Koum Kapi is the seaside district located just outside the eastern walls of the old city of Chania.
At the beginning of the 16th century and during the Venetian domination (1252-1645), the Venetians, thinking about the possibility of the Turkish invasion, built external walls to protect the population. The walls were rectangular, consisting of five defensive bastions and three entrance-exit gates. On the east side of the walls, one of the three gates, which led out of the walled city, created the Sabbionara Gate.
The same name has the bastion that is located a little northerly, which is built on an artificial peninsula created by the Venetians. The lion – St. Mark’s emblem and the coats of arms still adorn the southern side of the Sabbionara bastion. Sabbionara means the Gate of the Sand. The Turks, later, retained the same name as Koum Kapi means the Gate of the Sand. The name was given because of the location as there was a long sandy beach at that time.
The gate of the castle consisted of two sections, made of wood and lined on both sides (inside and outside) of iron plates. During the Ottoman domination, (1645-1898), the Turks built, among others, two mosques. One was in the upper Koum Kapi and the other lower Koum Kapi, which today do not exist.
During the domination of the Egyptians (1830-1841), few Bedouin families had moved to Chania with the command of the Egyptians in order to do the difficult jobs that they were doing. In 1895, where Crete was semi-autonomous and commercial activities were rising, there was a shortage of manpower, because the Greek inhabitants found sublime to do jobs like water transport, porter, servant, etc. and in combination with the adoption of the decree in 1865, where the Negro slaves were released, a problem for the inhabitants was created. Then the General Administration of Crete decided to “transfer” a large number of Bedouins from the northern coasts of Africa to Crete. The Bedouins settled in Ano Koum Kapi. Initially, they lived in tents. Later they built small houses of wood, clay and other materials. All of them, men, women, and children, worked hard for a piece of bread. They spoke Arabic and, over the years, they learned little Greek. Some residents called them Chalikoutides, because they did not speak “cleanly” Greek. Chalikoutides were honest, honorable, hard-working people and devoted to their employers.
Until the early 1990s, Koum Kapi was an underdeveloped area. However, through major projects, mainly towards the sea, it has been upgraded, attracting people as it has beautiful traditional restaurants, cafes and the sandy beach is suitable for swimming during the summer months.
The “Gate of the Sand” is the only one of the three gates of the Venetian fortifications that survive to this day. The portal is partly modified from the Ottoman domination. Also, a part of it was demolished. Today, various cultural exhibitions are housed inside.