• Era Ottoman
  • Project Director Cristina Mondin, Mohamed Kenawi & Michele Asolati
  • Location Rosetta (Rashid)
  • Affiliation Padova University Italian Egyptian Archaeological Center
  • Project Sponsor Antiquities Endowment Fund
  • Project Dates 2019-2020

During the medieval period, new towns emerged in the Nile Delta, some becoming important cultural and economic centers. Following the damage to the sea port of Alexandria, Rosetta (Rashid in Arabic) flourished. Commercial activities relocated to the town as it became the main access to the Mediterranean. During the Mameluke and Ottoman periods, Rosetta was the second most important city in Egypt after Cairo. However, the events of the last two hundred years have transformed this once prosperous city leading to extensive damage to its archaeological and historical heritage. Until the1940s, the town was full of Ottoman houses; now only 22 remain, all suffering various degrees of deterioration.

Al-Amasili house.

At the Amasili Complex  (an Ottoman house and granary) a new conservation project started to take shape. The Project is addressing the effects of previous restoration works that have led to extensive damage to the buildings and will repurpose rooms for meetings, research and exhibitions. The intention is that the Amasili Complex becomes a hub for archaeological missions working in the area, a platform for artists and craftsmen and a meeting point for the local population thus ensuring its preservation.

ARCE and the Italian Ministry of foreign Affairs (MAE) supported the project through its first phase of interventions that made the main building water tight and addressed the extensive salt damage on the plaster covering the walls of the top floor. Between June 2019 and October 2020, the wooden roof was exposed, rotten wooden beams and planks were replaced and a new protective roof layer was installed. Internally the old cement plaster covering the walls were removed and replaced by a new plaster developed by our conservators with locally sourced materials. This new plaster follows an ancient Roman recipe where powdered fired bricks (known as terra cotta) replaces sand (which is rich in salt). Hydraulic lime (instead of cement) and gravel complete the recipe making it ideal for use in buildings experiencing high humidity levels as it allows the brickwork to “breathe.”

Walid, a skilled trained worker working on a damage section of a wall.
Amasili House: Working on the roof in September 2019.
Second floor while removing old cement plaster covering the walls.

In less than one year we were able to:

  • Replace rotten wooden planks, beams and all roofing layers creating gradients to ensure adequate drainage of rainfall water.
  • Expose all brickwork internally and repair historical walls.
  • Apply new render and plaster mixes specially developed for the climate of Rosetta using Egyptian materials.
  • Spray paint all ceilings, clean all light fittings and install LED bulbs.
  • Install metal mesh to high windows in order to prevent the ingress of birds and bats.
  • Install a permanent wooden cover to windtower, marble and ceramic mosaic floor features that were missing.
  • Provide training in wood conservation using environmentally-friendly and locally-sourced materials to 6 Egyptian conservators.
  • Restore wooden floors and homogenise the finishes of all wood fixtures and fittings.
  • Repair a damaged section of an external wall.
  • Repair 8 historical wooden display cases including re-glazing.
  • Install a permanent exhibition of photographs including old images of Rosetta, the interventions and the team.
  • Hold an event to the local community showcasing local crafts, live music and activities for children in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
  • All of the above undertaken whilst preserving visitors’ access to the remaining floors thus giving the team the opportunity to interact with the public.

The success of our project is based on strong collaboration with the local authorities, the community (workers, contractors and suppliers) and the police. As the first foreign mission to work in Rosetta our presence was a real meeting of cultures with exchange of ideas and experiences, in a friendly atmosphere. We are glad to have been able to support Miss Mona Awad, Mr. Islam Abdelkreem Selim, Miss May Mohamed Ali and Miss Sondos Samy giving them the opportunity to apply their existing and newly acquired knowledge for their hands-on activities at Amasili House thus, helping to break their usual routine.

Thanks to ARCE, the Amasili House is now in better shape, with a new roof and a restored second floor hosting a photographic exhibition about the interventions and the team.

Amasili House: End of the work on the roof in September 2020.

Credits:

Team Members:

  • Mohamed Kenawi 
  • Cristina Mondin
  • Michele Asolati 
  • Luciana Carvalho
  • Sergio Calò
  • Maurizio Trevisan 
  • Nunzia Larosa
  • Mohamed Salah

For more information on this project, watch a video about the Amasili Project in Rosetta

 

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Topics Conservation Theme Archaeological Sites Historic Period Ottoman Location Red Sea