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Two tales of a city
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 04 - 09 - 2012

It was due to a bad piece of advice that I saw the other side of the coastal city of Alexandria, known as Egypt's second capital.
In the absence of signs on the road, I had to ask a local pedestrian for directions to Al-Mamura, where I planned to spend some relaxing days by the sea.
The pedestrian said in a very sincere tone of voice that it would be better to drive right through the centre of Al-Mamura instead of using the Corniche.
“The Corniche is usually busy at this time of the day," he warned me in a solemn, convincing manner.
No sooner had the man disappeared from view, them we – myself and the other passengers in the car – realised we'd been, literally, taken for a ride.
For more than an hour, the driver had to thread his way across haphazardly constructed speed bumps and negotiate gaping manholes.
It happened more than once that we reached the end of a road only to find it closed for maintenance, without prior warning. We had to do several huge detours, with the driver steering his way cautiously as if he were sailing on rough seas.
Like Cairo, several areas of the outskirts of Alex were piled high with garbage. And, even in those places were there were rubbish skips, they were far too small to cope with the mountains of trash, overflowing in every direction.
Alexandria is traditionally a major holiday attraction for both Egyptians and foreigners. Compared to other seaside resorts, Alexandria is relatively near Cairo and boasts lots to do during the day and a colourful nightlife. It is also famed for its revived Bibliotheca Alexandrina and European-style cafés.
Thus, the city earns a lot from the bustling tourism, mainly in the summer. There is no good reason why the profits are not spent on improving the lives of the city's people and its infrastructure and facilities.
At the entrance to the city, a few yards from a tollgate, our driver had to spend nearly half an hour negotiating his way through a large puddle caused by a fractured pipeline. No local or government official there seems to care a fig about safety of motorists and pedestrians.
In stark contrast, Al-Mamura, if you can actually get there, is blissful. Neatly dressed, immaculately clean workers diligently keep the resort spotless.
To my delight, I didn't see a single fly, mosquito or other insect, a fact testifying to the efforts of these workers and their supervisors.
The leafy district is also distinguished from other resorts by its well-preserved, four-storey buildings, which look as though they are of recent construction. Some of them were run up in the late 1970s.
Al-Mamura is not a resort for the elite or the rich. Its beaches are open to the public for a nominal fee. However, it is the constant attention given to the place and the strict enforcement of rules that make it different.


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