In Travel Podcast Episode 19 I visit Egypt where I spent a week travelling with a friend who lives in Alexandria. I took a walking tour of the city where many of the houses are crumbling away and where we bumped into a wedding procession hooting horns and letting off fireworks. We drove west to the popular holiday resort of Marsa Matrouh and turned south-west to the desert oasis of Siwa near the Libyan border. I found Siwa to be a truly magical place and we explored the old mud brick fortress of the Shali, visited the ancient tombs at Gebel al-Mawta or the Mountain of the dead and watched the sun set over the lake at Fatnas island.
Link to audio file
To subscribe to all my podcasts in ITunes click here
If you enjoyed this podcast, check out all my other Travel Podcasts in my Podcast Archive
On my first day in Alexandria, I drove along the corniche that stretches along the coastline, past the Alexandria library which surprised me for being a modern building, not ancient as I had imagined. My new friend Gordon, an Englishman who lives in Alexandria took me on a walking tour of the old Italian, French and Greek neighbourhoods. The impression is of buildings that are peeling and run down, as the rents are fixed and the tenancy can be handed down the generations so the landlords have no incentive to renovate their properties.
We wandered through the souks where we found a street for every different thing you might want to buy, such as the stationary street and the party decoration street . Gordon told me that the Alexandrians celebrate all the festivals for each different religion, but they can only start decorating 2 weeks before. We walked through the fruit market where strawberries were in season & the fresh figs would soon be available in June and finished in the jewellery quarter where although most shops were shut I still managed to treat myself to a necklace.
Check for the best hotel prices in Egypt and book here.
The next day, we drove westwards out of Alexandria along the coast road past a succession of holiday developments, each closely built in a different architectural style with only the occasional break through which you could glimpse the sea. These are popular with Egyptian families although they are only used in the summer months although I preferred it when the developments petered out and we were just driving through the desert. We passed El Alamein, the site of the famous World War 2 tank battles, passing the Italian, German & British war cemeteries. We arrived after a few hours at Marsa Matrouh where everyone in Alexandria comes for their summer holidays with a lot of apartments and hotels. We noticed a few military checkpoints, partly because of the recent revolution and partly because Libya has claims on this part of Egypt so it is treated as a military zone.
We stayed at the Beau Rivage hotel on the edge of town, with views over the beautifully landscaped gardens and over the pool and towards the sea. We enjoyed relaxing on the sun loungers on the beach and took a dip in the intensely turquoise sea - but after a while we felt everything was a bit too perfect so we took a walk beyond the hotel walls and found a bit of normal Egyptian life outside the hotel compound. We came across a man fishing and another with his children making a small fire of brushwood on the beach where he was brewing up some tea and showed us a small fish that he was keeping alive in a rock pool and was planning to cook later.
That evening we decided to drive into town for dinner to look for a good fish restaurant as the Alexandrians take great pride in their fresh fish. Our Egyptian friend, Said, inspected all the fish that were on display on ice and we chose what we wanted and then it was weighed and we paid for the weight. We were asked how we liked it cooked - grilled, fried or with a sauce and of course we over-ordered a huge spread of giant prawns,