02/20/10 12:57 AM • Category: Panama
I was going to do a straight forward "note" about the Albrook Mall but while doing a little research I came across some information that I though some of you might find interesting. So . . . this will now include a little historical tour of the "Albrook" area of Panama City and the transformation it has undergone over the last 75 years.
We start our walk through time in the early 1900s with this picture of the "Balboa swamp" from George Chevalier. After the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 security concerns brought about a slow but steady increase in the number of US military installations in the Canal Zone. In 1922 the "Balboa Fill Landing Field" was completed and as the name implies the swamp was "filled in" and the river was diverted under ground to make room for the airfield. In 1924 it was renamed "Albrook Field" in honor of Lt. Frank. P. Albrook - the general area is still referred to as "Albrook" although many of the facilities, including the airport, now have names honoring Panamanians.
The Airport Today: Albrook Field was expanded and improved many times over its lifetime and eventually transferred to Panama in 1979 as a result of the Panama Canal Treaty. Today, Marcos A. Gelabert Airport (still called Albrook by many) is now Panama's primary domestic airport with scheduled service to most areas of the country. This picture (taken from the same location as the old photo) shows just a portion of the current airport and gives you a general idea of the changes over time. The Panama Canal can be seen in the upper left corner of the picture.
The Gran Terminal de Transporte de Albrook: This gigantic terminal (the picture shows less than half the facility) is the hub for bus service to every corner of Panama and international service to Costa Rica and Mexico - it sits on part of the old airport. Busses of every description, from the Diablo Rojo to sleek long range expresses, depart around the clock and because it is so affordable they carry a LOT of people. During the just completed five day Carnival break they estimated over 350,000 people used the terminal. While you're waiting you can eat (food court) get a haircut, do your banking and of course shop - it even has its own police station.
The Albrook Mall: Panama's largest mall is less than ten minutes from Casco Viejo and it's our choice for most of our shopping. As you can guess by its name it also occupies a portion of the original air base - it sits next to the Gran Terminal and across the runway from the current airport's terminal. This is one of the areas that Panama did a good job of recycling a base they received from the United States.
Having moved from St. Croix (limited shopping opportunities) we really like the Albrook shopping experience - about the only thing missing if you compare it to stateside is the lack of high-end biggies - no great loss for us. Its biggest plusses: two "Home Depot" type stores, three food courts, lots of ice cream and it's nice and cool. It's also two levels and VERY LONG - good place to get a little exercise, after eating that ice cream.
Take a little look around Albrook Mall.