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.
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.