Alexandria welcomes holiday visitors

Visitors flock to Alexandria's Qaitbay citadel, a popular tourist destination. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Shorfa]

Visitors flock to Alexandria's Qaitbay citadel, a popular tourist destination. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Shorfa]

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Tourists from Egypt and abroad who are choosing to spend their spring holidays in the historic coastal city of Alexandria are giving the local economy a boost.

Holidays such as Labour Day, an official holiday in Egypt on May 1st, Sham el-Nessim, a national holiday marking the start of spring, and Coptic Easter, have brought the port's streets back to life, as visitors from Cairo and the Egyptian provinces join Arab and Gulf tourists.

"If you look at Alexandria over the past couple of weeks and the security tensions that have occurred, you would never believe it is the same city that welcomes tourists during the holiday period," Raji Elba of the Alexandria chamber of tourism told Al-Shorfa.

Families, hotel owners and tourism agencies have all worked with the Alexandria Business Association and the commerce and tourism chambers to execute a rapid emergency restoration plan to prepare to welcome tourists, he said.

The local Alexandria council spearheaded initiatives to clean streets, collect garbage, replace street lights and deploy traffic police in order to regulate the flow of traffic at peak times.

The plan is bearing fruit, Elba said, with many hotels announcing full occupancy.

Yasser Mahmoud, director of the Alexandria Beach Hotel, said his hotel closed for bookings last week.

"The holiday season has saved a lot of Alexandria's hotels after a period of stagnation," he said. "Now the booking rate in most hotels is 100%."

The holiday season has also revived the market for furnished rental apartments, said Mohammed Yassin, known as "Abu Islam", director of the "Islam" apartment rental company.

"Arab and Egyptian families prefer to rent rooms during the holidays because they are less expensive than hotels and also provide more personal freedom," he said.

Prices range from 150 Egyptian pounds ($22) for apartments further from the beach to 1,000 pounds ($144) for luxury apartments overlooking the sea and the Corniche, he said.

Many families take advantage of the holidays to get out of the congested capital.

Cairo resident and private sector employee Magdi Amer said he will stay in Alexandria for one week and will meet his family there, as they have already booked two furnished apartments.

Amer said his family looks forward to celebrating Sham el-Nessim each year, and enjoys going out to eat the holiday's traditional dishes including salted fish and vegetables.

"These rituals have become an integral part of our life," he said.

Clothes and sweets markets

Clothing and confectionary retailers, especially those selling Easter sweets, also have seen high demand over the past couple of weeks.

"Market movement is excellent and sales have improved by 60% compared with the past months," said Mustafa al-Shaghouri, who owns a clothing shop in the Sidi Bishr area of Alexandria. Demand has been high for children's and women's clothing, he said.

Simon Rizq, owner of a sweet shop in San Stefano, Alexandria, told Al-Shorfa that chocolate Easter eggs are in high demand by Copts, followed by Middle Eastern sweets such as kaak and maamoul, which are popular among those celebrating Sham al-Nessim.

Rizq said his shop's flower section is also quite busy, with many customers asking for bouquets adorned with coloured Easter eggs.

Prices are up by 25% compared with last year, he said, due to an increase in the cost of imported raw materials.

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    ماجد المصرى

    2013-5-29

    Your Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, I would like to congratulate you and our Egyptian Copt brothers and sisters on the Easter (Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus). I wish you best of health, wellbeing and blessings. On this occasion, I would like to express my pride in the sacrifices of our Copt brothers serving in the armed forces, in addition to their honest, truthful and dedicated discharge of their duties. They have formed a coherent fabric with their Muslim brethren serving in the armed forces, which symbolizes utmost loyalty towards their nation and their people and great fulfillment of the responsibilities bore by them in protecting the nation and defending its sanctities and territorial integrity. This will keep Egypt forever a free nation.

  • سليمان عثمان

    2013-5-7

    The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington congratulates the dear Brotherly Coptic Egyptian community. It also extends its best wishes for them on the occasion of Easter. The Embassy also reads a congratulatory letter from Mr. President of the Republic to the Egyptian Copts abroad on the glorious occasion. The message reads as follows: "Dear brotherly Copts of Egypt abroad, I am pleased to send you my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the celebration of Easter. As I congratulate the dear Egyptian Copts, I wish you more success and achievements. I also wish our beloved Egypt more pride and greatness. Best wishes!

  • كرم جابر

    2013-5-7

    Artist Adel Imam said that his participation on Saturday in celebrations of Easter holiday was meant to congratulate the brotherly Copts our partners in the country, adding “I hope that the political impasse, that we are experiencing, will disappear quickly. That fatwa prohibiting the Muslims from congratulating the brotherly Copts is a sort of incivility”. “Those who cursed Pope Shenouda must be brought to justice. We must respect the faith of others. No one could affect the good relationship between the Muslims and the Copts”, he added. Egypt is going through a political stalemate. We must get out of it with minimal losses. Therefore, we must cooperate and share the responsibilities to overcome the impasse.

  • فراس كاسر

    2013-5-7

    The Pope appreciated the participation of the revered Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb in the festivities of the Copts of Egypt saying: “We constantly see some confirmation of the safety and the rigidity the unified Egyptian social fabrics. We call on all Egyptians to participate in our celebrations”. The Pope added; “Happy Easter! I wish the Egyptian people many happy returns of the Resurrection Day. Indeed, the festive period is always marked by happy social events and joy for everyone. There is no need to discuss the sedition issues on this happy occasion. The rule of law, the effective education and the responsible media are the only way out of any crisis. I have received many letters of congratulations and I am receiving even more. I pray Allah to help the Egyptian people.

  • أحمد

    2013-5-6

    I will show you O Morsi, chase your love for power.