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Oasis Magazine Articles

Egypt’s Spectacular North Coast

By Supriya Chawla

Egypt’s jewel of a North Coast offers many opportunities to explore and experience unique sites and history. For instance, El Alamein houses WWII memorials and a museum, while Marsa Matruh boasts both historical sites of interest and jaw-dropping beaches and waters.

Getting there is an easy drive. Simply takes the Cairo-Alexandria desert road which has recently been refurbished. There are many rest stops for toilets, shopping and drinks. Buses run regularly if you don’t have your own vehicle. Just before Alexandria is a sign to El Alamein clearly marked leading west. 

Around the center of El-Almein, most of the beaches are clear and not over crowded, and the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea is magnificent to behold. Intense battles were fought here by the allied forces during WWII, and war memorials with their graves and relics are set in lovely garden settings. The German and Italian memorials are to the right side of the North Coast highway and are open to visitors all year round. The war museum and the British grave yard and Australia’s memorial are on the left side and may be more convenient to visit on the way back to Cairo. The war museum features military equipment, uniforms, and a timeline and explanation of the events as they occurred. Some of the facilities at the museum include a library, a video room, a cafeteria, and a gift shop. If you are a seafood lover, be sure to stop for a lunch you won’t forget. This part of Egypt is known for its massive seafood platters and dishes, and it is a national pastime for families to go out and enjoy a meal together.

Marsa Matruh is located 480 km from Cairo. It is a very tranquil city and one finds excellent resort hotels on its beaches. It is the administrative centre of the north-west frontier district which includes the oases Siwa and Qara, and trading center for the Western Desert Bedouin tribes. It is also a known port for its sponge fishing industry, with clear blue waters hosting some reefs. It is said that Cleopatra and Anthony resided here for while and one beach with historical evidence is named after her. 

Marsa Matruh Governorate is the largest governorate in Egypt with its capital carrying the same name. It extends inland to the south into the desert to a depth of 400 km, making the governorate about 212,000 square kilometers. The population consists of over 220,000 citizens, including the Bedouin living in the desert to the south. The climate is mild with temperatures about 32C during the summer months, making it a cool alternative to the blistering heat in Cairo. In winter, temperatures dip to around 20C. Like most of Egypt, the sun shines all year round.  

Economical agricultural products in this area of Egypt are wheat and barley, vegetables, figs, olives, and dates. All towns and hamlets of the governorate are known for sheep breeding and buyers come from as far as Saudi Arabia. Local crafts are carpets, Bedouin jewelry, embroidered vests, leather bags, and shoes. 

During the middle ages, Greek pilgrims regularly disembarked here on route to consult the oracle of Amon at the oasis Siwa. Today, however, it thrives as a busy metropolis and is a great attraction for the Libyan and Gulf country tourists, and for Egyptians who contemplate retirement in a clean and quiet town. In and around the city, the places of interest include Cleopatra’s Bath, consisting of a huge rock and ruins that supposedly were part of Cleopatra and Anthony’s castle, and the Rommel museum which houses a cave that served as Rommel’s office. Photos, his clothing, and other equipment can be viewed here. Also don’t miss the chance to explore the Roman mass tombs at Agiba, about 25 km west of the city. The Siwa Museum is also next the tourist office.

For overnight stay there are many hotels mid-town and at the water front. Two are outstanding and of international fame - the long serving Greek-run establishment Beau Site, overlooking the sea to the north. The other is San Giovanni Cleopatra, situated on a tongue of land right next to Cleopatra’s bath, overlooking the water and city.  

Hope you enjoying exploring the sites and taking in the cool breeze on the North Coast this September!

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