Marina on Egypt's North Coast
Where the Egyptian Elite Come to Play
by Heba Fatteen Bizzari
Marina is a tourist village located in the Northern Coast which stretches 525 Kilometers along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt east to Sallum on the Libyan border. There are actually a number of tourist villages along the northern coast, and more planned, though Marina has earned the reputation of being one of the most exclusive, traditionally catering to many of Egypt's rich and elite. It has been, in fact, considered mostly exclusively Egyptian, though that attitude seems to be opening up just a bit, and some tour operators rent villas in the area. These areas along Egypt's north coast may very well become more popular with foreign tourists as nearby Alexandria seems to be gaining considerable ground in the tourist market. Marina is very close to Alexandria, on the beach between that city and Al-Alemein.
The Marina resort itself has a 750 meters long beach and its downstream surface is 800 meters. Its total surface is about 143 feddans. Many service units are constructed on the beach. The housing unit consists of almost 34 villas, 264 flats and 672 cabins as well as a center for administrative, commercial, medical, religious as well as entertainment services, all of which can be found in the middle of the village.
Marina was the brainchild of Abdallah Abdel-Aziz, head of the urban planning committee of the Scientific Research Academy and the retired chairman of the urban planning department at Ain Shams University's Faculty of Engineering. Abdel-Aziz planned the resort as an example of beautiful architecture and landscaping. "The element of beauty has been largely absent in architecture since 1952, when the government shifted focus to provide housing for the poor," he laments. "The result is an eclectic cement forest extending from Alexandria to Upper Egypt. Marina was my attempt to resurrect aesthetic architectural styles." Marina marks the beginning of the Luxury building boom in Egypt.
Inside the village, narrow roads lined with whitewashed chalets and villas lead down to the beach area, where manicured gardens and swimming pools add to the scenery's natural beauty. Droves of youngsters from nearby villages swarm onto the beach, flaunting the latest fashion in bathing costumes and sportswear. Some have decided to pass the time swimming, others are already dancing, munching on hot snacks, or just socializing, chattering over mobile phones and enjoying every bit of fun available.
Interestingly, Marina is one of the few places in Egypt that has built "specialized beaches". For example, there are now about six private beaches located at Marina that are specifically dedicated to youth, who apparently appreciate the effort. To those privileged young Egyptians, these Marina beaches have become very fashionable, where loud music, various water games and other luxuries abound.
Of course, by Egyptian standards, the beaches are not cheap. One must either own a villa, or pay between 20 and 30 L.E. for a day's visit.
We come to spend almost all the weekends during the summer vacation here at Marina. These private beaches are great, they have really cool music and, you also meet a lot of friends around, said Mary Hanna, a 19 year-old student. These private beaches guarantee that a certain class will enter the beaches. If you are not one of the members or if you do not pay the fee, you dont enter and this makes sure that the quality of service and cleanliness wont change, added Hanna.
We found that the private, specialized beaches were very successful because more than half of our clients at Marina this year are teenagers, but we still had a problem to solve, said Fouad. Since we live in a Muslim country, we needed to find a way to give our more conservative ladies the opportunity to have fun, so this year we opened our two girls-only beaches which are called Chiquita, and Yashmak. These beaches have women staff, DJs, masseuses, coiffeurs. In fact, all of the personnel, from guards to administrators are women.
"It is a women's haven," said Dalia Samir, the beach manager. "We managed to employ women lifeguards, vendors, bouncers and ushers."
It is really a beautiful place, Ive been here for almost three weeks and Im really enjoying it. I cant recall the last time I felt comfortable swimming, but now I can just wear any swim suit I like and feel free. Its not just that, you can actually swim here, get a massage, and do your hair then just enjoy the music, said Manal Ali, 24.
To attract more women to Al- Yashmak, the organizers are trying to offer all the activities available at mixed beaches. "We provided them with sports facilities at Gold's Gym, and we are planning beach aerobics classes, not to mention sales booths for all sorts of beach paraphernalia," said Samir. Another idea is to set up a manicure and pedicure booth on the beach. "Girls can't find these services in Marina," she added, "And we have put up higher fences because some women asked us to do that."
The feeling of freedom may not be the only motive behind Al-Yashmak. Shyness is another strong motive for some women. Lying down on the beach, reading a book, and not worrying about men's opinions is what the beach offers some women. "I feel shy walking around in my swimsuit on the other beaches," said Dalia Ibrahim. "But here I feel I don't have to worry about that."
While Marina cannot be said to be a normal destination for foreign tourists, it will probably offer more and more opportunities as Egypt's north coast tourism grows over the coming years. There are also some nearby ruins, and other sightseeing in the area.
Excavations carried out in the Geziret Mariout (Mariout island) area lying to the west of Marina city on the northwestern coast of the Mediterranean have yielded Roman baths, large lime-stone structures and a quay to the north of the island.
The director of Alexandria's antiquities area, Adly Rushdi, said that the team of excavators found walls extending far into the distance and mounds of pottery chard indicating that pottery works had once existed in the area.
Other relics indicate the spread of checkpoints all along the island's north coast.
Rushdi also said that rock carved tombs were unearthed in the island's southern area. "The relics confirm that Mariout Island was once a prosperous urban and industrial center in Pharaonic, Greek and Roman times," said Rushdi.
The island linked the Delta provinces to the northwest coast, and Mediterranean countries to southern Europe.
The Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) is undertaking studies and excavations at the unique site. The find, the latest in a lower governorate region, is arousing the interest of Egyptian and foreign excavation teams who are being encouraged to excavate the 333 Feddan area.
Mariout island was known before the establishment of Alexandria and it was mentioned in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus when he visited the north coast.
Historically, this part of Egypt was an agricultural land irrigated by Nile water via an old tributary, which has since decayed. Egyptian princes prior to Alexander the Great's invasion of Egypt ruled this northern province.
Last Updated: June 5th, 2011
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