Rhodes is an island in Greece located in the southeastern Aegean and it belongs to the Dodecanese. The area of Rhodes is estimated to be about 1,401 square kilometers, making it the fourth largest Greek island (ninth in the Mediterranean). The population of the island amounts to 117,007 inhabitants which makes Rhodes the third most populated Greek island. The capital is the city of Rhodes, located at the northern end of the island, where most of its inhabitants live. It consists of 42 villages, which together with the city, administratively, belong to a common municipality, the Municipality of Rhodes.
Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese and is the largest and most popular island in the prefecture. Historically speaking, ruins have been found from the prehistoric period (mainly of the archaic period). Rhodes experienced great development during the Hellenistic period, as an autonomous state. One of the most important events of the historical course is the erection of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Rhodes is famous for its all year around pleasant and sunny weather. It is also commonly referred to as the «island of the sun», as well as the «island of the knights», a name given thanks to the many monuments of the Order of the Knights of St. John, which fell during the occupation of Rhodes. These monuments still exist on the island today, attracting the interest of thousands of visitors.
One of the places where the presence of knights on our island is obvious is the Medieval City of Rhodes (Old City of Rhodes). The Medieval City is in the center of the island’s capital. The most characteristic element of the medieval city of Rhodes is its walls. Their perimeter is about 4 km, with countless towers and bastions. The coats of arms of the Knights who built, improved, or defended them are engraved on them. In 1988, the Medieval City was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Medieval City is a mixture of different architectures from different historical periods with the dominant period of staying on the island of the Order of the Knights of St. John and that of the Ottomans (after the conquest of the island by Suleiman I). It is divided into two parts: north and south. The northern part was separated from the south by fortified walls. This area was built entirely by the Knights and was used for the activities of the members of the Order. Today, it is a vibrant part of the modern city where commercial, tourist and leisure activities coexist, along with residential areas.
In 2021 Rhodes received more than 1,403,000 tourists, with a large percentage of them having visited the Medieval City of Rhodes. It is one of the most famous tourist places of the island with its location favorable to those who want to walk and to be impressed by the number of monuments that are preserved to this day. Hundreds of shops and restaurants operate during the summer months, with the financial benefits being huge for the local community.
However, tourism development along with its advantages has created new problems. First, we must not forget that the Medieval City is not a monument, but a place where thousands of inhabitants live. Every year millions of visitors explore its walls with shopkeepers in turn trying to attract them. Unfortunately, in many cases there is a lack of respect for this monument on both sides. This often leads to a deterioration in the quality of life of residents. Typical examples are noise pollution from restaurants or clubs located in the Old Town and the dumping of rubbish in the environment. Also, the passage and parking of vehicles has been a common phenomenon in previous years.
Mr. Andonis V. Campourakis the Mayor of Rhodes has clearly showed that he feels a sense of responsibility towards the inhabitants of the Old Town. Various projects have been executed with the hope of a sustainable viable Medieval City. The purpose of the management of the Medieval City, and Dr. Stefanos I. Drakos, Deputy Mayor of Cultural Monuments and the Building Service of the Municipality of Rhodes is not only the solution of the above problems, but the creation of a long-term plan for its preservation.
An important task of this effort is the implementation of electric cars within the Medieval City. Residents and guests may leave their vehicles outside its walls and can board these cars free of charge. Buses are also offered by DES RODA (municipal transport organization). Thus, the inconvenience of congestion is avoided, the monument is protected, as fuel emissions are significantly reduced. Inside the Old Town, the installation of the electric cars gives an ecological solution to the exploration of the entire Medieval City, something that was almost impossible, due to its large area. At the same time, it serves its residents, especially those who do not have a means of transportation.
The issue of visitors’ parking has been solved by creating a parking space. The passage of vehicles is allowed only at certain hours, mainly for the supply of the shops that operate within the Old Town.Another major issue that exists is the cleanliness of the Medieval City. Thousands of people live, work, and are entertained here, with the result that at the end of the day there are large amounts of garbage on its beautiful streets.As of August 30th, 2021, the Municipality of Rhodes has begun a campaign called: #Keep_Clean. As part of this campaign, the Municipality purchased cleaning vehicles which are used exclusively in the Medieval City. At the same time, the number of bins on the streets increased and the control of bulky waste were controlled. Another important action is the effort to restore, modernize and reopen the municipal baths (hammams) of the Medieval City of Rhodes. The property of the Municipal Baths YENNI HAMMAM is located on the Southwest side of the Medieval City of Rhodes. It has been declared a historic monument in 1948.It is the only building of this kind in Rhodes that is not only preserved but was operational until 2011 in the traditional way. The building dates to around 1558 and due to its size is considered, one of the most important provincial baths of the Ottoman Empire. The monument belongs to the category of public baths. This is considered a double or twin Bath, as there are two sections, Women’s, and Men’s. The goal is the preservation of the traditions of the hammam, to respect the monument and with the aim of combining other quality services, adapted to the modern way of life, to utilize and highlight the functionality of the space, to transfer the already authentic and atmospheric environment of the guest to another era with a strong aroma of the East. The baths will offer modern facilities, and an enjoyable experience. Its use will include a modern wellness area, with the basic use of hot baths. It can accommodate about 100 visitors a day. The utilization of this building will not only contribute to the further development of tourism but will be an additional option of relaxation for the inhabitants of the Medieval City and an aesthetic upgrade.
The Medieval City of Rhodes is a jewel for our local community. Through it we can come in direct contact with the history of our island. We must not forget, too, its importance as a World Heritage Site and its influence on the tourist image of our island. Steps to enhance its viability for its residents and visitors are taken daily, with the above projects being proof.As a young citizen, I believe that we should not expect everything from the state, but we should learn to respect the Medieval City ourselves. The shopkeepers themselves should fight for its preservation and not be indifferent to it. In the future, I hope that there will be cooperation from all sides to form a sustainable lifestyle that is advantageous to the inhabitants of the Medieval City of Rhodes.