Al-Sahel: Good and evil

Ahmed Morsy , Thursday 29 Feb 2024

Egypt's western Mediterranean coast is a top summer vacation spot for locals, with two names ingrained in their lexicon since the mid-1990s: Al-Sahel Al-Shamali — the North Coast — and sometimes simply Al-Sahel, or the coast.



The entire western Mediterranean coast extends 500 km from Alexandria through Alamein city and Marsa Matrouh up until Salloum.

Al-Sahel Al-Shamali specifically denotes the western Mediterranean coast, particularly the area from Dekheila, situated 11 km west of Alexandria and just before Agami, to Sidi Abdel-Rahman. Beyond this point, the coast is known as Marsa Matrouh.

Traditionally, the old North Coast spans from Kilo 21 to Kilo 105, while the new coast begins at Kilo 120 and includes destinations such as Marina, New Alamein, Sidi Abdel-Rahman, Dabaa, Ras Al-Hekma, Sidi Heneish, and Marsa Matrouh.

The western coast’s earliest hotspot, Agami, once epitomised Egypt’s summer allure. Back in its prime, during the 1950s through the 1990s, Agami beckoned Egyptians seeking respite from city life. Its beaches offered an idyllic escape, drawing families and urbanites alike.

Once a vibrant hub, Agami acted as a fusion point for diverse elements of Egyptian culture, fostering a sense of community among its visitors. However, as the years passed, the landscape changed. By the early 2000s, the winds of transformation swept through Agami, marking the onset of urban expansion along the North Coast.

The allure of Agami began to wane as original residents sold their villas, seeking refuge in gated compounds elsewhere along Al-Sahel Al-Shamali. Though still cherished by some, Agami’s glory days have been dimmed by time.

In the early 2000s, beach enthusiasts shifted their focus westward, towards what came to be known as the new Sahel. Among the most renowned destinations in this area was Maraqia, and later Marina, located 150 km west of Alexandria, marking the westernmost point of the Sahel at the time.

By 2020, the traditional Sahel was dubbed Al-Sahel Al-Tayeb or the good Sahel, while areas further west acquired the moniker Al-Sahel Al-Shereer or the evil Sahel. This distinction emerged in Internet memes, quickly spreading across social media platforms and becoming widely understood among visitors to Egypt’s North Coast.

The good Sahel refers to the traditional coastal region, while the evil Sahel encompasses newer, trendier luxury compounds that began cropping closer to Marsa Matrouh.

Renowned for its pristine beaches, Sidi Abdel-Rahman has become a magnet for major players in the real estate industry. Developers built compounds that possess distinct identities, aesthetics, different pricing structures and target upper-end demographics. Notably, the evil Sahel is characterised by its tightly guarded gated communities, imposing more stringent entry requirements for residents and visitors alike.

While up until today Ras Al-Hekma has remained a hidden jewel, known only to a few, its development added a new dimension to Al-Sahel.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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