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The ‘Grand Albergo delle Rose’ (Casino) and the area of the Ottoman Cemetery
South down Kos Street from the aquarium is the large building of the Grand’ Albergo delle Rose, which to day also incorporates the city’s casino. First designed by Florestano di Fausto in 1925 as an orientalising Grand Ho tel in the Levantine style, the building was later stripped of its external decoration in 1938 in the prevailing change of political rhetoric coming from the Fascist government in Rome: the ornate arch around the apse on the chamfered southwest corner, which was closely based on the ornate arches of the west front of St Mark’s in Venice, was eliminated. In the grounds are the remains of a wind mill. Just beyond the southern exit of the hotel is the tiny Villa Cleobolus, where Lawrence Durrell lived from May 1945 until April 1947, and composed the greater part of his Reflections on a Marine Venus. ‘It is difficult to convey the extraordinary silence of this garden’, he wrote refer ring to the dense vegetation in the picturesque Ottoman cemetery, a corner of which the minuscule villa occupies. The large area of the cemetery is shaded with eucalyptus trees and encompasses today several domed mausolea or turbe, and a multitude of inscribed tombstones, many with carved turbans. In the 15th century, however, it was occupied by a cemetery of the Knights and a walled garden belonging to the Grand Master. Cecil Torr recounts that the garden was said to contain a number of strange animals, including a family of ostrich who fed on iron and steel and having laid their eggs in the sand, hatched them simply by looking at them.
The entrance to the cemetery is at its eastern extremity, through a doorway on the west side of Koundouriotou Square. A passage between two fine Ottoman houses in perilous state of conservation leads into a pebble-paved courtyard where the Turkish guardian and his family still live. The 19th century mosque (left), with its ornate minaret in Egyptian style, still functions; it is built on the site of the former Hospitaller church of St Anthony. The turbe to the right contains the green-draped sarcophagus of a 16th century corsair, Murat Reis, who became admiral under Suleiman the Magnificent and played an important role in the elimination of piracy from Otto man waters. He died in 1609 and his tomb is respectfully maintained as a place of cult. Beneath the trees beyond these buildings, the domed structures (mostly eight sided) of mausolea—which include those of a Safavid Shah of Persia, and of a Tartar Prince—have remarkably managed to survive intact, although the sarcophagi in side have mostly been ransacked. Given the Prophet Mohammed’s clear injunctions on the simplicity of funerary monuments, the fineness of these turbe is a measure of the importance of the figures they commemorate.
To the south across Papanikolaou Street from the cemetery, in front of the side of the Theatre, are substantial remains of Hellenistic walls constructed of enormous, meticulously cut limestone blocks: these constituted the northernmost projection of the walls, running to a small western harbour which indented the coast in the area now occupied by the hotels to either side of the western end of Papanikolaou Street. To their south was possibly a sanctuary of Demeter. Many of the modern residential buildings in this area (such as the Cafe Cavaliere opposite) have the rounded corners, horizontal lines, and circular windows, typical of the architectural vocabulary of the Italian plan.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.