[ilds] You don’t have to see the city the way Lawrence Durrell did

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sat Dec 15 06:03:05 PST 2007

Some additional reading matter on Alexandria renascent.  Perhaps this 
will hold us while we wait for our subscribing travelers to share their 
first-person accounts of Egypt 2007?

And ponder the following:

>     “You don’t have to see the city the way Lawrence Durrell did,” Mr.
>     Khaled said, referring to the books’ author. “We’re really
>     interested in getting them to look at the city in different ways.”

Fair enough.  But was that not the whole point of seeing the city the 
way Lawrence Durrell did?




> December 16, 2007
> Next Stop | Alexandria, Egypt
>   A City of Legend Embarks on a New Journey
> <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/kareem_fahim/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
> ON a cloudless morning in mid-September, it was not quiet around the 
> Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the modern disc-shaped library in Cleopatra’s 
> ancient hometown in Egypt 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/africa/egypt/overview.html?inline=nyt-geo>. 
> Outside, students flirted and joked on the edge of a reflecting pool. 
> Behind them, cars whizzed by on the Corniche, the spruced-up sea road 
> that hugs the Mediterranean.
> Inside, a tour guide, a fast-talking young woman wearing a bright 
> hijab, led a group of tourists into the library’s immense reading 
> room, stopping on a wooden terrace that looked down onto more 
> terraces. The sun threw spots of blue and green light onto the floors 
> through colorful glass as she pointed out the library’s art 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/art/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier> 
> galleries, theaters, rare manuscript collections and planetarium, as 
> well as its more than half a million books.
> But the thing that caught everyone’s attention was the Espresso Book 
> Machine in the main reading room. The giant photocopier-like machine 
> can print, on demand, virtually any book, complete with color covers 
> and glue bindings in minutes.
> It is a fitting symbol for Alexandria, a faded metropolis that is 
> rising again from the sea, one replicated landmark at a time.
> Situated on the Mediterranean along Egypt’s north coast, Alexandria is 
> a city of legend. This is where Euclid sired geometry, Aristarchus 
> deduced that the Earth revolved around the sun (about 18 centuries 
> before Copernicus) and, of course, the young Alexander the Great 
> founded the city as his capital in 331 B.C.
> The city flourished through the 19th century as the hub of Egypt’s 
> commerce, especially the cotton trade, drawing a cosmopolitan mix of 
> Greeks, Italians, French, Jews and Levantine Arabs, who brought their 
> languages, architecture 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/architecture/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier> 
> and food. But things had changed by the time of the Suez Crisis in 
> 1956, when Egypt privatized the Suez Canal, prompting military attacks 
> by Britain 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/britain/overview.html?inline=nyt-geo>, 
> France 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/france/overview.html?inline=nyt-geo> 
> and Israel 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/middle-east/israel/overview.html?inline=nyt-geo>. 
> In its aftermath, many foreigners left or were expelled from 
> Alexandria, and the city’s cultural grandeur began to crumble — much 
> like the ancient part of the city that lies at the bottom of the sea.
> In recent years, however, efforts by preservationists and the 
> government to restore the city’s luster have started to bear fruit. 
> The first sign of Alexandria’s renewal was the Bibliotheca 
> Alexandrina, the glimmering vision in steel and glass that opened on 
> the Corniche in 2002.
> Built near the site of the original Library of Alexandria — perhaps 
> the ancient world’s greatest, with an unrivaled collection that 
> included original manuscripts of Euripides 
> <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/e/euripides/index.html?inline=nyt-per>, 
> Aeschylus and Sophocles — the Bibliotheca seeks to resurrect that lost 
> monument with shelf space for eight million books and a massive 
> granite wall inscribed with what officials say are characters from all 
> the world’s written languages.
> Another sign of the city’s resurgence is the sumptuous Four Seasons 
> Hotel Alexandria. Opened in July, it has 9 restaurants, a large 
> infinity pool and 118 plush, modern guest rooms, many facing the 
> Mediterranean.
> Like many additions in this storied city, the hotel evokes an icon 
> from the past. The Four Seasons was built on the site of the original 
> San Stefano Hotel, once Egypt’s reigning grande dame, which was 
> demolished in the late 1990’s.
> The hotel was booked all summer. At dusk one evening in September, 
> American businessmen and Arab tourists sipped wine and smoked 
> peach-flavored tobacco in Bleu, a hotel patio bar, with a view of the 
> Eastern Harbor and construction on the beach below.
> Outside the city, one of the two airports, Borg Al-Arab, is being 
> expanded to accommodate more passengers. There are now regular flights 
> from Germany 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/germany/overview.html?inline=nyt-geo> 
> and Britain.
> And there are plans, though still not financed, to restore the city’s 
> Eastern Harbor with an underwater archaeology 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/archeology-and-anthropology/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier> 
> museum, a waterfront promenade and hotels, including one inspired by 
> the third-century B.C. Pharos lighthouse, whose ruins lie underwater.
> But even now, despite the big plans and new polish, the city still has 
> an unvarnished charm. Alexandria has never stopped being a destination 
> for Egyptians. They summer on its 25 miles of sandy beaches 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/beaches/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier>, 
> and picnic in the manicured Shallalat Gardens 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/gardens/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier>, 
> which contain remnants of the old city walls. And students, weaned on 
> a vibrant cafe culture, sip strong coffee and surf the Internet at 
> Café Trianon, an old French pâtisserie in the bustling Saad Zaghloul 
> Square.
> At night, Alexandrians take to the Corniche. Couples relax on the sea 
> wall, and families line up for ice cream at one of dozens of local 
> stands. At the eastern end of the Corniche, Fort Qaitbay feels like an 
> Egyptian Coney Island, with pony rides for the kids and shisha tobacco 
> pipes for their parents.
> A young generation of Alexandrians, weary of the nostalgia for the 
> city’s European past, is also renewing the city in smaller ways. On a 
> September evening, Mahmoud Khaled, an artist who helps run the 
> Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, an exhibition space, talked about 
> the city’s fledgling artists. “It’s still a small scene,” Mr. Khaled 
> said, adding that the library had become a cultural magnet. “We get 
> lots of students.”
> As he prepared for a new exhibit of Arab artists, he talked about the 
> popular perception of Alexandria among visitors, which, for many, 
> continues to be shaped by a set of postwar British novels called “The 
> Alexandria Quartet.”
> “You don’t have to see the city the way Lawrence Durrell did,” Mr. 
> Khaled said, referring to the books’ author. “We’re really interested 
> in getting them to look at the city in different ways.”
> A Mediterranean Hot Spot, Again
> Borg Al-Arab Airport, under an hour’s drive from downtown Alexandria, 
> is served by a number of carriers, including British Airways, 
> Lufthansa and Emirates. Flights from America require a connection.
> From the airport, a taxi ride to downtown should cost 50 to 75 
> Egyptian pounds, about $9 to $14 at 5.7 pounds to the dollar. 
> Negotiate first.
> The Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano (399 El Geish Road; 
> 20-3-581-8000; www.fourseasons.com <http://www.fourseasons.com>) is 
> the city’s most upscale hotel, with a luxurious spa 
> <http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/spas/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier>. 
> Rooms start at $320.
> Closer to the city’s sites, the Sofitel Cecil Hotel (16 Saad Zaghloul 
> Square; 20-3-487-7173; www.sofitel.com <http://www.sofitel.com>), 
> built in 1929, sits on the Corniche and offers spectacular views of 
> the Eastern Harbor. Rooms start at 120 euros, $180 at $1.50 to the euro.
> Café Trianon (52 Saad Zaghloul Street; 20-3-483-5881). On the ground 
> floor of the restored Metropole hotel, order a cappuccino (8 Egyptian 
> pounds), the dessert called om ali (18 pounds) and enjoy great views 
> of city life; the cafe has free Wi-Fi.
> White and Blue Restaurant (at the end of the Corniche by Fort Qaitbay, 
> 20-3-480-2690), also known as the Greek Club, is in the Hellenic 
> Nautical Club. A full dinner including grilled sea bass, served the 
> Egyptian way (with tomato and basil) or Greek (with potatoes), is 120 
> pounds.
> The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Shatby; 20-3-483-9999; www.bibalex.org 
> <http://www.bibalex.org>) has daily tours in English, Arabic, French, 
> Italian and Spanish. Admission to the library is 10 pounds, and 20 for 
> the museum galleries.
> Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (10 Hussein Hassab Street, Flat 6, 
> Azarita; 20-3-480-4145; www.acafspace.org <http://www.acafspace.org> ) 
> is a nonprofit exhibition space that showcases emerging Egyptian and 
> international artists.

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20071215/fd54b82d/attachment.html 

More information about the ILDS mailing list