Alexandria, the Pearl

A couple of days in beautiful Alexandria, for the opening of the Design Is A Verb exhibition, seeing a dear friend just days before her first baby arrives, and diving into the harbor city, especially savoring the food.

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When you walk along the Corniche or one block back from the harbor there is always a breeze from the sea, making the summer heat and city crowds less tiring. I swam at sunrise, when there are few people in the water. Alexandrians are known as “Fishermen” for obvious reasons, and this visit I was invited to fish. I learnt that the big cement blocks that line the harbor and which some men fish from are dangerously slippery. You do not attempt them in ship ship (thongs to Aussies, flip flops to New Zealanders) or bare feet. I did, slipped immediately and needed help to get upright again. No damage done, just wet clothes and the fishermen concerned but half amused at my lack of technique. They showed me that the trick is to do it in socks – the wet fabric gives you some grip on the cement or rocks.

Naturally there are many marine images used in Alexandrian decoration and advertising, here you can see some of the images painted on the boat hulls, a marine themed mosaic wall near the Fort, and a dolphin featured on a cigarette kiosk.

One aim of this trip was to enjoy some favorite foods and search for uniquely Alexandrian / Egyptian tastes, as research for an article (sometimes the writer’s life has its perks). Mostly I sampled familiar pleasures such as koshary, kebda (liver), long glasses of fruit juice, and superb mango ice-cream, but the great discovery this visit was prickly pear. This was being sold on small carts all through the city, sometimes piled up into pyramids with the freshly washed, yellow/green fruit glistening in the sun. The vendor swiftly peels the fruit for you and inside is a delicious and cooling treat, for only a few Australian cents.

Usually I do not photograph people who are working, I don’t like to intrude on their concentration or disturb them, but this time I wanted some images of the cooks and drink vendors. They were mostly delighted, and even happier when I then ordered whatever they were preparing. I still get the feeling many foreigners prefer McDonalds / Pizza Hut / Starbucks and the other international food chains, when everyone should try the local versions of fast food, which are far superior in taste (and usually substantially cheaper, and due to turnover, the produce is often much fresher than what sits for hours in the big name foreign cafes).

My only problem with this visit? Not enough days and nights. This simply means thatI have to return.

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