A month and a half of entertainment, arts, sports and culture were launched last week in New Alamein city. The first edition of the New Alamein City Festival kicked off on 13 July and is set to continue until 26 August. New Alamein, located along the North Coast 100 km from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, is a fourth-generation city located on land that was once full of landmines.
The festival, which aims to attract more than a million visitors, started with beach soccer and teqball tournaments. Teqball featured the world’s female champions Brazilian Natalia Guitler and Serbian Maja Umicevic.
Beach football was accompanied by several festive sports-like activities, including a trilithon tournament, paddle tennis championship, a car race, JET Skis challenge, and an Arab judo championship.
New Alamein does not only serve as a summer resort but is built to function all year round. Besides the government district it includes universities, schools, hospitals, an opera house, cinema complex, museums, heritage sites, art and cultural venues and international hotels, as well as cultural and tourist arenas.
“Alamein festival represents an extraordinary event, a mixture of culture, arts, sports, and tourism,” Nevine Al-Kilani, Egyptian minister of culture, said at a press conference inaugurating the event.
Many artists and musicians are scheduled to take part in the festival. Tamer Hosni, the Egyptian singer/actor superstar, is holding his musical concert on 21 July. The festival is also expected to host notable musician superstars Omar Khairat, Nancy Agram, Ragheb Alama, Cairokee, and Wegz.
American rapper Russell James Vitale, known as Russ, is expected to perform in the coastal city on 25 August. It will be the third concert for Russ in Egypt, following performances held at the Pyramids in 2022 and in Al-Massa in New Alamein city in 2019.
New Alamein is located within the administrative borders of Marsa Matrouh governorate. It sprawls over 50,000 feddans (around 200 square kilometres) and is divided into three sectors: international tourism, urban, and archaeological.
Business magnate Khalaf Al-Habtoor the founder of Al-Habtoor Group, an Emirati conglomerate, was one of the leading visitors at New Alamein this week. He wrote on Twitter: “I am dazzled with the colour of the blue crystal-clear beaches and the marvelous view… It is such a stunning touristic hub to visit.”
Loaay Al-Khatib, a digital content creator, lauded the massive transformation of the site from a desert full of mines a few years back to a vibrant city. According to the State Information Service, out of a total of 110 million landmines planted around the world, Egypt has 23 million, in the Western Desert and Eastern Desert, planted during WWII mostly by the British during the occupation.
Al-Khatib added that the Alamein festival will create job opportunities in the tourist industry.
Many of the festival’s visitors are currently spending their summer in North Coast resorts which surround Alamein along the Mediterranean coastal beaches.
Mona Abdel-Wahab, who accompanied her children to watch the football tournament, said she goes there every day to enjoy the festival vibes. She said her boys took the opportunity to see their favourite football players and take photos with them.
New Alamein is planned to host four million residents. The Arab Academy for Science Technology and Maritime was the first university to open a campus in the city.
“When I came here three years ago, the whole area was just desert,” Salma Sami, a lecturer assistant and language unit coordinator at Alamein Campus in the Arab Academy, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “As a lecturer, I go there three times a week. So, every time I go to my campus here, I see big differences in the construction and residential areas, and in touristic attractions,”
During summer, Sami said, it was pleasant to work in the city to escape hot, bustling, crowded Alexandria. However, she is looking forward to more people populating the city during winter as well. Sami is also looking forward to attending some of Alamein festival’s highlights.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 20 July, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly