Wherever you go around Al Mukalla, you see new construction. The sea near the center of the city, is being filled and reclaimed. Many new areas have been built up; many new buildings have been put up; and many old buildings, some - very old, unfortunately - have been torn down. Torn down and being replaced by new structures. New 'modern' structures.

New buildings like the above, hardly blend in well with the surrounding; but, then, in the new shape that the city is taking - any thing goes.
New structures are haphazardly put up next to one another; whims rather than aesthetics normally being the guide and main driving force for decisions on, and choices of, the shape for the buildings.
Most of the new houses are imitations of the 'modern' buildings in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf; from Jeddah in particular.
It is mainly the architecture in Jeddah that seems to have the most influence on the architecture of the 'new' Mukalla. In the Arabian Peninsular, next to Hadhramout, Jeddah has the largest population of Hadhramis, who, when they return home - bring in ideas; including that for building.
Unlike the old buildings in the city, which relied on natural ventilation, these new structures are all being built with openings or piping for air-conditioning units. Air conditioning that will require more electricity.
All these new complexes are built of concrete, slab, bricks, steel and glasses; most of the upper floors are made of brown-baked-bricks - which are lighter and can keep the interiors cooler.
The tallest of the buildings, above, is at ten floors; once, a few years ago, on this same spot - was an old styled building.
These structures - above and below - are right within the Old part of the city; they look rather odd and rather out of place.
How all these new spaces are going to be filled or used, is hard to tell; relative to the population around - there seems to be too many high rise buildings with too much space.
But: all cities, old and new, have been mainly built in the same way way; by adventurous people who brought in new ideas and took risks.
It will take time for The Pearl of the Arabian Gulf to shape up and for it not to look like one big war zone - with dilapidated old buildings and buildings being built, standing side by side with the new structures; and for the new buildings not to look at odds with the old. Mukalla is no different from/to the many other urban centers around the world. All around the world, each day, tens of thousands of people are moving in to cities; and the cities are expanding with structures, buildings and  construction. For some cities, like Al Mukalla: unfortunately - old, authentic styles give way to the new and the foreign.