Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Like a new penny

Alexandria, the bride of the Mediterranean, is more beautiful than ever this year, writes Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

No matter how many places you may have travelled to, Alexandria, “The Bride of the Mediterranean Sea”, retains its charm.

Older people, in their fifties or sixties, may have fond memories of watching a movie at the city’s Cinema Metro and dining with friends at Patisserie Delices or Chez Gaby au Ritrovo. They may also remember sandwiches from Loranto’s and fuul and falafel from Mohamed Ahmed at Mahatet Al-Raml.

Younger people, those in their twenties and thirties, will probably remember the simple things they used to do as children in the city — walking along the corniche eating ice cream, grilled corn, or nuts, sitting on a rock and letting their legs splash in the sea while watching the waves hit the shore.

But the draw to spend time in Alexandria is not only a matter of nostalgia. Residents and visitors alike still love the coastal city. Despite the years of political turmoil since Egypt’s 25 January Revolution, new projects are underway in Alexandria, with the city’s council taking steps to resolve many of its long-standing problems.

These include removing the garbage that has accumulated in the streets, halting illegal building and demolitions, and moving street vendors away from the main streets, giving them dedicated places to sell their wares. The Alexandria to Cairo highway is set for upgrading, along with the Moharam Bek Bridge.

The renovation of many old districts has also caught the eye of residents this year, with historic areas such as Raml Station and Mansheya Square now shining like new pennies.

“Although many of the street peddlers are my friends and a number of them are suffering as the government has failed to provide some of them with new shops, Mansheya Square, cleared of people, now looks like it did in the 1960s,” said Gamal Abdel-Maksoud, a shop owner. “The roads are clear, the fountain has been cleaned, the wastepaper has been removed, and the microbuses relocated.”

Alaa Mohamed, a ticket vendor on the city’s trams, shared Abdel-Maksoud’s opinion. Raml Station has been entirely refurbished, he said, and now has a new sculpture, fountains and places to sit along the street.

“The wonderful ceramic wall was built just two months ago,” he said. “It shows off Alexandria’s culture heritage and famous public figures such as the composer Sayed Darwish. It also recognises the city’s famous horse carriages and the introduction of the film industry to Alexandria.

“We never thought that Raml could be so clean and organised. Even the trams themselves are looking good, despite their age. They are still the main means of transport in Alexandria, with a one-way ticket still costing just 25 piastres.”

In addition to such public-sector efforts, the private sector has also been investing in the city, building new restaurants and hotels and completing other projects.

One hantour (horse-drawn carriage) owner told the Weekly that anyone visiting the city should take at least one ride. Al-Naggar Saeed, 60, said that though they are few foreign tourists in the city this year there are many Alexandrians who want to take rides in the carriages, as if exploring their own city for the first time.

There are also many visitors from Cairo and Upper Egypt, he said, many of them wanting to see the new resorts, restaurants and cafes that have opened this year in the Roshdi and Sidi Gaber districts, as well as in Kafr Abdu and Montaza. “Sometimes I am surprised by visitors from Cairo who know many new places to go in Alexandria that I myself know nothing about,” Al-Naggar added.

Sitting in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean coast, or looking out over the gardens at Montaza Palace, are wonderful experiences that are not to be missed. Montaza in particular is worth visiting over and over again, as each new visit brings something new.

“No matter how many times I might have visited Sharm El-Sheikh or Hurghada, I always try to spend at least one week on the north coast and one week in Alexandria,” Noah Hussein, a 35-year-old bank manager, told the Weekly.

“The north coast is not only about its long sandy white beaches. There are also many activities and a nightlife that includes many cafes and restaurants. There are also water sport activities for young people like jet-skiing and sailing,” he said.

“What I like most about the north coast are the new restaurants that open every year. This year there has been quite a boost, with many new cafes and restaurants in the Al-Aruba area, as well as in Borg Al-Arab, the King Mariout Villas, and the Alex West compound,” Abeer, Noah’s wife, said.

Alexandria is deservedly famous for its seafood restaurants. Earlier this year, the Greek Club on Qait Bey opened a rooftop dining area following a major renovation.

“All of these things are reasons why Alexandria is not to be missed, but perhaps the best reason for coming is to breathe the sea air, at least once a year,” said Abeer.

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