Alexandria has historically been a crossroads. Europe and Africa. Christianity and Islam. Intellectuals, seedy tradesmen, saints and Cleopatra. Not to say they all sat down together to share a sheesha and do some people-watching, but the cross-pollenation of Alexandria is legendary. The heyday of diversity and internationalism ended in the 50’s but there may be a burgeoning renaissance.
In Alexandria time is thrown into the blender and the resulting cocktail is intoxicating. The scraps of the Pharos lighthouse, one of the wonders of the ancient world, is formed into a citadel, perhaps on its original site. The spirit of the ancient library, once the center of knowledge for the known world, is revived in the boldly modern Alexandria Biblioteca. Its walls are carved with characters from every alphabet. Dig into the ground of Alexandria and more likely than not you’ll discover pieces of the Graeco-Roman city. Some are excavated, like the amphitheater; some are hiding below the souqs, mosques and apartment blocks. After all this is not Pompeii, life goes on here.
As time warps from block to block, so does geography and culture. The evening stroll along the Mediterranean is so classically Italian, but the soundtrack for the setting sun is the muezzin’s call to prayer. Sipping coffee in a chic waterside cafe, you expect to see the beautiful and fashionable people pass by in shades and on cells. And they do. In carefully matched designer headscarves.
So maybe it’s not what it used to be. But it is what it is. And we like it.