Egypt’s ‘bride of the Mediterranean’ is a year-round destination for tourists

The best place to shop for souvenirs is al-Manshia as well as Mahatet el-Raml districts in downtown.
Sunday 19/08/2018
A view of the seafront in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. (AFP)
A view of the seafront in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. (AFP)

ALEXANDRIA - Dubbed “the bride of the Mediterranean,” Egypt’s port city of Alexandria, named after its founder Alexander the Great, is a year-round destination that fits all budgets.

Established in 331BC, Alexandria is the country’s second largest city where travellers can spend quality time in clean, tidy two- and three-star hotels or luxurious resorts with their private beaches.

The top place for breakfast would be Mohamed Ahmed restaurant in Mahatet el-Raml in downtown Alexandria. It serves the best local foul (cooked fava beans with sesame paste and green salad) as well as spicy falafel.

A visit to Mohamed Ahmed restaurant is no less important than any of the sightseeing venues in the city.

“We have been receiving visitors from all over the globe, including Queen Sofia of Spain, whose picture is hanging on the wall with the restaurant owner,” one waiter said proudly.

Alexandria remains a major tourist destination in large part because of its cultural diversity. A trip there could be for rest and recreation and at the same time a journey into the history of the magnificent city.

“The cosmopolitan city’s rich history could always be seen in Greco-Roman landmarks and old cafes founded by Greeks, Italians and Armenians, who started immigrating to Alexandria in the 19th century at the time Alexandria was a key Mediterranean commercial hub,” tour guide Mohamed Fahmy said.

Those who love paintings, sculptures or history will find something fascinating at the Alexandria National Museum, which has more than 1,000 exhibits. Inaugurated in 2003, the museum displays a variety of artefacts dating to Roman, pre-Islamic and Pharaonic times.

In a century-old building on Cavafy Street in downtown Alexandria, literature lovers can see where the great Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy (1863-1933) spent most of his life.

“The apartment is where Cavafy lived and created his works. The museum encompasses pictures of different stages of his life, his handwritten will and birth certificate in Greek and many manuscripts and books,” said the museum curator Mohamed el-Sayed.

The Montazah Palace Gardens offer an amazing landscape with gardens, beaches and international fast-food restaurants. One can also visit Montazah Palace, which was inhabited by Egypt’s monarchy until it was toppled in 1952.

The Alexandria library, reincarnated in the disc-shaped, ultramodern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, was the archive of the ancient world. Cultural events and activities take place at the library for adults and children at affordable prices.

The remains of the Roman Empire in Alexandria can be witnessed in the amphitheatre located in central Alexandria’s Kom el-Dikka district.

“The Roman amphitheatre is a major landmark in Alexandria. It was built in 2AD to host popular events of that era,” Fahmy said.

Tourists can check out the amazing Qaitbay Citadel built by Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay in 1477 to protect Alexandria from crusaders’ attacks from the sea. The fort is thought to incorporate masonry from the legendary Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse, which once stood just offshore.

Close to the citadel is Alexandria’s aquarium, which has a variety of species of fish and turtles from the Mediterranean and Red seas around Egypt, as well as from the Nile and the Amazon rivers. The aquarium is also home to the Marine Research Institute.

Going for a swim in a private beach is possible at the Greek Club for an entrance fee of 150 Egyptian pounds ($8.40). Visitors can enjoy privacy on a nice sandy beach and enjoy tasty fish and other seafood.

The club’s Egyptian-Greek administrator, nicknamed Johnny, said the place has been receiving visitors from all over the world since it was inaugurated in 1959.

The best place to shop for souvenirs is al-Manshia as well as Mahatet el-Raml districts in downtown.

Good, reasonably priced restaurants are available all over Alexandria, mainly serving fresh fish and different types of sea food. For desert, Alexandrian harissa is the best local option sold at several sweets stores across the city.

“I enjoyed my time in Alexandria to the maximum,” said Mathew Adams, a 25-year-old US citizen. “My visit was a mixture of recreational activities and cultural tours, besides the people here are very hospitable, friendly and helpful.”

Alexandria, 200km north of Cairo, is easily accessible by bus, train or car.

People visit the historic Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria. (Reuters)
A view of Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque in Alexandria.(Reuters)
A visitor poses for a picture on the beach in the coastal city of Alexandria. (AP)
Pharaonic souvenir items on display near the historic Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria.(Reuters)