The beaches of Alexandria, on the northwestern coast of Egypt, are wide and happy. Children and families frolic in the roiling surf while other sip tea on beach-side cafes. Alexandria, I have to say, is a diamond in the rough of Europe. It's clean, modern, and really a very nice city ranked with the rest of the world. It has all the benefits of Egyptian culture - Islam, the tea, souks, and late-night excitement - with few of the commensurate annoyances. Of particular interest in Alexandria is the new Library of Alexandria: it's a beautiful and modern complex of literally thousands of computers, perhaps hundreds of thousands of books, a spherical planetarium, museums, housed in a building of magnificent architecture. The city of Alexandria, Egypt's largest port town, is a thriving and bustling place that is paradoxically much more friendly to tourists seeing as how its so much less dependent upon them. Built and rebuilt by a series of invaders, it is a strange mix of ancient and modern architecture slowly crumbling to the ground in the Egyptian way.
It seems to be a culture that seems perfectly content to just get by without the frills so cherished by others. Dozens of European-style buildings (built during the English occupation) dot the coast that in America would each be cultural heritage sites, each incredible works of art on a grand scale. Here, however, they are just places to live and work, no more. In the husks of hotel lobbies and fabulous restaurants that once catered to the privileged elite with luxurious comfort now sit the standard Egyptian caf‚, with the exact same menu as can be found in the most back-water caf‚ in the most rural town. Likewise, in the single most beautiful place I could find in the entire town is a fantastic park of burbling water and winding paths, sits abandoned buildings of flowing architecture that would be utterly prime business and restaurant real estate elsewhere. Indeed, the only restaurants that actually do strive for nice decorations and surroundings all seem to cater to tourists from abroad.
Maybe it's a just the result of being such a cash-starved nation with much higher priorities. But it never ceases to surprise me how "the little things", most notably just a little cleaning up, things that cost virtually nothing and would result in profound improvements (in my eyes), just aren't done.
But I've regressed back into ranting when I should be saying that Alexandria actually "is" nice, while other places merely "were" nice.