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.
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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.
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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.