Hayy al-'Ajami
Jaffa, Israel
Toward the end of the 19th century al-Ajami Neighborhood, stretching south of Old Jaffa and projecting into the Mediterranean, started to be built outside the walls of Old Jaffa. The neighborhood is named after one of prophet Muhammad's companions, Ibrahim al-Ajami, who is believed to have been buried in the neighborhood, next to al-Ajami mosque.

The neighborhood began as a small Maronite settlement , a neighborhood with ample houses, streets parallel to the sea, small stairway-alleys leading down to the shore and a church in the center.

In the beginning of the 20th century hundreds of families, mainly Christian-Arabs, from different financial background and different places in the country had settled in al-Ajami, the neighborhood expanded to the south as a narrow strip between the seashore to the west and orchards to the east, until in merged with al-Jabaliyya neighborhood.

In the period between the two World Wars new construction techniques -- most notably reinforced concrete -- and aesthetic values have infiltrated from Europe to the region, largely the result of the wave of Jewish European immigration. In the nearby city of Tel-Aviv the Bauhaus became a prominent style. The famous Shlush factory supplied an abundance of industrial 'traditional ornaments', such as balustrades, corbels and window decorations. In Ajami, The merging of modern techniques, industrial ornament, local building tradition of and aesthetic values created a unique architecture of lofty houses, with wide arcaded porches and intricate decoration.

During the war of 1948 the majority of Jaffa's population (that was mainly Arab) fled the country and were not able to return. The deserted neighborhood was soon settled with Jewish immigrants from East Europe, the Balkans and North Africa. A large Arab population from different parts of the country moved to the neighborhood as well. Al-Ajami changed into a crowded and lively immigrant city. To accommodate the influx, its palaces-houses were subdivided among many families. Gradually, however, it became inflicted with poverty and crime.

The municipalities of Jaffa and Tel-Aviv merged in 1950. As time passed, new plans developed to transform Ajami into a modern neighborhood, in the spirit of Tel Aviv. This decision was immediately followed by the demolition of houses and evacuation of al-Ajami's inhabitants. The neighborhood's conditions drastically and quickly deteriorated, while modern infrastructure was not built. In addition to this, the neighborhood was badly harmed by the casting of construction waste into its once beautiful shores. The pile of waste accumulated to the height of 20m, blocking the beautiful neighborhood from the sea.

During the 1980's the architectural and historical values of al-Ajami neighborhood were finally recognized by the municipality of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa. It stopped the demolition and developed a conservation plan, trying to save what remained. Today, the opulent past of al-Ajami is still visible in its alluring 'palaces-houses', colorful plastered walls, ample spaces and decorated elements. At the same time the wounds of its history are still present in the abundance of empty lots and in the mound of waste obstructing the access to the sea.
Sources:


Regev, Ofer. 1999. Touring in Tel-Aviv Jaffa (Hebrew). Tel Aviv:Misrad ha-Bitahon - haHotsa'a la-Or; ha-Mo`atsah le-shimur mivnim ve-atare hityashvut; Hakhevra le-Haganat ha-Teva, 62-65.

Shezaf, Tsur. 1991. Sea Book. Tel Aviv: Orly Pecker; Yedioth Ahronoth; Chemed books, 139.

Zafrir, Doron, Sergio Lerman et al. A Glance at Ajami; an Architectural Profile. Tel-Aviv. Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.
Location
Janub Yafa al-Qadimah, Jaffa, Israel
Images & Videos
Part of Site
Events
End of the 19th century onwards
Variant Names
Hayy al-'Ajami
al-'Ajami Neighborhood
Variant
al-'Ajami
Variant
Building Usages
private residence
residential