Alamein city: From battlefield to celebration

Noha Bakr
Tuesday 22 Aug 2023

New Alamein on Egypt’s North Coast is hosting a major cultural festival this summer that underlines its attractiveness to national and international audiences, writes Noha Bakr

 

New Alamein is one of Egypt’s new fourth-generation cities located in the Matrouh governorate on the North Coast. It has an area of about 48,000 acres and extends to a depth of more than 60 km south from the coastal strip. It is famous for its military history during the 1940s, when World War II cast a shadow over the area’s archaeological sites.

The city takes its name due to its location between two mountains of Gabal Al-Malh and Gabal Al-Tair.

New Alamein is divided into touristic, historical, and residential segments. The first investment tourism tranche is located on the Mediterranean coast, the second south of the Alexandria-Matrouh Road, and the third in the historical and archaeological area of the Alamein Cemeteries. The region has been completely cleared of the mines planted in World War II, enabling it for development.

The city is also unique in that it boasts the latest technological and urban projects. It has a drinking water plant using condensation technology that can produce up to 100,000 litres of water per day. Tourist and residential skyscrapers are represented by the New Alamein Towers and the tallest tower in Africa, all built in environmentally friendly concrete.

There is an opera house, sports halls, a cinema complex, and an open theatre for concerts and musical performances equipped with the latest technologies. There is also a studio complex, a museum, and a cultural library, along with a Bedouin skills development building to preserve the heritage character of the city.

Overall, the area has been transformed, and a struggling city that nevertheless always saw the defeat of Egypt’s enemies, has been turned into a touristic, recreational, and residential centre and a major attraction. The new city boasts beautiful villages and tourist resorts and has contributed to government plans to develop the area, transforming an under-inhabited city into the largest tourist destination on the Mediterranean Coast.

The newfound beauty of Alamein is being shown off this year in one of the largest and most important cultural, sports, and entertainment festivals ever held in Egypt and taking place in New Alamein between 13 July and 26 August.

It is the largest celebration of its type ever held in Egypt and the Middle East, for the first time combining concerts and other events featuring some of the greatest singers in the Arab world with many competitions and entertainment challenges, as well as international championships in various sports.

There is an international fashion show that includes designs for the best 10 designers in the Arab world, a beach soccer championship that includes 40 stars, a triathlon championship, an international paddle championship, a rowing championship, a car race, a jet ski challenge, and the Pharaohs Motor Parade in which 100 luxury cars will cross Egypt from Safaga to New Alamein.

An official website for the festival has been launched that gives details of all the events. Audience members can easily log onto it and learn more about the dates and locations of concerts and other happenings.

Over the past two weeks, the festival has hosted more than a million visitors to New Alamein, many of them foreign and many of them adding significantly to foreign spending in Egypt. This is in addition to cash flows registered at Alamein Airport as a result of airline tickets booked by expatriates.

Hotel occupancy rates in Alamein city are likely to reach 100 per cent during the festival, bringing further returns to the tourism sector, with total spending expected to reach some $3 billion.

Overall, the festival has also inaugurated a new type of tourism in Egypt in the shape of festival tourism that adds to the country’s already rich tourism opportunities and gives it a competitive edge among the countries of the Mediterranean and further supports foreign-currency income.

The influx of tourists into New Alamein for the festival has stimulated real-estate investment by visitors and put the city on the map of Egyptian and international tourism, adding both investment opportunities and job opportunities.

The festival is making a major contribution to cultural tourism by serving as a showcase for Egyptian folklore, supporting Egypt’s soft power externally as well as local identity and pride. There are performances each week on Friday and Saturday until the end of the festival that include shows by folklore groups from Arish, Aswan, Sharqiya, Anfoushi, Sohag, Al-Hurriya, Port Said, Minya, Matrouh, Luxor, and Kafr Al-Sheikh.

There are also performances on traditional instruments and by the Tannoura Heritage Ensemble, the so-called “whirling dervishes”.

Finally, the festival has confirmed Egypt’s ability to organise major cultural and sports events that attract international stars. This was underlined in a different way by the success of the UN COP27 Climate Conference organised last year in Sharm El-Sheikh that saw the arrival in the country of world leaders and hundreds of representatives of governments, multinational companies, and NGOs concerned with environmental issues.

 

The writer is member of the advisory board of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSS).


* A version of this article appears in print in the 24 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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