Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Otherside of El Alamein

In a previous post (The Gardens of the Devil), I talked about El Alamein's minefield.

In this post, I will talk about the otherside of El Alamein. It is known as Marina El Alamein . Here is what I found about Marina in Wikipedia :

Marina El Alamein is a tourist village located on the northern coast of Egypt, with a 11 km long beach. It is about 300 km away from Cairo. Marina Village is often recognized by Egyptians as an area which caters to the elite of Egypt. The village is a gated community only accessible to those who live inside. Spanning almost 15 miles, this beach resort is split into eight different sections named Marina 1-7. Limestone villas and chalets and beautiful greenery are what characterize this exclusive part of the Middle East. In the summer of 2005, Porto Marina, one of the hottest hotel/mall destinations in the Middle East was opened in the center of Marina Village. Porto Marina is characterized by its Venetian canals and exclusive boutiques,and it has a wonderful view over a lake. There are rumors that the Egyptian government will be building an international airport near Marina due in 2010.

Now, I am not writing this post out of jealousy (since I do not own a Chalet in Marina), nor to talk about the foreign (could not come up with a better word to describe how I felt) atmosphere that envelops that resort and seams to affect everyone who crosses its gates.

I am writing to tell you a about what I consider to be a telling incident that happened a couple
of years ago. My niece was invited to a friend's birthday party in Marina. Since her parents were away, my dad arranged for a taxi to come pick them up from another resort on the north coast and drive them to Marina. The taxi driver was in his thirties, and has told them that he was from small village, and has only been a taxi driver for a couple of months. This was actually the first time he drove along the Sahel El Shamali. He did not talk much. He seamed to be truly taken by the beauty of the Sahel beaches, which could only be seen through the occasional gaps between the tens of resorts that block the see view from the drivers and passengers traveling on the Sahel Shamalee road. After about 45 minutes, they arrived at Marina. They were admitted through the gate and voila, they were in Marina. What happened next was totally unexpected. As the driver followed my dad's directions, and as he reached the first bridge on their way to their hosts' Chalet, the driver exclaimed:"Ya deen el nabee!!!! Where are we?? Are we still in Egypt??? This must be heaven!!! We have not been alive all those years!!"

Juts think about the driver's reaction for a second. This Egyptian man was not merely admiring the beauty of the beaches and the resort, he has just had a realization that there are two Egypts. One that he grew up in, and knowns very well. It is crowded, dirty, hot, depressing, and ugly. But he did not know any of this. He had nothing to compare it to, so it all seamed normal and acceptable to him. But now that he saw the Second and secret Egypt, things have changed. He just realized that he had been cheated. He has not been truly alive.

And what does our government do to rectify this situation? It recently raised the the prices of many commodities including gas, so our driver's life must even suck more than it did two years ago, while the prices of the Chalets and Palaces in Marina continue to double and triple making the already rich, filthy rich.

Don't you agree that Marina is a social minefield. Where is Robin Hood when you need him??

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