Having accounted for Oceania in my out-of-town feature, I now turn to Africa and its equivalent of New York: a large and diverse city. The ancient seaport city of Alexandria, Egypt. While many of the cities that I’ve documented were built alongside rivers, Alexandria never had its own river, its location chosen by its famous namesake for its deep harbor that served as a port to Africa.
The city and its harbor were connected to the Nile River and the rest of Egypt by the Mahmoudeya Canal, constructed in the 1840s on the order of the powerful Turkish viceroy Muhammad Ali. Above is a scene on the canal captured in an 1890s French postcard.
In my Out of Town feature, I hadn’t yet featured a hidden urban waterway in the Oceania part of the world. In the southern hemisphere so far, I’ve only written about Tank Stream in Sydney, Australia. After a careful search, I’ve zoomed in on the only American territory on this half of the globe, American Samoa. Its capital Pago Pago is conveniently situated at the head of a harbor which collects water from a dozen streams. The one with the largest watershed is the 1.7-mile Vaipito Stream.
I can’t imagine when I would have the opportunity to visit Pago Pago. Fortunately Google Maps took its car and camera there in 2014. Above is a view of Vaipito looking downstream from Route One.
In the southern French region of Occitanie, the second largest city is Montpellier, located near the Mediterranean coast. Running through the city is a graffiti-covered concrete channel carrying the Verdanson River.
Like the Los Angeles River, this concrete course sees only a trickle for much of the year, but when it rains it pours, and fills up nearly the entire basin with a torrent rushing to the sea. Continue reading
Having previously visited West Hempstead and its Pine Stream, I followed up with its parent municipality of Hempstead, which has Mill River running beneath its town center flowing towards Hempstead Lake State Park and into Hewlett Bay. In part on account of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Mill River is the centerpiece of the state’s Living with the Bay plan which seeks to restore sections of this stream and make its watershed more resilient in reducing storm damage.
Above is a view of this stream emerging to the surface from a culvert at Tyler Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard. Although it hardly looks like a river, this creek played a vital role in the development of Hempstead and in its future in managing storm runoff.
Nearly every sizable European city dating to the Middle Ages or earlier had defensive moats on accounts of wars waged between various duchies, kingdoms, and empires. Some of these moats were manmade and others were modified natural streams. Along with moats, every city had a millstream whose water was harnessed to produce grain for the residents. When moats and milldams became obsolete, they were reduced in size, filled, or retained as water features in parks.
Above is the Kaitzbach stream flowing through the Große Garten park in Dresden, Germany. Here, it widens into the Carolasee lake before disappearing under the city’s streets. The postcard dates from 1914, the year when imperial Germany plunged into the First World War.
When researching cities with hidden waterways, most have examples that were forced underground in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the western French city of Bordeaux, there are two hidden streams that haven’t seen daylight in centuries.
Above is a map of Bordeaux drafted shortly before the French Revolution. Two rivers are seen flowing towards it. The Peugue in dark blue and the Devèze in aqua. At the city’s edge, they disappear beneath the streets on their way to the Garonne River.
Here’s a photo that may be a stage set for an Aladdin revival, an idealized Middle Eastern city. The caption in this 1920s postcard and the flags identifies it as Basra, Iraq, a city on the Shatt Al-Arab waterway that contains many canals within it, earning the nickname Venice of the East.
I don’t expect to be visiting Basra during my lifetime, but I know that this postcard image dates to a more peaceful time in this storied city.
Prior marrying me, my wife resided in the Outremont section of Montreal, where we took strolls in Pratt Park. It is one of eight parks designed between 1910 and 1931 by a legendary local trio: engineer Émile Lacroix, landscape architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne and horticulturalist Thomas Barnes.
Three of them, Saint Viateur, Outremont, and Beaubien, have artificial ponds with fountains. Pratt Park was the most special of these, not only because this is where I dated my wife-to-be, but also because it has two ponds connected by a stream, with an isle, and a waterfall. It is a miniature Central Park within a single city block.
At the tip of southeast Asia is the city-state of Singapore. Its tropical climate and hilly terrain means that there are plenty of hidden waterways flowing through this little republic. The Singapore River shares the country’s name flowing through its Downtown Core on the way to the sea. The furthest reaching tributary of this river is Alexandra Canal.
Considering the density of Singapore and its long history of neglecting such waterways, what has become of Alexandra Canal?
At the city’s extreme northeast is Pelham Bay Park, a vast greensward that is three times the size of Central Park. One could not feel more distant from the city when visiting the park’s destinations: Orchard Beach, Bartow-Pell Mansion, Split Rock Golf Course, and the trails of Hunter Island and Twin Islands. On the inland side of the park is the Hutchinson River, known to most New Yorkers as the namesake of the parkway that follows its course.
The river has a history relating to the conflict among Puritan colonists in New England that led to the English annexation of New Netherlands.