Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CXV. Alexandria – My Vacations (1 of 10)

The events of your early years will have an impact on the rest of your life, really on who you are. The two or more months I spent in Alexandria helped shape me and provided me with a comfortable place to which I could escape when my mind was troubled.

So what was it about Alexandria that made it so unique?

Alexandria was designed by the Greek architect Dinocrates who followed the orders of Alexander the Great. It was built over the rests of an old village, Rhakotis.

For close to a thousand years, it was the capital of Egypt. But when Islam came to Egypt, the conquerors established a new city as their capital, El Fustat, later to become known as El Kahira (Cairo).

Alexandria has two main harbors, the Western harbor and the Eastern harbor, the oldest one.

Alexandria is unbelievably long. If you have the time and the stamina, you could walk from one end of the city to the other end. You would start at Fort Quaitbey and end at Montazah. However, since we are talking of a stretch of 20 kilometers, you would be well advised to do it by taxi, preferably starting at Montazah, this would allow you to go along the beach. Better still, hire a hantour (a comfortable carriage pulled by one or two horses). When you negotiate the price, remember that the original amount agreed upon is null and void once you arrive at your destination! Make allowance for that.

Midan Ahmed Orabi leads to the magnificent seafront promenade known as the corniche (26th of July Street). It runs around the south side of the Eastern harbor. The corniche (and corresponding stretches of the beach) is divided into sections; I am thereafter referring to those sections as stations since they more or less corresponded to the stops of the streetcar (the streetcar is called tramway in Egypt, and that is the name I will be using).

Some of the names of these stations: Eastern Harbor, Anfushi, El-Shatby, Ibrahimia, Cleopatra, Sporting, Glym, Sidi Gaber, Rushdy, Stanley Bey, San Stefano, Laurent, Sidi Bishr (subdivided into 3 stations: Sidi Bishr No. 1, and so on), Assafra, Miami, and Agami.

The above stations included cabins which were rented by the year. In most stations the cabins were directly on the sand, but some stations were quite luxurious and had many levels, thus you were far away from the sandy beach. For instance, Stanley Bey (where uncle Maurice had his cabin) had three levels above the beach. Standing on top, the beach and the sea looked quite minuscule. The overall structure was magnificent; I never again had the opportunity to see anything resembling it.

A cabin really is nothing more than a wooden structure; you used it to store your lounge chairs, tables, and clothing. As well, it served as a changing room to put on your bathing suit, and eventually get back into your street clothes when ready to leave. Its main advantage was that you could spend the whole day at the beach in great comfort.

Since the demand for cabins far exceeded the supply, the rent was high, and the bribes paid to secure one were even higher. For a place like Stanley Bey, substantial bribes were not enough, you had to be well-connected.

Who uncle Maurice knew that facilitated the transaction, I do not know, nor would I have cared since I was a child and my main preoccupation was to enjoy myself.

An important feature of Alexandria was its tramway. It was a sight above the Cairo tramway. In Cairo, it was opened on both sides, and the conductor had to hop on the platform to collect the fare. In Alexandria, you had enclosed cars (same as a train). It was certainly a more civilized way to travel; and Alexandrians made sure to remind us at every opportunity how much more civilized their city was.

The tramway is really cheap and runs frequently, but I would only recommend it to the adventurous tourist – or if you speak Arabic. Keep in mind that the first car is harim (for women) only. Women can board any car they want, but if alone, they’ll avoid the mixed cars. Men can only travel on the mixed cars.

The late president Gamal Abdel Nasser was born in the district of Bacos in Alexandria.

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