Damascus has seven gates – the busiest: Bab Sharqi and Bab Tuma. The non existent: Bab Kisan. The others: Bab Al Faradis, Bab Al Jabieh, Bab As Saghir, and Bab As Salam.
Now, there is an eighth.
But it’s not in the Old City. The Eighth Gate is being built in Yafour, north of Damascus. Yafour is one of the new-money suburbs – outside of central Damascus, where building is limited by protection laws. The Eighth Gate – and Yafour in general – represents Damascus’s Gulf architectural boom. The most potent symbol of the style is the Four Seasons hotel.
No, the Gulf architecture doesn’t fit in to Damascus. Go up to Jebl Qasioun and look down at the city. It used to be the Umayed Mosque which stood out. Now, your eyes are drawn to the Four Seasons first.
But it is an improvement on the Soviet architecture which has dominated since the 1960s. That’s a natural change.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. Emaar, the Dubai-based developers of the Eighth Gate, are having a massive sales push, even though the homes haven’t been finished yet.
Have no doubt, this will change the face of Damascus. Damascus in the wider sense – not the Old City, not even the New City. But Damascus and its environs. I’m not sure I am completely behind this. There seem to be too many penthouses and not enough affordable housing (building a certain proportion of affordable housing was a condition for granting Emaar a licence to build this development).
It is also an attempt to decenter the city. By building the largest shopping center in the region here, Yafour residents will no longer need to come into the centre of town. It is sucking the life out of Damascus – literally and figuratively.
In many ways, this is how Beirut operates – as a multi-centered city (how much does the photo remind you of Beirut’s Downtown?).
Some of the houses will be on the waterfront, and the shopping mall will be built in the style of the Damascus Old City. Access to the whole complex is through an Old City style gate.
It is costing half a billion dollars to build, and is already one year behind schedule. (This is an earlier post about the development).